Welcome to this online worship service. We may be apart and distant, yet we are home to each other as we gather in this way.
Prelude True Colors by Cindi Lauper
Call To Worship
Our service today is all about The Wisconsin Equality Agenda, a set of legislative bills that expand inclusion and equality for the LGBTQ+ community. Today, as we gather in this virtual space to pray and reflect, let us focus on the parts of us that yearn for equality. Let us call on the parts of us that are willing to stand up and fight for justice. Let us listen to stories different from our own and learn not only about others but also ourselves.
Chalice Lighting – Adapted from the Passover Haggadah
May the light we now kindle
Inspire us to use our powers
To heal, and not to harm
To help, and not to hinder
To bless, and not to curse
To serve, learn, and grow.
First Invitation to Thought
Society is an ever-changing thing. It is always growing and expanding to be more inclusive of the human experience, no matter how slowly. And as society changes, its laws should as well. The rules that govern the American people do not reflect the American people. Too often minorities are caught up in its snares or left at the wayside. The Wisconsin Equality Agenda aims to begin to close that gap for the LGBTQ+ population as well as women.
Much of the Equality Agenda cleans up outdated terms and inserts more inclusive language. By including words that affirm the validity of those outside the straight male experience, individuals of all marginalized sexual orientations and gender identities have greater protection and inclusion in their society.
The Equality Agenda also acknowledges several days of importance including the anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising and the Transgender Day of Remembrance. It may seem like a drop in the bucket to recognize these days of memorial, however awareness breeds knowledge which breeds understanding which breeds acceptance. It is this understanding and acceptance that we need to break down the fear and hatred that creates prejudice and violence against the most vulnerable. Trans women and transfeminine people are disproportionately targeted by hate crimes. In 2020 over 350 were murdered worldwide, 79% of which were people of color.
But the Equality Agenda is about more than updating language and having more stuff on your calendar. The Equality Agenda also eliminates the constitutional restrictions on marriage that only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Wisconsin. The state constitution continues to be at odds with federal legislation.
Wisconsin is also one of the 26 states that has no laws prohibiting conversion therapy being practiced on minors. Conversion therapy is any practice that seeks to change an individual’s gender expression, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Being minors, LGBTQIA+ youth are usually forced into conversion therapy by their parents or guardians. Not only is conversion therapy ineffective, in most cases it destroys self-esteem, self-confidence, self-worth, and increases chance of suicide significantly. The Equality Agenda would prohibit the use of conversion therapy on minors.
And while Wisconsin fails to pass legislation to protect the LGBTQIA+ population it continues to hold on to statutes that protect their oppressors. Often called the “gay panic” or “trans panic” defense, “the LGBTQ+ “panic” defense strategy is a legal strategy that asks a jury to find that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity/expression is to blame for a defendant’s violent reaction, including murder,” says the LGBTQ Bar. “When a perpetrator uses an LGBTQ+ “panic” defense, they are claiming that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity not only explains—but excuses—a loss of self-control and the subsequent assault. By fully or partially acquitting the perpetrators of crimes against LGBTQ+ victims, this defense implies that LGBTQ+ lives are worth less than others. Despite widespread public protest, the defense is still being used today.” The Equality Agenda would eliminate the use of this legal strategy in Wisconsin.
All of these things are important. All of these things are a step in the right direction. But the road to equality is long and seldom traveled. There will always be more work to do. It is for this reason the Equality Agenda creates a Transgender Equality Task Force. The task force is required to study the legal and societal barriers to equality for transgender, intersex, non-binary, and gender nonconforming individuals in Wisconsin and provide recommendations to the governor and the legislature on how to ensure the equality and improve the lives of those individuals.
2nd Invitation to Thought – The Federal Equality Act
What is the Equality Act Video
Letter From Faith Leader about the Equality Act
Message For All Ages
The Children’s Blessing
3rd Invitation to Thought – Trans Athletes
On March 25th, 2021 Assembly Bill 195 was introduced by republicans to deny transwomen and transmen the opportunity to participate on sports teams that align with their gender identity in high school and collegiate sports in the state of Wisconsin. It also suggested the creation of a third league for anyone not cis gender which is your biological sex assigned at birth match your gender identity. Hearings occurred the May 26th in Madison. Governor Evers will veto this bill if passed by the Republicans.
The often heated debates around these bills have centered on whether transgender women and girls have an unfair advantage over cisgender women. It turns out that when transgender girls play on girls’ sports teams, cisgender girls can win. In fact, the vast majority of female athletes are cisgender, as are the vast majority of winners.
