Not so many years ago, I believed that same sex relationships were sin. I was only barely aware of trans* issues and tried not to think about it. Stories of people who were born intersex messed up my worldview and i tried to forget that the condition existed. If you had told me about bisexuality, I would have found it bizarre.
Then the internet happened. I read stories. Stories by gay men and women for whom ‘therapy’ did not work and was psychologically harmful, a story of a boy that killed himself because people found out he was gay, the story of a transwoman’s self discovery and transition. She lost a lot during that time period. (I’d link to these, but I didn’t save the stories. i didn’t realize at the time that they were changing me.)
I listened when people talked about how hard it was to be gay in a homophobic society. I listened when a woman worried that if her longtime girlfriend were deathly ill, she might not be able to see her in the hospital because they weren’t married.
Whenever a story like this came across my path, i did the writer or the subject the honor of reading it. After all, if i were going to set myself against these people, the least i could do is to know them and their side of the story. And slowly, I found that i could not stand against them.
I became internet friends with self-described ‘gender queer’ people, and gay people, and lesbians, and bisexuals and transpersons – some really great people.
Sometimes I find it hard to remember what I used to be like.
And then something happens to remind me.
Last week, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a new resolution on transgender identity. You can read the full text of it, and a critical breakdown of each section, by Kathryn Brightbill, here.
This dehumanizing resolution states, in part, that transgender people are only welcome at SBC churches if they repent, and that the SBC will ‘oppose all cultural efforts to validate claims to transgender identity’.
I used to be a member of a SBC church. People I love dearly are Southern Baptist.
I have a hard time reconciling the people I love and who love me to this resolution.
And I wonder why people, all sorts of people, continue to support ideas like the ones in this resolution. Why do people continue to hate trans* people? I know they would say they don’t hate them, but they tell them their identity is wrong – they attack the core of their being. That seems hateful to me.
I don’t even understand why it’s any of the SBC’s business – why does it matter whether a person identifies as male or female, except to the person themself?
It doesn’t hurt anyone. But it does hurt a transman to have to act like a woman – to live in a body that he doesn’t identify with, to be called a name that feels wrong, to be pressured into a life that doesn’t fit.
It really hurts a transwoman to be excluded from a church for her identity.
And the anti transgender violence that happens when people dehumanize trans* people definitely hurts a transgender men and women.
When a transgender person is rejected by their community and their family and sees death as the only way to peace, that hurts a transgender person.
This SBC resolution is definitely encouraging rejection.
The little clause condemning bullying is not enough to reverse all the judging and stigmatizing done in the rest of the resolution.
If any of my readers don’t find this resolution to be problematic, I urge you to read some stories of trans* people. Look into their lives, get a glimpse of their struggles.
Read this story. And then read what happened after they came out. Read about all the friends and family they lost, because of teachings like those of the SBC.
I can’t make you change your mind today, but i want you to think about this: trans people are real people. They exist, and they are frequently targeted for their identity. Your beliefs and words about transgender people matter. They have an effect on the overall climate of society’s thoughts towards tran* people, and that affects people’s behavior towards trans* people.
If we want anti-transgender violence to end, we need to build a culture that accepts, loves, and supports transgender people.
And that is up to each and every one of us.