Thursday, July 16, 2009

“These Are My Friends”

I’m sitting on a bench outside the House of Bishops with Michelle, eating soft serve ice cream, waiting for the doors to open. On their afternoon calendar is D012, the transgender civil rights resolution that the House of Deputies passed so overwhelmingly yesterday afternoon.

What a day yesterday was. After the complicated result of the bishops’ morning vote on C061, the moving response of the Deputies to C012 was like a balm.

I made a video of the entire debate, which lasted about eight minutes, on my little digital camera and will post it below.

Once again, Dante Tavolaro of Rhode Island and Sarah Lawton of California spoke passionately in favor of the resolution. They were joined by several new speakers whose stories added new dimensions to the conversation. Deputy Shreider from the diocese of Chicago told of designing a renaming ceremony a for a trans parishioner. The size of the congregation doubled on the day of the service. This same parishioner has shared stories of being spat at on the street and called names the Deputy did not want to repeat. When the Deputy left for Convention, she was charged, “you know this church really fights for full inclusion. Please make sure that we can be part of that.”

Chris Ashley, a friend of mine from Massachusetts, added some humor to the proceedings. “I’m chromosomally male and I am wearing pants. But you shouldn’t take that for granted because many of you have seen me around Convention wearing a kilt.”
He went on to note that when he wears a kilt in public, he’s noticed that people give him a wide berth. What if those people were his prospective employers or prospective landlords? Such questions not only impact people like Chris with, as he charmingly put it, has “a very mildly nontraditional male gender expression, but most of all my transgender brothers and sisters. These are my friends, these are my classmates, this is the drummer in my church.”

A deputy from Ohio then asked if he could boast for a moment about his employer, the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. An employee transitioned from male to female and was supported by the organization, and fellow employees speak proudly of how supportive the company was of her in her transition. So, despite the vulnerability and high rates of discrimination, there are also good things going on as well, he said.

As there was no other discussion, Bonnie Anderson, the President of the House of Deputies, called for the vote. The Deputies then resoundingly voted in favor; only a smattering voted no.

And so, once again, the House of Deputies took a dramatic step forward, not only by their positive vote, but also and most importantly through the stories they told one another, the opening of eyes and hearts that has taken place over and over again throughout this Convention.

Now the resolution passes to the House of Bishops, where I sincerely hope the bishops will take the baton and run with it.


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