Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A TRANS PERSPECTIVE ON GENERAL CONVENTION

CONCERNING EXPECTATIONS

Last year, before I journeyed to Canterbury for the Lambeth Conference, I wrote of my low expectations for that every-ten-year gathering of the Anglican Communion’s bishops. Upon my return, I reported in sadness how it had lived down to my expectations.

In truth my expectations for the every-three-year General Convention of the Episcopal Church – our 76th – were not much higher. Indeed, given the tension and, among some, anger surrounding BO33, a 2006 resolution promising “restraint” on same-sex unions and the consecration of gay bishops, and the threats since by the Archbishop of Canterbury concerning our membership in the Anglican Communion, I was not the only one who feared an explosion of one sort or another this July in Anaheim.

That explosion never occurred. Instead, both the House of Deputies and House of Bishops passed by overwhelming majorities of two-to-one a positive, forward-looking resolution – DO25 – that allowed BO33 to fade into the mists of a fearful past, boldly stated the inclusive truth of the current consensus within the church, and charted a course for moving forward in continuing fealty to the Anglican Communion.

Against that background, the goals and expectations of the transgender community, of which I am a member, paled in comparison. As we gathered two blocks from Disneyland, we were probably were not even on the horizon of most deputies and bishops. The hope of our nascent transgender organization – TransEpiscopal (www.blog.transepiscopal.com/ ) – was simple and modest. Of the four trans-specific resolutions originally submitted, our hope was that one would make it to the floor of the House of Deputies where discussion of it would lead to recognition of our existence and begin an education process around the issues that confront us on a daily basis.

Our little team of eight, embedded in the larger and very supportive Integrity team (www.integrityusa.org/), succeeded, however, beyond our wildest dreams.

What follows is my attempt to chronicle what happened and to describe my feelings as events unfolded and, now, in their warm afterglow.


PUTTING TOGETHER A TEAM AND A PROGRAM

This adventure started for us in the chill of February. Communicating through the spring by e-mail and conference calls, we tracked the several resolutions being submitted by dioceses and obtained the support of non-trans allies such as Sarah Lawton and Byron Rushing, coordinated our efforts with key LGBT advocacy groups such as Integrity and the Consultation (www.theconsultation.org/), produced a brochure to hand out at convention and elsewhere, raised money, divided up tasks at convention, and steeled ourselves for the unknown.

And there was a lot that was unknown, for this would be the first time that there would be a visible, vocal transgender presence at a general convention. Would anyone notice? Would anyone care? Would there be a hostile backlash?

There were eight of us and we were, despite our common cause, amazingly diverse. We were five transwomen, two transmen, and a gay male ally; three priests, one deacon, and four lay people; and one of our number, Dee Tavalaro, a 19-year-old layman, would be the first trans deputy in the House of Deputies. We hailed, moreover, from every corner of the country – Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maryland, Michigan, Wisconsin, and, yes, California – and spanned the age spectrum from nineteen to seventy.

We also brought to the task a variety of skills that included expertise with computers and audio/visual equipment, writing, editing (the New York Times no less), and labor organizing. Leadership flowed rather naturally to The Rev. Cameron Partridge, a Massachusetts priest, ably assisted by Donna Cartwright, the editor/organizer from Baltimore and The Rev. Michelle Hansen, a retired priest from Connecticut. All three had been at earlier conventions and educated the rest of us on the ins and outs of the sometimes arcane legislative process. Cam and I had also shared the experience of Lambeth last year and, with Michelle, the Pacific School of Religion’s Transgender Religious Summit in Berkeley the year before.

And so we left our homes and families, telling our friends: “I’m going to Disneyland!”


HITTING THE GROUND RUNNING

Our arrivals were only slightly staggered with all of us on the ground for the start of the convention. The only one to drive, I arrived about 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 7, joining up with the others between an ongoing meeting of the National and International Affairs Committee (which had two of our resolutions) and a regular 10:00 p.m. meeting of the Integrity team. The latter, a Lambeth reunion of sorts, was followed by the first of a dozen or so meetings of our TransEpiscopal team.

At that first meeting, we divided assignments for testimony before the two committees that would be hearing our resolutions. The World Missions Committee would, we learned, consider our resolutions on Canon revisions opening up access to the ordination process to the transgendered (i.e., prohibiting exclusion of the basis of gender identity or expression)…and it would do so at 7:30 the next morning.

Getting back to my Travelodge room around midnight, I scribbled some notes on a yellow legal pad and, falling into a bed that would become familiar, enjoyed the sleep of exhaustion.

Four of us testified the next morning – Wednesday. It was the first act in a whirlwind of sixteen-hour days that soon became a blur – 7:00 a.m. committee meeting, bagel, 9:30 House of Deputies and House of Bishops meetings, Eucharist, a hot dog in the exhibit hall food court, 2:00 p.m. meetings of the two houses, 7:00 p.m. committee meeting, a veggie Panini at the Courtyard, 10:00 p.m. Integrity team meeting, 11:00 p.m. TransEpiscopal meeting to lay out plans for the next day. For Cameron, who also had responsibilities with Integrity and the Consultation, whilst all the while blogging non-stop, the schedule was even more intense.

In the “breaks,” there were opportunities to lobby potential allies, to meet folks at the Integrity booth, to make new friends, and to just soak in the Spirit that permeated the place, the people, the proceedings. Whatever exhaustion had crept in evaporated in the growing exhilaration. Running into House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson between meetings, I could honestly answer “Yes!” – to which I added a hug and a “Thank you” - when she asked “Are you having fun?”

And it soon became apparent that our decision to be in place for the start of convention was a wise one, for it was a very much front-loaded affair with regard to the resolutions we had put forward. Already the second morning, for example, we found ourselves testifying before the National and International Affairs Committee which had on its plate our resolutions on hate crimes and employment non-discrimination. The next mornings and evenings were devoted to following the discussion of the resolutions by the two committees.

Chaired by Bishop John Chane of Washington and including around the table familiar faces like Integrity’s Louie Crew and California’s Sarah Lawton and Bishop Marc Andrus, the National and International Affairs Committee seemed the more simpatico of the two groups. It was an impression reinforced by the nods and smiles that greeted our testimony. Despite a mild hiccup concerning the addition of “disability” to the list of protected classes in the resolutions under consideration and the perception of some that that might imply that LGBT people suffered from some disability, both resolutions passed with overwhelming majorities.

It was also clear that the World Missions Committee was an unlikely one to be asked to consider BO33 and our transgender resolutions. The rationale for the assignments seemed to be that BO33 related to relations with the Anglican Communion and that transgender issues related to BO33. That said, some members of the committee found their task awkward and unfamiliar and an early attempt was made to fob off our resolutions to the Commission on Canons…a move that would have been very understandable. The Chair, Gay Jennings, pointed out, however, that to do so would mean bumping our trans issues to the end of the line of a long list of issues facing Canons and losing them in the rush of last minute business as they were in 2006. “We have been dealt these issues,” she insisted, “and it is up to us to deal with them.”

And deal with them they did…in a movingly thoughtful and spiritual manner. There was, to be sure, considerable misunderstanding about what it means to be transgendered and the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation. One bishop, for example, objected that there was no need for our resolution CO61, since “Sexual orientation is already in the canon.” In response, Ian Douglas gave one of the clearest explanations of the differences between identity and orientation, stressing the relational aspect of the latter. (Thanking him two days later, I added that even I, a transgendered person, had learned from what he said.)

Bottom line, the resolution passed 19-8 among the deputies, with the four bishops voting “No,” and, indeed, was strengthened by adding upfront words to the effect that all are welcome.

