This is the second post in my series discussing the dominant themes that emerged from the Transgender Religious Summit and a continuation of the discussion of relational education. You can read the first post here.
The content of the education we offer, whether formally or informally, is just as important as the “who” and the “how.” According to Joel Kushner, that content must address the “why” question early and often. Our mainstream audience will (understandably, I think) require justification for the changes we suggest. How we justify our call for change will depend significantly on organizational history and identity, any opposition we may face, as well as many other factors. Some options for answering the “why” question include:
- Scripture and tradition
- Other historical narratives of oppression and liberation
- Universality (rigid gender boundaries impact everyone, not just trans people)
- The (spiritual or humanistic) call to work for justice and to end oppression
Additionally, as we point out the structural and policy barriers that exist within our organizations to providing sacramental and ministry services to trans people, we are likely to face denial. “We don’t have any trans people (or any trans parents, or any trans children, or any genderqueer people, etc.) so there is no need to address this.” How will we respond to this? We need to consider in advance how to deal with this denial; the narratives of individuals affected by these barriers are important, but will probably prove insufficient. What can we add?
Finally, Mike Schuenemeyer (minister for LGBT Health and Wholeness Advocacy for the United Church of Christ) pointed out (and very insightfully, I thought) that often those who are curious about transgendered people don’t know how to formulate their questions, and that makes them afraid of embarrassing themselves or offending us. We need to reach out to these people, building relationships in which those fears are mitigated, living open lives and being quick to offer grace when we’re offended. Joel Kushner asked several questions in his introductory session that speak to our own difficulties in building these kinds of relationships:
- What baggage are we bringing with us into our work?
- What prejudices have we suffered and how have we turned them back on others?
- What “micro-aggression” scripts are we acting out in our relationships?
- How do these effect our work for inclusiveness?