The time is now for Unitarian Universalists everywhere to celebrate gender diversity, honor the spiritual gifts of trans leaders, fight for justice and liberation for trans people, and welcome people of all or no genders as full participants in spiritual community.
Members of the UU Congregation of the South Jersey Shore in Galloway, New Jersey, celebrate unanimously calling the Rev. Dawn Fortune as the congregation’s first settled minister in May 2017. Fortune (in purple) was one of two trans ministers called by UU congregations in 2017. (© 2017 Betsy Searight)
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:
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.
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TRUUsT (Trans Religious Professional UUs Together; transuu.org) was founded in 2004 by Mr. Barb Greve and the Rev. Sean Parker-Dennison. Its mission is to support UU trans religious professionals, advocate for each other and our ministries, and transform Unitarian Universalism and our world. TRUUsT takes a broad view of what it means to be trans and what it means to be a religious professional, recognizing that oppression has too often barred trans people from accessing traditional paths to credentialed leadership. The sixty-one current members of truust are genderqueer, genderfluid, agender, two spirit, trans women, trans men, and more, and include credentialed and non-credentialed ministers, religious educators, music directors, youth directors, church administrators, chaplains, and seminarians.
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Listening to transgender and nonbinary people is about respect, relationship, and whether we can be a truly inclusive faith.