As our team drifted out into the hallway to take a celebratory breath and plan next steps, we were joined by the committee’s Michael Barlowe, tears behind his eyes, who spoke of how the Spirit had moved in the room we had just left. He then relayed a request from the chair for a list of authoritative definitions that could be handed out in the House of Deputies and a brief statement she could make in presenting the resolution to the House. We readily agreed to take on the task. In the course of the next hours, our Donna Cartwright obtained from Lisa Motet of the Washington office of the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force a list of definitions on NLGTF letterhead and Cameron Partridge produced the desired statement. With a helpful addition by Michael Barlowe, it was used by Gay Jennings in introducing the resolution.

Entering the third day, we had already exceeded our pre-conference goals – three resolutions would make it to the floor of the House of Deputies and two more, introduced by Dee Tavolaro, were wending their way through the committees. The latter concerned non-discrimination in the hiring of lay employees and making ordination forms less gender particular. Time to take a deep breath, savor the moment, and prepare to track what we had wrought.


THE SPIRIT TAKES WING

Literally! Taking a seat for the first time in the visitors’ gallery of the House of Deputies, I was amazed by the solitary pigeon (aka dove) that hovered over the deputies, continuing to fly about the hall the next several days. And, it became clear, the Spirit was stirring not only above, but within the deputies.

First came the overwhelming 2-1 vote for DO25, the action on which then moved to the House of Bishops. Meanwhile those of us in TransEpiscopal awaited in tense anticipation for the introduction in the House Deputies of our trans-specific resolutions, the first of which would be DO12 on hate crimes legislation. We waited and waited…and waited through the afternoon of Monday, July 13. Getting the impression that it would not be brought up till the next morning and hearing that the bishops were in the midst of the historic debate on DO25, Donna and I made our way upstairs to the House of Bishops…arriving just in time to hear the impassioned intervention of Rochester’s Bishop Singh who spoke of how the church had been planted and prospered in India among the untouchables, the outcasts. Soon thereafter the vote began. Of all the votes, the one that rang clearest to my ears was the crisp, unwavering “Aye!” of the Presiding Bishop.

The deed was done, the final vote being 99-33. It was as if a festering boil had been lanced. One could feel the tension, the fear, the pain leave the room, leave the church. The doors opened and the people rushed out too, making their way – in silence – down the long, steep escalator. Bishop Steven Charleston and I shared a silent, smiling high five as he stepped onto its moving corrugated metal.

Making my own way down to the lobby, I made my way back to the House of Deputies, there to learn that our resolution DO12 on hate crimes and violence had made it to the floor and that Dee, Sarah Lawton, and Michael Barlowe had spoken movingly on behalf of it, as had several others. While the omens were good, the vote had been taken by orders and the results, therefore, would not be made known till the next morning.

Sarah, Michael, and other members of the California delegation were in the midst of an impromptu celebration at the back of the hall. It was a moveable feast that made is way through the lobbies of the Convention Center and Hilton and up a freight elevator to Bishop Marc’s seventh floor hospitality suite. From there I caught a glimpse in the distance of Disneyland and its Matterhorn – as close as I would get – as the celebrating gave way to planning the next day’s and, indeed, the evening’s legislative work.

For my part, I had planned to leave first thing the next morning to begin my journey home by way of a visit with my mother-in-law in Ojai. I could not, however, leave without returning to the House of Deputies the next morning to learn the vote. DO12 passed overwhelmingly! The tears welled up. Getting up to leave, I was exchanging farewell hugs with my transgender sisters and brothers, when Dee and World Missions Chair Gay Jennings rushed from the floor to join us. Squeezing out a feeble “Thank You,” I turned and walked through a now silent lobby and, stopping only long enough to share my joy with three new deacons, traced a well-worn path to the Travelodge…my car…and home
I was home a day on Friday when I got the telephoned news from Cam that the bishops had passed DO12 following what Episcopal Life called a “lively debate” – a debate that included supportive statements by Cam’s Bishop Tom Shaw and my Bishop Marc Andrus.
At home I also learned that our resolutions on ENDA, on non-discrimination in the hiring of transgedender lay employees, and on making church forms more trans-friendly had also been approved with flying colors. I learned, however, that there had been a long and contentious debate about changing Canon III concerning ordinations (our original CO61). The bishops could not bring themselves to add gender identity or expression to the list of classes that could not be excluded from the ordination process. Instead, by a very split vote, they eliminated any mention of any specific group and bounced back to the World Missions Committee and thence to the House of Deputies a resolution that opened the ordination process to “all baptized Christians.” With TranEpiscopal’s support, that was voted down in the House of Deputies in the hope that three years hence, after further education, we might succeed in getting “gender identity or expression” added explicitly to the canon.

Despite this last minute disappointment, we succeeded in getting four trans-important resolutions passed and the canon change is now on our horizon and the bishops’ radar screens. Above all we incarnated an otherwise abstract issue and educated a broad spectrum of the church about the reality of our lives. I have little doubt that, by continuing a visible presence in the councils of the church and ramping up our education efforts, we will, three years hence in Indianapolis, complete the job of fully including transgendered people in the life of the church.


A SPECIAL EUCHARIST

This has been an important, inspiring start for TransEpiscopal and, as we look forward to Indianapolis and beyond, it is worth noting a little noticed Eucharist held in a small Integrity meeting room at the Courtyard Marriott the evening of Saturday, July 10.

Seeking to mark the departure the next morning of one of our team members Gari Green, we decided to hold a first Transgender Eucharist at General Convention. We were encouraged by our Integrity allies, especially Jim Toy, who recalled the first Integrity Eucharist in 1988 attended in just such a room by a handful of people.

And so we gathered – about twenty of us. Gari, assisted by Cam and Michelle, presided, I served as deacon, and Donna read the first lesson. In lieu of a sermon, everyone in the room reflected on the experience of the previous few days and the importance of what had already transpired to their own spiritual lives and to that of the church. We then formed a circle and passed the bread and cup to each other…one bread, one cup, one family.

Of all the splendid Eucharists that graced convention, including the Integrity Eucharist that had grown to 1,500 people, this was the one I will remember most. It is a memory I have carried home and will carry with me the rest of my life. It is a special memory of a time and place in which ours lives became more fully a part of the life of the church and an earnest that that communion will become fuller still.

By Vicki Gray

THE WIND OF THE SPIRIT

I am stunned. I have actually become increasingly stunned over the last 2 weeks or so. And that comes from a woman who prides herself in being able to "roll with the punches." I have had a lot of practice at that.

When I arrived in Anaheim on the afternoon of 7/6 I had no idea what to expect. Certainly we would testify. We would witness to our reality. But, accomplish anything. I had my doubts. My daughter calls me a cynic. I prefer "realist", as a descriptor. I found it necessary to leave on 7/12. Time to go back home, back to work, and to follow the events and those I had come to love from a distance.

Still I sit here on 7/17, the last day of the 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church, stunned, bemused, grateful, joyous, and above all thankful. The Spirit took the willingness of people to stand in their own truth's, not just us, but all those willing to stand and say as Luther did, "I can do no other", and blew through this institutional gathering with a freshness that happens only seldom in a lifetime. I clearly acknowledge there are those brothers and sisters in Christ who may disagree. Since we are now coming close to standing on level ground, we can certainly continue the conversation in that fashion.

I have long since lost track of the alphabet soup that corresponds to the various resolutions that received our testimony and support, but they have passed one after another in both houses of our beloved church, and by substantial margins in both houses.

All this will need to unfold in actual practice. As has been noted elsewhere we still have miles to go, but this General Convention was certainly a milestone in that journey. Yes, there are those that maintain the moratoria laid out in BO33 continues, but even that voice seems to be strangely muted.

I look forward to continuing this wondrous journey with the brothers and sisters I have known for some time and those sisters and brothers I met in the last couple weeks. .

