On Tuesday, May 2nd, members of the trans and nonbinary+ community and their allies, including Unitarian Universalists, were subjected to unprovoked violence by law enforcement at the Texas Capitol. They were protesting efforts by the Texas legislature to ban gender affirming care for trans youth and simply exercising their First Amendment right to freedom of speech.
There is no going back. Love, justice, and equal rights will prevail. We must be the ones to make it so — to come together and bend Texas toward justice. ~Rev. Erin Walter, TX UU Justice Ministry
Two people, including trans activist Adri Pérez, were arrested and met with excessive force by state law enforcement. Pérez has worked closely with the Texas Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry (TXUUJM) to advocate on behalf of the LGBTQIA+ community. According to the Dallas Voice, Perez was treated violently by Texas state troopers, having been “suddenly grabbed from behind by one trooper…while three of the troopers wrestled Pérez to the ground. One of the three [sat] on Pérez’s back, while another handcuffs the activist and a third holds Pérez’s feet.”
“Unitarian Universalists and other justice-seeking people of faith came to the Texas Capitol on May 2nd for a sing-in, to proclaim that oppression cannot stop joy or love,” said Rev. Erin Walter, TXUUJM’s executive director. “Later that day we were met by state violence, particularly against trans Texans of color. Attacks on trans Texans — whether by proposed legislation or by officers of the law — are acts of cruelty and power-mongering rooted in White Supremacy and colonialism, which uphold gender as a binary. This state violence is an attack on bodily autonomy, human rights and religious freedom.
"At TXUUJM, we dearly love and support our friend and organizing partner Adri Pérez of Texas Freedom Network and condemn the violence against them as well as the one-year ban on Sofia Sepulveda, of Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT) and Equality Texas, from the Capitol. We hear loud and clear the call of TENT and other LGBTQIA+ leaders — the call for cisgender Texans to show up now, loudly and publicly, in the fight for trans rights and collective liberation. While this session has been rife with unconscionable, unjust tactics meant to silence, dishearten, and erase our people, there is no mistaking the LGBTQIA+ community in Texas is organized and profoundly powerful. There is no going back. Love, justice, and equal rights will prevail. We must be the ones to make it so — to come together and bend Texas toward justice," said Walter.
This comes just weeks after Montana State Representative Zooey Zephyr, a trans woman who represents Missoula, was barred from speaking in the state legislature because she protested their efforts to ban gender affirming care in that state. Zephyr also reported that both she and her girlfriend have been subjected to attempts to “SWAT” her through false incident reports and attempts to weaponize law enforcement.
This is just another example of the dangerous escalation by some in political power and their supporters to target transgender and nonbinary+ children and adults. In March, the UUA noted that “policy violence and dehumanizing rhetoric creates an environment that can provoke physical violence and further discrimination.” We are experiencing this come to pass with these incidents.
As Unitarian Universalists, we are clear and unequivocal: LGBTQIA+ people are sacred, whole, and divine. We unapologetically welcome LGBTQIA+ people, children and families to our communities. To do otherwise means placing the health and well-being of trans and nonbinary+ youth and adults in more danger, including a well-documented increase for the risk of suicide. We know the life-saving power that loving, affirming, inclusive community is in people’s lives.
We will continue to support and work with the LGBTQIA+ community — and siblings within our congregations and the wider world — to ensure their fundamental rights are protected. We will not rest until these efforts to criminalize and erase the very existence of trans and nonbinary+ people stop, including trans youth and their families. This is about saving people’s lives, it is about liberty, defending people’s bodily autonomy, and the essential right to express identity and live in safety.
In our March statement, we also recognized that legislative and administrative efforts to target the trans and nonbinary+ community coincided “with efforts to dismantle democracy and individual agency, all by pushing authoritarian policies that violate the sanctity of our homes, our bodies, and our diverse religious beliefs.” This is another example of the growing use of anti-democratic practices in Republican-held legislatures to abuse the levers of government to silence differences of opinion, which erodes democracy in our nation. It is also encouraging and implicitly condoning the use of violent action by law enforcement to intimidate duly elected legislators and protesters.
Authoritarian actions similarly were taken by the Tennessee state legislature in the expulsion of the “Tennessee Three” because of their advocacy on behalf of gun safety reform. These are urgent threats to our communities and our democracy. As Unitarian Universalists, we affirm democratic practices among our central Principles, which are at the heart of our core belief in the worth and dignity of every person. Democracy recognizes that every voice matters and every voice is needed.
As UUA President, Rev. Dr. Susan Frederick-Gray, said in April, “Democracy is never guaranteed. It is always something that must be engaged, defended, and demanded by the people, for the people.” We pledge our continued commitment to defend democracy at this pivotal moment. We pledge our unwavering support for trans and nonbinary+ adults and young people and the LGBTQIA+ community. Our democracy is at risk for us all. We will not be silenced.