Institutional Change
Main Content

How Do We Respond to Systemic Oppression

Transgender Day of Remembrance Chalice

This post is offered in solidarity with our transgender, genderqueer and gender nonconforming kin whom we have previously cited as experiencing similar dynamics as those experienced by people of color within Unitarian Universalism. We affirm, prioritize, and wish to amplify the analysis of the specifics dynamics to those leaders and community members most directly impacted by these dynamics as that is a principle of accountability which we honor, the violation of which has caused much pain among us.

We do wish to pause a moment to discuss the costs of systemic oppression. As we have pointed out in previous posts, the oppression faced by transgender, genderqueer and gender nonconforming Unitarian Universalists, while unique in its manifestations, has many of the same dynamics that animate racism. A denial of the differential treatment faced by those whose gender identity is marginalized among us was the cause of much pain. We are deeply saddened by that pain and ask the larger Unitarian Universalist community to engage in self-study, learning, and transformation.

Those who are marginalized among us are not on display for the learning and edification of the majority culture. We treat people as “other” when we treat them as objects or when we act as if our understanding is more important than their right to dignity and privacy.

Second, we note that these sorts of damaging dynamics are perpetuated by a culture which values “expertise” rather than a culture of learning in which we know that we are all learners. The need to “master” knowledge in this way, especially by using individual lives as the teaching tools further objectifies people.

Third, we note that we have a generational understanding gap in social justice issues. For many of our younger members, and certainly, within our youth, our failure to be able to expand our inclusion causes us to become irrelevant and also results in a culture where we reject and harm people.

Fourth, we must create a culture of hospitality where we allow people to enter into our congregations with the identities they claim without questioning their experience or their truths. Failure to do so feeds into a dynamic which denies that those targeted by hate in our larger society also struggle to thrive among us. This denial of the difference of experience

As we said in our blog post of September 2018, “Our basic premise is that if we can live into the full participation of those who have been most marginalized among us, we can create a responsive, vibrant Unitarian Universalism. A Unitarian Universalist faith marked by full equity and participation will continue to play a vital role in transforming lives and communities.” 

Deepening Spiritually

The Commission on Institutional Change calls us into relationship with our transgender, genderqueer and non-binary siblings. Below are articles and statements written by Trans UUs. You'll also find how the UUA and UU World responded to being called in to address the harm named in these prophetic words. These articles and statements are valuable, the thoughtfulness of these authors offers an opportunity for self and group learning, that does not call Trans UUs into continued labor. In a small group, lift up the words of Trans UUs and discuss how they resonate with you. How do you respond to being called into harms caused by our UU institutions?