[Episcopal News Service] The South Dakota dioceses, after passing several resolutions confirming transgenderism at their diocesan convention in September, are strengthening support for transgender and non-binary people in the state by organizing a memorial event for victims of hate crimes on November 20.
Memorial ceremonies are held each year in the United States on National Transgender Remembrance Day, which began in 1999. The Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBTQ + organization, estimates that at least 46 transgender or nonconformist people have died from violence in 2021.
The names of those victims will be read at a ceremony in South Dakota, which will be held for the first time at the Episcopal Cathedral of Calvary in Sioux Falls, on November 20 at 3 pm central time, and will be broadcast live on the cathedral’s YouTube channel. Two transgender support and advocacy groups, Transformation Project and TransAction South Dakota, lead event planning. Rev. Shaneequa Isaiah Brokenleg, an Episcopal Church official for racial reconciliation, is a priest from South Dakota and will lead participants in prayer.
Brokenleg, who identifies as non-binary, told the Episcopal News Service she wants to send a clear message of welcome to counter the rejection and discrimination that LGBTQ + people have historically faced from the Episcopal Church and other Christian denominations. “For so many people, the church has been a source of pain and harm to them,” she said. “We have to think about it, as we do this, how do we not only invite and greet, but also how do we reconcile?”
The term transgender refers to the case when the gender identity, expression and behavior of an individual are not in accordance with the gender attributed to them at birth, while non-binary reflects a gender identity that is not exclusively male or female. The terms are often related to each other, but are not interchangeable.
Brokenleg stressed the importance of the church supporting the transgender community of South Dakota, while it personally identifies itself as non-binary. Transgender and non-binary individuals are “discriminated against in a similar way,” Brokenleg said.
In Lakota it is known as “winkte” or “two spirits”. Native American cultures generally had a broader understanding of gender identity than European cultures. As an example, the Lakota language does not use gender pronouns, Brokenleg said, and people with two spirits are considered conciliators and healers. (In English, Brokenleg uses feminine pronouns for herself, she said, to balance her masculine appearance and deep voice.)
Discrimination against transgender and non-binary people continues to manifest itself in church liturgical texts, she said, as in liturgical male descriptions of God and the use of gender terms such as “brothers and sisters” rather than “brothers and sisters.” The church needs to think more deeply about “how we include everything in our prayers and our worship,” she said. “Our trans brothers and sisters need to know that there is room for them in our church.”
The Episcopal Cathedral will have signs on its doors confirming that it is a safe place for all, and Brokenleg will include in the service acknowledging the pain that churches have inflicted on LGBTQ + people in the past.
Susan Williams, executive director of the Transformation Project, said in an interview with ENS that the Episcopal Cathedral was a welcome host of the memorial event. “We definitely wanted to find a place to hold our ministry that affirmed transgender lives and we had a statement on the ways they would affirm transgender individuals,” Williams said, adding that the ministry will be open to people of all faiths and also people who the church hurt. ”
Williams said that she founded the Transformation Project in 2019 in order to “provide resources to a state that simply did not have much in terms of helping trans individuals.” Her son, Wyatt Williams, began to openly identify as a transgender person in 2016, and while she was trying to get an education, she also had trouble finding support in South Dakota for her son and family. Wyatt is now 14 years old.
“Our mission is to support and empower trans people and their families while educating the state of South Dakota about gender identity and gender expression,” Williams said. “The Episcopal Church has been one of the leaders in the affirmation of transgender people.” She was particularly encouraged, she said, by the four resolutions approved by the Diocese of South Dakota at its convention held on September 24 and 25 in Pierre.
Brokenleg, as a priest in the diocese, submitted resolutions to the convention with the Rev. Lauren Stanley, diocesan canon of the Ordinary, and Warren Hawk, a member of the diocesan council. The two resolutions promote greater involvement of non-binary and transgender people in church life, while protecting them from discrimination by the church, and the diocese has pledged to “try to end the pattern of violence against transgender and bisexual people in general, and transgender women in particular.”
The second resolution calls on the Church Pension Group and the Episcopal Church Medical Trust to update forms and other practices that force employees to identify only as men or women.
The fourth resolution opposes legislation against transgender people. Williams said the adoption of a law in the South Dakota legislature in 2016 restricting the use of a school bathroom to a person’s gender at birth was one of the reasons she launched the transformation project. The governor later vetoed the law.
“There is a general feeling uncomfortable towards transgender people in our state,” Williams said.
The Episcopal Diocese resolution specifically opposes laws that could harm non-binary and transgender children, such as a bill debated in early 2020 that would block children’s treatment to confirm their gender identity. That law stalled on the board.
The second bill seeks to force student-athletes to compete in teams related to their gender assigned to them at birth. That law was narrowly defeated in 2019, but South Dakota lawmakers returned the proposal this year amid widespread pressure from Republican leaders in a number of states to pass similar laws despite indications from local authorities that it was not a problem.
South Dakota Bishop Jonathan Folts and other diocesan leaders will now have greater authority to speak out against such measures because of votes at the diocesan convention, Brokenleg said. She was pleasantly surprised that a different majority of the convention delegates gathered to approve the four resolutions. “We have people who have big differences of opinion, but we are in relationships and that’s what comes first.”
The full text of the decisions is at the bottom of this review of the diocesan council. Brokenleg wrote the resolutions based on draft resolutions offered by the TransEpiscopal group, developed by the Rev. Rowan Larson, who identifies as non-binary and transgender and serves as a transitional deacon in the Diocese of Massachusetts. Larson uses the pronouns they and they.
In an interview with ENS, they pointed out that 79th In 2018, the General Convention passed two resolutions calling on dioceses to remove obstacles to the full inclusion of non-binary and transgender people in the church and to advocate for legislation that protects against discrimination. Larson monitored compliance and counted only four dioceses earlier this year that took such measures: Chicago, Connecticut, Newark and Washington.
“There’s still a lot of teaching and growth that needs to happen to realize that trance and non-binary bishops are here, and that they’re already in churches, and that they don’t feel particularly welcome,” Larson said.
After Larson developed and distributed his proposed resolutions through TransEpiscoal this year, four dioceses revised and adopted the measures: New York, Oregon, South Dakota, and Vermont.
Larson, who is scheduled to be ordained a priest in December, has also participated in past celebrations of National Day of Remembrance for Transgender Persons. The day was first marked in 1999, in memory of Rita Hester, a black transgender woman who was killed in her Boston apartment in 1998. Most of the victims remembered every year on November 20 are black and Latino transgender women, according to the Human Campaign. for rights.
“This is a really powerful moment, for the LGBTQ community in general, but especially for trans people,” Larson said. “He says that someone is listening, someone cares. We don’t just die in anonymity. ”
Join us on Saturday. November 20 at 15:00 Central European Time as we pay tribute to trance Americans who lost their lives due to violence and trance from South Dakota who died from suicide last year.
Click here for details about our personal and online service – https://t.co/TO7Hem0m5j pic.twitter.com/R3U7HLHMhI
– TransformationProjectSD (@SDTransformProj) November 11, 2021
The service on November 20 at the Episcopal Cathedral of Calvary will include a candle-lighting ceremony. Participating individuals will stand to read each name on the list of transgender and non-binary victims of violence, and then light a candle in memory. The service will also mark three transgender South Dakota residents who died of suicide this year.
It’s the right time for the church to step into its necessary role, Brokenleg said. “When we have the opportunity to pay tribute and remember all the trans people who were killed or died from suicide, we have to remember that.”
– David Paulsen is the editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. It can be obtained at [email protected].