Who Can Pee in Your Church?

Who Can Pee in Your Church? May 19, 2016

In the beginning,

God created humanity in God’s own image,
in the divine image God created them,
male, female, and transgender God created them.

The "Shit-in" at Simon Fraser University (photo by Brandon Hiller)
The “Shit-in” at Simon Fraser University (photo by Brandon Hiller)

There has been a lot of public debate recently about the trans and genderqueer community’s right (or lack thereof) to pee. These conversations are attacks on the transgender community based in myth, misinformation, and lies designed to marginalize and criminalize gender non-conforming individuals.  And while there are no documented incidents of trans + individuals attacking others in restrooms, according to Lambda Legal, 50-70% of transgender individuals report being harassed or assaulted while accessing public accommodations including restrooms in this country. Mainstream society has been happy to ignore this until now.

A firestorm occurred last week with progressives rallying around entities like Target for allowing staff and customers to use the restroom that most closely aligns with their gender identity. And in my hometown of Fort Worth, Texas all hell broke lose when Superintendent Kent Scribner clarified the FWISD policy (in effect since 2012) allowing transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms of their choice.  And then a day later cheers went up as Loretta Lynch, Attorney General for the United Staes, clarified that Title IX protects transgender students—and has since 2014.

As a member of the LGBTQI+ community, awkward bathroom experiences are nothing new for me. And the dangers faced by the transgender community are certainly not new. What is new is that the increased public discourse has raised our public conscience. Discrimination by omission is no longer palatable. Suddenly silence feels like culpability. For many this can create a crisis of faith. Is it enough to support other entities for taking steps to ensure the safety of others without our churches doing the same? How should/could progressive Christians respond? Who will raise the call to make our houses of worship trans-friendly? Many supportive voices from progressive faith groups have responded on this issue. Clergy are standing in solidarity with our trans siblings.

With them, I believe it is within my call to advocate for safe and affirming policies for trans and genderqueer people in our faith communities. There are transgender, bisexual, straight, gay, and questioning individuals in our youth groups, in our churches, and throughout our country who are waiting for us to make our houses of worship welcoming to them. Progressive Christians need to examine their own biases, spaces, and policies. If we applaud corporate and federal decisions to protect transgender individuals on moral and constitutional grounds, then it is hypocritical for our churches to not do the same based on our belief that each person is a child of God, created in the fabulous image of God, and loved equally by God.

Need help getting started? Here are a few things I’m doing.

  1. Talk to your LGBTQI congregants. If you don’t have any, seek resources online or through your local LGBTQ community center to educate your congregation on this issue.
  2. If you have a single stall restroom in your building designate it as gender neutral/inclusive.
  3. Create a policy that states all people are welcome to use the restroom in your building that best aligns with their gender identity and gender expression.
  4. Register your church as a safe place on http://www.refugerestrooms.org.

Progressive people of faith have an opportunity to stand in solidarity with our transgender siblings, to advocate for safe and affirming communities, and to make our houses of worship trans-friendly. It is time to take tangible steps to send messages of hospitality and extend the radically inclusive love of God to the LGBTQI+ community by opening our hearts, our doors, and our restrooms to them.

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