Today is Day 17 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to explore the gender binary by not using gendered pronouns for one day. Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.
This past Christmas Eve, I took my 7-year-old to a local Christmas pageant, where our neighbor was playing Joseph. After the service was over, there were cookies and cider and small talk. At one point, I realized “Joseph” had come back from the bathroom, but my child hadn’t. Feeling a bit of the adrenaline that comes from the fear that your child might be lost, I jogged towards the bathroom where my child had last been seen.
In that slightly charged moment of just wanting to be sure of my kid, from behind me, I heard a voice yell, “LADIES ROOM… LADIES ROOM!!”
This was an example of what some of us call an encounter with the “gender police.” Well-meaning people make assumptions about my gender, particularly near the entrances of gender-segregated areas, like bathrooms and locker rooms. In this case, a complete stranger felt themselves better qualified than I myself am to know my gender—even through my winter coat in a dark hallway.
Some of us just don’t fit your stereotypes of what “male” or “female” look like. For many transgender and gender non-conforming people, these situations add stress, sap energy, and force the development of strategies to navigate every day needs like using the bathroom or moving through airport security.
I ignored the voice, which is how I typically handle such incidents, and continued with the task at hand. Long story short, my kid had found a friend from school and was chatting with them in the other room. All was well.
Or was it? Did I feel welcome in that church and inclined to return? Did I feel like people there would likely understand my story? Did I feel loved? No. It cast a memorable shadow over my evening.
So, what does it mean to show “love” to those of us who live at the boundaries of gender?
Yee Won Chong, an asylee from Malaysia, gives some straight-forward advice in the TEDx talk “Beyond the Gender Binary” (11 minutes):
1. Assume that everyone knows what bathrooms they are in.
2. Do not assume everyone goes by “he” or “she.”
3. Ask yourself “Would I want someone to ask me that?”
4. Do not tolerate anti-transgender remarks or humor.
5. Be open to thinking in new ways. Start thinking outside the gender binary.
Today, I invite you to explore the boundary that determines the gender binary. Can you go 24 hours without using gender-specific pronouns like “he” and “she”? What would it feel like to try not to make assumptions about the gender of people you meet? How would it make life harder? Or easier? Challenge yourself to avoid pronouns for the day and share your experience on the Transfaith Facebook page!
Chris Paige is executive director of Transfaith/Interfaith Working Group, a national non-profit led by transgender people and focused on issues of faith and spirituality. Transfaith works closely with many allied organizations, both secular and religious, transgender-led and otherwise, to equip and cultivate diverse expressions of gender-affirming spiritual vitality.More >
Today is Day 16 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to to think about borders in your life, and how to be your authentic self both online and off. Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.
I remember the moment clearly: palms sweating, stomach in knots, anxiety swirling through my head. Reading and re-reading the status, I hesitated as long as possible until, in a rush of resolve, I finally pushed the button.
There was no turning back; I was “out” on Facebook.
This moment was a long time coming. I spent two years meticulously hiding evidence of my “gay lifestyle” online. Like any good millennial, I feared the power of the internet, the unstoppable flow of information, and the permanency of the digital world. There might as well be a weekly column chronicling the young, usually female, persons paying the price for past indiscretions and bad behavior online.
At the same time, we’re taught the power of storytelling. The internet holds an amazing power to connect folks from different places, different cultures, and different traditions. How can we have it both ways?
I come from a small town in the Bible belt, and was surrounded by gays and lesbians and queers who have been so deeply hurt by the church. Who still feel the pain of rejection and want nothing to do with faith. In these crowds, admitting I’m a Christian feels like coming out. In many ways, it felt like I was living multiple lives.
Eventually, the walls I built in my digital world began to crumble. The support and encouragement I received from my “friends” on Facebook became as superficial as my posts. The very people I wanted to stay in touch with no longer knew who I was.
There’s a community there that I was refusing—a communion I feared taking. Imagine if we approached our “real life” communities with the fear and trepidation we carry into the online world? Imagine how much we’d miss if we were too afraid to participate in conversations with our families or our faith communities?
We know how walls can tumble and hearts can melt with one powerful narrative. As the newest staff member at Believe Out Loud, I spend my days encouraging folks around the country to share their testimony of how they came to support LGBTQ equality. How can I ask for their transparency when I’m too afraid to share myself?
Yes, living openly and courageously online has certain risks, but the rewards of community are great if we choose to participate in this space. My only hope is that, by example, we can all encourage the kind of authenticity that builds community, online and in our “real lives.” It is only by claiming our space that we can hope to make a difference.
For today’s action, think about the borders in your own life, and whether they are serving you, or if you can find ways to move beyond them. And if you feel inspired, share it on social media—maybe by sharing this post on Facebook, tweeting something authentic about yourself, or uploading a photo on Instagram that conveys the borders you encounter in your day-to-day life with the hashtag #30daysolove.