The Rev. Gari Green

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Concluding Press Conference Comments on Transgender Related Resolutions

At the conclusion of the 76th General Convention, Neva Rae Fox, Program Officer of the Office of Public Affairs at the Episcopal Church Center, led the final press conference. Answering questions were the President of the House of Deputies, Dr. Bonnie Anderson, the Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, and the Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles, the Rt. Rev. Jon Bruno.

I was very grateful to Integrity USA for using one of their two questions to ask the panel about the historic passage of transgender specific resolutions.

The video of the press conference is embedded in the below post with TransEpiscopal's and Integrity's press releases, but because the trans question was the penultimate one, and because I have found the video difficult to scroll through, I have transcribed the question and responses below.

Anaheim, CA
July 17th

Question:

Rachel Swan with Integrity USA. I’m wondering if any of you—all of you—can comment on the passage of the resolutions that deal with advocacy for transgender people, kind of a first for our church.

Neva Rae Fox: Thank you. Bishop Bruno?

Rt. Rev. Jon Bruno:

Well, transgender people are part of the congregations in this diocese, and they’re part of the world community. And it’s a good thing that we’re dealing with this openly. We need to talk about the fact that humanity is different wherever you go, and that we are all called to be loved as children of God, and dealt with, with equity and love.

Dr. Bonnie Anderson:

Let me just add that in the House of Deputies we had testimony from transgender persons. It was very moving. It was very well received in the House of Deputies. I believe that it helped us to see and learn about that particular way of being. We welcomed that and did pass resolutions to include all people, including transgender persons.

Monday, July 20, 2009

DO I LOOK LIKE HALF A HUMAN BEING?


What follows is the testimony of Vicki Gray before the Committee on National and International Affairs on DO12 concerning transgender civil rights:

I have been shouted at by angry, threatening men in a shopping mall.

I have had rocks thrown at me from a passing pick-up truck on the Golden Gate Bridge.

With the San Francisco Night Ministry, I have repeatedly encountered my transgendered sisters and brothers on the corners of Polk Street or Larkin…selling their bodies at two o’clock in the morning, because they have no other way to support themselves.

And I know that my transgendered brothers and sisters are killed in this country at the rate of one a month.

A few years back I attended the funeral of a young teen, Gwen Araujo, who was killed in Newark, California just because she was transgendered.

Also at that funeral were the “Rev.” Fred Phelps and his followers, shouting through their bullhorns “Gwen is burning in hell!”

As fate would have it – God’s serendipity – the students at Gwen’s Newark High School were at the time in the midst of rehearsing “The Laramie Project,” which features a chorus of angels. The members of that chorus came to the funeral in their angels’ garb – white robes and wings – and formed a cordon from the street to the church entrance to protect Gwen’s mom Sylvia and the other mourners from Phelps’ haters.

I tell you all this to impress upon you how vulnerable transgender people are to hate, discrimination, and violence. We desperately need the added protection that would be afforded by our inclusion in hate crimes and employment discrimination legislation.

I come before you to urge your support for two resolutions before you that would put our church on record in support of such legislation.

For me, this is not an abstract issue. It is a matter of life and death.

In closing, let me say I have heard those who have told us to “wait your turn.” I have also heard those who have advised us to “accept half a loaf.” To them and to you, I ask: “Do I look like half a human being?”

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Advent Approaches in the Episcopal Church


I’m on the plane heading back to Boston. It’s a quiet ride but for the man who just woke me up with his loud guffaws at Monsters vs. Aliens, but no matter. I haven’t had this much time to be quiet or really think in a number of days. My brain is full. I ran into Dee Tavolaro in the airport, looking for lunch, and as we waited in line for the most expensive McDonalds burger I’ve ever eaten, he exclaimed, “I am so tired of the letters LGBT. Right now I don’t want to hear a combination of letters remotely close to them-- BLT, you name it.” The woman in front of him secretly smirked. Later, at my gate, I overheard a woman behind me (and, I assume, on this flight) telling someone on the phone, “I can’t even think about going to church on Sunday!” Yep, we’re all tired—LGBT-ed/churched (even ubuntu-ed) out. But I have to say, my exhaustion is happy.

I don’t know how people away from the Convention have perceived it, but from where I sit, I feel like the Episcopal Church just turned a major corner. I feel an overwhelming sense of relief. For so long, questions and conflicts over a combination of gender and sexuality, refracted in confusing ways through our colonial legacy, have paralyzed us as a denomination. B033, the resolution that three years ago essentially imposed a moratorium on the consecration of LGBT people to the Episcopate, has now been superceded. And while it will take the actual election, consent and consecration of an openly LGB and/or T person as a bishop to complete the ending of that moratorium, to concretely embody our forward movement as a church, to my mind and those I have conversed with these last few days, we have prepared the way for that to happen. We are ready. It’s as though as a Church, we have been stuck in the latter part of the liturgical year, the days leading up to Advent when the readings assigned in the lectionary are peppered with weeping and gnashing of teeth. And now we are approaching the threshold of Advent. I am so ready for the fulfillment of that hope.

For those of you who have been following the bigger LGBT picture at this Convention, you will also know that in addition to D025, which supports an inclusive ordination processes for ALL orders of ministry, we passed C056, which officially moves us forward on blessing the marriages, domestic partnerships and civil unions of same sex couples. The short story on this matter is that in dioceses around the country we have been doing such blessings for years. It’s the official sanctioning of that work, and the official designing or gathering of such services on which the Church has been stalled. Now, with C056, we are finally beginning to move forward on this practice as a whole Church.

And obviously, if you have been following this blog, by now you know that at this Convention we made stunning progress on transgender issues. As we look back on the work of this Convention, I think it will be important to see this progress in the larger context of the forward movement via D025 and C056. But I also think our progress was part of the spirit of openness and relationality, and indeed of intentional, focused storytelling that were themes of this Convention (not to mention humor, as several bishops displayed during their session Friday). The spirit of the indaba groups that were featured at last summer’s Lambeth Conference also feels connected to this trend. People were careful not to demonize one another in their disagreements. People attended to one another’s humanity. Those of us who testified on the transgender related resolutions benefited from and, I hope and believe, contributed to that spirit.

And that is as it should be. That kind of attentiveness to one another’s humanity is at the heart of the Baptismal Covenant of the Episcopal Church, which asks, “will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?” and “will you strive for justice and peace and respect the dignity of every human being?” The answer to these questions may seem easy, but sometimes they are not — which is why the response given in the Book of Common Prayer is “I will, with God’s help.” This Christian life we are about is a spiritual discipline that we all pledge to take up upon entry into this beloved community. And I know in my very gut that when we live into that discipline, when we do, with God’s help, we grow. Advent approaches indeed.

CP

“Naming, Naming is Very Important”


An unbelievable four trans-positive resolutions passed at this General Convention. Two of them (D090 and D032) have been mentioned in earlier blog posts. But what happened with D012 and C048 in the House of Bishops? In the rush of Convention’s completion, grabbing a moment to give a detailed report on the unfolding of their passage proved impossible.

Just to be clear about their distinctions, D012 put the Episcopal Church on record in a broad support of non-discrimination and hate-crimes legislation at municipal, state, and federal levels. C048 spoke to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) currently pending in Congress. Both of these resolutions passed, but in different ways.

I had expected D012, which passed resoundingly in the House of Deputies earlier in the week, to come up in the House of Bishops on Thursday, but that didn’t happen. This made me worry it could slip through the cracks, as some legislation can in the massive crunch of this ten-day event. After the bishops’ session ended on Thursday, I approached my bishop, Tom Shaw, to ask if he might be able to help me locate it. He connected me with Bishop Johnson of West Tennessee who represented the official Dispatch of Business committee for the House of Bishops (the House of Deputies has a parallel person). Bishop Johnson took me to the office of the Secretariat of the House of Bishops, where I ran into two fellow Bryn Mawr graduates, one of whom was working for the office. We took a picture of ourselves in our bemusement. With the help of this office and the parallel office of House of Deputies and Bishop, we found the crack into which the resolution had fallen. And so, after some extra running around, D012 came up during the morning session of the House of Bishops on the last day of the Convention.

As it so happened, I was out of the room when the debate began, and I now know from viewing the notes of my fellow Integrity Legislative Team tracker, that my own bishop Tom Shaw, spoke first in support. I so wish I could have heard that. As I walked in, Bishop Love of the Diocese of Albany was speaking against the resolution. He had no issue with the nondiscrimination language, but wanted to remove the language of “hate crimes.” His concern was that preaching against particular “lifestyles” on moral grounds could be construed as a hate crime. He did not, however, move an amendment.

Bishop Marc Andrus spoke strongly in favor of the resolution, as he had with C061. He began by emphasizing how this resolution differed from C061. This was about basic civil rights for transgender people—nondiscrimination in the workplace, access to education and public accommodation, extra resources to law enforcement when investigating a hate crime. He spoke of the vulnerability of transgender people to job loss and violence. He was impassioned and eloquent. Bishop Andrus has been such an amazing ally throughout this Convention.

Bishop Barbara Harris, retired suffragan bishop of Massachusetts and one of my personal heroes, then spoke in favor of the resolution. She underscored the vulnerability of trans people to violence and in particular the high death rate around the globe.

Bishop Catherine Roskam of New York then spoke in favor of the resolution, including the hate crimes language, arguing that it was important for this resolution to have that specific language because of the profound vulnerability of trans people. She went on to say she knew from personal experience that this was not only an issue in the United States but also around the Anglican Communion. She had visited a congregation in India that has a partner relationship with a congregation in her diocese. This Indian congregation has a ministry to transgender people there, and she knows from visiting that they too are a vulnerable population. I have heard of this congregation and its relationship and was so glad to hear the bishop bring it to the House’s attention.

Bishop Catherine Waynick of Indianapolis then rose to speak in support of D012. She began by saying that she had felt some tension within herself about the way their previous discussion of C061 had used the term “all.” "All" does not means "all" to everyone. There was a time, she said, when we thought the word "mankind" meant everyone. Except we all knew when it didn’t. We need to be specific, she said.

Bishop Otis Charles, retired bishop of Utah, then spoke in favor of the resolution. He spoke as an openly gay man, having come out in recent years, after his retirement. From that perspective he underscored both the vulnerability and invisibility of trans people. He called on people to ask themselves what and whom they fail to see. He told of a time when he was dean of the Episcopal Divinity School, when a student had requested not to sing a particular hymn in the chapel. He had no idea what could be wrong with the hymn, only to realize as they went ahead and sang it that it was riddled with masculine pronouns. He had not previously been able to see to what made student object. “I know in myself I have been blind, and naming, naming is very important,” he concluded.

Bishop Charles turned out to be the last speaker. I have no doubt that Bishop Gene Robinson also would have spoken in support, as he did with C061, but he was in bed with a terrible fever for two days, and could not be present.

At this point, someone called the question, and a vote was held. It was nearly unanimous — I could only hear one “no.”

In my notes, I wrote “THANK GOD!!!”

After the session ended, Donna and I tried to personally thank everyone who had spoken in favor of the resolution, as well as others who had helped us in various ways along the road. I thanked Bishop Shaw and Bishop Barbara Harris, as well as my suffragan bishops, Gayle Harris and Bud Cederholm, for their support. Donna thanked bishops she has known from her time in the Diocese of Newark. We looked for Bishop Andrus, who was so very supportive throughout the Convention, but we missed him. We thanked Bishops Charles, Roskam and Waynick, as well as Bishop Chane of Washington D.C. who co-chaired the committee from which this resolution emerged. I was particularly moved when he spontaneously gave us a hug.

After descending the escalators once more, Donna handed me notes for the beginnings of a press release, which I completed later in the day. We then gave each other a big hug before Donna headed off to the airport. Donna is the one who got TransEpiscopal going after beginning to connect with other transgender Episcopalians in 2004, including some who had been involved in previous General Conventions, and this Convention marks a huge milestone in these efforts.

I was even happier to be able to leave her a voicemail later in the afternoon, letting her know that C048, the ENDA resolution, passed the House of Bishops without any further discussion. That marked the fourth and final transgender related resolution to pass at the 76th General Convention.

There was one last stressful moment before it was all over for this triennium, however—a coda of sorts. Resolution C061, as you may recall, had passed by a respectable margin in the House of Deputies, only to be transformed in the House of Bishops a day later. Not only had the language of “gender identity and expression” been taken out of the proposed addition to the nondiscrimination canon, but all the categories already listed in the canon were now threatened if the House of Deputies concurred. Our fear was that there might be some confusion in the House of Deputies about what they should do. We tried to get the word out that our preference was for them not to concur, so that the resolution would essentially die and we could try to add the trans-inclusive language again in three years.

Because the Deputies worked so efficiently, the resolution did indeed come back up in the late afternoon, just before the Convention drew to a close. I didn’t get down the escalator in time to hear the debate but learned that Dee Tavolaro had spoken and clarified our position about the resolution. I also understand that, among other speakers, at least one spoke in favor of concurrence. But the Deputies thankfully did not vote that way.

And that marked the end of our General Convention saga.

CP

(with thanks to deniray mueller of Integrity's Legislative team for allowing me to check my notes against hers, and to Jon Richardson, also of the legislative team, for the photo of TE folks with Bishops Shaw and Harris)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

There and Back Again


I along with seven companions have traveled to a strange land, filled with the fearsome Smog. We were seeking a great treasure. There were challenges all along the way, but in the end we achieved great things. Sound a little familiar? Well there were no wizards, no Hobbits, no Dwarfs and no Dragon. We were not in Middle Earth, but at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. A small group of Transgender Clergy and Laity brought Transgender issues in front of the Church in a way that had never happened before. The General Convention happens every three years and consists of lay and clergy delegations along with their Bishops from each Diocese of the Episcopal Church. At the last Convention only one of our number attended for even a short while. That was the beginning. This year eight members of TransEpiscopal were there. Seven resolutions were presented and four of them passed. Since some of the resolutions were redundant only one remains a disappointment, changes to the Canon on Ordination.

What can we make of this development? Our treasure is a church that is more open and more caring. Along the way we met loving friends and allies and we didn’t find hate and prejudice. This is very special since all too often Transgender people find hate, intolerance and prejudice. The Episcopal Church is truly becoming a church of openness, tolerance and an instrument of God’s love. As a Priest in the Church and a Transgender person myself, I find all this extremely hopeful. My ordination and my ministry and my commitment remain intact and are in a way validated (I have been ordained the longest of any of the group, having been ordained to the Priesthood 38 years ago.)
Michelle+

Press Releases



For Immediate Release:

Anaheim, CA (July 17, 2009): For the first time in its history, the Episcopal Church has taken official actions in support of transgender civil rights and inclusion at its 76th General Convention.

“It was a true privilege to participate in the legislative process of this Church, to bear witness to transgender lives and experiences, and to urge the Episcopal Church to fully include and to stand in solidarity with us,” commented the Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge, a member of TransEpiscopal and Integrity USA. “I am thrilled to be able to say that the General Convention voted overwhelmingly to put the Episcopal Church on record in support of such legislation as the Matthew Shepherd Hate Crimes Act and the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, and analogous efforts at municipal and state levels. But I am even more moved to say how many people spontaneously shared with us how their eyes have been opened, their hearts turned, by our presence and stories here. To have someone stop me in a coffee line to say, ‘I had never thought about this issue before, and I’m going to take what I have learned here and share it with my little congregation in the Ozarks’ means more than I can say.”

Today the Convention completed approval of resolutions supporting the enactment of anti-discrimination and hate crimes legislation protecting transgender people at local, state and federal levels. The House of Deputies passed these resolutions overwhelmingly on Wednesday, and the House of Bishops then approved these resolutions today in near-unanimous votes.

These actions took place as the United States Congress debates both the Matthew Shepherd Hate Crimes Act and the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, which respectively address hate crimes and discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, and disability as well as gender identity and expression.

Testifying in hearings at various levels of the Convention were representatives of the organizations TransEpiscopal and Integrity USA, including the Episcopal Church’s first openly transgender Deputy, Dee Tavolaro of Rhode Island.

In addition to today’s actions, earlier this week the Convention approved two other transgender related resolutions. The first adds “gender identity and expression” to its nondiscrimination policy for hiring lay employees, while the second calls for the revision of church paper and electronic forms to allow a wider range of gender identifications.

“As we celebrate this moment and give thanks for the amazing allies walking with us, particularly Integrity USA and the Consultation, we look forward to progressing further toward full inclusion of transgender people —and, indeed, all people -- in all areas of ministry in The Episcopal Church.”

Contacts: Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge at cepart@yahoo.com
Rev. Michelle Hansen at hansen_michelle@sbcglobal.net
And see our blog coverage of Convention at blog.transepiscopal.com

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At the end of the final press conference of the General Convention, Rachel Swan of Integrity USA asked the panelists about the historic passage of legislation on transgender civil rights and inclusion.




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From Integrity USA

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ANAHEIM, CA (July 17, 2009)--The Episcopal Church turned an important corner at this General Convention and Integrity applauds the hard, faithful work of the bishops and deputies who brought us closer to the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments. We came to this convention committed to moving the church beyond B033 and forward on equality for the blessing of same-sex unions--and we are beyond gratified that we have realized both of those goals.

Thirty three years after promising a "full and equal claim" to the gay and lesbian baptized, the Episcopal Church has affirmed equal access to ordination processes for all orders of ministry for all the baptized, has approved a broad local option for the blessings of our relationships, and has called the church to work together toward common liturgical expressions of those blessings.

It is a great day for the church and a greater day for the witness to God’s inclusive love.

"While Integrity’s advocacy work is not yet done," said Integrity President Susan Russell, "the actions here in Anaheim liberate us to get on with our evangelism work--proclaiming the good news of an Episcopal Church that welcomes not only LGBT people looking for a spiritual home but ALL those seeking a faith community that shares their core values of justice, compassion, inclusion, and love."

"We celebrate this historic movement forward and we commit ourselves to this church we love and serve to continue to witness to the good news of Christ Jesus present in our lives, our vocations, and our relationships. We call others to 'come and see' what we have found and seen and experienced in the Episcopal Church."

"Integrity applauds the hard work of all our allies in this struggle and lifts up particularly the witness of our TransEpiscopal colleagues whose courageous work at this convention has been truly extraordinary. We look forward to working with all our allies as we move forward together into God’s future, giving thanks for the good work here in Anaheim that has brought us closer to that church with 'no outcasts' to which former Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning called us.

Contacts:

Louise Brooks, Director of Communications, tvprod@earthlink.net, (626) 993-4605

Friday, July 17, 2009

Transgender Civil Rights

Donna Cartwright Gave the following testimony to the Committee on National and International affairs at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church meeting in Anaheim, CA. The Resolution D012 passed in the House of Deputies and at the time of this post is pending in the House of Bishops for a vote of concurrence.

My name is Donna Cartwright, from the Diocese of Maryland. I am here to speak in support of Resolution D012, which calls of enactment of anti-discrimination legislation covering transgender and gender-different people at the local, state and federal levels.
Along with our gay, lesbian and bisexual brothers and sisters, transgender people suffer from severe discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. Consequently, they suffer from high levels of unemployment, underemployment and homelessness.
During my transition from male to female in the 1990's, I was fortunate to keep my job. But many transgender people whom I met in support groups and at commnity events were not so lucky. Often most of those who shared those groups with me were unemployed, many of them for prolonged periods. It was common to encounter people who never worked in their profession or vocation again after coming out as transgender. And some had never had a real job (that is, one with a paycheck and a Social Security number); instead, they eked out a livelihood through sex work, street hustling and in cash businesses like hairdressing.
Their often harrowing stories both left me grateful that I had been spared such treatment, and inspired me to fight against the injustice experience by my transgender brothers and sisters.
The movement for transgender equality has grown greatly and achieved many successes since the mid-90's, when only one state and a handful of municipalities had anti-discrimination protection for transgender and gender-different people. Now 13 states, the District of Columbia and over 100 cities and counties have civil rights laws protecting us.
But far more remains to be done. Less than 40% of the U.S. population lives in state and local jurisdictions with anti-discrimination protection for trans people. Efforts are under way in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Maryland and elsewhere to increase protection at the state level. And the current versions of both the federal anti-discrimination and hate crimes bills would cover transgender as well as gay, lesbian and bisexual people. The success of those efforts would go a long way toward alleviating the personal suffering and tragedy experienced by so many transgender people and ending a terrible waste of human potential.
The Episcopal Church can help that goal become a reality by putting its weight behind civil rights and hate crimes protection covering gender identity and expression.

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, Dee 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.

CP

"This is Important"


Yesterday, for the first time in its history, the House of Bishops publicly took up the matter of transgender people in ministry in the Episcopal Church. Resolution C061, which passed the House of Deputies on Monday, July 13th by a wide margin, seeks to change Title III.1.2 which currently forbids discrimination on the basis of the following categories: “race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, disabilities or age, except as otherwise provided by these Canons.” The resolution would add “gender identity or expression” to that list. The outcome of this debate reflected a diversity of opinion on and experience with transgender people in the House of Bishops. Several bishops spoke in support of the resolution, a couple spoke strongly against it, and a number referred to feeling inadequately educated on the topic.

The resolution, as they initially received it was a follows:

Resolved, the House of _______ concurring, That Title III, Canon 1, Sec. 2 of the Canons of the Episcopal Church is hereby amended to read as follows: all baptized persons shall have full access to the discernment process for any ministry, lay or ordained in this church, except as otherwise provided by these canons. No person shall be denied access or have their discernment process terminated because of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disabilities or age, except as otherwise provided by these Canons. No right to licensing, ordination, or election is hereby established.

Marc Andrus of the Diocese of California and Gene Robinson of New Hampshire spoke both passionately and authentically about their experience of transgender people in ministry. Bishop Andrus emphasized that in his diocese, where Vicki Gray serves as a vocational deacon, they ordain individuals, not particular classes of people. If someone discerns a call to ministry, the issue for a Commission on Ministry and bishops to attend to is the vocation and the person’s ability to live into it, not their particular gender identity or expression. I entered the room during the tail end of Gene Robinson’s remarks, and so missed the bulk of them, but I heard him speaking strongly in support.

Of those who spoke against, Bishop Duncan Gray of Mississippi stood out for remarking that adding this language would “cross a line” and that we don’t need it because people are ordaining trans people already without it; to make that reality canonically explicit would be to “wave a red flag” about it.

For the most part, among those who spoke against the resolution, what I heard was not so much outright negativity as a sense of discomfort, of feeling overwhelmed and inadequately informed. A couple bishops argued that Commissions on Ministry need to have access to resources in order to be prepared to receive applications to the ordination process from trans people, and that to change the canon now, before they had such resources, would not be fair.

Bishop Dorsey Henderson of the diocese of Upper South Carolina objected to the longstanding language of the canon “no person shall be denied access”. He expressed a wish that the word “all” might replace “no.”

Bishop Howard of the Diocese of Florida expressed confusion and concern about the term “gender expression,” wondering if it might be a trojan horse for sexual activity outside of marriage. This was not the first time someone took issue with this term; someone on the floor of the House of Deputies also asked about it, and it also came up in the Committee on World Mission.

Bishop Dabney Smith of Southwest Florida then objected to a line that the Committee on World Mission had actually added to the original version of the resolution. The nondiscrimination canon already states that “no person shall be denied access,” but this resolution added the phrase “or have their ordination process terminated.” Had it remained, this line might have been a remarkable achievement in its own right. It would have addressed scenarios in which people come out as LGB or T, or begin a relationship, after entering their ordination process; in a some more conservative dioceses, people’s processes have indeed been terminated in response to just such situations. But the bishops were not in favor of that phrase. Stated reasons ranged from exactly the one just mentioned to concerns about opening themselves to litigation if, for instance, someone attributed the reason for their termination to a particular bias while the bishop or Commission on Ministry might have actually had other reasons.

The bishops then unanimously voted to remove that phrase.

Bishop Catherine Roskam of New York then returned to Bishop Henderson’s critique of the “no person” language. “What is it about ‘all’ that we don’t understand?” she asked. “There’s no adequate list. There will always be someone’s name we’ve left off.” With that, she made an amendment to remove all of lines five and six of the resolution. That motion spoke not simply to the language of “gender identity or expression,” but also to the entire list already enshrined: race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, disabilities or age. The move on Bishop Roskam’s part appeared designed to find a way out of an impasse, a way not to reject the resolution outright.

In the wake of this move, Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina made a motion to refer the resolution to the Standing Commission on Ministry Development, so that a study could be done on ordaining transgender people. Notable in his motion was the sentiment, “This is important. It is important. And it’s of such importance that we want to do this properly, we want to do this in the right way. And in order to do so we need to come back with a good, thoughtful report.”

Comments and questions that followed either supported this referral or asked whether it would cause the original resolution to die. A vote was then taken on Bishop Curry’s motion, and was very narrowly defeated: 60 in favor, 66 against.

They then immediately turned to Bishop Roskam’s amendment, passing it, and the resolution as amended:

Resolved, the House of _______ concurring, That Title III, Canon 1, Sec. 2 of the Canons of the Episcopal Church is hereby amended to read as follows: all baptized persons shall have full access to the discernment process for any ministry, lay or ordained in this church, except as otherwise provided by these canons. No right to licensing, ordination, or election is hereby established.

Because they amended the resolution, it gets sent back to the House of Deputies.

So, where does this resolution leave us? While I believe the amendment to remove the specific demographic language was well intentioned, and while I certainly concur with the notion that “all” should truly mean all, this resolution as amended does not do what it was designed to do. The “all” version appears to have passed specifically because it did not mention “gender identity or expression.” Further, it eradicates the particularity of groups that worked for years to get that language into the canon to begin with. As much as I wanted the universality of “all” to do the job, in the context of this debate as it unfolded, the term was more evasive than inclusive. And so my hope is that the House of Deputies will not concur with it, that we might put our shoulders to this particular wheel again at the 77th General Convention.

But I have much higher hopes than that. The progress we have made at this Convention-- with more to come before it's over-- is absolutely huge. The fact that the House of Deputies passed C061 by a very respectable margin is tremendous. That the House of Bishops got to discuss this resolution, was huge. They made it clear they want to learn more, which is also to me a major victory. I will admit, however, that it was also difficult, indeed painful, to hear the debate as it unfolded. This is my life, my ordination process, my ministry they were talking about. And yet at the same time, in my mind, I keep coming back to Bishop Curry saying “This is important. This is important.” I agree-- it is important, and because of that, we need to do more. We have taken some of the first steps in making the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion aware that trans people are here, in our pews, on our vestries, in our pulpits; that we bring unique insights, gifts of uncommon experience and perception, and often deeply prayerful experiences of transformation; that we love this church.

And while I’ll end this post here, as Michelle and Donna have noted, more trans related activity happened yesterday than just this vote—in the afternoon the House of Deputies took up D012, the transgender civil rights resolution, and passed it in a landslide after several truly beautiful speakers gave testimony. I want to give that story a blog post in its own right, so stay tuned.

CP

Mixed Emotions

For the first time since I arrived in Anaheim I have some mixed reactions to what has happened. Most everything, by the way has been great – fantastic, even. Today things were a bit mixed. The House of Deputies passed a measure asking for Trans Civil Rights. The witness of a number of Deputies was very powerful. I wasn’t in the Deputies while this was happening, but Cameron described it to me and even captured the testimony and voting on his camera (so I did see it, but not live.) That measure passed in the House of Deputies easily. I am sure that Cameron can describe for you that in a much better fashion.

I was in the House of Bishops all day. They received a measure that had passed in Deputies asking to protect the rights of Transgender people in the process of Ordination. Access to the process is so important. It does not guarantee that one will be ordained, but that one has the opportunity. There were already several protected classes of individuals. That is the Canon protected people from discrimination because of race, color, ethnic origin, sex, etc. Gender Identity or expression was to be added to the classes. What the Bishops did was to substitute wording to the effect that all baptized Christians were eligible for the discernment process. I am paraphrasing so don’t think that the canon is worded exactly that way. What they did was to remove the list of protections.

In a much better world not being specific about who is protected might work. We live in a world that is far from perfect. I am skeptical that the wording will work. In any case, the measure now has to go back to the house of Deputies. We’ll see what they decide. I am a bit disappointed about this.

On the much better side, the House of Bishops considered a measure that would allow blessings of same sex unions in states where such unions are allowed. The measure is a broad and liberal measure allowing for much pastoral concern. It also allows for the study of appropriate rites for such unions. The measure was heavily debated over two days. A substitute measure was introduced after hard work last night by 26 Bishops. They resisted revising the substitute measure all afternoon and passed the measure by a very great margin. Since I come from Connecticut where same sex civil marriage is legal this is a very important measure. So many same sex couples who have civil marriages also want their church involved and now it is possible.

The convention is either winding down or reaching a feverish pitch, depending on your point of view. There is still much to do and little time left to do it. I have one more day and then I go home. I should have planned to stay through Friday, but my ticket is already purchased. Cameron will have to be the final witness and do the final report.

God’s Peace,
Michelle+

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

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Surprises and Joys

Cameron has posted well on the day's events at General Convention. I will only add a few observations from my perspective. I was in the House of Bishops waiting for C061 to come up. C061 which deals with inclusiveness in the ordination process had passed in the House of Deputies. I was sitting with a long-time friend who is the wife of one of the Bishops (they had both been parishioners of mine many years ago and I consider them good friends.) The Bishops were struggling with the issue of blessings of same sex unions because six states, including my own Connecticut allow same sex Civil Marriages (D056). Cameron texted me from Deputies that D025 (see Cameron's explanation in previous posts) had passed in the Deputies. My friend and I both were extremely pleased(the Bishops had passed this measure yesterday.)

The Bishops decided to postpone the discussion on Marriage Blessings to Thursday Afternoon, which will be later today, and moved on with business. I was totally surprised to hear D090 on gender issues on forms presented. It passed with little dissent without discussion. D032 Gender equality for Lay employees was then presented by the same committee. Bishop Wolf of Rhode Island expressed confusion about the term Gender Expression. Bishop Andrus of California tried to explain as did the Bishop who presented the measure. The explanations were a bit weak. The attempt was apparently enough because there was no more debate and the measure passed! Both measures passed easily. I was totally surprised and pleased. What a day! Look to Cameron's post for the wording of the measures and for details.

