Who is Taj M. Smith?

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Hello, my name is Taj.

Painting by Clara Dudley

Background 

 I’m a Black, transgender, Christian, all of which drastically affect how I see the world and, in turn, how I see God.

Theology, to me, is a giant, open-ended question. Rather than asking “what” God is, I prefer to ask “how” and “why.”My personal theology has been heavily influenced by liberation theology, queer theology, and science fiction. I have a vested interest in leaving the world a better place than it was when I entered, which requires thinking beyond myself and the God that I know to how God may show up to my children’s children’s children. I’m okay with not having answers.

I received a BA in Politics (political theory) from UC Santa Cruz and an MDiv from Harvard Divinity School where I focused on the theological implications of contemporary literature on modern life. My thesis explored theological themes in Ursula Leguin’s The Left Hand of Darkness and Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. 

 My coaching method is born from this work and underscored by my unceasing pursuit of a world in which people are free to live as themselves. 

 

Close up of a shift key on a 1940s typewriter that reads: "Shift Freedom"
Together, we are shifting the world towards freedom.

Writing 

In all things, I am a storyteller. Through character, setting, and plot, I plumb the depths of the human experience to explore the truths of human existence. So far, my published writing is in the form of personal essays, poems, and blog posts that explore identity, religion, politics, and gender. My fiction has yet to see the light of day, though I find it most comforting to write and I use a number of creative writing tools as coaching aids. 

My work has been featured in the Harvard Divinity Bulletin, on Huffington Postand Believe OutloudI most recently had the pleasure of writing an affirmation guide for QChristian.org on trans and gender-expansive identities.

Read my blog


 Coaching 

Storytelling is an essential part of my approach to coaching as well. The people who come to me for spiritual leadership coaching are rewriting their own stories into something that feels more authentic to who they are and the legacies they want to leave. As much as I love writing stories, I love helping people tell their own even more.

I especially love working with people with marginalized identities who are ready to (re)claim their sense of personal power. As someone with intersecting marginalized identities, I understand the significance of working with someone who shares a similar background when pursuing major life goals. The challenges that come from identity are real and require sensitivity that seems to be absent from a lot of coaching rhetoric. My goal is to help others set and achieve goals that shatter identity-based challenges in a way that is sensitive and responsive to my client’s emotional and spiritual needs in that moment.   

I have a compassionate, patient, encouraging, and firm demeanor that people seem to appreciate in a coach. I push when it seems like that would be useful, but I also value consent and trust in my coaching relationships and will never push an issue if it’s not clear that a client wants me to. 

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Preaching & Speaking 

When I tell stories, I make sure to tell them with my body as well as my words. As a preacher, I am dynamic, often choosing to preach extemporaneously (with notes) instead of a full manuscript. I’ve found that even the best manuscript can leave me feeling restricted in how a story is told or conveyed, so I often choose to go without one. When I do use a manuscript, it’s usually at a time that requires a more nuanced approach to the topic at hand. For me, the telling of a story must match the energy of the story itself, and I encourage participation from everyone in attendance. 

I specialize in facilitating conversations with those who have little to no experience with transgender people and may have religious beliefs that oppose us. I empower people to ask the questions they have while inspiring thoughtful reflection about gender itself as well as the relationships those in attendance have with their own sense of gender identity.  

I’ve shared my story of transition in churches across New England and California. My story appears in Austen Hartke’s book Transforming: The Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians.   

Contact me for speaking or preaching

 

“Our feelings are our most genuine paths to knowledge.”

-Audre Lorde