It’s not hard to find places to feel unwelcome. I knew that even when I didn’t know all the reasons that I was different from how the world expected me to be. Once I accepted that I’m transgender I had an explanation for many of the unwelcoming experiences I’d had in life.
It’s been said that naming a problem is half the solution. In the case of naming my gender it has often felt that the problem got much larger once I named it. The places I could feel welcome became increasingly scarce.
Although I came out as trans with a plan in place, I had underestimated the losses that accompanied the truth of my identity. Being genuine seemed to make me less welcome than I’d ever been before. I won’t say that TRUUsT saved me; that seems over dramatic. I will say that attending the first TRUUsT retreat brought me a feeling of welcome that had been missing for many years.
TRUUsT began as a group of transgender UU religious professionals and that defined me precisely. I was ordained and working as a parish minister for 8 years when I came out as transgender. I hadn’t expected that I would be exiled from the faith I had devoted my life to, but after a few more years that’s what happened - for a while. I stayed active on the steering committee of TRUUsT, but my enthusiasm faded as my chances to work diminished. It’s fair to say that I was losing my faith. Then came the first TRUUsT retreat and the time together with colleagues, potential colleagues, and UUA staff. That togetherness is what changed my life and brought me back to a place of welcome within the world of Unitarian Universalism.
Being with other trans UUs is a fine thing. Having allies from “the mothership” made all the difference, though. The relationships built between TRUUsT and the UUA are reason to hope for a healthier and more loving future; a future when trans people are welcome at all levels of participation in Unitarian Universalism, from seekers, to congregation members, to ministers and religious educators, to staff at the mothership. I believe that our association will be better for all of us in the future. I’m grateful to the UUA staff for every action that helps us reach that future.
Having a few dozen trans UUs together is remarkable. It’s not a matter of great unity; we are a few dozen individuals after all. The remarkable part is the beautiful diversity amongst us. Empowered to gather as people who specifically welcome each other seems to also empower us to be more individual, to let our particular lights shine.
We shine extra bright when we’re together. Upon leaving our retreat this year, I carried some of the brilliance of togetherness back with me to the congregation I now serve. I can now say my faith is us stronger than it’s been in years. After the loss and exile of a few years ago, maybe my faith is now deeper, with lived experience that shows that rifts can be mended and there is a place to feel welcome.
Read the whole story: https://truust.wordpress.com/2017/05/29/2017-retreat/
The Reverend Anya Drew Johnston is on the Steering Committee of TRUUsT and has been serving in transitional ministries since 1999. Anya is currently interim minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent, Ohio.