We are all North Carolina

Below is a Facebook status of a friend that is important for us all to read. They cannot, at this time, add their own name here but they have given me permission to share their words here. 

In light of the atrocious anti-LGBTQ bill recently passed in North Carolina, it is important to remember we are all North Carolina. Here are their words:

“I have spent a lot of time thinking about what’s going on in NC concerning the legalization of discrimination against LGBTQ+ folks in North Carolina (with, as always, a special emphasis on ensuring that bathrooms stay an area for violence against trans and gender non-conforming people). I have deep ties to North Carolina. I will be spending a lot of time there this summer. I know a lot of awesome people there who have been filled with outrage about these events and their Facebook posts about it have warmed my heart. My little corner of North Carolina is beautiful. And I feel safe and affirmed there. People there have my back and I have complete trust in them.

The thing is… I’m not surprised this happened.

And that is NOT a North/South thing. I’m not saying that because “oh well the South is so conservative/backwards/bigoted of course this law was changed there.” I know a lot of incredible, affirming Southerners who are deeply angered that this is their reputation and this is what their representatives are doing with taxpayer money.

I’m not surprised because I know that nowhere is safe.

There is no magical queer safe haven. There is no city that welcomes you with open arms. There are moments, there are people, that will celebrate all of who you are, but there is no guarantee, legal or otherwise, that you won’t be denied employment or access to bathrooms, that you won’t be beaten up or pushed onto the subway tracks or killed and that you won’t be misgendered in the media reports on it. Technically there’s legal recourse in some cases, but that’s relying on the legal system to work fairly and that’s not a guarantee, either.

I have been harassed in bathrooms in NC, VA, MD, NJ and NYC. In public restrooms, in schools, in churches. Am I worried about transgressing gender in North Carolina during the summer? Yes. I’m also worried about transgressing gender in New Jersey. It’s the same everywhere, there’s a part of me saying, “North Carolina is just being honest about it.”

I thought about this a lot last night as I read Psalm 42 in worship. I hadn’t made the connection before, but I’d had a brief conversation about the NC law with a congregation member before the service so it was fresh. The tension between lament and hope in this Psalm goes back and forth again and again, as I go back and forth between anger/pain and hope in this trans Savior whose body was broken.

“I say to God, my rock,
‘Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I walk about mournfully
because the enemy oppresses me?’
As with a deadly wound in my body,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me continually,
‘Where is your God?’

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my help and my God.”

What I’ve come to believe is that there’s no safe places; only safe people. There are people I can trust to stand up for me. There are people who do NOT identify as trans who I see flinch every time someone misgenders me. There are people who think ahead and anticipate needs or identify issues so that I’m not constantly the one picking up the pieces. There are people who give me voice but don’t make me feel like it’s my job to educate. And I try to surround myself with those people so that when something happens I won’t be alone.

If you want to know what to do in situations like this… be a safe person. Be someone people can go to to rant about a bathroom experience or learn to tie a bow tie or connect with legal help. Show you are that by researching, learning, understanding the issues, then using that to empower you to oppose discriminatory legislation. Fight fights on Facebook so we don’t have to. Educate people around you about the range of gender identity. Do not wait until these issues are staring you in the face. Don’t wait until (you know) you have a trans person in your congregation, because if you do, the church’s processing of it is going to come at their expense. And until people’s perspectives are changed, legislation like what happened in NC will continue to happen.

And for the love of God, don’t think that it’s something just happening over there or down south or whatever. It is happening right where you live, too.”

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6 thoughts on “We are all North Carolina

  1. I was my congregations first out trans person. I had been there three years when I finally e-mailed the board that I was changing my name. It was that little congregation that figured it out, often on the fly, and proved beyond any doubt that I am loved and worthy. They are my safe space in the bigotry of the south. The suicide rate for transgender people is somewhere between 47%-51%. Never doubt that your church can make a difference if you will be that safe space, if you will figure out what it means, really means for a church or congregation to be a safe space, and then make it happen. Even if then means getting some education. Even if that means telling the greeters and the congregation over and over that one cannot assume gender from appearance. Really, it would means the world to so many transgender people who get mis-gendered a thousand times a week if the church, synagogue, temple that they walked into used a gender neutral pronoun (ex. singular they) or asked them what there pronouns are. It means understanding that non-binary people exist and that might meaning having to really think about language used. I live in a relatively small college town and a small congregation and we have several non-binary folks. It means asking the trans people in your congregations what would make things more welcoming. I know this is a lot. I know it can be uncomfortable. But I assure you it can mean the world to someone, or even a life. This transgender man is eternally grateful for every faith home that takes the time really think about what it means to include us.

      • It really has been a journey my congregation and I took. I put my pronouns on my nametag to help people get it right. That of course kind of singled me out, and the other trans people who would follow suite. But having my pronouns on my nametag really has helped reduce mis-gendering. One day I causally mentioned to a close friend who is an elder of the congregation that it would help if everyone, trans and not trans had there pronouns on there nametags. Next thing you know he is handing me an pen and his name tag, “Your handwriting is better, can you add my pronouns?” Next the minister did it without a word, and many others followed.
        Or every Fall people have a chance to commit to be a Welcoming Congregation (to LGBTQ folks) in the coming year and get a rainbow ribbon for there name tag. People are so enthusiastic, gay, straight, ect..

  2. Deep gratitude. If we do not step up to be SAFE PEOPLE for our siblings, Trans and others who are unjustly marginalized and abused for being who they are, then we have no right to claim to be in touch with the Divine (in my opinion — not a fact, just my own opinion). Right now, my most intense worry is for my Trans siblings. #SOLIDARITY. I am committed to being a safe person where I am. For you, and for anyone else being targeted by hate and bigotry.

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