Listen to the interview.
(click on the blue play button to begin playback)
Read a transcript of the interview.
Read Virginia Mollenkott's profile.
2001: Omnigender publishedVirginia Mollenkott was born in Philadelphia in 1932 to a deeply
religious family that attended the Plymouth Brethren Chapel. Her father
deserted the family when Virginia was nine. Virginia, her mother and
brother subsequently moved to a predominantly African-American section of
Philadelphia. Virginia, one of the only white children in the school,
became the target of her schoolmates'anger, as racial tensions erupted
into riots during World War Two.
Hear more in Section 1 of the oral history.
1993: Re-Imagining Conference,
TV appearancesEven more alienating, when Virginia was eleven, her mother discovered
she was involved in an ongoing lesbian relationship and sent her to a
strict Southern Presbyterian boarding school. Her mother alerted the
school staff of Virginia's "sinful" proclivities and the
administration cautioned the students. While at boarding school, Virginia
was crushed by an overwhelming sense of personal sinfulness and attempted
suicide. Her suicidal depression was countered by a deep and abiding hope
that God loved her, but she sought in prayer and Biblical reading to
reconcile this emotional experience with teachings about her "sinful
Hear more in Section 2 of the oral history.
1984: Speaker, LGBT activistShe subdued her sexual longings when she attended Bob Jones University.
She graduated with a B.A. in English Literature in 1953 and taught at Bob
Jones while pursuing a Masters at Temple University. She married Fred
Mollenkott, a fellow student at Bob Jones, on the advice of teachers that
marriage would eliminate her homosexual feelings. The marriage was
oppressive, but lasted over seventeen years, during which Virginia
completed a master's degree at Temple and obtained a doctorate from New
York University, while teaching at Shelton College, Ringwood, New Jersey
and later Nyack Missionary College in Nyack, New York. She separated from
Fred Mollenkott in 1967 and managed to retain custody of their son, Paul,
then nine years old.
Hear more in Section 3 of the oral history.
1974: LecturingShe left the fundamentalist Nyack College and began teaching at a state
university, William Paterson University of New Jersey. She described her
relationship with students as a forty-four year love affair–"I loved
them, and they loved me." During this time, Virginia came to new
understanding of the Bible, interpreting it with all the skill and
hermeneutics she knew as doctor of English literature. In the Bible, she
found a message of love and tolerance radically different from the rigid
fundamentalism of her childhood church. Her reinterpretation of the Bible
opened the way to reconciling feminism and her lesbian identity with
Hear more in Section 4 of the oral history.
1974Virginia became active in left-leaning evangelical organizations.
Beginning in November of 1975, she was a speaker for and member of the
newly formed, feminist organization, Evangelical Women's Caucus (renamed
the Evangelical and Ecumenical Women's Caucus in 1990. Continuing to meld
her Biblical beliefs with feminist and radical interpretations of the
Bible, she co-authored Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? with Letha
Scanzoni. As a result, she was invited to speak at theological seminaries
around the country–sometimes when the more conservative institution wanted
to present "the full spectrum" of positions on homosexuality and
reproductive freedom. She has written, co-authored or edited more than
thirteen books and numerous articles. Still closeted, she was appointed by
the National Council of Churches to the Inclusive Language Lectionary
Committee and made a major speaker at the Families 2000 Conference in
1996. Privately, she found identity and community with LGBT denominational
organizations, with leaders like Carter Heyward, John McNeill, Troy Perry,
Nancy Wilson. Inge Lederer Gibel of the American Jewish Committee was her
mentor in the Inter-Religions Dialogue.
Hear more in Section 5 of the oral history.
1970s: Teaching at
Gordon CollegeHer process of coming out publicly as a lesbian in the evangelical and
academic community spanned many years. Beginning in the mid-1970s, she
began attending a conference for lesbian and gay Christians at Kirkridge
Conference and Retreat Center and was a featured speaker the next year and
every year since. She has led gay/lesbian/ bisexual/transgendered
workshops there since 1979.
Hear more in Section 6 of the oral history.
In this interview, she describes the events and courageous stands
along the way–a process she identifies as a birthing experience. She
currently lives in her home near Hewitt, New Jersey with her partner
Susannah. Together, they are committed partners, aunts, mothers and
1979: GLBT work at the
- Adamant and Stone Chips, 1967
- In Search of Balance, 1969
and the Television Trees, 1971
- Women, Men and the Bible, 1977 (rev. 1988)
Speech, Silence, Action: The Cycle of Faith, 1980
- Is the Homosexual My
Neighbor? A Positive Christian Response, 1978 (rev. 1994)
- The Divine
Feminine: Biblical Imagery of God as Female, 1983
- Views from the Intersection, 1984
- Women of Faith in Dialog, 1987
- Godding: Human
Responsibility and the Bible, 1987
- Sensuous Spirituality: Out from Fundamentalism, 1992
- Omnigender: A Trans-Religious Approach, 2001
Transgender Journeys, 2003
1970s: Advocating for feminism
and gay ChristiansAutobiographical accounts can also be found in:
- Virginia Hearn, Our
Struggle to Serve: the Stories of 15 Evangelical Women, 1979
Silence, Action: The Cycle of Faith
- Divine Feminine Biblical Imagery of
God as Female, 1983
- Transgender Journeys, chapter 4
- Anne Braude,
Transforming the Faiths of Our Fathers: Women Who Changed American
Religion, 2003 essay by Mollenkott
- Online audiovisual recording of her
talk at the 2003
Women and Religion conference, sponsored by the Women's
Studies in Religion Program at Harvard Divinity School. Follow the links
to Videos of Speakers>>Panel III.>>Virginia Mollenkott.
Links for further information: