Note: This is our first joint blog. We wrote it because we each had points important to our hearts to share, and because there is more wisdom in many voices than in one.
From Rev. Anastassia:
One of the biggest gifts I have received from Unitarian Universalism is the spiritual practice and gift of inclusion. I understand inclusion to be present when there is a sense of mutual connectedness between distinct individuals. So we do not have an inclusive community when everyone is required to fit certain molds; nor do we have inclusion when we are disparate individuals who are unaffected by each other. Every day that I am truly known and embraced is a blessing.
Over the past few months, we have worked to build the inclusion factor at All Souls by giving those attending on Sunday mornings the opportunity to share their pronouns. (You know, those shortcut nouns you learn formally about in elementary school, and that traditionally in European languages are linked to gender when one refers to a person.) In recent decades, the pronoun options have expanded beyond he/him/his and she/her/hers to include they/them/theirs and ze/zer/zers, among others. Studies have shown that physical, emotional, spiritual, and even economic wellbeing is connected to having your preferred pronoun and name used to refer to you. So we asked people to share their pronouns if they felt safe doing so, so that those who are not cisgender (a person whose gender and biological sex match) can experience the positive affects of inclusion at All Souls. You can read more about why this is important here.
The honest truth is that we still have some growing to do in our ability to practice inclusion. If this feels important to rectify, consider joining us for a course, “Transgender Inclusion in Congregations”, offered by the Transforming Hearts Collective, from 6-8pm, on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays from September – November. Email Shelley at office @ allsoulsindy.org to sign up.
Recently, a former partner of mine announced their transition from female to male. Christine had become the Christopher they had always been, it just was now apparent and open to all of us. I would be lying if I said I felt no grief for the loss of the woman I had met and gotten to know; however, I do celebrate the man I now get to meet and be in relationship with.
This change in part helped me to recognize that names occupy a ritual space in our collective consciousness. We often change our names when we get married as a symbol of our commitment to the new relationship. When I was in the discernment process to take vows as a nun, I watched fellow sisters change their names as a symbol of their renewed commitment to their identities in faith. Similarly, I have come to understand that Christopher’s use of their true name is not a rejection of the friendship we all had with the person we all knew as Christine—it is a symbol of their openness to Divinity, a drawing near to the Divine. I celebrate this for them.
Hello, All Souls. My name is Robin Thompson, I use she/him/he/her pronouns, and I had served as your office manager for the past two years. You may have known me as Robert, but as part of your community, I grew closer to the superstar that I am born to be. I discovered a new name that better encompassed who I am and who I am becoming. Not only am I transitioning my name, but I am transitioning into seminary at Starr King to grow closer to Unitarian Universalism, hoping one day to be fortunate enough to serve a congregation like your own. This church invited me, a weird young, trans, queer person with pink hair, to be the face of All Souls, effectively launching my career and journey into ministry and UU faith. Now, I am changing my name, and I am proudly putting pronoun stickers on my name badge.
Not all of us may understand why, but we trust trans people when they tell us what hurts or what brings them peace. This congregation has supported me as an employee and person of faith. When I announced I was going to seminary, many gave me wonderful resources and words of kindness. I am supported in my transition to become a stronger religious leader. I hope this congregation will show me, and others like me, the same kindness and support as we transition to living as our full selves.
While some among us view gender fluidity and transgender identity as primarily a “youth thing,” in reality we are experiencing a generational shift toward greater justice, just as some of us were at the leading edge of our own generational shift. Unitarian Universalist youth have a deep understanding of the many ways our roles, self-expression, and identities have been limited by a highly binary understanding of gender. As we move forward as a congregation, we don’t have to invent ways to sit with our discomfort or learn to be welcoming. We can follow in the footsteps of our newest generation of leadership.
If you haven’t yet, and if doing so would not expose you to risk, please add a pronoun sticker to your name badge. The stickers are on the table next to our new name badges, or Allison our membership coordinator can find one for you.