The Olympics have had trans-inclusive policies since 2004, but a single openly transgender athlete has yet to even qualify. California passed a law in 2013 that allows trans youth to compete on the team that matches their gender identity; there have been no issues.
Attempts to force transgender girls to play on the boys’ teams are unconscionable attacks on already marginalized transgender children, and they don’t address a real problem. They’re unscientific, and they would cause serious mental health damage to both cisgender and transgender youth.
4 facts of trans athletes: according to the ACLU
1. Myth: Participation of trans athletes hurts cis women.
FACT: Including trans athletes benefit everyone. Including trans athletes promote values of non-discrimination and inclusion. Excluding transwomen can encourage divisiveness which defeats the purpose of team sports.
2. MYTH: trans athletes’ physiological characteristics provide an unfair advantage over cis athletes.
FACT: Trans athletes do not have an unfair advantage in sports. “A person’s genetic make-up and internal and external reproductive anatomy are not useful indicators of athletic performance
3. Myth: Sex is binary, apparnat at birth, and identifiable through biological characteristics
FACT: Trans girls are girls. When a person does not identify with the sex they were assigned at birth, they must be able to transition socially — and that includes participating in sports consistent with their gender identity.
4. MYTH:Trans students need separate teams.
FACT: Trans people belong on the same teams as other students. When a school or athletic organization denies transgender students the ability to participate equally in athletics because they are transgender, that condones, reinforces, and affirms the transgender students’ social status as outsiders or misfits who deserve the hostility they experience from peers.”
The NCAA says they “firmly and unequivocally supports the opportunity for transgender student-athletes to compete in college sports” and is “grounded in our values of inclusion and fair competition.”
The NCAA’s current policy, established in 2010, allows transgender women athletes who take one year of testosterone-suppression treatment to compete alongside their cisgender peers.
Bills like the one passed in Florida allowed an opposing coach to challenge the gender of any player on the field including the inspection of external and internal genitalia. In Arkansas a bill would allow the State General to sue schools that allowed trans girls to play on sports teams.
The issue is now being used by Republicans both as a political wedge and as a means to get trans women classified under the law as men, which could have knock-on effects for the rest of their fight against transgender rights.
But underlying the Republican argument is an all too familiar patriarchal trope: that men are born physically superior to women. The cultural assumption that boys are inherently more athletic than girls is a difficult one to break, and it’s long been used to marginalize girls and women’s sports. The assumption undergirds the existing underfunding and de-prioritization of women’s sports.
4th Invitation to Thought – Examples and Stories
Most of our history is one of suppressing or hiding who we are to fit in. What can happen if someone chooses to live openly as who they are? Although almost every aspect in the life of someone who is LGBTQ+ can be affected by discrimination, I’d like to share a story of someone who was – more or less – able to live openly as who she was without discrimination. The following video is about a young transgender woman who WAS able to participate and compete in girls’ track at her high school. It’s important to note, however, that her ability to do so, is NOT protected by law. She is ALLOWED to compete in girls’ sports because her school district approved it. Transgender youth in many other schools would not be allowed to participate in athletics with the gender they identify with. Legislators in some state, including Wisconsin, are in fact trying to outlaw what you’ll see in this video.
5th Invitation to Thought – How the Fight for Equality Aligns with our Principles
All of the previously mentioned harms being done to members of the LGBTQ+ community are of concern to members of the UU community. The First Principle calls upon us to do more than simply see that all people have inherent worth and dignity; it calls upon us to actively affirm it. In our daily lives, this means respecting pronouns, gender expression, and the orientations of the people we encounter. In a wider sense, it means that we must also be active allies and take steps to affirm that worth and dignity of LGBTQ+ folks in our community, state, and country.
It can be easy to see talk of these ideas as a philosophical exercise that is removed from everyday experience, but how we put our principles into action can impact the people around us in ways large and small that you and I might not even consider. When we talk about dignity, what does that really mean?
These are matters involving the necessities of life and basic interactions. We’re talking about housing and employment and legal status and how people are treated in emergency situations. Marriage equality was a good start — though we still have work to do even on that — but members of the LGBTQ+ community need so very much more.
When my trans son was going through the process of better understanding and learning to communicate his gender identity, he suddenly realized how vulnerable he was. He feared coming out as trans, in part, because he didn’t know what that might do to our housing or to his prospects of employment. Even when we in Racine were assured some protections, he realized that all of his future prospects for where he might be able to live and work and go to school would be limited by where he would have legal protections to not be evicted or fired due to his gender identity.
