Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) vigils, services, and die-ins begin next week to remember and seek justice for those who were murdered because they chose to live as their authentic selves. As you consider planning and participating in local TDOR events, check out this video of a “die-in” that took place recently at Boston’s South Station to see what it looks like and the power is has to make people take notice.
In the wake of controversy around an anti-Islam constitutional amendment in Oklahoma, it is heartening to see Unitarian Universalists continuing to speak out against anti-Muslim bigotry, and for religious freedom.
The following letter is reprinted from the Bennington Banner.
Saturday November 6, 2010
What do we find in the Qur’an?
by Erica Baron, Consulting minister to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Bennington.
In September, a minister in Florida sparked an international controversy with a plan to burn copies of the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam. In response, my colleague the Rev. M’ellen Kennedy organized an event in Barre to “read the Qur’an, don’t burn it.” In keeping with other letters on topics of inclusion, I invite us here in our community to take up that challenge.
What would we find if we joined in reading the Qur’an? For those who have read the Bible, much would be familiar. The Qur’an tells stories of Noah and Abraham, of Ishmael and Isaac, of Moses. The Qur’an speaks of Mary the virgin giving birth to Jesus. When angels come to tell Mary that she will give birth, they say:
“O Mary! Allah gives you glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and in the Hereafter and be (of the company) of the righteous.” (Surah 3, verse 45, as translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali.)
In addition to familiar stories, familiar concerns come across in the Qur’an, particularly a concern for the weakest and most vulnerable people in society. In the Qur’an, these are orphans, widows, and the poor. The Qur’an instructs Muslims to take care of these vulnerable people, to treat them with respect and kindness, and to deal fairly with them in financial matters.
For those more familiar with the Bible, there are also surprises in the Qur’an. For example, unlike the Bible, the Qur’an is not organized chronologically. Rather, the stories are woven throughout the whole text. Each chapter or “Surah” of the text contains the fundamental articles of faith, so that reciting any of them, the practicing Muslim is reciting the things that the faith believes are most important. For those of us used to reading a more or less chronological account, this is a change.
Of course, the Qur’an also tells the story of Muhammad. In the Qur’an, Muhammad is a prophet of Allah, the Arabic for “God.” In the line of the prophets of the Hebrew scriptures and the Christian New Testament, Muhammad seeks to bring the theology of God’s love, justice, and care for the poor to a new community. It is also the story of this new community as it struggles against adversity and eventually grows and prospers.
Muslims in our country right now face discrimination, hate speech and violence at unprecedented levels. Intolerance against this religious community is growing in our country. As a person of faith, I feel a need to speak out against this kind of religious intolerance. One of the promises that the United States makes to all her citizens — including her Muslim citizens — is that our right to practice our religion is protected. Thus, the persecution — in violence or in hate speech — of any religious group in our country is a violation of all that we stand for as a nation.
The Muslims I’ve known in my life, are, like me, people of faith. They take their faith as seriously as I do mine. While we don’t agree on every point of faith, the Muslims I’ve known are gentle, loving people, doing their best to understand and follow God’s will. In fact, Islam means submission — submission to Allah. I honor the quest of American Muslims to follow their tradition, and see in them a reflection of my own life of faith. May we all learn to respect the faiths of our neighbors as we work together to create a community bound by ties of tolerance and love.
Erica Baron is the consulting minister to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Bennington.More >
Rev. Paul Langston-Daley is the Consulting Minister at Prescott Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
Living authentically takes courage, strength, and above all, faith. On or around November 20th, in many communities around the globe, people will honor and remember those whose lives were taken for no other reason than they lived authentically.
The 12th International Transgender Day of Remembrance is very personal to me, as I transitioned from female to male five years ago. Prior to my transition, I had friends who had done the same, but none that I kept in touch with. It was too painful to see them and know deep down that I, too, wanted to be truly seen.
But I was afraid to be my authentic self. What if friends deserted me the way I had deserted others? What if no one took me seriously? Could I find a church that would accept me as their minister?
I also knew the horror stories of trans people who had been “found out,” then beaten or killed. I avoided attending Transgender Day of Remembrance vigils; it was too close to home, too real.
This year, I will attend a vigil not just in body, but also in deeper spirit.
We must remember not only those who have been killed, but also those who have been rejected by friends and family because of insecurity and fear.
Will you join me in commemorating the Transgender Day of Remembrance?
