Putting the “T” First: Public Statement on This Week’s UU World Article

Nothing We Do Will Be Perfect. The irony of the cover of the print issue of the spring 2019 UU World has not been lost on the membership of TRUUsT and our greater trans* community.

The UU World’s article titled “After L, G, and B” frames the trans experience by centering a white, heterosexual, cisgender woman’s experience. By doing so, it reduces trans people to objects—something that happens far too often in society and in our UU communities. The use of harmful slurs, the conflation of intersex and trans experience, and a repeated focus on surgery, hormones, and pronouns perpetuates stereotypes around trans experiences that devalues the gifts we have to bring to the world and Unitarian Universalism.

The impact of this article will have long-lasting effects. While the UU World has a vital role in communicating issues of importance to Unitarian Universalists around the world, often representing the leading edge and the best in our UU faith, it is that trust and faith in this magazine which makes this article all the more harmful. Well-meaning people who have no other known relationship to or interaction with trans lives will now believe that these words and actions are acceptable. They are not!

We are living in a time when trans identity is at the forefront of world politics. Those of us in the United States are living in a country where the audacity of our very trans existence is attacked daily in attempts to erase us and silence our voices.

We are living in a UU faith community full of people with whom we have covenanted to live into our best selves, our authentic selves, in a multitude of expressions and complex realities, but who continue to deny us a place at the table even as they examine their internal systems of oppression on other matters.

It is in this environment of confronting our internal oppressive systems that we ask cisgender people to listen when trans people speak. We ask that cis people pay attention and believe us when we speak truth to power. We ask that those of you who are cis hold space for us too, as we have done for you for so many years.

TRUUsT will not idly accept this sort of blatant erasure of trans voices in Unitarian Universalism. We refuse to be complicit in this behavior. We call on all cisgender UUs who are committed to being allies and accomplices to amplify trans UU voices, our hurt, and our rage. Be the prophetic voice for justice and inclusivity that we believe Unitarian Universalism can be. We ask that you:

  1. Read the article, if you haven’t already, and actively speak to the harm it does.
  2. Read and amplify trans UU voices speaking to why this article is so harmful, such as Alex Kapitan’s statement and CB Beal’s Medium piece.
  3. Familiarize yourself with who trans UUs are and our experiences in Unitarian Universalism by reading TRUUsT’s recent report on the experiences of trans UUs.
  4. Join the TRUUST Call to Action, which includes both actions you can take in your communities and a link to donate to TRUUST.

This week’s UU World article is not the best of Unitarian Universalism. We do not expect perfection; we expect a place at the table and a voice. We call on Unitarian Universalists everywhere to understand this as a moment for learning, increased accountability, and spiritual growth, and to re-center the needs, experiences, and voices of trans UUs. We call on others of good faith to mend the covenant that has been broken between us and seek to make amends.

In faith,
TRUUsT Steering Committee

A’ishah Hope Amatullah
Christe Lunsford
Rev. Andre Mol
Rev. Chris Rothbauer
Juniper Stinnett

*TRUUsT uses the word “trans” expansively to refer to all people whose gender identities (or lack thereof) do not align, according to mainstream expectations, with their birth-assigned sex, while recognizing the limitations of this approach and the fact that not all non-binary people use the word “trans” to describe themselves. The majority of TRUUsT members are non-binary, as are the majority of trans UUs. We reject the narrative that “trans” is limited to binary-identified trans women and men. We honor and affirm all who are transgender, genderqueer, gender fluid, non-binary, two spirit, intersex, agender, bigender, third gender, neutrois, transsexual, and otherwise marginalized in terms of gender identity, and also honor and affirm the differences between us and the different language that calls each of us home.

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