HRC Houston Promotes Diversity and Inclusion Through "Gender Identity and Our Faith Communities
July 29, 2009
On June 18th the Houston HRC Diversity Committee, Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church and HRC National Business Council member Meghan Stabler, presented HRC’s Religion and Faith program; “Gender Identity & Our Faith Communities: A Congregational Guider for Transgender Advocacy.” Based on the contributions of transgender people, their families and clergy, it draws on a wide array of personal experiences, religious and cultural analysis, and diverse faith journeys, to empower people of faith with the knowledge and skills necessary to transform communities and congregations into welcoming environments. Over 45 people attended the half day interactive workshop seeking to educate and mobilize people of faith to advocate for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
HRC Business Council member Meghan Stabler led the workshop sharing intimate details of the personal and faith based experience that allowed the audience to identify with the emotional journey that is often experienced within the transgender community; including both the joy and the pain of transition. As the program continued she explained the purpose of the program which included the need for transgender justice; a calling for grassroots lobbying for legislative action to secure an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act and to continue the process of personalizing the transgender experience to build a better understanding of being transgender. In order to create connection, relationship and understanding of the transgender experience there were dramatic readings from several transgender persons. This part brought tears to several of the participants as they were able to personally relate to the life experiences of those they heard. They heard the very emotional experiences of losing one identity and gaining another, losing family, friends and colleagues who were non-accepting, risking violent attack for choosing to be who they were and living authentically. Several members of Houston’s transgender community were in attendance, one commenting about the interactive training saying, “It was well done and I am glad I attended.” To connect to the concept of transgender justice, the participants were asked, “What in their faith traditions challenges their congregations to be concerned about transgender justice?” Many Bible concepts were discussed including those often used against the LGBT community and those that should be used to combat hate such as ‘love thy neighbor’, ‘do unto others as you would have them do to you’, ‘What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God?’ and many more. This helped to show the practical applications of how our beliefs and attitudes will motivate our actions toward other people, and in this particular case, those who are transgender. Even though many Christian concepts were used, through the stories, there were Jewish and Muslim perspectives that were introduced and discussed. One attendee commented afterwards, “This event was excellent: very thought provoking, and it really opened my eyes to think in new ways.” As part of the experience to internalize the concepts being learned, the participants participated in group exercises that allowed them to talk about their own experiences. Attention then turned to understanding the spiritual gifts of transgender people as valued members of faith communities. Toward the end of the training it became clear that knowing the stories and issues helped those attending find it easier to get involved in advocacy for the rights of transgender people through legislation to achieve transgender equality, i.e. an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Visit HRC’s Religion and Faith Program, for more information.