During Tynan Power's transition, as he became the man that his heart, if not his body, affirmed, he found his Muslim faith to be both a balm and a battleground.
Under the traditional teachings of Islam, Power's identity as a transgender male made him an outsider who would have to fight for acceptance. But when he questioned his future in the faith, it was a group of LGBTQ Muslims who reminded him of the strength and courage he could draw from Islam, and who stood by him.
"It was the first time I heard I could be a queer person and a trans person and a Muslim," said Power, 46, of Northampton, Mass.
He has turned his personal struggle into his mission as Muslim coordinator with Transfaith, a Philadelphia-based national nonprofit that supports transgender spiritual leaders and believers, and educates religious communities on transgender issues.
This week, Transfaith is helping organize a series of multifaith events surrounding the Creating Change Conference, the annual convention of the National LGBTQ Task Force that began Wednesday and closes Sunday. It is expected to draw 3,700 attendees to the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown.
Power will lead Friday prayers for Muslims and deliver a sermon on the Prophet Muhammad's exile in Medina as the founder of Islam fled persecution in Mecca. The topic was suggested by Power's son, Yahya Alazrak of West Philadelphia, a member of Transfaith's board of directors.
The prayer ritual is among more than 250 conference-associated events, tackling such issues as political strategies for dealing with the Trump administration, discrimination against LGBTQ people of color, and transgender people in the criminal justice system.
Religion and spirituality also have important roles. "Practice Spirit, Do Justice" is the theme of a multifaith series of workshops. A Shabbat service is scheduled for Friday and an interfaith worship for Sunday at the hotel. Transfaith's events include an adult Sunday school and another worship service at Arch Street United Methodist Church. On Thursday, the Rev. William Barber, a national civil rights activist from North Carolina, delivered a keynote address.
"There is a large faith-organizing effort among progressive faith leaders to change the narrative that LGBTQ people are not people of faith. Some are indeed people of faith," said Russell Roybal, deputy executive director at the LGBTQ Task Force.
From its small second-floor office in Mount Airy, Transfaith focuses on people who are transgender, a group whose experience differs from the larger LGBTQ community.
"Society, and some religious groups, has become more accepting of gays and lesbians, and issues of sexual orientation. But the conversation around trans-identified and gender-nonconforming people has fallen behind," said Alazrak, 26, who identifies as gender queer. "We have a lot of educating to do."
"Some trans-folks" can't "pass," Alazrak said, "and with that comes discrimination, violence, and the risk of trying a new church, synagogue, or mosque and not knowing how people will react to your presence."
Transfaith started in 1999 as a listing of online faith-oriented resources for the transgender community. Chris Paige, the group's executive director and a member of Tabernacle United Church in University City, began compiling the list while exploring gender identity.
"I didn't feel like the 'woman' box fit me, the 'boy' box didn't fit, and I didn't feel like a transition would make me more whole," said Paige, who coined the term OtherWise to represent the feeling of being in-between.
In 2012, Transfaith evolved into a full-fledged nonprofit hosting seminars and leadership retreats around the nation. The group is one of several with a similar mission, including TransEpiscopal, with leaders around the country, and the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity in Washington, of which Power is a founding member.
"All traditions have work to do, even the most supportive and liberal-leaning," Paige said.
Around the same time that Paige and Minister Louis Mitchell were cofounding Transfaith, Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari of Kol Tzedek synagogue in West Philadelphia became a founding member of TransTorah. It had begun similarly, as an information repository for transgender Jews.
Fornari, who identifies as transgender or gender queer, has been rabbi at the 160-family Kol Tzedek since August. He said he had wanted to join the rabbinate since he was a child. He found in Judaism a source of community and a foundation for social and political activism. But there have been moments of caution when entering Jewish places.
"I don't assume that all Jewish spaces will be queer- or trans-supportive, but it is increasingly true that more and more spaces are," said Fornari, who will participate in the convention's interfaith observance Sunday.
The Rev. Liam Hooper, who identifies as a "trans masculine person" and will lead Sunday's observance at Arch Street Methodist, said he suffered discrimination in his Baptist community as a young lesbian-identified person. Later, as a seminarian at Wake Forest University's School of Divinity, he found acceptance.
Hooper, 53, began his gender transition while in school. "Most of my classmates," he said, "were loving, supportive, and kind."
His transition, he said, "was difficult at times. But it was the best thing I could have done for myself."