Commentary: A call for solidarity and action for trans and nonbinary people
Transgender Day of Visibility, March 31, approaches. It’s a day dedicated to celebrating the accomplishments of transgender and gender nonconforming people and a time to raise awareness of the work that still needs to be done to achieve trans justice. In this commentary, the Rev. Yadi Martínez-Reyna advocates for solidarity and action in support of trans and nonbinary people and points to resources for use in the work before us. They reference the Texas directive that calls on citizens to report the parents of transgender minors to state authorities if it appears the minors are receiving gender-affirming medical care. Texas is not the only state attacking the rights of trans citizens. In addition to various anti-trans laws enacted in 2021, at least 13 states are now considering more.
I was shocked by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s directive ordering the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate the parents of trans children for providing “gender-affirming medical care.” The directive was issued Feb. 22 following a non-binding legal opinion from State Attorney General Ken Paxton who said that under Texas law this care could be considered “child abuse.” Taking a play from the recent law prohibiting most abortions in Texas, the directive calls for the reporting of parents or guardians suspected of providing gender-affirming care. This is an intrusion into a family’s private decisions, not only decisions about medical and psychological care, but potentially even support for a child’s choice of clothes or name.
Centering lived experience
As a nonbinary pastor serving both youth and adults, I know firsthand about the many challenges that a person of trans or nonbinary experience already faces when coming to terms with one’s truth — challenges of personal identity and relationships. I know the challenges that my trans and nonbinary siblings and I have experienced when we have come out or faced rejection from families and loved ones. I understand the fear young people carry and the struggle to trust that their families will not send them to conversion therapy camps or ask them to leave home. These challenges are now compounded as loving parents come under attack by their government for providing the care they and their medical professionals believe is in the best interest of their trans child.
The harmful actions of Texas Gov. Abbott and other public leaders have created a cloud of trauma and anxiety among young people who face losing access to life-saving treatment and care, or worse, their families; terror and panic among parents and caregivers who are threatened with being charged with child abuse and assessed for their ability to retain custody of their children; and the insidious fear among persons of trans or nonbinary experience that our allies might now be required to report us.
A call to solidarity and action
As a person of faith, I believe that the Holy One has not given us a spirit of fear but rather one rooted in love. I call upon my nonbinary and transgender siblings to stand in solidarity with our young friends and their families, and to show them a living example of support in their lives. I call upon our local churches to help us amplify the voices in the transgender community and bravely offer them a space where they are safe in the fullness of their identities.
As for us in Texas, we must continue to shine a path and make a way. For me that includes reaching out to friends and allies to create an LGBTQ+ faith-based summer camp for young people who are in both middle school and high school — ColorSplash at Slumber Falls Camp in New Braunfels. Together we will challenge the narratives of hate and misguided faith with empowering workshops and engaging worship. Despite the background noise, we will stand with our doors open — welcoming, affirming, and showing our young friends what wholeness, support, love and community looks like.
Today, I invite you to Holy Resistance. Respond to hate by writing letters, attending support groups, church events, and other affirming ways of taking action. Open the path for your communities to experience more transgender or nonbinary preachers, teachers, students and activities. Help the young people at the center of this political storm to find their own voice and then, as in every justice-driven historical movement, watch them lead the way with you right beside them. I encourage you to join me as we clear the path for them to come to the Holy One, to find both a personal peace and a safe and brave space where they are nurtured, loved and empowered.
Information and Advocacy:
- UCC Open and Affirming Coalition: https://openandaffirming.org/transgender and https://openandaffirming.org/worship
- HRC Transgender and Nonbinary People FAQ: https://www.hrc.org/resources/transgender-and-non-binary-faq
- Improving School Climate for Transgender and Nonbinary Youth: https://www.glsen.org/research/improving-school-climate-transgender-and-nonbinary-youth
- Research from the Williams Institute: https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/subpopulations/transgender-people/
- Resources for Trans Youth in Texas: https://www.txtranskids.org/
- Color Splash at Slumber Falls Camp, New Braunfels: https://www.thenewchurch.com/color-splash/. An inclusive and empowering environment and program that opens its doors to all LGBTQ+ youth and their allies.
- Parents: TransParent: https://transparentusa.org/
- Justice and Witness Advocacy Guide: http://www.uccfiles.com/pdf/Public-Policy-Advocacy-Guide-2017.pdf
- Welcoming Transgender Children to Church: https://openandaffirming.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/CLGSTransitioningInclusion_TransYouth.pdf
Tips on writing op-eds, letters to the editor, and related actions:
- Human Rights Campaign action tools: https://www.hrc.org/resources/geneq-campus-action-tools#editorials-and-op-eds
- NY Times “Tips for aspiring op-ed writers”: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/25/opinion/tips-for-aspiring-op-ed-writers.html
Contacting state legislators and candidates:
- Find your Texas legislator: https://secure.everyaction.com/p/y-4AKa71aE6nI7cuyxzn4A2
- Texas candidate directory: https://www.equalitytexas.org/2022-candidate-directory/
- State-by-state LGBTQ legislation tracking https://www.equalityfederation.org/state-legislation
Rev. Yadi Martínez-Reyna is a Latine nonbinary, bilingual, borderlander, artist, and associate pastor at New Church, Chiesa Nuova, UCC in Dallas. Their work includes using arts and networking skills to create community events, retreats, leadership conferences, and safe spaces.
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