A day after Tiffany Holloway’s transgender son said he’d kill himself if he can’t get the testosterone drug that helps him, in the wake of states passing laws banning such treatments for minors, Holloway did something big.
A little over a week ago Holloway started a secular religion, which holds in its key doctrine protection for the right to gender-affirming medical care.
In a matter of days the Church of Prismatic Light, a safe community for the LGBTQIA+ community that doesn’t worship a deity and holds as a central tenet loving one’s self, grew to more than 90,000 members, Holloway said in a video Thursday.
“These laws are starting to pop up that say that they can’t use pronouns, that they can’t be included in sports. They can’t talk about gender identity in school,” Holloway told APR by phone this week.
After her son brought up suicide at first Holloway said that if that happened in their home state of Oklahoma – a ban on medical care for transgender youth, like Alabama’s new law – they’d simply move. Then she thought about all the other kids, like her son, who needed help.
“And I remember this episode of John Oliver,” Holloway said, referring to the comedian and satirist who started the religion of “Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption” in 2015, which his show “Last Week Tonight” covered in a segment that showed the ease at which a church could be formed and gain tax-exempt status. Oliver on the show skewered millionaire televangelists with megachurches that bring in millions and pay no taxes.
Holloway brought the idea of the church up to her more than 350,000 TikTok followers – she became a preper after surviving the Texas freeze in 2021 and amassed a large TikTok following – and said the response was overwhelming and supportive. In a matter of days she’d formed a board and filed for tax-exempt status, and on Monday got word the request was approved.
“It’s a lot of hard work. John Oliver made it look easy,” Holloway said of the paperwork involved, but already the work is paying off.
“We have had a ton of kids reach out to us who told us that before they heard of this idea, that they too were suicidal, and that now that they see the support that this has gotten, and just the amount of community standing behind them, that they have hope for the first time,’ Holloway said.
Holloway’s son is among them, and is no longer talking about suicide, she said.
What could the church do to help those impacted by anti-trans laws, like the “Don’t Say Gay” laws popping up in more and more states? Holloway said if Christians can have “See you at the Pole” gatherings for students at public schools, why couldn’t the Church of Prismatic Light hold after-school gatherings where kids can discuss those banned topics
“We could say anything we wanted to about gender identity and sexuality, because it’s a part of our religion, that we are able to express ourselves, and there wouldn’t be anything that those states could do about it because it would be under the basis of religious faith,” Holloway said. “At least at least there’d be one place at school or in the community that these kids could go to and feel free from discrimination.”
The church’s formation comes at a time when anti-trans rhetoric seems to be flourishing in American politics.
Tim James, an Alabama governor candidate, has made attacking the Magic City Acceptance Academy, an inclusive school seen as a safe haven for all bullied children, central to his campaign, calling the school “vile” and “evil.”
“They create an affirming school with teachers and faculty who three weeks ago put on a drag show in front of the children at the school. This is what abuse looks like, James said in an add.
As AL.com’s Kyle Whitmire noted recently, however, James himself took part in a “drag show” in high school.
What does the church believe in? Holloway described a church that has no central deity.
“We don’t believe in the concept of perfection. We believe that the best you can do is do a little better than you did the day before,” Holloway said. “There’s no steps that you need to take to love yourself. You can love yourself right now as you are. We’re all imperfect beings.”
Trace Fleming Trice of Oxford, whose teenage son, Phin, is transgender, told APR that the growth of the church in short a short time is evidence that it’s needed.
“The fact that you’ve got so many people following in just such a short amount of time just shows how hungry people are for connection and community,” Trice said.
Trice explained that while her son has strong support from friends and family, other transgender children may not, and these laws are placing their lives at risk.
“He’ll even say, I’m accepted. My family loves me. My family will always help me. Not everybody has that.
Fleming said she’s not yet sure how the church could intersect with these anti-trans laws, btu that she’s interested to find out.
“They’re already walking over Phin’s human rights. His right to medical care, so are they going to step on our religious rights also? Is that the next step?,” Fleming asked.
Oklahoma in March became the fourth state to enact an anti-trans sports law, and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt on Wednesday signed a bill banning non-binary gender maker on birth certificates, hte first law of it’s kind in the U.S.
Oklahoma Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, on Tuesday filed two bills that would prohibit educators from teaching about sexuality and gender identity, modeled after Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law, which Alabama lawmakers copied, and a bill to ban anyone under 18 from undergoing gender reassignment treatment or surgery.
Alabama lawmakers passed a bill in April that makes gender-affirming care for transgender youth a class C Felony. The law is set to take effect May 8 but a lawsuit filed on behalf of four Alabama parents seeks to halt the law before then. A federal judge has set a hearing in the case for May 5, just before the law is to take effect.
Alabama’s Legislature also passed legislation in April requiring K-12 students to use the bathroom of their birth-assigned sex opposed the bill, and a last-minute surprise amendment broadened the bill to mirror Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law.
“If passed, this bill would send a message to vulnerable youth that they are not welcome or accepted in their communities. It also would expose all of Alabama school districts and the state to the potential loss of federal funding for education,” Tish Faulks, legal director for the ACLU of Alabama, told a Senate committee prior to the bill’s passage.
Holloway in a video posted to her TikTok account spoke about Oklahoma’s recent filed bills.
“One of the things I have to do today is have a talk with my child when he gets off school about what is happening,” Holloway said. “Many parents across Oklahoma are going to have to have the same conversation. These laws are going to get kids un-alived.”
Holloway lived in Leeds until 2011, and said she wouldn’t move back unless thing change.
“I think that until Alabama is a safe and inclusive environment for everyone, that it is not a place that I would want to live. I do believe that is possible for Alabama,” Holloway said.