In the Interim: 10/26/18

arif-mamdaniIf you’ve been reading the news recently, you’re sure to have seen that the Department of Health and Human Services is proposing to change the federally recognized definition of gender to be based on “immutable biological traits identifiable at or before birth” and that a person’s sex – yours, mine, people we love and others we don’t know, will be determined by what is listed on “a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued” which will “constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”

This might seem like not such a big deal if you’re cis-gender – that is to say that your sense of personal identity and gender corresponds to the sex you were assigned at birth. But, for millions of our transgender siblings and their families, it means not just that they are rolling back the recognition of a more fluid gender identity recognized by the prior administration, but that with the stroke of a pen, are preparing to quite literally erase several million Americans.

That thought should give all of us pause. A few weeks ago, I asked from the pulpit “where is sanctuary for them?” and the them I was speaking of were people who move through the world as female. The same question needs to be asked for transgender people. And all too many others who don’t “fit” the narrow definition of “American” being advanced by some in this country.  These are scary times for our transgender siblings and their families. We see you, we support you, and we love you.

For many of us, whether we’re personally connected to transgender folks or not, these times engender a great many feelings – rage, sorrow, deep fear, and so much anxiety. What’s also true is that for many people here at UUCM, this sense of personal connection isn’t there, their outrage, fear, sadness, and the like aren’t awakened as directly and personally.

In these challenging times, and also in the interim period that UUCM is in, it’s even more important that we practice being gentle with each other. It’s hard to imagine in a community that feels so much like “home” that everyone doesn’t think the same way we do. It’s hard to imagine that someone could be unmoved by something that’s so clearly and personally unjust to us. But it’s true. At church, it can be easy to assume a homogeneity of perspective, a like-mindedness, yet when we do that, we too create a more narrow identity.

To be clear, this is not to say that all ideas are welcome, and that in Unitarian Universalism, you can believe anything that you want. That simply is not true. As Unitarian Universalists, we can and do take moral stands on injustice. We are clear that this attack on transgender people violates our commitment to uphold and defend the dignity and worth of all people. On this, there is no question.

At the same time, and particularly in these weeks before our next election, it’s important that we remember that we’re not all like-minded, lest through inadvertent exclusion, we undermine the sanctuary we’re trying to create here. Friends, in these challenging times, let’s practice an expansive and courageous love that calls us to draw the circle wider, but not naively. Where we encounter conflict – and as Rev. Meg reminded us, here, in community, we definitely will encounter conflict – let’s practice a courageous love that calls us to an ethic of loving confrontation. May we remember that we change the world by changing hearts, and we change hearts by practicing first with those closest to us. Engage with each other. Disagree. Forge a new understanding together. And do so with an ethic of love, respect, and care.  See you at church.