Oklahoma mom Tiffany Holloway started a church to support her trans son

When Tiffany Holloway’s 16-year-old son told her he would kill himself if he didn’t have access to gender-affirming care, she knew she had to act fast.

Holloway was driving his son home from school in April when he presented a bill that had been recently signed a law in Alabama criminalize hormones, puberty blockers and surgery for trans youth. Senate Bill 184, which took effect on Monday, threatens medical providers who offer these treatments to trans minors with up to 10 years in prison and a $15,000 fine. His son said he didn’t want to live anymore if a similar law were to pass in their state of Oklahoma.

After watching her son blossom after he started receiving testosterone therapy four years ago, Holloway said she felt helpless at the news.

“When he first realized he was transgender, we went through a period of depression,” she told VICE over the phone. “But once he started taking his HRT meds he became a happy, positive kid. He hasn’t had any problems with depression for at least three years now and so to hear him say it was a revival. I thought, ‘This is going to kill children.’ »

Holloway was ready to pack up and move if staying in Oklahoma meant risking her child’s life, but she said she was haunted by the thought that many young trans families might not have not have the financial resources to make the same choice. ” And all the others ? she wondered.

Instead of leaving, Holloway decided to stay in Oklahoma and build a safe space for young trans people like her son who might be struggling under the weight of anti-LGBTQ legislation. Last month, she launched her own religion to raise trans children: the Church of Prismatic Light. The upstart denomination, which is not based on Christianity, holds the right to transition and the right to gender-affirming care among its core beliefs.

The church quickly took off after Holloway, one of the most popular preppers on TikTok, spread the idea to his 360,000 followers in an April 18 video. (Referring to a social movement of people who advocate survivalism, she became a prepper after her family weathered deadly Texas winter storms in February 2021.) In her message, Holloway introduced the Church of Prismatic Light to his followers as another means of survival. : “What if we launched a religion for LGBTQ people that, in its doctrine, protected the rights of trans children and the LGBTQ community?”

The response has been overwhelming, Holloway said. The Church of Prismatic Light own TikTok account already has 140,000 subscribers in less than a month. the church website crashed within 10 seconds of it being posted on social media, due to the number of people trying to access the page.

“Everyone I’ve spoken to, whether online or in person, is an enthusiastic supporter,” Holloway said. “I struck up a conversation with the post lady when I was opening a post office box, and she started crying because she has a transgender sister. Even though we are in a red state, we have a vibrant LGBTQ community here. »

“He hasn’t had any issues with depression for at least three years now and so to hear him say that was a wake up call. I thought, ‘This is going to kill kids,'” Holloway said.

While Holloway and his son live in Oklahoma, followers of the Church of the Prismatic Light are spread across the country. The church operates only online, mainly through social networks like TikTok, Reddit, Facebook, and Discord. Many of its leaders are other parents horrified by the relentless bombardment of bills targeting LGBTQ children. According to BNC Newsnearly 240 anti-LGBTQ laws have been proposed so far this year, and the vast majority limit trans children’s ability to access medical care or play school sports.

Jeri Clark, a California mother and co-founder of the church, said it was “incredible and terrifying” to be able to offer hope to children who need support as lawmakers try to strip them of their rights . Clark knows firsthand how important it is to feel this affirmation: She was an evangelical missionary for 18 years before leaving her faith when she had no room for her children, three of whom identify as LGBTQ.

“It’s heartbreaking. We gave our whole life,” she told VICE of the sacrifices she made to be a missionary. “I find myself getting emotional just talking about it. We don’t have the kind of resources someone my age would have because we gave it our all, only for people to not be able to return the love they said we should give.

The Church of the Prismatic Light does not function as a traditional religious group. People of all faiths, including agnostics and atheists, are welcome. The sermons focus on topics such as LGBTQ history or self-care and take place via weekly broadcasts on TikTok. There is no chapel for worship and no deity, instead preaching self-love as a divine act. Among its seven commandments are principles expressing the justice of embracing one’s uniqueness and the beauty of possessing “your true self in the way that brings you the most joy”.

While some might argue whether a church without a god or a central religious text qualifies as a religion, Holloway remained firm in her belief that faith “can take many forms.” She noted that both of these aspects are true of Buddhism and that philosophical traditions such as Confucianism and Taoism also do not feature a supreme being.

“Our religion is faith in self, in community and in hope,” she said. “I think that kind of faith is just as valuable as any other religious faith.”

Ultimately, it will be up to the federal government to decide whether the Church of the Prismatic Light qualifies as a religion and, therefore, is eligible for the tax exemptions that come with it. Holloway has already registered as a nonprofit with the state of Oklahoma and hopes her application for religious status will be approved by the US government. She said she was inspired by Last week tonight host John Oliver, who legally registered Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption as a church in 2015.

But while Oliver’s Church was a ploy to criticize televangelists who defraud the faithful with the backing of government tax exemptions, the belief its members have in the Church of Prismatic Light is real. Heather Adams, who moderates the church’s Facebook page, said she didn’t realize how much she needed a resource like this until she had it. Her daughter is still figuring out where she fits on the LGBTQ spectrum, and Adams said it’s been difficult to help her daughter navigate her identity when the community is under attack seemingly every day.

“Every day there is something new and I cry,” she told VICE. “I talk to my daughter about these things. I’m like, ‘I don’t care who you love. I just want you to be happy and healthy. What they are doing right now, in my view, is state-sanctioned genocide against our children.

Katrina Wolff, the main community manager of the church’s Discord server, said she was very moved by seeing the connections her members had made on the platform, which includes channels devoted to different topics such as parental support, non-monogamy, games and. There is even a channel for posting selfies. She said each of these forums functions as a space for people to “talk about things they’re struggling with and receive help or even just sympathy.”

“Our religion believes in self, in community and in hope. I think that kind of faith is just as valuable as any other religious faith,” Holloway said.

“It allows people not just across the country, but around the world, to connect with each other and form friendships,” Wolff told VICE. “Everyone who joins our community quickly learns that no matter what they are going through, they are not alone. They have so many people ready to stand behind them and support them. This alone can offer so much to someone who is struggling.

Despite the earnestness of his followers, there’s a bit of Oliver’s mischievous touch to the Church of the Prismatic Light. In a April 20 TikTok Video, Holloway said being able to register as a church would mean anti-LGBTQ laws would “infringe on our religious freedom as Prismatists.” While she could have started a support group to affirm trans kids instead of starting a church, Holloway told VICE that having her own religion could, for example, allow her to sue the Supreme Court if she overturned marriage equality. (Many prominent LGBTQ activists fear this will become reality after the repeal of Roe vs. Wade.)

Holloway stressed, however, that she was not an activist, just a loving and concerned mother. And to that effect, she said that the Church of the Prismatic Light has already achieved one of its most important goals. Just days after the church took off on social media, her son told her he didn’t want to end his life again if Oklahoma came after gender-affirming medical treatment.

When asked what had changed for her son in such a short time, Holloway said it was seeing how many people were willing to stand up for his rights. She said her son told her they finally felt like they had a “chance to fight” even in one of America’s most conservative states.

Holloway knows being the face of a public entity like a church could put an additional target on their backs, but she said she’s “ready to fight the big battle” for her son’s well-being, no matter what. what it costs. “You tell your child that you will never give up or stop fighting,” she said. “That, as a parent, is your number one responsibility to your child. It’s their safety.

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