A Word from Our Pastor 2016 November

We have spent the last month or so at BMU involved with issues of gender identity and sexuality.

For many of us, this may have been one of the first times we have heard or talked abut these issues in any depth; for most of us (including myself) there has been a lot to learn. We have been blessed with the gift of two persons who have helped us to see these are more than just “issues,” but as the day-to-day reality of people we care about. In September, one of our young people and his family told us that he is a transgender person, and would like us to acknowledge his male gender identity, refer to him as “he” and use a new name. We heard from his dad, and prayed together that we may celebrate the claiming of an identity that reflects his authentic self, the person that God created him to be. A few weeks later, our new Choir Director spoke to the congregation, asking us to use the gender-neutral pronouns “they” and “them,” because they identify as gender non-conforming/transgender, and understands themself to be “’in between” male and female.

I would like to emphasize that these two persons are a blessing to us. Because we know them, and care about them, we are able to listen to them more deeply and fully than we might be able to with a stranger. In other words, we are more able to empathize. Jesus was able to empathize with everyone, and encourages us to do so. However, it isn’t always easy if we don’t understand their circumstances and haven’t had a chance to get to know them. For that reason, our friends have given us the gift of sharing their deeply personal feelings with us, and in addition, helped us to understand more about what it is like to be a person “in the middle” of the two categories that our culture uses to describe gender.

These two categories, “male” and “female,” are very limited, because human biology and consciousness is much more complex. All of us have been assigned a sex at birth, and the only two choices on the birth certificate are “female” and “male.” However, a certain small percentage of people are biologically “intersex,” with a body includes both male and female. Further, our levels of hormones are often changing – more or less testosterone, for example. Then, of course, there is our consciousness, our internal sense of gender. In many cases, children start expressing gender when they are very young, sometimes before they are able to talk about it. Therefore, we may be biologically male, female or intersex; we may have an internal sense of being male, female or transgender. Our biology and our internal gender identity may not always “match,” or only partially “match.” Therefore, we may have a female body, but an internal feeling of being male. Or, we may have a female body, but an internal sense of being both male and female. There are obviously, more combinations of these categories in the human family. But, no matter how we are made, or how we identify, we are ALL created in the image of God. As Christians, we are challenged to expand our thinking, and understand that God created people who are transgender, and that being a transgender person is just one more example of the amazing diversity of all creation that God has gifted us with. As we know, diversity is beautiful and awe-inspiring, and sometimes, makes us uncomfortable. Therefore, it is important to remember, that it comes from God, to be a blessing to us, and to help us love more deeply and more fully.
Loving all of God’s creation is more than just having good feelings; it involves educating ourselves and advocating for those who are more vulnerable. Jesus calls us to serve the least, the last and the lost.
So, let us be aware:

• Transgender people are four times more likely to live in poverty.
• Transgender people experience unemployment at twice the rate of the general population, with rates for people of color up to four times the national unemployment rate.
• 90% of transgender people report experiencing harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job.
• 22% of respondents who have interacted with police reported harassment by police, with much higher rates reported by people of color. Almost half of the respondents (46%) reported being uncomfortable seeking police assistance.
• 41% of respondents reported attempting suicide, compared to 1.6% of the general population.
Transgender people still cannot serve in the US Military.

Therefore, let us all continue to do what we can to raise our awareness, and offer friendship and support to LGBTQ persons and their families.

In the future, we are planning a longer workshop on LGBTQ issues. Look for the announcement!
–Rev. Naomi