On Saturday evening, November 20th, Rev. Joshua Mason Pawelek commemorated the 12th International Transgender Day of Remembrance with many of his congregants at the State House in Hartford, CT. Rev. Pawelek and State Rep. Mike Lawlor, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, spoke in favor of a transgender civil rights bill that will be introduced in January.
The following are Rev. Pawelek’s remarks.
It is an honor to share my thoughts with you this evening. I wish to thank the organizers of this event for the invitation to speak. I want to thank all of you who came out this evening for this very important observance.
We come together, with heavy hearts, to enact a solemn ritual. We come together to bear witness to lives lost, to honor the victims of a horrific kind of violence. We come together to say the names of transgender people who were murdered not for anything they did, but simply for being who they are. We come together, we enact this ritual, we say their names because their stories are our stories. Their deaths are our deaths. Their lives are our lives. They are our people and they shall not leave this life unnoticed. They shall not pass beyond this world without the sound of their names on our tongues and our lips and on the tongues and lips of people all over the nation and the world who gather this evening for this same purpose.
It is good and right to say these names. In the act of naming we grieve for these lost lives. In the act of naming we pray for the victims and the perpetrators . . . and ourselves and our communities, our country, our world.
We come together for more, though. Not only our grief unites us. We also come together to assert the integrity of transgender lives. We come together to assert the dignity of transgender lives. We come together to assert: transgender lives matter. Our lives matter. Transgender lives are sacred. Our lives are sacred. We will be heard. Our dead will not be forgotten. And in making these assertions we fortify ourselves, we strengthen ourselves, we find the courage and resilience to continue in the struggle for transgender civil rights; we renew our commitment to that struggle; we sustain ourselves in that struggle. That is also why we gather this evening.
On October 13th, 2008 Connecticut Clergy for Marriage Equality held a prayer service across the street at First Presbyterian Church to celebrate the Connecticut Supreme Court’s decision to grant full marriage equality to gay and lesbian couples. At that time, as chair of CCME, I said we must not forget the transgender community. We must not forget our friends whose lives, whose jobs, whose homes, whose medical care, whose credit are constantly in jeopardy, constantly at risk because how they understand and express their gender is afforded no clear and indisputable protection under our state’s non-discrimination statutes. That was a promise and tonight we make good on that promise. We are changing the name of Connecticut Clergy for Marriage Equality to Connecticut Clergy for Full Equality, and we intend to bring every resource at our disposal to pass the transgender civil rights bill in the coming legislative session. This is the year my friends. This year we win.
Finally, I am a person of faith. I am a Unitarian Universalist minister. And as a person of faith and a minister, I am not here alone, not by any stretch of the imagination. I am not alone. You are not alone. We are not alone. There are many people of faith around the state and the nation who understand and support our cause. There are many clergy around the state and the nation who understand and support our cause. In Connecticut there are Metropolitan Community Church pastors, United Church of Christ pastors, Episcopal priests, Methodist pastors, Presbyterian pastors, Reform Jewish rabbis; Conservative Jewish rabbis; Unitarian Universalist pastors; even some Pentecostal pastors. And we are tired of religious proclamations of a God who frowns upon people who cross traditional gender lines, who refuse to conform to unrealistic and rigid notions of gender, who live outside the societal boxes. We are tired of religious proclamations of a God whose love seems contingent, precarious, sparing, elusive and small.
We are here to proclaim a God whose love is abundant, whose love is generous enough and big enough to embrace all people as they are and as they long to be—no exceptions. We are here to proclaim a God who, more than anything else, wants us to be who we are and who we long to be. We are here to proclaim a God who understands that when we live as who we are–when we are able to become the people we long to be—then our integrity shines through, then our gifts shine through, then our humanity shines through. Then we fulfill God’s dreams for us and for the world.
Friends, the struggle is long; the struggle is hard. So tonight, let us grieve. Tonight let us renew ourselves. Tonight let us know that our lives matter and that we are not alone.
The Rev. Joshua Mason Pawelek
Minister, Unitarian Universalist Society: East, Manchester
Chair, CT Clergy for Full Equality
Note: All Photos Courtesy Glenn Koetzner, Crazy Dog Photography, www.crazydogphotos.com
Unitarian Universalists and UUs around the world commemorated the 12th International Transgender Day of Remembrance on and around November 20, 2010.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance was set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred and prejudice.
On November 16, the Unitarian Universalist Association held a chapel service in Boston — “reflections on the Transgender Day of Remembrance.”
TRUUsT, which advocates for the gifts, safety, liberation, and leadership of transgender religious professionals in Unitarian Universalist ministries and institutions, offers three simple things any of us can do to make our religious communities more hospitable and life-saving spaces for transgender people.
Click here to read TRUUsT’s recommendations.
In May 2010, NY State signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOU) with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) approving the Secure Communities Program, in which local law enforcement sends fingerprints of arrestees to the Department of Homeland Security database.
