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Social Action: Transgender Inclusion and Justice at First Parish and Beyond

 

In line with our UU principles, we are always striving to become more inclusive, respectful and welcoming of all people at First Parish, and to support greater inclusion and justice for all people in our society.

 

One of the topics the Social Action committee is focusing on this year is transgender (trans) justice and inclusion.
There is specific opportunity for us this year to become a community that affirmatively and actively supports trans people at FPC, in Beverly, and throughout Massachusetts, as this November, we will have an opportunity to protect important non-discrimination protections for transgender people in our state.

 

 

Join us for lunch on February 25!

Join the social action committee after the service on February 25 to talk about our congregation’s work toward being trans affirming and inclusive. We’ll talk briefly about our current hopes for FPC, and then have small group discussions while eating a light lunch that we provide. Kids and families are very welcome!

 

 

Transgender Inclusion/Transgender Justice FAQ

This list of frequently asked questions is a work in progress.  We want your questions!  Please talk to any member of the Social Action Committee if you have a question you would like to add to the list.

What does it mean to be transgender?

Being transgender means that a person’s lived experience and understanding of their gender identity is different from the gender they were assigned at birth.

 

What supports do transgender people need?

On a basic level, what trans people need is no different than what all of us need. Trans people need, want, and deserve respect, privacy, understanding, security, and to be treated with dignity.

 

Because our society as a whole has not caught up to an understanding and respect of trans people and trans identities, trans people face a high level of discrimination, misunderstanding, and even harassment and violence.

 

Therefore, trans people need and deserve protections from discrimination. Trans people need equitable access to employment and housing, a culture that does not mock and fear them, public spaces where they can be safe, an educational system where they are acknowledged and respected, and culturally competent medical care.

 

What are the “right” terms to use?

The easiest and best answer to this question is to respect and use the terms individuals use to identify themselves.

 

Trans is often used as an umbrella term. There are many different terms that may fall under the umbrella “trans.” These can include: trans, transgender, transsexual, gender non-conforming, genderqueer, non-binary (and this is not an extensive list).

 

The UUA website has a good list of terms and definitions available on its transgender inclusion page:

https://www.uua.org/lgbtq/identity/transgender

 

Two key points to keep in mind that the  UUA includes when it comes to terms and language are:

  1. Avoid making assumptions about gender identity or sexual orientation.
  2. Respect a person’s identity and self-label.

What about pronouns? How do I know what pronoun to use?

Again, the best and easiest answer here is to respect the pronouns a person uses for themselves. Some trans people use the pronouns she and he (according to their gender identity). Some trans people use other pronouns like singular they or ze.

 

Listen to what people tell you their pronouns are, and respect them. You can also practice offering your own pronouns when you meet new people.

 

One practice we could consider at FPC is to offer the option for all of us to list their pronouns on our nametags.

 

What if I make a mistake?

Even with our best intentions, we may make mistakes as we are learning. At the same time, it is also important to understand that for many transgender people, it is hurtful to have their identity misrepresented. If you find that you’ve used the wrong pronoun, or wrong name, for someone, the best approach is to acknowledge it as a mistake, apologize, and move on. You can follow the other person’s lead on how much they want to talk about it, but generally speaking if you dwell on it, it can wind up putting the focus more on you than on the person that experienced the hurt. Make a mental note for yourself to do better next time.

 

Is being trans inclusive about bathrooms?

Being trans inclusive is about respecting one another and ensuring everyone that comes to First Parish – and everyone we interact with in our lives – is treated with the dignity all humans deserve.

 

Everyone needs to use the bathroom, and safe and dignified access to bathrooms, including in public spaces (including spaces like First Parish)  is an important part of living our daily lives, for all of us. So, yes, it is important that trans people are able to use the public restrooms that correspond to their gender identity.

 

One of the scare tactics opponents of trans equality use is say that protecting transgender people in public places endangers women and children in public restrooms and locker rooms. The truth is that trans people are the ones who face harassment and worse in public restrooms and other public spaces.

 

What about violence against trans people?

Statistics show that trans people face high rates of harassment and violence.

 

In 2017, we know of at least 27 homicides of transgender people across the U.S. Trans people of color face especially high rates of violence.

 

First Parish is already a Welcoming Congregation. Why do we also need to be trans-affirming?

To truly be a Welcoming Congregation–a space that supports LGBT congregants and community members–we must be trans affirming. The “T” in LGBT stands for transgender, of course. To truly welcome trans congregants, we need to intentionally support them, rather than just considering our work completed by calling ourselves welcoming. In some ways, this work is like the Welcoming Congregation Refresher Program that the UUA recommends!

 

What might becoming trans-affirming look like for FPC?

One place we can look to start to answer this is this trans inclusion “questions and answers”  from the UUA website:

 

https://www.uua.org/sites/live-new.uua.org/files/documents/lgbtq/trans_inclusion_qs.pdf

 

What are some resources and language to talk to young kids about trans identity and trans inclusivity?

One great resource is GenderJabber, a website designed for this very purpose! The Flamingo Rampant series of children’s books are all trans-friendly, and many are specifically about trans characters. The YouTube channel Queer Kid Stuff covers a range of LGBTQ issues for kids ages 3 and up, including issues surrounding trans and non-binary people. Davey Shlasko’s Trans Ally Workbook addresses a lot of ways to talk about trans identity and trans inclusivity, from kids through elders!

 

Often, people are worried that children won’t understand complicated issues around people being transgender. But kids are frequently better at integrating the information than even adults are. Starting from a young age to not stereotype about gender, and not draw sharp distinction between boys and girls, can be a good way to make sure that your child will be able to understand  other questions and experiences of gender from the beginning.


Why are we doing this now?

It is always a good time, and always in line with our UU principles, to become more inclusive, respectful and welcoming of all people.

 

There is also specific urgency for us this year to become a community that supports trans people at FPC, in Beverly, and throughout Massachusetts.

 

This November, all of us who vote in MA will be asked to decide whether or not we support trans equality. FPC has an opportunity to play a role in ensuring that MA says yes to that question.

 

Does MA law currently protect trans people from discrimination?

 

Yes. Currently transgender people in Massachusetts have explicit protections under state law in employment, housing, credit and lending, and public accommodations.

 

The law protecting trans people in public accommodations was passed in 2016 with wide support, including from women’s and domestic violence organizations, the business community, public safety officials, a wide faith coalition, bipartisan state legislators, and governor Baker, who signed the bill into law.

 

This law is what we will be asked to vote on protecting this November.

 

What specifically are MA voters being asked to vote on this November? Why is it important?

Despite the wide public and legislative support for the law, a small group of opponents managed to put the transgender public accommodations nondiscrimination law on the ballot for repeal in November 2018.

 

MA voters will be asked if we support keeping the law on the books, so that transgender people continue to be explicitly protected from discrimination in public spaces, and MA remains a state with full transgender equality.

 

What are public accommodations?

Public accommodations are public spaces that we all visit every day. This includes places like restaurants, hotels, hospitals, businesses and other organizations that are open to the public, public parks and public transportation.

 

Transgender people across the US face high levels of discrimination in these places. These explicit nondiscrimination protections in our state law mean that transgender people in MA and their families and friends can go about their daily lives with less fear and stress. All of us deserve to move freely through our days without fearing discrimination.

 

Do you have more questions?

Talk to a member of the Social Action committee, visit our table after services, and join us for an informative, family-friendly lunch on February 25!

 

 

 

 

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First Parish Church

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