Trans folks have to wade through complex processes in order to get affirming name changes and gender markers moved on legal forms, in medical settings, for work, and for schooling. For instance, my son was being respected in class and called by his chosen name, but his dead name kept showing up in online work, and it was deeply upsetting to him. Doing his online assignments meant accepting being misgendered and dead named. Even after we found where to apply, met with a counselor, submitted the paperwork, and talked with the professors about it, my son’s dead name continued to show up in college work online, which led to fellow students reverting to dead naming him – despite the fact that they had come to know him as himself in person. He couldn’t bear it after a few weeks and ended up failing the class.
We had similar issues in health care. He often chose to try to bear the indignity quietly, rather than keep having the same humiliating conversations over and over, but it all took a toll. When EMTs, police, and medical examiner were caring for his body after his suicide, I was desperate to have them respect his name and pronouns. That bit of dignity was the very least that I could ask of the world on his behalf.
These everyday matters of dignity make a real difference in the quality of life for trans folks all around us, and our UU Principles call upon us to do better for one another.
As Rev. Emily Gage wrote, “Compassion is something that we can easily act on individually. We can demonstrate openness, give people respect, and treat people with kindness on our own. But we need one another to achieve equity and justice.”
In order to honor our Principles, we need to take action. They compel us to remember that we all depend on one another as a part of an interdependent web in which our democratic traditions, freedoms, understanding of the world around us, and spiritual growth cannot be separated. Our fight for genuine equity in a more perfect union is inextricable from our faith.
The Sixth and Seventh Principles show us this, by reminding us that peace, liberty, and justice for all cannot happen without our help. It is the very fact of our interconnectedness that compels us to help one another, and the proposed Eight Principle brings that into focus. As I said, this is not an abstract philosophical exercise. This is the very human impact of how we choose to live. Working to dismantle systems of oppression is exactly how we put our Principles into motion.
Many of you were so very kind after my son’s death last year. Cards, donations to the LGBT Center, and all of the other gestures were demonstrations of your compassion – and this is all of a piece. It comes from the same ideals. I cannot think of anything more UU than helping to make this world a little kinder and more equitable – in this case, improving anti-discrimination language to include protections for our LGBTQ+ siblings.
Call to Action
The current priority is to get the Federal Equality Act passed in the Senate since it already has passed the House of Representatives. We urge you to write or call our senators on this issue. Although Tammy Baldwin supports the act, letters can be helpful because they demonstrate support for her on this issue. For Ron Johnson, we need to do everything possible to gain his support.
To make writing to our Senators easy, the National Center for Transgender Equality Action Fund has a letter online that you can send to them. Their website provides a basic letter that is suitable for LGBTQ+ concerns in general. This web page also provides suggestions on how you can customize the letter to emphasize YOUR concerns. The website can be used to send letters to both Senators on your behalf. I did this and it’s very easy. I’ll put a link to this page, along with all other links I’ll discuss in chat after service.
If you send your own letter, please take a look at the letter in this link for ideas when writing your letter. I’ll also provide contact information for the senators. When similar legislation is under consideration in Wisconsin, please write to your assembly person or State senator.
Writing letters to your local newspapers is another way to get the word out about the Equality Act. Consider not just the larger papers such as Racine Journal Times or the Kenosha News, you can reach out to smaller local papers. Human Rights Campaign provides templates and guidelines on how to write a letter to the editor on the topic of the Equality Act. A PDF with those guidelines will also be made available to you.
Finally, HRC has weekly virtual phonebanks on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and a virtual text bank on Wednesdays. Through these, HRC contacts voters to connect them with their Legislators to tell them it’s time to update federal law so that all people are protected from discrimination! There are different times you can sign up for on each of these days. Links to sign up for these events will also be provided:
If you participate in a phone or text bank, instructions on what to do will be provided when you connect to the virtual bank. Although you’ll use your own device when calling or texting, your identity will not be shown to those you contact so you don’t need to worry about anyone calling or texting you back. .
We’ll also included the link to Mobilize, a platform folks can use to sign up for various HRC events. I’ll provide all these links in chat after the postlude. These will also be posted on our website when this service is published there.
Extinguishing the Chalice Words by Lauralyn Bellamy
If, here, you have found freedom,
take it with you into the world.
If you have found comfort,
go and share it with others.
If you have dreamed dreams,
help one another,
that they may come true!
If you have known love,
give some back
to a bruised and hurting world.
Go in peace.
Postlude Brave by Sara Bareilles
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