Alison Amyx is the Senior Editor at Believe Out Loud, a Georgia native, and a graduate of Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. Follow Alison on the website South & Out and on Twitter @queerfaith.More >
Today is Day 15 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to share our new Standing on the Side of Love video with your friends and family. Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.
Have you ever struggled to explain our campaign to your friends and family as you encourage them to get involved? Ever felt stumped by what exactly it means to “stand on the side of love”?
Well, we’ve got you covered! Standing on the Side of Love produced this fun, inspiring message about who we are and what we do:
For today’s action, share the video with your friends and family, and encourage them join us on our spiritual journey for social justice! We are only halfway through our Thirty Days of Love, and there are plenty more great actions coming up, including getting involved in compassionate immigration reform, exploring how creativity lifts up our work, and of course, celebrating National Standing on the Side of Love Day!
Standing on the Side of Love
PS: Save the date for our Thirty Days of Love closing service! We’re partnering with the Church of the Larger Fellowship to come together online to celebrate the Thirty Days on Sunday, February 17 at 8:00pm ET and Monday, February 18 at 9:00am and 1:30pm ET. Stay tuned for more details!More >
Today is Day 14 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to join our response love network to offer messages of support in the wake of tragic acts of violence. Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.
When I first heard about the shooting at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin last summer, I couldn’t help but remember a parallel act of violence four years earlier at my own congregation, the Tennessee Valley UU Church (TVUUC). In both cases, a man with a gun and an agenda targeted innocent people of faith.
But along with the recollection of heartbreak and loss, I also carry with me the memory of the incredible flood of love and support that we received from our local community and from across the country. All around our church there are things folks sent to let us know we were loved.
With the events at TVUUC in mind, thousands of you responded to the shooting at the Sikh temple last summer in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. SSL supporters wrote over 2,000 messages of love and support to the Sikh community there. I think that anytime there is an act of violence targeting people because of their identities, we can and should reaffirm a message of love and a vision of a country where we all belong.
In that spirit, Standing on the Side of Love is gathering a network of people to send messages surrounding victims of violence with an outpouring of love whenever incidents of hate occur. From the shooting in Oak Creek to the recent arson attack on a mosque in Joplin, we can ensure that victims of senseless acts of hate know that they are loved.
Click here to sign up. We’re also searching for inspiring names for our response network, or “love team” and would love your help. Love Ambassadors? The Love Squad? What helps us best convey that we are here in spirit with those affected by a tragedy? Send your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the wake of violence and tragedy, let us lift up voices of love and compassion. Sign up for the response network today and help ensure that whenever and wherever acts of violence occur, we can surround the victims with an outpouring of love.
Rev. Chris Buice
Tennessee Valley UU Church
PS: We hope your congregation is participating in Share the Love Sunday! We have compiled some helpful resources for planning your service, taking a collection to support the Unitarian Universalist Association, and discussing what it means for your congregation to stand on the side of love. Thanks for your generosity on February 17!More >
Today is Day 13 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to reach out in your community to do interfaith service projects. Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.
The leader of the Buddhist Meditation Group at my church describes practicing Buddhism as his way of finding the secret to life–the same secret that Muslims, Catholics, and Jews seek in their own faith traditions. Through my own spiritual exploration, I have realized that any self-proclaimed religious or spiritual being has found a unique and valuable secret to life.
It was not until I was a freshman in high school that I realized that my secret to life would stem from Unitarian Universalism, and not, in fact, the religion that I was born into. But I realized that by choosing to go out and find some secret, no matter how diverse our practices of exploring it may be, we all are ultimately chasing shared goals: social justice, empowerment, advocacy, and wholeness.
We all know that healthy relationships are driven by honesty and fidelity and are only possible when secrets are shared. The same is true for interfaith relationships between communities. What is service if these “life secrets” are kept? What is social justice without dialogue inspired by diverse ideas, beliefs, and ideologies? For my Girl Scout Gold Award project, I held an Interfaith Leadership Summit for high school youth to present their life secrets, spiritual investigation, and lived experiences. A summit that would, in turn, create a flow of ideas between the temples, mosques, and churches in my community.
Participants in this summit, held at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Reading, initiated dialogue, listened to speakers, and engaged in workshops designed to highlight the commonality in our diversity. They learned that you don’t have to go miles, crossing town lines, or state borders, to find a community invested in the same principles as your own. That same community could exist within the church next door or the temple across the street. And all you have to do is walk in the door.
For today’s action, put aside your differences, find common ground, and undertake an interfaith service project to better your community. Click here for resources to get you started.
Jenna is a high school senior and attends the UU Church of Reading, Massachusetts. Inspired by her beginnings in community engagement working on Luna Farm and volunteering with the ARC of Eastern Massachusetts, she has taken up the call for social justice in her school and larger community.More >