Sometimes I am in “Official LGBTQ Educator” mode; I’m ready to change the world with knowledge and make everything better for everyone and absolutely nothing less will do.
And sometimes, most of the time really, I’m just not.
Usually I’m happy to say a few words on what I mean when I say I “prefer the pronouns he/him/his” or answer some questions on LGBTQ youth inclusion or expand a little on my work with various queer organizations. I will always always always answer, “what does LGBTQ” mean, but there are times when I don’t want to go beyond that.
And often those “times” are when I just want understanding. When I have been hurt, by my community or by a stranger or by somebody close to me, I don’t want to have to educate FIRST in order to receive sympathy and understanding.
I don’t want to explain why it bugs me that people don’t “get” my pronouns even though,
“yes, I know I look female” and,
“yes, I acknowledge that most people don’t have much in the way of trans education” and…
“ok, nevermind, you’re right, I shouldn’t be upset.”
Just because something is understandable doesn’t meant that I have to like it.
It becomes harder to find those folks who you don’t have to educate, first, before you can just be upset as your identity becomes more specific.
When I’m just looking for some understanding about something broadly related to queer issues? I really don’t have to go further than 2/3 of my Facebook Friends List, most of the contacts in my cell phone, or pretty much any of my friends I see on a frequent basis.
As I narrow my identity I have to scroll further in my contacts list, specifically search people out on Facebook. When we get down to the identity of “Genderqueer/Trans-masculine person interested in Religious Leadership” my options for who to contact are pretty small.
My denomination, Unitarian Universalism, pretty much sets the bar for LGBTQ inclusion in all facets of denominational life, from laity up through ordained ministry. And we actually do set it pretty high. This is not one of those “we set the bar but that’s not saying much” situations. But just because we are, officially, welcoming, open and affirming does not mean that all of our congregations are “there” yet, by any means.
And sometimes when that messy, hard, and infuriatingly slow growth work is happening, when those feelings are inevitably hurt by people who, likely, had the best intentions? Those are the times when I have to dig through my Facebook friends list, find the friend who I know will “get” what I need to complain about better than most allies can.
Living an oppression is different from observing an oppression. Even when you observe that something is “bad” it’s way different when that bad thing is not observed but acted on you.
I want to throw it out there that I love my minister. I came into the church and, fairly quickly, started asking things of him, both personally (oh, hey, talk to me about ministry kthx!) and of the congregation (um… here’s a list of ways in which that was SO NOT OK). He’s been phenomenal when what I have thrown at him, offering up solutions and understanding. But I’ll admit that after some of the stuff at the church around trans issues I called one of my queer minister friends for a kind ear before I emailed my minister about what was going on and how we could change it.
I called somebody queer because they have that innate understanding. I knew that she’d be able to “get” what, exactly, had made me upset even before I could fully articulate it. And she would be able to drag out more of the “why” than people who had not lived through similar things would be able to.
My queer and trans religious friends are the ones who keep me going; who encourage and uplift me, and who I share more of that bond with than I may with a non-queer minister I happen to friend on Facebook. We are a community, we are a family. It’s not exclusive, it’s just necessary. We want to see each other succeed because to see another succeed is to see part of ourselves succeed. Seeing a trans-identified person in the pulpit is a little beacon for me, letting me know that the path may not be paved, but that there is, in fact, a path.
It’s one of the reasons the chaplain at GA was so helpful to me. It’s one of the reasons I’m so glad our intern minister is who she is. It’s one of the reasons I came to, and stayed, with UUism even after my last church did so many awful things. It’s one of the reasons I believe in this faith.
It’s not the only reason. Every one of my queer minister friends is just a great person, at least from what I have seen and what I know. Being queer does not automatically mean you’re one of my new favorite people. But it does give me the idea that you, likely, have experienced a lot of the same stuff I have. It gives us a bond that goes beyond the individual. And it’s important.
It’s not the only reason, but it is a reason. And it’s a pretty important one to me.