Join us on December 9th in New York City in demanding that Governor Patterson terminate the Secure Communities agreement and that the federal courts require ICE to share all documents on “opting out” of the program. New York State should not cooperate with ICE in tearing apart immigrant families. The National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) and the New Sanctuary Movement filed an emergency injunction that will have its day in court December 9th, the day before International Human Rights Day.
Campaign members in New York are planning a big rally to encourage Gov. Patterson to cancel their Secure Communities agreement while groups everywhere are planning actions between international human rights day, Dec. 10th, and Dec. 18th, international migrant rights day.
Rev. Bruce Southworth, Senior Minister, Community Church of New York City will be speaking on behalf of the faith community.
Just a quick note to let you know that we had a great Standing on the Side of Love conference on Nov. 20th at Northwest UU Church in Southfield, Michigan.
1. We had 86 people from 14 UU congregations plus people from a Catholic church, a Presbyterian church, PFLAG and panelists from various LGBT and cultural backgrounds.
2. UUA Moderator, Gini Courter, was dynamic. She challenged the audience to be courageous and said this is a historic opportunity to make a difference.
3. The stories of immigrant and LGBT victims oppression were compelling.
4. U.S. Rep. John Conyers, currently chair of the House Judiciary Committee, made a short visit and presentation. He requested another meeting at his office for a debriefing on the results of the conference.
5. A presentation on policy issues and potential actions held the attention of 30-40 people in both issue tracks during the afternoon. We developed a closer partnership with both organizations that provided our immigration and LGBT workshop expertise. The workshop on “After Becoming A Welcoming Congregation: What’s Next?”, led by members of First UU Congregation in Ann Arbor Interweave group, was appreciated by several members of the Grosse Pointe UU Church, which was just completing its Welcoming Congregation process.
6. Several participants signed up to participate on MUUSJN’s LGBT Advocacy Task Force.
7. During our closing Affirmations session, over 40 people stood in a large circle and shared justice commitments made as result of this conference. It was a moment when UUs felt safe and empowered to do justice! A participant from a local Presbyterian Church made a commitment to start an Interweave group in her congregation.
8. Another outcome of the conference: The audience learned that passage of the Dream Act, due to be voted on shortly, would help prevent deportation a young immigrant on our panel. When I asked the audience whether it would like MUUSJN to send an action alert to our network on this legislation, they voted unanimously YES! This demonstrated that MUUSJN is using democracy to work for justice.
9. In addition, our LGBT Task Force discussed the conference and has decided to get training and begin to engage our activists in visiting our new state legislators regarding LGBT issues.
Randy Block, Director
Michigan UU Social Justice Network
Lily Huang is an organizer for the Student Immigration Movement
Imagine that you live your whole life as an American. You receive Best Attendance in elementary school and the National Honor Society award in high school. You sing in chorus, volunteer every week, and have a goal of becoming a teacher. Then, when you apply for college, you ask your parents for your Social Security number and find out that you don’t have one.
Now, you are faced with real barriers to education and success. You can’t drive, can’t work and can’t travel without great risk of detection and deportation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). You pay out-of-state tuition to attend your own state’s universities, and therefore have to work several jobs to afford just a few college credits at a time. If you are lucky enough, you find merit-based scholarships and are able to finish your degree. But regardless of how hard you study and work, you still can’t use your high grades and university degree to get a job. You are stuck, unable to ever realize your dreams.
This exercise in imagination is reality for as many as 2.1 million undocumented youth who grew up in this country, including many friends of mine. Can you help make a good education and the ability to succeed a possibility for thousands of promising young people?
The Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors (DREAM) Act would allow students who meet very strict legal requirements earn conditional permanent residency, and later, citizenship, once they successfully complete two years of college or military service.
As an organizer for the Student Immigrant Movement (SIM) and someone who was lucky enough to be born with my citizenship and go to college and study, I want all students to have an equal opportunity to access higher education and a real future. I want my friend, Isabel, who came here as a baby from the Dominican Republic and who just turned 19, to have the chance to realize her dream of becoming an immigration lawyer. I want Ada, who also came here as a baby from Honduras and who has been in Boston for 21 years, to realize her dream of going to college and studying History and Environmental Justice.
Now, the DREAM Act is finally coming up for a vote in the House and Senate —as early as this week. This is likely the last chance for the DREAM Act – or any kind of immigration reform – to pass for some time. With your help we can make DREAM a reality for more than two million young people.
The U.S. must stop telling young immigrants who are Americans in their hearts, but not on paper, to get into a line that doesn’t exist. Rather, we must create a real pathway to residency and citizenship for these millions of immigrant youth.
Every year, 65,000 undocumented students — people like Isabel and Ada — graduate high school and are denied the opportunity to fulfill their dreams. Isabel and Ada can’t wait any longer.
The urgency is real and we need you to join us!More >