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Cautious Optimism on Transgender Day of Remembrance

Transgender Day of Remembrance Chalice

The UUA recognizes Transgender Day of Remembrance - 11.20.17

By Terry Cummings

As another Transgender Day of Remembrance approaches, the recent election to public offices around the country of eight members of the trans and non-binary community is a reason for cautious optimism.

It seems that in the modern history of America, or the world for that matter, there have never been so many trans and non-binary people bravely living their lives in the fullness of their identities. And surprise, surprise, cisgender people appear to be learning that we are responsible and caring friends and co-workers, who can be relied upon in time of need. That we are not sexual deviants who molest innocent people in public restrooms.

And there is also cause for optimism for the trans and non-binary community in the world of Unitarian Universalism. More and more I am hearing about members of UU congregations and their children claiming the gender they feel rather than the one assigned to them at birth. Their experiences are not always completely positive, but every place I hear about seems to be mindful of our first UU principle, and apply it to the trans members of their congregation.

Sadly, those members of the trans and non-binary community who have chosen to follow a call to ministry have not fared well in Unitarian Universalism. I personally don’t know enough about the history to be able to say why this is so, but as I continue following my own call I learn more and more about those ministers who have gone before me. I am deeply grateful to them for setting the standard, and I am indebted for their sacrifice.

I also make no apology for being an inveterate optimist. I see a brilliant future ahead for members of the trans and non-binary community, along with all those who consider themselves to fall within the LGBTQ spectrum, in the work of UU ministry. Conversations are deepening, and will continue to deepen as members of the UU community, lay and clergy, reach out to one another in love and appreciation. Just this past weekend, I was privileged to attend the installation of one of my trans colleagues as minister of a UU church near where I currently live.

But this is not a time to be Pollyanna about the way this community is treated and perceived, here at home or abroad. Employment, housing, education, and other opportunities are routinely denied to them. That is why we must stand in solidarity with all oppressed groups; because no one is free until we are all free.

More than anything, on this Day of Remembrance, I hold in my thoughts and prayers the countless thousands of individuals, a significant number of whom have been transwomen of color, who have been brutally killed because they dared to live their lives as their true selves.

To quote a poem often read at memorial services, We Will Remember Them