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Profile: Minister Charlene Jacqueline Arcila-Ecks


Charlene Jacqueline Arcila-Ecks is a long time Transfaith friend and colleague, both in Philadelphia and through National networks. Among other things, she is the visionary behind the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference. which grew to be the largest transgender-specific conference in the world.

Charlene passed away from natural causes on April 7, 2015 after many months of illness. This profile had been on hold since January 2015 waiting for minor edits. This posthumous version with editorial revision is prepared by Transfaith Executive Director, Chris Paige, with input from Charlene's partner in life, Marcus Ajani Ecks.

1. How would you describe your spiritual or philosophical perspective?

My spiritual perspective is that of an eunuch; not self-identified yet born, man-made, by church for the Kingdom of God. (Matthew 19:12) I am an Ordained Minister of the Unity Fellowship of Christ Church Movement with my church home at Unity Fellowship of Christ Church Philadelphia. I am also a recovering addict with 15 years of recovery time of a 12 Step Program.

I am a retired Executive Assistant to the Executive Director of an AIDS service organization and am a happily involved woman of trans experiences partnered with a man of trans experience and our two furkids (cats), Garfield and Dora.

2. How has your spiritual or philosophical perspective evolved over time? What kinds of opportunities and challenges have shaped your perspective?

I have gone from walking in fear of homosexuality making me an abomination -- to being a spirit that looks up to God. I have been given a name greater than any sons and daughters (Isaiah 56:5). This understanding has shaped me, from visioning the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference; to sitting on the panel to change the City of Philadelphia's Ordinances; to become more gender inclusive; to standing up to SEPTA about their gender exclusive gender markers on "Trans Passes"(weekly or monthly unlimited fare card).

3. How do you see your work (vocation, calling, advocacy, role, etc) in the world? How does your spiritual or philosophical perspective relate to your work?

My role is to be educational, motivating, empowering, supporting and advocating for visible communities that have came out only to be placed back into the closet. As an eunuch, it is my role to educate, motivate, empower, support and advocate for my community with self-education, first; then second, to work with others such as or allies and those eager to learn.

4. When do you feel the most vibrant and alive? What resources do you draw on for resilience?

I feel most alive and connected in the visionary stage. I draw on Mother, Father, Everything God as well as close friends sharing common visions, goals, and outcomes. I love to surf the internet to gather positive information. I also love to search between words and beyond the writing to have more face to face opportunities for "chat and chew."

Editor's Note: In her final months, Charlene had been visioning a new Philadelphia area non-profit called HOPE, Inc (Helping Others Pursue Excellence) to provide a wide array of empowerment resources for people of transgender experience. Her life partner, Marcus, says he intends to keep that vision alive as one more piece of Charlene's tremendous legacy in the area.

5. What kinds of issues or concerns do you think need more attention in the world?

Changing the mindset that we are still owed some type of entitlement -- versus empowering one's self to become more inclusive and less exclusive.

I am also aware of how the T is used as a tagline for funding. Yet I look to agencies who start using a trans-identified person as a volunteer. If they don't have the work skills already, they need to help mold them into productive and employable individuals.

Remembrance Opportunities

You can contribute to Charlene's Memorial Fund on GoFundMe.

Join in the online Memorial Event on Facebook with your own memories and remembrances.

Her life partner, Marcus, has memorialized Charlene's Facebook page, so people can visit and continue to share memories.

More about Charlene

Full Obituary (May 16, 2015)

Rest In Power, Charlene Arcila (TransGriot, April 2015)

Community Mourns Charlene Arcila (PGN, April 2015)

Nurturing Your Spirit (Positively Aware, 2014)

SEPTA Says Goodbye to Transpass IDs: A grassroots campaign finally puts an end to the stickers on monthly passes (GPhilly, April 2012)

Charlene Arcila and Philadelphia Trans-Health 2011 (YouTube)

SEPTA's Gender Discrimination: Is SEPTA playing gender police? (Philadelphia Weekly, July 2009)

Editor's closing note: A few weeks before her passing, Charlene sent a text message to check up on me. When I asked how she was doing, she responded, "I am receiving in home hospice."

I inquired, "Hmmm. That sounds intimidating. How are you feeling in body spirit mind?"

She responded, "Blessed."

One of her gifts was knowing that she was blessed. Now that her struggle is over, I know she remains blessed. She is also missed dearly.


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