Reflections on the Trans Faith and Action Network Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina
September 4, 2014 by Sharon Groves, Director, Religion and Faith Program
"Remember, this is a faith conference."
These words from Valerie Spencer-- trans public speaker, therapist, activist, all around person extraordinaire and keynote speaker for the Trans* Faith and Action Network Conference (TFAAN) in Charlotte, North Carolina this past weekend -- sum up the spirit of the work of Trans Faith and Action Network.
While engaging faith communities is increasingly understood as central to advocacy work we sometimes run the danger of losing track of the role our diverse faith traditions can play in keeping us whole, connected, and rejuvenated for the long struggle toward justice. At this conference, the brainchild of the Freedom Center for Social Justice, a grassroots, North Carolina organization working across faith, legal, and social barriers to make life better for the trans community, and particularly trans people of color in the South-- they understand that the experiences of trans people must be nurtured and embraced. As Hezekiah Walker’s gospel song we sung at the closing service affirms, "I need you to survive."
Survival is at stake in trans communities and particularly communities of color, where we have seen horrific violence and murder in recent months. http://www.hrc.org/blog/entry/remembering-islan-nettles-and-all-transgender-victims-of-hate-crimes. Outrage, anger, and a mobilization for political change is critical but we don't get very far as a community if we do not also spend time addressing the spiritual, psychic, emotional violence done to the trans community. Increasingly we are learning more about the costs of rejection for the LGBT community and conferences like TFAAN are critical in nurturing whole and grounded people who can lead the struggle not only for trans justice but also for trans empowerment.
The Religion and Faith program was honored to be a sponsor for this event and particularly to support the work of Mykal Shannon, the HRC fellow working with Bishop Tonyia Rawls to make this conference and the subsequent work of the Freedom Center so life changing.
This weekend, HRC staff will attend Southern Comfort (SCC), the largest conference for the transgender community. I am sure many of those who attend SCC will have also been at TFAAN and, as such, will be a messenger of healing and hope for all they meet.
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