Editor’s note: Mykal Slack began his professional life as a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT and HIV/AIDS Rights projects and then served as a law clerk in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. After discerning a call to ministry and graduating from Union, he served in various ministerial posts in the Metropolitan Community Churches and the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations before becoming in 2016 the co-director of North Carolina’s Freedom Center for Social Justice.
What do you do?
My ministry and calling is to nurture spaces where people can connect in ways that heal and not harm, talk about and re-imagine church life that truly honors and celebrates our differences, and make sustainable changes that are an outgrowth of spiritual practice, deep listening, and active engagement in community. I have had the pleasure over many years of living out that calling as a speaker, trainer, worship leader, community minister, and congregational life coordinator in various contexts.
Currently, I’m a co-director of the Freedom Center for Social Justice, a Southern-based national organization that supports and leads LGBTQ advocacy from within the church and outside it. I lead our Trans programming, which includes supporting a year-long Trans Seminarian Cohort brought together by the Freedom Center, the National LGBTQ Task Force, and the Pacific School of Religion, and organizing a summer retreat for Trans and gender non-conforming people of faith. We also help clergy, business owners, and educators reach a deeper understanding of what it truly means to be welcoming through our Yes, You Can Go campaign and our Do No Harm initiative. The Freedom Center also supports public policy efforts locally and statewide, to ensure that policy makers recognize the impact their decisions have on LBGTQ people. Much of our public policy work happens as part of the Moral Monday movement here in North Carolina and engages the community on issues ranging from poverty and economic justice to gender, reproductive, and sexual justice.
What’s the best thing about your job?
There are too many to name, really. For one thing, I have never settled into any type of position, ministerial or otherwise, that captured so much of what I care about and love to do. My times as a civil rights lawyer, as a workplace discrimination investigator and trainer, and as a minister have created a remarkable foundation for who I am and how I show up, and I am grateful. Also, it has been a pleasure and honor to work with my co-director Bishop Tonyia M. Rawls, who is deeply invested in collaboration and understanding what it means to cultivate our relationship as co-conspirators in this holy work. Finally, as a Trans man of color, I get the joy of organizing with and ministering among people in the queer and trans and POC communities I call home. Despite the political landscape in which we find ourselves, this has been a beautiful and hope-filled time, due in large part to the resiliency and brilliance of QT/POC communities that I get to build relationships with on a daily basis.
How did Union prepare you for this?
Being at Union helped me come into a full understand that, by faith, absolutely anything is possible. I’m certain I didn’t really believe that on my first day, but I knew it deep within my spirit, in my skin and bones, by the time I left. People like Dr. Edwina Wright, Dr. emilie townes, and Rev. Dr. Christopher Morse inspired not only deep questioning of what I thought I knew, but also a vision of inclusiveness in and outside the church that I will carry with me for as long as I live. As my faith deepened and my analysis sharpened, I also got clear about who I was called to be in this life. So around Eastertime of my second year, I disclosed the full awareness of my identity as a Transgender man to the faculty, staff, and students, reframing what resurrection really meant for me in that moment. To my knowledge, that was the first time that had happened at Union, and while I didn’t expect it to go badly, I also didn’t anticipate how spectacularly well it would go. In a show of radical hospitality and inclusion, everyone was remarkably loving and open and willing to do whatever it took to ensure that, in a moment of intense uncertainty, I would have the space to thrive. And I did! I will forever be grateful to Union for that, and their witness continues to inform how I hold space and show up for others and for myself.
How have you stayed connected to Union?
I’ve stayed connected with Union mostly through close friendships, both from my year and more recent ones. I also read Union’s Facebook page periodically and try to keep up with important news and updates.
What would you say to a prospective student?
A seminary education is an intense experience. You’ll have an opportunity to begin to solidify your vision for ministry. You’ll build lasting relationships that can set the tone for how you manifest joy, set boundaries, and engage in self-care. You’ll feel the frustrations and the ebbs and flows of being in community. Don’t be afraid to be changed and to be made new by any of this. You will not leave as the same person who arrived. And you can count that as one among many blessings.