Since my own transition, some of my fears have been realized. I have lost a few friends, and I have had trouble being taken seriously in my professional life because of my transition. I am seen by most as a man, and unless I tell people of my gender transition, most have no idea. But when some people find out, their confusion and fear step in and prevent them from taking the opportunity to get to know me.
Thankfully, my worst fear was not realized. I am alive.
As November 20th approaches, I will hold in my heart all of the transgender individuals who have made the brave move to be seen for who they truly are, as well as those who are still too afraid to be their authentic selves. I will hold in my heart the families and loved ones of those individuals whose bravery was met with misunderstanding, ignorance, fear and anger. I will even hold in my heart those who are unaware, ignorant and afraid, in the hope that they will understand and find compassion and love.
Please join me in commemorating the Transgender Day of Remembrance in your local community. I invite you to attend an event, and if there isn’t one planned in your area, plan something.
We all need help to live our full potential, and when we stand side by side with others, we stand more firmly, more confidently, and more securely in our authenticity.
I hope you will stand with me on the side of love on November 20th as we remember the lives of those transgender individuals who risked all to be fully and wholly seen.More >
Neo-Nazis from Across the Country are Rallying in Phoenix – LOVE is Needed for a Peaceful Counter-Demonstration!
On November 13th, the National Socialist Movement, a neo-Nazi party in the United States, will march in Phoenix in support of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, SB 1070, as they continue their “campaign to reclaim the Southwest.”
Help us spread a message of love to counter the fear and hatred of Neo-Nazis.
Saturday, November 13th
Meet at Noon:
The UU Congregation of Phoenix
4027 East Lincoln Drive
Paradise Valley, AZ 85253
We will carpool downtown to the Sandra Day O`Connor U.S. District Court of Arizona, 401 W. Washington St., Phoenix
Wear your yellow Standing on the Side of Love shirts.
Bring signs and water, drums, noisemakers, and yourselves.
Be aware that parking may be difficult to find nearby if you are driving directly downtown.
Home hospitality is available – contact Jason Odhner 602-762-1975
More info: contact Suzi Spangenberg: soozarty at yahoo dot com or Sun Principe at sumprincipe at gmail dot com
Let’s outnumber them by a huge majority! No violence, no confrontations, just peaceful (but loud!) protest.
Show the world that LOVE is stronger than fear!More >
Susan Leslie is the Congregational Advocacy & Witness Director for the Unitarian Universalist Association and a member of the Social Justice Council of First Parish Cambridge MA Unitarian Universalist
On Tuesday, my husband, Bruce, and I joined our congregation in bringing love to the polls. We donned our yellow Standing on the Side of Love t-shirts and buttons, carried Love placards, and handed out Love wallet cards. Across the country, many of you did the same.
When voters inquired about the purpose behind the Standing on the Side of Love campaign, we explained that we were there to call for an end to marginalization, discrimination, and scapegoating in elections and beyond, and to ask others to work towards the same for our entire country. Universally, we were greeted with positive energy, smiles, and thanks for our being there. For many, seeing our yellow messages of love opened up a dialogue about the need for more non-polarizing activism that reaches across partisan divides.
Bruce and I were blown away by the beautiful diversity of people from all walks of life who came to vote – but saddened to think there is so much fear in our culture about that very beauty. How disheartening that a number of candidates won their elections with platforms that preyed on this fear!
Now, more than ever, people need our movement.
That is why I am asking all of us to keep the faith, continue to be visible with our values, and to look ahead…
National Standing on the Side of Love Day – February 14, 2011 — will be the moment for us to elevate our most important values in the public square, just weeks after a more conservative 112th U.S. Congress will begin its session.
Please mark February 14, 2011 on your calendar now, and begin thinking about how you might re-imagine Valentine’s Day as National Standing on the Side of Love Day – an opportunity for your community to inspire love, connection, and compassion.
With the outcome of election 2010, I am completely recommitted to standing on the side of love. In the face of fear, this campaign is exactly what we need to elevate the tone of debate in this country, to change hearts and minds, and to call forth those who believe in the values of respect and inclusion.
Bruce and I will be asking our congregational leaders to put February 14, 2011 on the calendar as an all-out, visionary public witness. Last year, our congregation collected immigrant rights postcards and delivered them to Sen. Scott Brown; partnered with the Haitian Coalition on a joint service; and then went outside and sang “Stand” in Harvard Square holding our Love banner.
We have already started thinking about how we can visibly share our values this coming February through meaningful partnerships on National Standing on the Side of Love Day.
Please look forward with us — and mark your calendars for February 14, 2011.More >