As a personal note, I am getting tired. I get up a bit later each morning and go to bed a little earlier each night. Tylenol and Advil are my friends. Sitting in Convention Hall chairs is getting tougher. The morning shower gets a little longer and hotter each day. For me it is two more days and then I fly home. It has been a remarkable time. I have noticed that all of the pictures of me that have been posted are of the back of my head. I am not sure why that is(possibly it's the best view of me), but I thought I would post one of my front for a change.
God's Peace,
Michelle+

Tavolaro Testimony on C061


Here is the testimony given by Dee Tavolaro yesterday in support of C061, reposted with permission from his blog, I Will, with God's Help.

******

Deputy Tavolaro, Rhode Island.

I am 19 years old, and active member of this Church, and I identify as Transgender. For me that means I am biologically female, but I live and identify as male. I know for most of you this is a new topic and while this is the second General Convention to deal with Transgender issues, I believe it is the first time this issue has come to the floor of our house.

Gender identity and gender expression are not the same as sexual orientation. Gender identity refers to who you are, while sexual orientation refers to whom you love.

Transgender people - whether known or unknown - serve in various capacities both lay and ordained within the Church. As a Church when we fail to recognize the humanity of all people we fail to proclaim the Gospel, we fail to live out our Baptismal Covenant, we fail to respect the dignity of every human being. many of my Transgender siblings have been explicitly rejected in their Church homes when their chosen names and pronouns are not used.

I love this Church with all my heart and soul, by adding Gender Identity and Gender Expression to our ministry canon it will serve as a beacon of hope - for myself, the trans community, and all people who wonder whether they are truly welcome in this Church.

Linked Witness


I spent this afternoon in the House of Deputies, along with Donna Cartwright and Rev. Karen McQueen of the Diocese of LA, drinking coffee and eating chocolate, trying to stay awake, waiting for D012 to come up. This is the resolution sponsored by Byron Rushing of MA, Sarah Lawton of CA and Dee Tavolaro of RI which would put the Episcopal Church on record in supports transgender civil rights.


At the very same time, three thousand miles away, people gathered at a hearing of the Massachusetts Judiciary Committee regarding a transgender nondiscrimination bill. It may surprise you to note that Massachusetts is not one of the thirteen states + D.C. to have discrimination protections for trans people. I testified at the hearing for another version of this bill last year and would have again this year were I not here at GC. I am proud to be able to report that the Very Rev. Jep Streit, Dean of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, testified in favor of this legislation today. To read a comprehensive article about the hearing in Bay Windows, the Boston Area LGBT weekly, click here. Below is video from the press conference that preceded the hearing.



After posting here and on facebook, I tweeted about the simultaneity of our work here at GC and in MA: "Love to all at MA trans legislative hearing right now! Take heart: HoD just passed C061 which now goes to bishops." Later, I picked up tweets from at least two people saying they had mentioned GC's trans resolutions during their testimony in MA. One suggested that this witness is sign to the rest of the country, and beyond, that trans issues are neither "obscure" nor "bizarre".

Now, I know a bunch of folks here are showing some signs of "ubuntu fatigue" (for those who don't know, it's a word that means "I in you and you in me" and is the theme of this Convention), but if this interlinked witness isn't an example of "ubuntu", I don't know what is.

In between that discovery, while I still sat in the House of Deputies, I got a text from Michelle Hansen, who was sitting in on the House of Bishops that two trans-positive resolutions had passed the House of Bishops. To me, this news came out of nowhere-- I knew they had been approved by their committee, as reported in an earlier post, but I did not realize they were headed first to the House of Bishops.

The first of these resolutions reads:

"Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That this 76th General Convention of The Episcopal Church recommends and encourages all bodies of The Episcopal Church to utilize all available resources to revise and adapt forms to be fully inclusive of all people: by including lines not only for one's legal name, but also for one's preferred name as well as one's gender identity and pronoun preference.

EXPLANATION

For the second General Convention in a row, the Episcopal Church is considering legislation pertaining to transgender people. Resolutions include changing Canon III.1.2 and III. 1. 3 to include "gender identity and expression"; supporting transgender civil rights; and supporting a fully inclusive ENDA (Employment Non-discrimination Act). This resolution extends into the life of the Church the respect and recognition of transgender people conveyed by these other resolutions, by calling for a small but significant change in forms. This resolution would add four lines to Church forms: legal name, preferred name, gender identity and pronoun preference.

The addition of preferred name to legal name would benefit many people. A person's legal name could be William, but he might go by a middle name. For transgender persons, the "preferred name" line can facilitate respectful treatment even if they do not have the financial means to legally change a birth name to one that reflects gender identity.

The choice to write out one's gender identity (one's inner sense of oneself as a man, a woman, or another gender category), rather than the restriction of the categories "male" or "female" from a multiple choice dropdown menu, would significantly facilitate the ability of transgender people to access and take their place within the life of the Church.

Similarly, the ability to choose the pronouns by which one is referenced deeply impacts transgender people's experience on a very concrete level, moment by moment. The imposition of pronouns with which one does not identify can be experienced as profoundly dehumanizing.

Adding these five lines to church forms would represent a small but significant step forward as transgender people increasingly take their place in the life of the Church. In a highly concrete way, these changes would reflect our conviction, as stated in our Baptismal Covenant, that we respect the dignity of every human being. Forms are, in a real sense, doorways that can significantly frame our experience of the Church. For transgender people-and indeed, for all-they should stand open, inviting and valuing full participation."


The second of these resolutions, submitted by Dr. Louie Crew, is D032. It reads:

"Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 76th General Convention commit The Episcopal Church itself not to discriminate in employment of lay employees based on race, color, sex, national origin, age, familial status, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity, or gender expression.

EXPLANATION

The Church is generally exempt from federal employment discrimination laws, and those of most states and localities, but except for discrimination based on religion which may be appropriate for some positions, The Episcopal Church supports the principles of non-discrimination. It should take credit for that position public. Many but not all of the above categories are set forth in resolutions of previous General Conventions but this would put them all in one convenient location."


Michelle heard what little discussion there was on these resolutions, and may want to comment more. The only reservation, again raised by Bishop Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island, was about the term "gender expression." Bishop Marc Andrus had distributed copies of the NGLTF definitions to the House of Bishops which defined that term, but Bishop Wolf did not appear satisfied and voted against it. She had raised a similar question in the hearing at which I testified last week.

The bottom line, however, is that the vast majority of the bishops passed the resolution, and quickly at that. Both D090 and D032 now head to the House of Deputies where, if they pass, they become an official position of the Episcopal Church.

So now, as I look toward tomorrow (Wed), the House of Bishops could get C061 (the ministry canon change to include "gender identity and expression"). The House of Deputies will undoubtedly take up D012 (trans civil rights), first thing in the morning, and I don't know when they will get D090 and D032, not to mention C048 through which the Episcopal Church would explicitly support an inclusive ENDA (more on that later).

I look forward to seeing what happens tomorrow, and pray that the Spirit of Truth and courage will keep on blowing here, and across this country.

CP

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Round One: Results Are In

The results are now in from the House of Deputies: Resolution C061, which would add "gender identity or expression" to Title III.1.2, has passed with 75% support in the lay order and 66% in the clerical order, a very respectable margin, particularly when you think about how this is the very first time the Convention has even discussed trans people.

I have to admit, hearing these results was a somewhat odd experience-- particularly after the high emotions of last night. The secretary of the Convention, Gregory Straub, explained that when there is a divided vote, the divided deputations have to be read out first, specifying who voted no and who yes. I think he meant to say that as a warning not to be overwhelmed by the list that followed. But after he listed the divided deputations, he proceeded with the final tally by deputation: Lay Order: 82 yes, 21 no, six divided, which = 75% in favor. Clerical Order: 72 yes, 28 no: 9 divided, which = 66%.

After the results were read, those of us who were gathered in the back of the room had a quick huddle to savor the moment and say goodbye to Vicki Gray, who had waited to hear the results before driving back to the Bay Area. While we were there, Gay Jennings came by, on her way back onto the floor, and heartily congratulated us. I continue to be so grateful for her leadership in the committee on World Mission, particularly given how overwhelmingly stacked their plate was with B033 related resolutions.

