Four weeks ago my partner and I moved back to my home state of North Carolina. Just two weeks later the North Carolina legislature enacted one of the worst anti-LGBTQ laws in the country effectively opening the door to discrimination of transgender and gender non-conforming people seeking to use public facilities and stripping people of the ability to file discrimination claims of any kind, among other atrocities. Just yesterday, the Mississippi governor signed an awful, far-reaching law allowing individuals and businesses to deny services to LGBTQ people based on religious objections. In the first four months of 2016 we have witnessed an unprecedented number of laws aiming to enshrine discrimination against LGBTQ people. On days like these it is easy to feel hopeless, to feel as if any of the gains in LGBTQ inclusion from the past few years are being rolled back before our eyes.
However, despite the passage of these devastating laws, the past few months have filled me with an incredible hope.
I’ve had the opportunity to participate in conversations across the country with churches, seminaries, and campus ministry groups deeply committed to furthering LGBTQ welcome in their congregations and communities. In January, Joey and I led a workshop at the Montreat College conference on how to help your campus group be a welcoming place for LGBTQ students. It was the first-ever workshop of its kind at this conference and we had over 100 participants join us. It was inspiring to hear from so many students who wanted their campus ministry groups to visibly and clearly demonstrate their welcome to LGBTQ people. In February I had the opportunity to lead a conversation at Fairmount Presbyterian Church in Cleveland, OH on how the congregation could further their welcome for transgender people. In Miami, at Riviera Presbyterian Church, our conversation focused on what’s next for LGBTQ welcome and how to reach out to neighboring congregations who are still on the journey towards inclusion.
In mid-February I was able to travel to the Bay Area to teach a class at Stanford (!) on transgender studies in religion. It was amazing to help those students to realize that the Bible could be a place of welcome for LGBTQ people. My last two trips before Easter were to San Francisco Theological Seminary and Union Presbyterian Seminary to lead two day-long events on LGBTQ inclusion. One of the highlights of the SFTS trip was leading a workshop for faculty and administrators on how the campus can be a bastion of welcome to transgender and gender non-conforming students.
Union Presbyterian Seminary hosted a day-long conference on creating safe space for LGBTQ folks. Over 20 seminary students attended and each were deeply committed to fostering welcome in their faith communities. I loved having the chance to talk with future pastors about what it really takes to create safe space.
The past four months have convinced me that in the midst of backlash and fear, we need More Light more than ever before.
In the wake of passage of North Carolina’s HB2 Presbyterian clergy and institutions were quick to speak out against criminalizing transgender people’s access to the bathroom. Joey Lopez, MLP’s organizer, has been gathering people of faith in key states such as Georgia and North Carolina to testify in public hearings, attend rallies, and clergy breakfasts to ensure a positive view of faith and God’s love is able to shine forth.
No matter where you live, you have the ability to help spread a message of hope and faith that God loves all of God’s children. More Light is pleased to offer two opportunities to get involved coming up in the next few weeks:
Sign up for a Trans 101 Webinar!
If you’ve ever wanted to increase your confidence in speaking about transgender identities and issues from a place of faith this webinar is for you! We are bringing our popular Trans 101 workshop online! Click here to sign up.
Join More Light’s New Action Alert List
Be the first to know when anti-LGBTQ and anti-transgender bills are being introduced in state legislatures across the country. This email list is for those interested in following these bills and responding to these attacks on the LGBTQ community. You will receive an email about every other week with updates on the bills and ways you can respond. There may be an occasional action alert. This information is being provided by our friends at the ACLU and we want to make it available for you. To receive these updates, please sign up here!