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 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”
“Boys are gross!” I yelled down the stairwell, my words echoing off the painted brick walls as I slammed the door behind me, shutting the book on the happier chapter of my childhood.
I was nine. At the bottom of the stairs was my best friend Jason, a boy not much different from me—fair skin, slight build, whip-smart. In my mind he is perpetually the age he was that day, his light brown hair cropped short except for a narrow rattail at the back of his head (because the midwest hadn’t gotten the memo that the ’80s was over). I was trying to grow my hair down to my butt—I wanted it to be as long as Ariel’s in my favorite movie, The Little Mermaid—an attempt that was tragically doomed due to how fine my wavy blond hair was. It straggled to a pitiful stop barely past my shoulders, but I wouldn’t let my mama cut the uneven end because I was so determined that it would keep growing.
I will never forget the feeling I had after yelling those words. I was sick to my stomach. I knew with every fiber of my being that what I had just done was wrong, my words the most epic lie I had ever told. It was as though the real me was stuck deep inside, shocked and hurt as some other self created the first layer of an armor that would quickly grow so thick that I’d lose touch with that small nine-year-old self, the self who was Jason’s best friend. Continue reading “Tinkerbell and the Gender Wars: A Genderqueer Childhood”
Yesterday should have been Day 1. But when I got home from the pharmacy I didn’t have the heart to even open the bag with my testosterone in it. Instead of excitement, I just felt sad and exhausted.
Exactly one month prior, I had skipped through the pharmacy’s doors with my prescription in hand. (You doubt me? You don’t know me. There was skipping. And giggling. And not-so-surreptitious documenting with my iPhone camera.) But after a month-long circus act on the part of my health insurance provider, the excitement and joy were gone. I felt completely worn down, emotionally drained, my resilience on empty. Continue reading “Testosterone, Day 1: The Weight of What it Took”
My entire life, I have forged a path for my sense of self without clear road markers.
I wish I could say that this lack of reflection of myself out in the world meant that I learned to trust only myself and my own truth, but if I said that I’d be lying. Instead, somewhere along the way I internalized a sense of not trusting my own truth, I accepted the invalidation of my experience, I felt inherently wrong, misfit, untrue.
I am only at the beginning of the journey to reclaim myself as worthy and my truth about myself as true. Continue reading “Testosterone, Day 0: Claiming My Truth”
I want to talk about choice.
I want to talk about the fact that just because someone who is out to destroy you says you chose to be the way you are does not mean the path of best protection is to counter with “no I didn’t, it’s not a choice, I was born this way and I’ve always been this way.”
Is who I am—my sexuality, my gender—a deep and real part of me, close to my soul? Yes. Are there choices involved? Of course there are.
I have made one choice after another to feel more at ease, more vibrant, more alive. I chose to change my name. I chose to allow myself to open to the idea that I might be attracted to women. I chose to open myself to the idea that first of all genderqueer people exist, second that I might be one, and third that I might be attracted to other genderqueer folks. After all of this, I chose to remain open to the idea that I was still attracted to men and might actually like being in a relationship with one. If I hadn’t made these choices I never could have lived into my full authentic self. Continue reading “Choice”