An Open Letter to the Council of Bishops from the United Methodist Alliance for Transgender Inclusion (UMATI)
This Sunday, November 20th is Transgender Day of Remembrance. Each year on this date, those of us who are transgender , intersex , and gender expansive , and all who love us, gather together to remember those within our community who have been killed in the past year.
Across the globe and our United Methodist Connection, trans people are being brutally attacked and often killed solely because of their gender. In the United States, at least 24 trans and gender expansive people have been murdered this year, most of whom are trans women of color. This number is exponentially higher in other parts of the world, nearly surpassing 300 lives in 2016. Meanwhile, many trans people also face job discrimination, criminal injustice, lack of access to necessary medical care, and housing instability. In the United States, trans people face a suicide attempt rate of 41% compared to a national average of 4.6%. The severity of challenges facing the global trans community cannot be overstated.
As pastors and prophets, your leadership in speaking of God’s prevenient grace, unconditional love, wide embrace, and call to justice for all God’s children is of urgent need. While trans, intersex, and gender expansive people have always existed, we have long been pushed to the edges, erased, or conflated with rhetoric related only to sexual orientation, often overlooking the unique challenges associated with gender identity. It’s time for us to be recognized for the particular gifts we bring to both the church and world and we need you to join us in affirming our God-given identities. United, we can make an important difference towards ending the hate and its tragic consequences that we lament here.
As Transgender Day of Remembrance approaches, we address you as transgender, intersex, and gender expansive United Methodists who are a part of your fold. We will be grieving and remembering our siblings around the world whose lives have been taken and we need to know these deaths do not go unnoticed by our church leadership.
Will you remember us? Will you begin speaking of us? Will you acknowledge our presence and gifts within The United Methodist Church and make a place for us as the work of the Commission envisions a new way of being church together? And most importantly, will you take up leadership and fill the aching gap of silence from religious leadership of all denominations as the lives of God’s children are being taken? It is expected that at least one out of every 200 people are trans, gender expansive, or intersex. Our public visibility is growing and our community cannot afford for religious leaders to be silent in the face of increasing amounts of violence targeted towards us.
John Wesley looked “upon the whole world” as his parish. The gospel’s message is intended for healing wherever there is brokenness – and as long as trans and gender expansive people are still being targeted with violence and discrimination in Brazil, in Uganda, in the United States, or elsewhere, Christ calls the church to respond with unwavering support. You, as those elected to fulfill the role of pastors and prophets in leadership, are necessarily called to speak out against the harm being directed at this community – within the walls of the church and beyond.
On this upcoming day of remembrance, we are asking of you, as members of your United Methodist family, the Body of Christ, and God’s beloved creation, to join us in the cries of our community asking, “How Long, O God, will our people be targeted?” We know Christ joins us in this grief and sustains us in the work of creating a safe and more just world for trans people across the globe. Christ has always been with us in this work.
We hope you will soon join us too, in congruence with your role as bishops “to be a prophetic voice for justice in a suffering and conflicted world through the tradition of social holiness,” we urge you to issue a statement condemning violence against transgender and gender expansive people. The church must be a voice for justice and compassion for all God’s children by calling for a world where everyone has the opportunity to thrive without fear for their life and basic needs.
We respectfully request your leadership through the issuance of a statement by January 1, 2017, that we might all begin the new year with a renewed commitment to global solidarity and authentic hope for building the world God intends for all of us.
UMATI Leadership Team
M Barclay, MDiv
C. Kristian Clauser
Rev. Terri Stewart, M.Div
Alyss Marie Swanson M.Div., MFT-I
Dawnne Woodie, D.Min.
Rev. Liam Hooper, RMN Transgender Community Organizer