Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Road Ahead, the Bumps and the Detours

Transgender people and their friends and allies have made great progress at General Convention this year. Resolutions concerning our issues have been discussed in detail inside and outside the legislative process. The House of Deputies in particular has taken up and discussed trans-related issues with seriousness and sensitivity, from C061,adding gender identity/expression to the nondiscrimination canon of the church, to D012, supporting secular anti-discrimination legislation. Testimony, both in committee and on the floor,has been enlightening and moving.
But progress is rarely smooth and uninterrupted. When the House of Bishops took up C061 today, it seems that many bishops were poorly informed about trans people, confused by tems like "gender identity or expression," and reluctant to commit the church to treat some of its most vulnerable members with dignity, fairness and respect.
Instead of adding gender identity/expression to the list of characteristics like race, sex and sexual orientation that are prohibited grounds for discrimination, the bishops chose to eviscerate the nondiscrimination canon by eliminating all specific references to groups that have been marginalized historically. If adopted, this would be a real step backward, undermining decades of work to educate the church to the concrete realities of racism, sexism and homophobia.
Personally, I would prefer to see the church revert to its existing nondiscrimination, even without gender identity/expression, and for TransEpiscopal to come back to the next convention in three years and try again. Hopefully in that time, educational work will eliminate some of the bishops' discomfort.
Fortunately, today's legislative session in the HoD ended on a positive note, with the adoption of Resolution D012 (see above) on a near-unanimous voice vote. And as a labor activist for several decades, I was also very gratified to see the deputies adopt a resolution supporting the Employee Free Choice Act now pending in Congress, which would reform our labor laws to better protect the right to organize. The voice of prophetic witness is alive and well in the church! Amen!

Posted for Donna Cartwright

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