This sermon was delivered virtually at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Indianapolis, Indiana, on January 30, 2022. You can also watch/listen to an online recording.
If you told a caterpillar that one day it would become a butterfly, would the caterpillar believe you? How is it possible that a worm with short stubby feet that munches on plants can transform into a creature with huge, elegant wings, long, slender legs, and a straw-like tongue that sips from flowers? Surely such transformation is impossible. But it’s not.
How does the caterpillar know to form a chrysalis? Does it know what will happen to it when it does? Does it have any idea that its body will literally break down into a kind of genetic goop, that its tissues and very cells will disintegrate, that it will digest itself before being reborn in a completely new form? Is it terrified? Is it eager? Is it answering a call that only it can hear? The idea that any creature would willingly undergo such a destruction of itself seems impossible. But it’s not.
Continue reading “Impossible Until It’s Not”
This sermon was delivered virtually at Unitarian Universalist Church West in Brookfield, Wisconsin, on March 28, 2021, in a service dedicated to Trans Day of Visibility. You can watch/listen to a recording of the whole service (the sermon starts at timestamp 30:30).
I’ve been a Unitarian Universalist for thirty years, ever since my parents joined my home church in Milwaukee when I was six. This is the kid my parents brought to church with them:
The Little Mermaid had recently come out, and I was instantly obsessed. This ingenious Halloween costume, made for me by my mom, quickly became a year-round outfit. I used to sit in our front yard imagining the amazement of all the people driving by at the sight of a mermaid so far from the water. We took a road trip to visit my great-grandmother and her ocean-view cottage in Massachusetts, and I distinctly remember the lengths my mom had to go to to convince me to not wear my tail all the way there and quickly throw myself onto one of the glorious rocks in front of my great-gram’s cottage before she came outside to greet us. “You’ll give her a heart attack!” she pleaded. “She’ll be too surprised to see a mermaid in her yard.”
What really made me the little mermaid in my mind and my heart, though, was not the outfit but the music. I memorized all of the songs and sang them everywhere, including at church. Legend has it that it was my earnest belting of “Part of Your World” in the lower level at all hours that inspired the music director to start a kid’s choir.
Continue reading “The Joy in Living Authentically”
This sermon was delivered on July 17, 2016, on the first day of the annual GAYLA retreat for men who love men at Ferry Beach in Saco, Maine, where I served as minister of the week. I’m publishing it today in honor of the third anniversary of the Pulse massacre.
My dear friends.
Here we are. We have made it to this sacred place. We come from places near and far. Some of us have traveled a long, long road to be here, in more ways than one. Some of us find ourselves here for the very first time, for others, this place is full of memories. We come bringing joy and sorrow, excitement and pain. This place, this community, can hold us all. Feel the ground underneath you. Breathe the air flowing between us. Open your heart to the life force here in this place.
Let us be together in silence, not thinking but rather focusing on feeling. Feeling this groundedness, breathing into this connection, and opening our hearts to one another. Continue reading “The Power of Community”
A version of this piece was originally posted on Facebook on March 5, 2019
Yesterday morning I started hearing from fellow trans Unitarian Universalists because I was quoted in a feature article in the spring issue of the UU World, the UU magazine that is published out of the denomination’s national office, the print version of which is just landing in people’s mailboxes.
I need to name publicly that being quoted sends the impression that I condone this article. I don’t. I’m deeply disappointed in the UU World, in senior editor Chris Walton, and in author Kimberly French for publishing this piece. In a political environment in which trans people are being actively targeted for violence by the state, in a context in which trans UUs are increasingly voicing the fact that Unitarian Universalism’s approach to LGBTQ welcome has failed trans people, an article written by a cis person, that centers cis people and cis perspectives, about trans people, is not incremental progress—it’s harm. Continue reading “What It Takes to De-Center Privilege: The Failure of this Week’s UU World Article”
On this Transgender Day of Visibility, I am praying for more visibility for the infinite manifestations of gender.
