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 piece is a guest post written by Kio and edited by Imani McPhaden
Recently the UU World published an article where the author rather deliberately outlines some of her critical learning moments and lessons with transgender folks. The article seemed to focus on specific nuances around language and the new language transgender folks have been sharing with one another and the world. As I read it, I was struck by the techniques used. Alternating some of the newer language and knowledge about gender with personal stories to highlight how that language looks in practice. It featured examples of gender faux pas and showed how those experiences could be opportunities for growth rather than an end of a relationship.
Continue reading “The Fallacies of the UU World”
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”
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”
I don’t always know how to express where my calling to do transformational change work comes from. I don’t always know how to give voice to what motivates me to not only act in solidarity but keep showing up and even on some level pay a cost for showing up. What won’t allow me to be quiet, what won’t allow me to get quiet to get along.
But when I think about where my sense of solidarity comes from there is one particular moment from my life that I go back to in my consciousness, one moment I revisit in order to understand even a little bit what my black and brown friends and communities of color in general experience in the world, what #BlackLivesMatter is really about. If you have never encountered cold, impersonal hate, then I don’t think you can understand both the paralyzing fear that it creates, and how alone the system leaves you feeling—the profound sense of isolation that comes with meeting hate like that. I have encountered it, and it’s a moment in a lifetime of such moments that I will never forget.
Continue reading “Vibrancy on the Margins: AIDS, Solidarity, and Justice”
My decision to start taking testosterone seven weeks ago wasn’t one I came to easily. For months, if not years, I wrestled with an enormous, tangled ball of yarn and rubber bands made up of conflicting emotions and a thousand stories running through my head about what such a decision would mean.
One story that kept popping its head up out of my unconscious mind, like a whac-a-mole game, was that I would somehow be giving up on being genderqueer if I started testosterone. A small vicious voice seemed to whisper in my ear that taking T would mean I was retiring my charade of being neither man nor woman and finally picking a side, finally transitioning.
I’m here to deliver the death knell to that whac-a-mole gremlin. Giving up on being genderqueer, on being myself? Nothing could be further from the truth. Taking testosterone is an act of rededication to my full, fabulous self; an act of love; a gift I am giving myself—not a resignation. Continue reading “Testosterone, Week 7: Still Here, Still Genderqueer”