Interdependent Web: We must do better, tenderness of heart, taking responsibility

Interdependent Web: We must do better, tenderness of heart, taking responsibility

A weekly roundup of blogs and other user-generated web content about Unitarian Universalism


We must do better

Many people responded online this week to an article in the Spring 2019 issue of UU World. The article, “After L, G, and B,” was painful for many trans and nonbinary UUs, who pointed out that it centered its author’s cisgender perspective, and marginalized trans and nonbinary voices.

CB Beal modeled what could have been—a genderqueer person telling their own story.

When we speak of inclusion but we mean that white people will write about the lives of black people, that cisgender people will write about the lives of transgender people, that heterosexual people will write about the lives of queer people, that able-bodied people will write about the lives and experiences of people who are disabled by our society, we are doing the opposite of inclusion. It is this which causes me the most harm.

My faith has once again, with every good intention, centered people who are understood as “typical” and decentered marginalized people. The author makes common cause with other cisgender people who are confused.


I am right over here. (Medium, 3.5.19)

In a separate Facebook post, Beal spoke directly to cisgender UUs struggling to understand why the article caused offense. (Facebook, 3.6.19)

Alex Kapitan, who was quoted in the original article, wrote, “I’m bone tired of cis people holding out their good intentions as progress.”

At the end of the piece when Kimberly writes “…this is about building relationships. It’s about being respectful and about listening and about helping fight when asked” it feels like a slap in the face. She and Chris heard me, but they chose not to listen, to respect me and hundreds of other trans UUs, or to help fight when asked. (Roots Grow the Tree, 3.6.19)

The steering committee of TRUUsT (Transgender Religious professional Unitarian Universalists Together) published a response to the article.

The impact of this article will have long-lasting effects. While the UU World has a vital role in communicating issues of importance to Unitarian Universalists around the world, often representing the leading edge and the best in our UU faith, it is that trust and faith in this magazine which makes this article all the more harmful. Well-meaning people who have no other known relationship to or interaction with trans lives will now believe that these words and actions are acceptable. They are not! (TRUUsT, 3.6.19)

KC Slack wrote, “I am hurt, but I love you enough to think you can do better. So please try.”

Focus on inclusion leads to this sort of navel gazing “allyship” which does not make marginalized people feel safe and, in fact, makes us pretty unsafe.

I’m hurt by this piece and by the UU World’s choice to publish it at the exclusion of seeking out trans voices. I encourage you all to consider how frequently the voice *everyone* needs to hear, the voice with the most valuable things to say, is the one perhaps least like the communities we already exist in. I need you to think about how self-congratulatory and self-declared allyship strangles marginalized communities which are already fighting for air. (Facebook, 3.5.19)

Matthew Johnson started a Facebook thread celebrating some of his trans friends and colleagues and invited others to add to the list. (Facebook, 3.5.19)

Chris Walton, UU World’s editor, published an apology for the mistakes made, and for the pain they caused; a link to the apology was posted at the beginning and end of the original article, which trans leaders asked the magazine to keep available online.

UUA President Susan Frederick Gray also responded to the concerns of trans UUs.

Tenderness of heart

Heather Petit shares a tender poem, addressed to someone overwhelmed by pain.

Take the time you need.
Nah, more than that, love
no need to rush the margins
just because the worst is past,
imagining I'm in some secret hurry
for you to move. (Facebook, 3.7.19)

Liz James observes Self-Injury Awareness Day, telling her own story and offering hope.

[My] scars are such a small part of my story, now. They’re a long ago thing that I often forget until someone asks me about a mark, or March 1st rolls around. My life is about other things. Not only is cutting now something small, forgotten, and conquered, the feelings that led to it are also gone.

This doesn’t make me special. This is what happens to most people. This is probably what will happen to you. Hold on.

You’re not broken. Keep fighting. Find help, and if that help isn’t working, find other help. You deserve better. I am rooting for you. (Facebook, 3.1.19)

Joseph Erhard-Hudson was diagnosed with Adult ADHD in mid-life; his guest post on my personal blog describes the difficult work of moving past decades of accumulated shame.

This is my path. This. This. This. Mine. Mine. Mine. Here, where I am now, who I am now, this is my new path, through the land on the other side of shame. I don’t have to be the person that could be on a different path. I don’t even have to know the end of the path to follow the call. We ADHDers can be especially good at taking things as they come. I think we can turn that into listening to the call well, even as it evolves and grows with us. Maybe that can be a gift we can teach to others. (Rev. Heather Lou, 3.7.19)

Karen Hering suggests that surrender can be a helpful companion to resistance.

For some of us, our communities of faith offer us a net of relationships and wider meaning in which our resistance is nested. At their best, communities of faith can give us a place to incubate and hatch our better selves. Other folks have intentionally created different forms of community to foster similarly trustworthy kinship and ground. Any of these can breed the tenderness of heart that makes personal transformation possible alongside the social change we strive for in the world. (Karen Hering, 3.6.19)

Taking responsibility

Myke Johnson meets with a group of white people learning about colonization, in relationship with the Wabanaki people of Maine.

Can learning about our own ancestors help white people in undoing white supremacy and colonization? . . . It seemed to us that understanding our families’ histories in the context of colonization, can help us to better understand colonization, and to make it visceral and real for us. It is not just recounting the stories we may have heard in our families, or read about in research, but juxtaposing those stories with the history of colonization, land theft, and slavery, in the particular locations in which they lived. (Finding Our Way Home, 3.6.19)

Doug Muder ruthlessly examines the ways in which most men—including himself—have harmed women.

As a culture, we have consistently treated women like players in a game that they never signed up for. By doing that, we have failed to recognize their sovereignty over their own bodies. And in far too many situations we have failed to grant them their full humanity.

That game is the problem that needs to be solved. It has gone on far too long. Men in general (and not just a few bad men) have kept it going through our lifetimes and taught the next generation how to play.

So it’s far past time that we take responsibility for that game and join women in demanding that it stop. (Free and Responsible, 3.1.19)

Peter Morales traces the history of the Irish Potato Famine and marvels that we can now buy huge quantities of potatoes with relative ease and economy.

Sadly, life is still precarious for tens, even hundreds, of millions. Yet, and this is absolutely critical, for the first time in human history it doesn’t have to be this way. For the first time in the human journey we can actually provide a decent and sustainable life for everyone. We know how to do this. Technologically it would be no big deal. The barriers are political and cultural. And huge. (What Is and So What, 3.5.19)