After receiving the initial proposed Action of Immediate Witness, I didn’t think about it again until the President’s Report at General Assembly. (I’ve looked for a transcript or other record and can find none, so this is based on my recall only.) When President Sinkford began talking about the new efforts to find and retain ministers of color, Latino/Latina/Hispanic ministers, I felt my guts clench. He compared the association’s successful support of our “Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender” ministers to what he hoped to accomplish for ministers of color. As the association’s only openly trans minister settled in a congregation, I wanted to shout, “There’s been no insititutional support of bisexual or trans ministers!” Of course, I didn’t. But I did say to a friend who is also a part of the UUA staff, “I’m tired of being the symbol of institutional success when the institution has done nothing.”
Later, I realized something else. As much as I unequivocally support the effort to better support my colleagues of color, it was hard for me to listen to Rev. Sinkford and the whole plenary get so excited about it. It was hard for three reasons: first, I’m not sure we want these ministers for the right reasons; second, I’m not sure we know how to support them and I fear we’re setting them and ourselves up; and third, no one is out there working to get more transgender ministers into our movement. In fact, whenever people ask me how many transgender folks are in our seminaries and I say, “I know about ten or twelve,” a fleeting look of panic crosses their faces. I don’t mean to act out of some internalized sense that all the “oppressed” have to compete for the crumbs from the table, but I did feel it. “At least they want people of color.”
Anyway, the report went on, the people cheered, and all was well in our Assembly, if a little unsettled in me. The ENDA AIW passed, as did the responsive resolution. And afterwards, a whole lot of people approached me for hugs, most of them saying something like, “You must be so pleased.” I was pleased, but I was also sad and tired.
Imagine with me, if you will, that some identity that describes you was put up for a vote before the General Assembly. Let’s say the General Assembly voted to “affirm its commitment to the inherent worth and dignity of every human being, including ________________.” (white guys…youth…Christians…) I’m glad they voted “yes” but I’m sad they had to vote at all. The whole process was hard on me and the other genderqueer and transgender folks I spoke to. Even though we “won,” it was a hard and sometimes incredibly discouraging process.
Knowing that even after several hours of conversation the Commissioners (on Social Witness) did not understand the significant difference between being “folded in” to ENDA and having an AIW that specifically spoke to gender identity discrimination was very hard. Having people speak in favor of the resolutions that clearly didn’t even know the terms (speaking of gender “dysmorphia” instead of “dysphoria”) or from those who had opposed the Gender Identity AIW (Jan Carson Bull, Chair of the CSW saying something about how we are flowers that need to be allowed to bloom in order to make the whole UU garden more beautiful…) just, well, sucked. Oh, and the woman who after speaking about how churches needed to put this into action and hire more transgender people, managed to mix up a tall red-headed and bearded transgender minister with a short, bald, dark transgender seminarian. My cynical side is just reveling in all the support. Sigh.
What I’m trying to say is that while it’s easy for us to get all self-congratulatory about how progressive we are and how we’re all out on the cutting edge of anti-oppression work, from my perspective we have a long, long, long way to go. It’s my hope that by sharing how all this felt to me, there might be a chance that these resolutions and all the hard work that Revs. Janamanchi and Mishra did might be a beginning of real change.