“I almost forget that I’m trans because I’ve had surgery,” Niko tells his YouTube audience. “I can’t be quiet when three or four years ago, I was in the same position.” Niko Walker is one of many trans people who use YouTube to share his story of transition, to celebrate his identity, and to make sure that other trans people don’t feel alone. Though he may not have put it in these terms, Niko was turning to YouTube to share his story of self, construct an ‘us’ of transgender people and allies, and point to a ‘now:’ a liberating journey of self-discovery that each of us can undertake whether or not we’re transgender.
MLP is proud to officially partner with Standing on the Side of Love, for “30 Days of Love,” an interfaith public advocacy campaign sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Association that seeks to harness love’s power to stop oppression. This Sunday’s worship service theme includes exploring your own community’s “Story of Self, Us, & Now.” Story of self, for example, is about how you can communicate the values that move you to act (more below). Story is a powerful way to harness love’s power to stop oppression and make the invisible visible.
As thousands of teens turn to YouTube to make a public diary about taking hormones or using new names, they harness love’s power to stop oppression and make the invisible visible. The use of story by the trans community is significant because only three years ago “a national survey of more than 6,400 transgender and gender-nonconforming people found that 71% had tried to avoid discrimination by hiding their gender or gender transition.”
The power of story is also important in the journey towards the freedom to marry.
After federal judges struck down bans on same-gender marriage in Utah and Oklahoma, Evan Wolfson and his colleagues at Freedom to Marry reached out to LGBTQ organizations in these conservative states and reminded them that victories in the courts will not be enough.
“Now the movement faces its greatest test as foes complain that the recent decisions have leapt ahead of the public in those deeply red states,” writes Kim Raff in the Washington Post. “In both states, elected officials largely greeted the rulings with fury and gay rights groups are bracing for a series of proposals in the state legislature that could target their community.”
Wolfson goes on to say, “‘We have learned the lesson that political organizing and public education must accompany’ court wins.”
One of the most important tools for political organizing and public education, both in the church and society, is to harness love’s power and tell our stories well.
The power of story is also important in the journey towards the General Assembly.
As the Presbyterian Church (USA) studies marriage leading up to the General Assembly, each of us needs to learn to tell our story of Self (why we support the ability of all loving and committed couples to marry in the PCUSA), story of Us (why supporting the freedom to marry is a Presbyterian value) and story of Now (why we cannot wait any longer to show our support) in our churches and presbyteries. Our stories will become even more important if the General Assembly affirms that marriage is possible for all loving and committed couples.
Telling Your Story
This month, we invite you to tell your story of Self, Us and Now to someone in your church or presbytery using the guidelines provided by Standing on the Side of Love. If you are conducting a marriage study in your congregation, think about how you can bring your unique story of Self, Us and Now into the conversations.
Public narrative is how we communicate our values through stories, bringing alive the motivation that is necessary for creating a better world. Through public narrative, we tell the story of why we are called to act and to lead. Public narrative combines a story of Self, a story of Us, and a story of Now and is a great organizing tool for congregations and communities.
There are three kinds of story:
- By telling a “story of self” you can communicate the values that move you to act.
- By telling a “story of us” you can communicate values that can inspire others to act together by identifying with each other, not only with you.
- By telling a “story of now” you can communicate the urgent challenge we are called upon to face, the hope that we can face it, and choices we must make to act.
There are three element in the story of self, us and now:
- Challenge: Why did you feel it was a challenge? What was so challenging about it? Why was it your challenge?
- Choice: Why did you make the choice you did? Where did you get the courage (or not)? Where did you get the hope (or not)? Did your parents’ or grandparents’ life stories teach you in any way how to act in that moment? How did it feel?
- Outcome: How did the outcome feel? Why did it feel that way? What did it teach you? What do you want to teach us? How do you want us to feel?
Here is the complete guide for telling your story of Self, Us and Now from Standing On the Side of Love.