There has been a lot of media coverage lately, about proposals for and pending legislation to restrict the rights of transgender individuals. According to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 117 bills have been introduced in the current legislative session that target the transgender community, a record-breaking year for this type of legislation. CNN puts the number of states involved, for the 2021 session, at 33. The majority of these bills would affect transgender youth, a group that researchers and medical professionals warn is already susceptible to high rates of suicide and depression.
In addition, there have been accounts of rising hate crimes and violence against these same individuals, especially against women. Some of this has been in the name of religion. This however, goes against God’s commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself”. And, it goes against Jesus’s instructions of “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other”.
Which brings us to this month’s resolution: Co22 Supporting Transgender Access.
Resolved, That The 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church reaffirm its support for the enactment of laws at the local, state and federal level that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or the expression of one’s gender identity; and be it further
Resolved, That The Episcopal Church support legislative, educational, pastoral, liturgical and broader communal efforts that seek to end the pattern of violence against transgender people in general and transgender women in particular, calling attention especially to the rising violence against transgender women of color and gender non-conforming people; and be it further
Resolved, That The Episcopal Church oppose all legislation that restricts public restroom, locker room and shower access for transgender and gender non-conforming people, recognizing that such bills disproportionally impact and contribute to a pattern of violence against transgender women and non-binary identified people; and be it further
Resolved, That The Episcopal Church ask dioceses and parishes to remove barriers to full participation in congregational life by making their gender specific facilities and activities fully accessible to all, regardless of gender identity and expression; and be it further
Resolved, That The Episcopal Church direct the Office of Government Relations to advocate for passage of federal legislation that protects transgender and gender non-conforming persons from discrimination, and be it further
Resolved, That The Episcopal Church urge dioceses, parishes and Episcopalians to advocate for passage and enactment of similar legislation at the local and state level.
The definition of transgender is people whose gender identity or expression does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. For example, a transgender person may identify as a woman despite having been born with male genitalia.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the anti-transgender bills target transgender and non-binary people for discrimination, such as barring or criminalizing healthcare for transgender youth, barring access to the use of appropriate facilities like restrooms, restricting transgender students’ ability to fully participate in school and sports, allowing religiously motivated discrimination against transgender people or making it more difficult for transgender people to get identification documents with their name and gender.
Regarding restroom access, legislation and court decisions are currently moving in two different directions. In some states, non-discrimination laws have included restrooms as public accommodations, indicating a right to use gendered facilities which conform with a person’s gender identity. However, in many states, efforts have been made to insist that individuals use restrooms that match the biological sex listed on their birth certificate, regardless of an individual’s gender identity or expression. This includes those individuals who have completed sex reassignment surgery. Although many bills have been introduced this year, a similar bill backfired in 2016 in North Carolina, leading the state to lose the NBA All Star Game. It has since been repealed, but the controversy is still ongoing. And, there have been reports of some locations requiring birth certificates to enter a gender specific restroom. To counter that, in 2016 California became the first state to require all single-occupancy restrooms to be gender neutral. Vermont, New Mexico and Illinois have followed suit. We have a long way to go in this regard.
Another area of legislative activity are bills to prevent minors from receiving gender affirming treatment. Although many bills have been introduced this session, they have been passed into law in only one state, Arkansas. At this time, a federal judge has blocked it from implementation. According to sciencenews.org, over the past 20 years, gender affirming treatment has become the standard of care for transgender people in the US. This is due to increasing recognition in the medical community that being transgender is a normal example of human diversity and not a mental disorder. According to the CDC, about 1.8 percent of American high schoolers are transgender. And, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Endocrine Society have endorsed gender affirming care, and argue that the proposed restrictions would endanger a population already at severe risk of depression and self-harm.
Participation in sports teams is another controversial issue, with many state legislatures debating the issue of transgender athletes participating on a school team, including Michigan. The bills would ban transgender athletes from participating in sports consistent with their gender identities. Three states already have such bans signed into law. Lawmakers have said these bills are intended to be proactive and to remove what they claim in as unfair advantage that transgender youth may have over their teammates. But opponents of the bills believe any examples are extremely rare. In March, the Associated Press called two dozen state legislators who sponsored these bans, and found that few could name any cases where the participation of transgender athletes in youth sports had become a source of contention within these teams.
There is a myriad of other issues related to the plethora of bills currently making their way through state legislatures. As persons of faith, it is incumbent upon us to call out hate and discrimination wherever it exists, and to speak out against such bills. Jesus calls us to love one another, no exceptions.
Let us pray:
O God, you made us in your own image, and redeemed us though Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls which separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
The Book of Common Prayer, page 815
Diocesan Council Resolution Review Committee