June is for celebrating Pride;

July-May, we’ve got justice work to do

All through Pride Month last month, I felt an urge to listen and notice more than proclaim and pronounce. Who became more important than what. Who claimed the most rhetorical space? Who was I turning to for the next word in justice and liberation for LGBTQIA+ folx? With whom did I have actual relationships of mutual influence?

I am more grateful every day that when I was called into ministry in 2003-2005 it was into a Christian community that affirmed the full humanity of women, queer folk, and other historically marginalized groups. And… the Achilles’ heel of those who position ourselves on the bleeding edge of progressive religion often is the tendency to stop listening to and following the lead of the very folks on whose behalf we claim to advocate.

Sharing selfies from our gay friends’ wedding or gushing about bingeing a season of Queer Eye does not an ally make. This year, I long for those of us Jesus followers who are open and affirming to move beyond “Love is Love” to “What justice does Love now require?”

Here are three places I’d love to see allies step up over the next 11 months:

Protecting Trans Kids

Puberty blockers and other gender affirming care like mastectomies (for men who develop breasts) or breast implants (for breast cancer survivors) or hormone therapy (for menopausal women or girls who experience early onset puberty) have been standard of care treatment for families, children, and teenagers for several decades. It’s only in the last few years that gender panic has made a political football of this essential and standard medical treatment only as it applies to those youth and families who seek that care because they are transgender or nonbinary. For an excellent journalistic deep dive into the timeline of how we got here and why state legislators are targeting trans youth and their families for gender affirming care, I highly recommend this two-part Maintenance Phase podcast about so-called “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria.” Learn the history, get familiar with the vocabulary, and speak up at your local school board or on your state legislator’s voicemail and email inbox. This stuff is “in the water” culturally – in online forums and even in your local pediatrician’s office. We cannot ignore it or wish it away with tie-died “Love is Love!” t-shirts.

Stand In Family

We are smack in the middle of summer celebration season: Graduations, Weddings, Baby Showers, Family Reunions. For some queer and trans folks, these occasions for happiness and celebration become the opposite. Due to the absence of loving, supportive and affirming family, days that should be full of joy and achievement become extremely painful. That’s why Dan Blevins founded Stand In Pride: so that “every LGBTQ+ member have the support and love that they need.” (And they’re developing an app so the network won’t have to depend on social media millionaire overlords. Join me in donating, if you can!)

Even worse, from my work in healthcare, I see how the absence or rejection of family can also delay or prevent access to crucial medical care. Our family has been through at least three major surgical procedures in the last six years. Not one could be scheduled before the patient could guarantee a family member or friend would pick them up post-op and provide care for at minimum the first 24 hours following surgery, and more often a full week. My heart broke when a young adult in my region recently posted they had to cancel a surgery they really needed and was extremely difficult to schedule because they didn’t have family to transport them and support their medication and wound care needs for the first few days following the procedure. Meal trains, pharmacy runs, drain and bandage care – it’s the stuff that some of us can depend on family members, friends, book club siblings, or even church members to help provide when we are in need. But for many LGBTQIA+ folks, that kind of support network isn’t available due to family rejection. Join the Stand In Pride Family in your region, if you can. It might restore your faith that there are good and loving people in the world.

Safe & Affirming Elder Care

In my state, and probably lots of others, many of those who provide care and housing for seniors are religious people, and a large majority are Christians. I’m grateful to the folks who answer Jesus’ call to care for the poor and the needy, the sick and the infirm, the most vulnerable. Some are surprised that my own employer, a Catholic health system, has the most explicit non-discrimination statement around as it applies to gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

And yet… religious people – especially Christians – have also caused the most trauma and pain for queer folks. Most Christian-run adult foster homes in our area, for example, would not be a safe place for a trans man under hospice care to live out his last days. The availability of a safe and affirming space for trans and queer elders who need skilled caregiving is infinitely smaller than the already short supply for the general population. This is a justice issue. At a time when many churches are discerning the future use of their real estate resources in light of smaller participation numbers and diminishing income trends, I would love to see more congregations make a significant investment in safe, affirming, and affordable housing for trans and queer elders. It’s especially hard to find in rural areas.

Longer story made long, part of why I’ve been quieter this past month is that I realize I can make more immediate, positive, measurable impact for LGBTQIA+ folks in my daily life at work and at home – in a clinical hospice setting and parenting teenagers in this political climate – than through any social media post or online following I may or may not have. I suspect that’s true for most of you, too.

Are there other places you’d like to see allies step up as a trans or queer person?

Have you found a way to embody Dr. Cornel West’s statement that “justice is what love looks like in public” in your community or sphere? I’d love to hear about it.

Take heart. Step up. We can do this, together.

smiling person in black t-shirt and clergy collar holds pink and blue art flag with words "Trans rights are human rights"