Religious leaders stand up for transgender kids as state laws ‘target’ them
Hundreds of religious leaders say they “stand with transgender siblings who are being targeted by legislators around the country.”
Their “Multi-Faith Statement of Solidarity with Transgender Children” comes in the wake of a sports-related bill recently signed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. The new law says athletes in K-12 schools can only play on teams that match the sex listed on their birth certificate “at or near” the time of birth.
The statement was developed by “Believe Out Loud,” an interfaith program of Cathedral of Hope United Church of Christ in Dallas. By Nov. 2, 42 organizations and 171 individuals had signed on. With Transgender Awareness Week (Nov. 13-19) and Transgender Day of Remembrance (Nov. 20) just ahead, Believe Out Loud is urging more people to sign on.
“It breaks my heart that some see our differences as threats instead of gifts to be cherished,” said Rev. Neil Thomas, Cathedral of Hope’s senior pastor. “Our transgender children do not need to be excluded. Now, more than ever, they need to be validated and told they are perfect just the way they are.”
‘Worst year’ for legislation
Believe Out Loud said the statement will let Abbot know “that people of faith stand with our transgender siblings and that the God we know would welcome all children to come and play.” It said the statement is also a response to bills affecting the freedoms of transgender people in many states.
The Human Rights Campaign has declared 2021 “the worst year for anti-LGBTQ legislation in recent history.” Sports-related laws like the one in Texas have passed in other states as well — and there’s more. The American Civil Liberties Union’s recently listed “anti-LGBTQ” state laws — some already enacted, others pending. Among other things, they include measures to:
- Prohibit health care for transgender young people
- Restrict who can use bathrooms
- Restrict trans people’s identification documents
Why sports matter
As for sports, the religious leaders said letting transgender students play freely is good for them and everyone.
“Sports teams should be a shining example to children of how working together with people of different backgrounds can foster close bonds and help young people find success through teamwork,” the statement said. “Giving transgender youth a place on such teams could improve mental health by leaps and bounds and provide a network of friends who don’t see their differences as grounds for exclusion but opportunities for celebration.”
“The ability to play team sports was integral to becoming who I am,” wrote a signer who self-identified only as Sean, a member of West End Collegiate Church, a UCC congregation in New York City. “However, I can’t imagine what my life would have been like if I’d been able to transition as a young person and be able to engage in sports that aligned with my gender identity. Please don’t exclude transgender kids from those opportunities.”
‘We must speak up’
Signers so far — from 24 states and the United Kingdom — include people and organizations from Adventist, Baptist, Catholic, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Episcopalian, Jewish, Lutheran, Methodist, Metropolitan Community Church, Presbyterian and Unitarian Universalist traditions.
The Rev. Mark Pettis, the UCC’s ecumenical and interfaith relations manager, signed the statement and encouraged others to do likewise. “God calls us to love all people,” he said. “As people of faith, this means we must speak up when beloved children of God are the victims of discriminatory laws. That is an act of love. Hearing this same cry for justice coming from people of many faiths reinforces the message that this law is not right.”
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