2019 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the release of the Welcoming Congregations Program. For thirty years, Unitarian Universalist congregations have taken concrete actions to more intentionally welcome people of all sexual orientations and gender identities and be a force for justice for LGBTQ people in our larger communities, and 75 percent of all UU congregations have gone through the Welcoming Congregations Program.
Unfortunately, this commitment and history has not translated into a fully welcoming and inclusive experience for all LGBTQ people in UU congregations. In the spring of 2018, a survey of trans Unitarian Universalists was conducted as a joint endeavor between TRUUsT (Trans Religious Professional UUs Together) and the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Multicultural Ministries office. The results showed that only 28 percent of trans UUs feel as though their current or most recent UU congregation is completely inclusive of them as trans people, only 15 percent of trans UUs feel strongly spiritually connected and nourished at their congregation, and 42 percent of trans people experience regular trans-related marginalization in UU spaces. ( Read the full report on the survey.)
In a faith that professes to be LGBTQ-welcoming, these numbers are shocking. To make matters worse, in today’s political climate, trans people need affirming spiritual spaces more than ever. In the United States in particular, the current presidential administration has unleashed an assault on trans people and emboldened widespread prejudice and violence, as evidenced by the wave of anti-trans legislation sweeping the country and recent federal efforts to narrowly redefine the legal definition of gender.
The time is now for Unitarian Universalists everywhere to take action to live out the values of our faith—to celebrate gender diversity and affirm the sacredness of all genders, including agender; honor the spiritual gifts of trans leaders; fight for justice and liberation for trans people; and, finally, become a place where people of all/no genders can be full participants in spiritual community.
TRUUsT calls on all Unitarian Universalists to take the following five vital actions to directly and materially support trans UUs, and shift the experiences of trans people within this faith:
- Donate to fund trans UUs’ healing and survival.Show your UU trans kindred that they can depend on their faith community to care for them: make a donation to the new rapid response fund for trans UUs in need (particularly trans UUs of color, trans women and transfeminine UU folks, disabled trans UU people, and trans UU youth and elders), and help your congregation join the list of UU congregations that make an annual donation or plate collection to TRUUsT.
- Be an accomplice for trans UUs.Are you willing and able to show up for trans people in a variety of ways? Sign up to express interest in a newly forming team of Unitarian Universalists of all sorts (and all genders) who are prepared to be active accomplices for trans people—from promoting calls for donations to intervening with cisgender UUs who are causing harm to sending care packages to trans UUs in need.
- Hire trans religious professionals.If you are looking to hire guest preachers, workshop leaders, consultants, or folks to do any number of other gigs, consider hiring a trans community minister or other religious professional. More than half of trans religious professionals do not have enough income to meet their personal needs. Visit the new service directory of religious professionals who are trans and/or people of color.
- Engage in trans education and transformation. Be proactive and engage in intersectional, transformational trans education as an individual, group, or congregation. One great option is to sign up for the self-directed online course “Trans Inclusion in Congregations,” created for UU congregations by the Rev. Mykal Slack and Zr. Alex Kapitan via the Transforming Hearts Collective.
- Take action as a congregation to increase trans access, inclusion, and affirmation. Talk to others in your congregation about what your next move is, and take action. Do you have at least one all-gender bathroom? Do you offer Our Whole Lives for all ages? Are there particular members who are causing harm and need intervention? Is there anti-trans legislation in your state that needs to be stopped? Is there a local LGBTQ organization that you could be supporting? Check out additional questions to consider and this great resource on supporting trans youth. If you don’t know what your next move is as a congregation, ask trans members of your congregation or larger community.
The values of Unitarian Universalism are clear and compelling. It’s time for this movement to do more to put its values into concrete action when it comes to the affirmation, care, and full belonging of trans people, because lives are on the line. We are grateful to all who carry the flame and the call of our faith and are emboldened by it to fight for trans liberation.