Thursday, February 16, 2012

Staten Island Transgender Equality and Justice Service

Post by Lead Organizer Kate McDonough, coordinator of our Pride in the Pulpit program. Sign up for updates on New York State's transgender non-discrimination bill and more.

Last Sunday, February 12, I was privileged to attend the Unitarian Universalist Church of Staten Island’s special service, Beyond the Binary Code: Gender in America, exploring the limitations that gender binaries can place on an individual and putting a special focus on the need for transgender equality and justice. Throughout the service members of the congregation offered personal reflections on how they grew in their understanding of transgender identity and became passionate advocates for transgender civil rights. In addition, activist Ron B. performed a powerful monologue highlighting the triumphs and struggles of a transgender woman.

Here’s an excerpt from my own reflection during the service:
I can honestly say that I am very happy today. I am happy today because throughout my life, my family has stood by me and given me the support I needed to embrace my identity and bring my whole self to any situation. In turn, because I am not put through the exhaustion of having to fight for the acknowledgement of my existence, I’ve been able to thrive personally and professionally. Many of my transgender friends are not as lucky--both in terms of family support and acceptance within a broader society.

The harsh realities of transphobia are heartbreaking. A recent report showed that three out of four transgender New Yorkers experienced harassment or mistreatment on the job. A staggering three-quarters of transgender youth in New York State reported being harassed in school and many leave as a result. 17% of people were refused medical care due to their gender identity or expression. Another report released by the Empire State Pride Agenda showed that more than one-third of transgender New Yorkers have been homeless at one time and over one-fifth have incomes under $10,000 a year.

Within these numbers lies the human face of some amazing people, who have great gifts to offer. There is my first supervisor at Pride Agenda, who took a chance on a nervous 23-year-old he saw potential in. I owe so much of my professional development to him. He is currently studying to be a rabbi and I’m excited to see who else’s potential he will help to foster. There is my best friend who has always provided me with insightful advice even when it’s 1 a.m. and it’s a topic I’ve brought up at least ten times already. This friend is an educator, and has the ability to enrich so many with meaningful advice. There’s my boyfriend who is such a beautiful, tender soul and can always bring a smile to my face regardless of how stressful the day is, which plays a key role in keeping me sane. He’s a nanny and I sleep a little better at night know that he plays a part in shaping the attitudes of the generation to come.

Following the service, I moderated a panel with members of the transgender community, who told personal stories and answered questions from the audience. Many members of the congregation stayed for the discussion, asked thoughtful questions and shared insightful perceptions on how gender stereotypes can have an effect on us all.

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