I am bone-deep tired of encountering non-binary people who feel “not trans enough” to call themselves trans, or who are weighed down by the mainstream mythology that being trans means you have to be binary-identified, or you have to medically transition (or want to), or you have to have dysphoria, or you have to be gender nonconforming.
I am tired of the worn-out falsehood that trans women aren’t women and trans men aren’t men, a falsehood that particularly stings when it comes from lesbian, gay, and bi folks. Continue reading “On Trans Day of Visibility”
At every point in the history of the United States there have been people whose faith has provided the bedrock for lifelong efforts to end violence, oppression, and inequity—Dorothy Day, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Bishop Gene Robinson—and there have been others who have used their religion as a weapon to further these same forces; to maintain the oppressive status quo rather than challenge it.
In moments of great political and social upheaval, people of faith need to be clear what side of history they are on: the side of the oppressors or the side of the oppressed. The side that points a way forward, toward life, or the side that willfully ignores the suffering all around them and the moving train on which they are passive passengers. Continue reading “#RefuseToBeComplicit with White Supremacy in Your Church: An Open Letter to White People of Faith”
This sermon was delivered at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Martha’s Vineyard on April 23, 2017. You can listen to an audio recording here.
My name is Alex and I’m in the business of Welcome.
I’m particularly excited to be here because I’ve heard that you all are engaging with some renewal work around being a Welcoming Congregation—the UU program that congregations can go through to intentionally increase their welcome and inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people. This congregation was first recognized in 2004. Raise your hands if you were around for that!
So I’m here today, thirteen years after your recognition as a Welcoming Congregation, to ask you to revisit—and possible reimagine—what welcome means to you.
I want to start by telling you about the most welcoming experience I’ve ever had. It happened four years ago when I joined the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus. Continue reading “Welcome as a Spiritual Practice”
Yesterday I did a thing: I launched a new website / blog called Radical Copyeditor. Don’t worry, I’m not abandoning this blog; I’m just creating a different space for voicing thoughts on a particular topic: the concept of using language as a tool for liberation.
My love of copyediting began in the early 2000s during an internship with South End Press, a majority women of color–run book publishing collective that is sadly now defunct. The amazing women I got to work with there helped me understand not only that I had a gift for copyediting, but also that publishing could be a form of activism. Since then I have endeavored to use my nerdy word powers to create positive change in the world. Continue reading “A New Adventure”
This sermon was delivered at First Unitarian Society in Newton, MA, on February 21, 2016.
I want to start by telling you a story. This story comes from one of my spiritual mentors, the fabulous Kate Bornstein, and it is her version—a queer and transgender version—of the story of Adam and Eve. Here’s how it goes:
Once upon a time, God was bored. God needed a project. So God created a world! And God created Lilith, but she was a little too much to handle so God sent her on her way and created Adam and Eve. And God made them a garden and told them, “Everything you need is here. Go anywhere you please, do anything you want, be happy and fulfilled.”
“Oh—there’s just one little thing,” God said. “All I ask is that you not eat the pretty looking apples on that gnarly looking tree over there. Okay?”
Well before you know it a serpent showed up and seduced Eve into eating an apple. And Eve in turn convinced Adam to take a bite. And as the story goes, they were instantly aware of their nakedness and were ashamed.
God realized what had happened and came to see them. But God wasn’t mad. God was profoundly sad. And I’ll tell you why. The reason God had wanted Eve and Adam to not eat from that tree was because it was the tree of good and evil. As soon as they ate from it, they were aware of the binary of good and evil, and they were seduced by it. Continue reading “Transgender Faith”
Oh, identity label. No matter what term you are—gay, Black, blind, Jewish, straight, young, Latina, fat, kinky, white, Deaf, trans, or a thousand others—what a complex existence you have.
In the hands of a bully, you are a weapon. You are hurled as an insult in an attempt to force people into being more “normal” or “right”—or just to make them feel crummy about themselves. You are a cage, something to lock people into in order to define the limits of “acceptable” behavior for them, or to make them feel powerless and defined only by a single unchangeable (or falsely perceived) aspect of themselves. You can be used to cause shame, fear, defensiveness, ridicule, confusion, and hurt. Continue reading “Identity is Not a Label”