TDoR 2015

Today is the 16th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. I have been to one event already, I will be reading some of the names later on today in another, and I will be leading an event at my congregation on Sunday. I don’t mind saying that I’d rather not have the dubious honor of reading the names. I could back down and say I just can’t do it. Except I can’t, my own honor will not let me do so. Today, I am feeling sad because I must confront the evils done to the trans community in this past year. Twenty four trans persons killed in the US in the past 12 months. We surpassed 2014’s 16 murders in August. Plus, twenty trans persons who killed themselves this past year in the US. And this is just who we know. How many more transgender persons have been killed or taken their own lives that we don’t know about?

 

Trying to write a sermon about TDoR has given me some perspective on it. One is that I am completely unready and unsuited to give such a solemn sermon. Another is that I avoided it for so long because I was, and still am, uncomfortable with the topic. Death is one thing, but to speak about the violence perpetrated on the trans community is something different. Death as an abstract is easy. Death, when it could have been you, is so much harder. I’m a transwoman and somewhat open about it. I could have been killed by someone for simply existing. I also suffer from severe anxiety and depression and seeing some of the hate that is flung towards the trans community could have pushed me over the edge. There have been times when I was ready to take my own life, had I had to deal with the bullying that is done to transpersons, I don’t think I would be here now.

 

Please attend a service near you, even if you are cisgender. Read the names and the causes of death, especially if you have never met a trans person. Here is a list of the names of those murdered: #readthenames. And over here is a list of the names of those who could no longer bear their bullying: #notonemore. Unfortunately, we in the trans community cannot even rely on the police to protect us. We cannot expect medical personnel to treat us. We cannot walk down the street without wondering who wants to kill us. That is not a way to live and needs to change now!  Not when others are ready to accept us. Not when studies are done showing that we exist and our treatment is to be ourselves. Not after even one more death. We need to be full persons NOW!  We need the same respect that others get.

The Six Sources

Hi, I’m running late and pressed for time, so I’m going to cheat. Besides this is something I wanted to write about anyway. The UUA in addition to having the Seven Principles also has the Six Sources. This is where UUs draw inspiration from to form their own spiritualities. It is more of a recognition of where our ideas come from than anything even remotely like belief. So, without further ado, here they are.

  • Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
  • Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
  • Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
  • Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
  • Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;
  • Spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

These are straight from the UUA website. One of the reasons I like UUism so much is, like many Quakers, they don’t believe that there is one single truth. The best way I’ve seen it described, and I wish I could remember who said it, is the cathedral analogy. It goes something like this. There is a huge cathedral with many stained glass windows and many naves and cul-de-sacs. There is light shining in through the windows and it takes on the color of the glass as it comes in. Some will see a single color, others a rainbow of different colors. But no one seems the light itself. Everyone only has access to a small part of the whole. The only problem I have with this is that it assumes that there is one single truth. I’m not convinced the universe is that neat and tidy.

I prefer to think that there are multiple ultimate truths because, let’s face it, this universe makes little sense and don’t like easy answers. Like how biology sneers at our attempts to classify it. But that is a blog post of the future.

Anyway, I see it more like there are many different mountains and each mountain has many paths that reach the top. This is how I see spirituality. There isn’t one big, all-encompassing goal. I guess if we were to update the cathedral, we’d have to have multiple sources of light, each shining from different points, each containing different colors. As they shine though the windows, they pick up even more hues. Some people like to brag about how their color is better than other’s, but is it really?  Of course not, it is just different.

Unitarian Universalist Seven Principles

Hello readers!  Welcome back if you’ve been here before, and welcome if you haven’t. So, this week I decided to tackle something that will likely come up again and again. I’m a UU, Unitarian Universalist, so this really isn’t surprising. The UUA created seven principles that UUs follow, more because they were created from what we do anyway, rather than what we much believe. No one is required to believe in any or all of them, but if you don’t, you might not feel comfortable in a UU congregation. And there really isn’t anything in them that should be shocking or cause distress, none of them are ‘on the third Sunday ye must consume the flesh of the unborn’, or even anything anywhere near that.

Here are the principles in order stolen from the UUA website at Seven Principles :

1st Principle: The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
2nd Principle: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
3rd Principle: Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
4th Principle: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
5th Principle: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
6th Principle: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
7th Principle: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

I think these are things we all strive for. I’m not going to go into them in this blog post because there is a lot that can be said about each one of them. I’m thinking about taking them one a month starting next year and giving my thoughts on what they mean. So now you have been warned. They are important to me because they say things that I have believed my entire life. Not that I would have been able to put it like this or in any coherent way for a long time. Even though I was nominally Southern Baptist, my family taught that you respect people until they give you a real reason not to.

I did have a brush with fundamentalism, but it didn’t last long once I saw what they were about. In fact, it was so devastating that I became an atheist briefly. Then followed a fifteen year journey back to Christianity. I haver learned a lot on that road from the different faiths to which I was exposed. I would not trade that journey for anything as I learned a lot about myself and about religion, spirituality, and faith. My faith is stronger than it ever has been, and it is more open than it ever has been. I wouldn’t be this open now if I had stayed with my birth religion or the religion that found me in college.

Anyway, enough of the digression. These principles can be summed up as thus: be nice to everyone, think about what you say and believe, fight for freedom and justice, and remember that everything is connected to everything. Or something like that. And they are open to debate and change, should there be a need. And that goes for the sources as well.

Now I will leave you with the six sources of the UU faith which I may talk about next year as well, from Six Sources :

  • Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
  • Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
  • Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
  • Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
  • Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;
  • Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.