Fiercely UU: Showing Up in Full

By Annie Gonzalez Milliken

Fiercely UU is a new blog series where Unitarian Universalist young adults tell stories about what our faith requires of us and how they follow that call. To be fiercely UU is to proclaim human worth and interdependence. In an individualist, greed-based, shame and fear fueled white supremacist patriarchy, we say no to isolation and oppression and yes to radical love and covenanted connection. – Ed.

Showing Up in Full

by KC Slack

I’m what you might call a 1st & 7th principle Unitarian Universalist. Don’t get me wrong, principles two through six matter immensely to me, but the first and seventh are the ones I come back to over and over again in my work. Each person’s inherent worth and dignity comes together with our respect for the interconnected web of all existence. I am left with a strong feeling that it is important that each person be able to live authentically. Just as the world needs a variety of types of plants and animals to make our ecosystems work, humanity needs people who can operate from their own experience in lives of their own design. When we are all able to be fully ourselves we are able to come together and see so much more than we ever could alone or in a world full of people just like us.

I see creation in general - whatever we take that to mean - and society in particular as a creative endeavor, and if I’ve learned anything in my short time as an artist, it’s that creative potential is amplified when we’re open to new ideas and experiences. What I take this to mean is that for us to make a more beautiful world - to have the kind of creativity necessary to move on from the painful and oppressive routines of our past - there needs to be space for each of us to show up in full.

I remember being overwhelmed the first time I attended the Ohio Meadville District Summer Institute. Of course meeting that many people for the first time was intense, as was having so many workshop options and such full days, but none of this was what most struck me. What I got stuck on - honestly, what I stay stuck on - was the freedom of Unitarian Universalist young people.

I sat on the stairs of an auditorium, looking out as people wandered around during unscheduled time and was over and over again taken in by the extent to which in this space people - especially youth - were able to be visibly themselves. They wore whatever, held hands with whomever, sang, they were simply themselves, and they were so loved and supported by their community.

It was beautiful. If I hadn’t already been sure about Unitarian Universalism, I’m sure those moments would have won me over. In my time as a Unitarian Universalist I’ve been lucky to see this sort of thing over and over again. There are beautiful moments where it is clear that we are encouraging our young people not only to feel free to be fully themselves around their peers, but are teaching them that all of who they are is valuable and holy.

At our best, this is what Unitarian Universalism can be for all of us. We have an opportunity, and the grounding from which to build space in which we are able to arrive fully ourselves and meet people fully themselves, seeing both that we are not one another and that each others ideas and process add possibility to the world that we would never ever see in a world without this exchange. In my day-to-day life this means showing up visibly as myself: queer, poly, fat and very femme, purple haired, opinionated, quoting social theory and rap songs with equal ease.

I take living like this, choosing to be all of myself even when it is uncomfortable or feels unsafe, as a way to make space for others to be more themselves. In many ways I am protected by my education, my ability to move comfortably in spaces with middle/upper middle class social norms, and my whiteness – so where I can push to make space, I do. While I do this, I try to practice encountering others in their fullness as well. I’ll show up as all of me and I’ll do my best to see all of you and maybe we’ll get to practice being together in ways that the world has never known.

We have so much opportunity in our faith spaces to see our own values and live them. To invite in less-heard voices and to be changed by difference. We get this opportunity to help the chorus of humanity play a more beautiful song, so let’s try showing up.

KC is a bad fat broad, super femme rust belt girl, non-traditional self-decorator, abortionista, and Unitarian Universalist scholartivist (scholar, artist, activist, and spiritual leader all in one). She’s about all multiple everything: bi/pansexual, polyamorous, and pantheistic. You can find her lost in dresses, putting on too much makeup in order to get writing done, dancing with fats, and having too-deep conversations with her cats.

youth at GA

Youth showing up fully and creatively at General Assembly.

Youth take their full selves on the road during Summer Seminary, a program for youth feeling a call to professional UU work.