Trans-Etiquette

You may have noticed (hopefully) a new item on the bulletin board outside Fellowship Hall. It’s a take-home booklet called “Trans-Etiquette”. I mentioned in my sermon on Open & Affirming Sunday that I wondered if we at Union were ready to expand our welcome to include people who are transgender.

This is an issue in St. Louis Park. Last week, I attended a panel forum hosted by the Human Rights Commission to offer information and answer questions. Students from the high school have petitioned the School Board to create a Gender-Inclusion policy, but there has been resistance mostly based in fear and lack of information.

As a community of faith who values inclusion, can we inform ourselves about the issues faced by people who are transgender? Their lives are fraught with fear and pain as they seek to live whole and happy lives. Are we not called to build God’s kingdom of whole and healthy people?
This Still-Speaking devotional (11/16) email from the UCC sheds light.
Shalom, Pr. Barb

“Now, therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his supplication…” – Daniel 9:17

“Each year, the American Dialect Society (ADS) chooses from all the words in the language a Word of the Year, which they think captures that year’s zeitgeist. Past selections have included #blacklivesmatter (2014), occupy (2011), app (2010), tweet (2009). Last month, they announced 2015’s selection: the
singular “they.” This refers to the usage of the traditionally plural pronouns they/them/their as singular pronouns. For instance, if I were speaking about you sitting alone in front of your screen, I might say, “They’re reading their email.”

Recently, more and more trans and gender-nonconforming people have chosen they/them/their as their preferred pronouns, and this is why the ADS chose it. As trans people have become more visible, more accepted, and more celebrated, an awareness of the limitations of the English language’s gendered pronouns has led people to attempt all manner of workarounds and inventions. This one seems to be winning.

If you’re a member of the UCC, this shouldn’t be hard to get used to: after all, we’ve been working on inclusive language for God for a long time, playing with pronouns in order to recognize that God is both many-gendered and beyond gender. And if you’re a Christian or Jew who’s ever read the Bible, it shouldn’t be too hard, either. In big chunks of the first part of the Bible, the one god of the Israelites is called by the grammatically plural name Elohim. Call it the divine “they,” like the royal “we” but for God. Speaking of which, don’t forget that you’ve been working with a sort of opposite version of this for some time: the Trinity, three persons whom we consistently refer to in the singular. So if the singular “they” is hard for you, fear not; you’ve been practicing for this moment for a long time.” -Rev. Quinn Caldwell

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