Now this resolution moves to the House of Bishops.

Meanwhile, resolution D012 which would put the Episcopal Church on record in support of trans civil rights, should come before the House of Deputies this afternoon. So stay tuned for more news on that front! The Spirit is seriously moving here.

CP

Up & Down the Escalators


What a day! It started out early this morning, when Deputy Dee Tavolaro and I testified in support of D090, a resolution that Dee got in just before the deadline last week. It calls upon the Episcopal Church to adapt its various forms, paper and electronic, to be inclusive of people with various gender identities. All too often, people who identify as neither male nor female (which numerous people within the trans community do), or who might use more than one term to articulate their gender, encounter forms that turn them away just as surely as a closed door. As part of his testimony, Dee told a story of a recent difficult experience filling out a form in a church body (which I hope he might post here). I emphasized that while I have encountered forms that attempt to include transgender people by having three options—male, female, and transgender—the option of simply giving a space for someone to write in their gender, along with their name and preferred pronouns is preferable. The committee asked thoughtful questions, and the subcommittee was very receptive, even sharpening the language slightly to push the church more. The final version was:

Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, that this 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church recommends and encourages all bodies of the Episcopal Church to utilize all available resources to revise and adapt forms to be fully inclusive of all people: by including lines not only for one's legal name, but also for one's preferred name as well as one's gender identity and pronoun preference.

The subcommittee then took up resolution D032, submitted by Dr. Louie Crew, on refusing to discriminate against lay church employees on the basis of "race, color, sex, national origin, age, familial status, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity." The subcommittee supported it and added "gender expression."

When both of these resolutions went to the full committee, they were unanimously voted to go to the House of Deputies. So at that point, the count of trans related resolutions stood as follows:

1) C061 "Amend Title II.1.2" (World Mission) (originating from Diocese of MA)
2) D012 "Support of Transgender Civil Rights (National and International Concerns) (sponsored by Byron Rushing, Sarah Lawton & Dee Tavolaro)
3) D090 "Inclusive Church Paper Work" (Social and Urban Affairs) (sponsored by Dee Tavolaro)
4) D032 Non-Discrimination in Lay Employment (Social and Urban Affairs) (sponsored by Dr. Louie Crew)

There were two others that had been left behind in the committee on World Mission: C001 (which basically duplicated #1) and C046 which added the same language as C061 to Title II.1.3.



Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the House of Deputies yesterday approved D025, a long, nuanced resolution that would move the Episcopal Church Beyond B033, and sent it to the House of Bishops. I sat in on the House of Deputies during their morning session, however, because there was a possibility that C061 (which would add "gender identity or expression" to the ministry canon) might come to the floor. As it turned out, that didn't happen. After lunch, I returned to the HoD for the same reason. But halfway through the session, I learned that the House of Bishops was beginning to debate C025. So I made my way up the two long escalators to the third floor of the Anaheim Conference Center, where the House of Bishops is stationed. I arrived amid a steadily increasing crowd, and parked myself amid the Integrity contingent. Michelle Hansen was already there, though I couldn't see her for all the people. Donna Cartwright, meanwhile, was keeping an eye on the House of Deputies below.

And because the Episcopal Church Women were holding their triennial meeting in the room next door, snippets of cheerful song occasionally wafted through the walls with oddly appropriate incongruity.

You can find out more about the debate in the House of Bishops here and here. The closer it got to 5pm, the more likely it seemed that the day would come to a close without the Bishops bringing the matter to a vote. Debate was still going strong, well after 5pm, when I got word that at the last moment the House of Deputies had indeed taken up C061, the ministry canon resolution.

I busted out of the House of Bishops, nearly running over a stately ECW delegate, and headed to the escalators. There was no way I was going to miss this debate.

By the time I got into the HoD, Michael Barlow had just begun eloquently testifying in favor of the resolution. What I had missed was an introduction to the resolution by Gay Jennings, the chair of the World Mission committee, which had included a reading of a definition sheet that had been prepared for us by Lisa Mottet of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

I sat down and listened, my heart in my throat, as Michael Barlowe finished and Dee Tavolaro began. What an incredibly proud moment it was to hear Dee speaking as an openly trans deputy. Heck, how amazing was it to even hear the word "transgender" spoken on the floor of the House of Deputies. I had run into someone from the diocese of Massachusetts earlier in the day, and when I told her that a trans-themed resolution had never come up before, she was genuinely surprised. Dee's testimony will be posted here in the coming days, but suffice it to say that he spoke of what a beacon of hope the Episcopal Church could be if it explicitly included transgender people the sentiment famously expressed by Presiding Bishop Edmund Browning that "there will be no outcasts in this church."

Sarah Lawton then told a beautiful, poignant story of her sister, who is a transgender woman. I cannot express how moving this was, and I sincerely hope Sarah will let us post her testimony on the blog as well.

After Sarah finished, someone asked Gay Jennings to re-read the definition of "gender expression". He was apparently uncomfortable with this concept, namely the expression of one's inner gender identity which, come to think of it, is not unlike the definition of a sacrament: "an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace"... He then moved an amendment to strike the words "gender expression" from the resolution. In the debate about this amendment, Rev. Christopher Hoffer from the diocese of Long Island spoke. He spoke against the amendment and for the resolution itself, and very strongly at that.

The amendment was then soundly defeated.

About this time, a current of people started flowing into the HoD. Had I heard, an Integrity comrade asked? The House of Bishops had voted in favor of D025 (the amended text of the D025 after the House of Bishops finished with it is ">here)! The Spirit felt like it was seriously blowing in the Anaheim Conference Center.

At this point, the Deputies were turning to vote on the resolution. They voted by orders in their deputations, which are made up of equal numbers of clergy and laity. A so-called "divided vote" in which there are equal numbers for and against, counts as a "no" vote. Otherwise the majority wins within each deputation.

Then we had to wait. Earlier today, and in previous days, the electronic voting machines have had technology problems, causing frustrating delays. While we waited, the Secretary of the Connvention made several announcements.

.....And then the session was adjourned without us finding out the results! They should be announced first thing in the morning session, which starts at 9:30 a.m.

So tomorrow (Tuesday) should prove to be quite a day. In addition to learning these results, the HoD should take up D012, the Transgender Civil Rights resolution, not to mention D025 (the huge Beyond B033 resolution). And if C061 has passed, it should be sent to the House of Bishops. Before it can become the mind of the Convention, it must pass both houses.

But I have to say from this exhausted but exhilarated perch at 3 a.m., it's been an amazing day. I'm so grateful for the witness of the Deputies who spoke in favor of the resolution, for the support of Michael Barlowe and Ian Douglas within the World Mission Committee, for the open hearts of those committee members who heard our testimony last week, and for the positive feedback we've been getting around Convention. Blessings abound.

CP

Mystery and Joy

What an incredible day! I am exhausted, but pretty happy. I have watched my church step up to the plate and deal with the realities of this world. Today the House of Bishops passed a measure that in essence says that our church will be inclusive. To be sure it is not a perfect measure, but it is a great step forward. In addition the House of Deputies debated and voted on the first of several measures that deal with Transgender lives and the Church. The vote will be known tomorrow, but whatever the outcome they have tried to deal with realities of Transgender lives in the church and that is significant. There is more to come. I am guessing that Cameron will post soon and there may some posts from allies.

Tomorrow Vicki will be leaving to go home. She will be sorely missed. She is the Deacon in our midst and has been a great witness. Drive safely and God Bless Vicki. Those of us that remain will continue our work of giving a real human face to the reality of Transgender people in the life of the church. God's Peace and good night.

Michelle+