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In Michigan: Bringing together transgender advocates and faith allies for trans lives

October 19, 2016

Last month, over 100 transgender advocates and community leaders took part in a daylong training in the beautiful sanctuary of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Brighton, Michigan. For about a year, my colleagues Kathleen Campisano and Camden Hargrove, and I had worked alongside the board members of Inclusive Justice, a Michigan-based interfaith organization at the intersections of faith and LGBTQ justice. Together, we set a goal to call, meet, and invite people of faith across Michigan to participate in a daylong training centering the lives and experiences of transgender and gender non-conforming people.14332941_10154505856758784_1455488760179696_n

At the training, I felt fortunate to co-facilitate a transgender and gender non-conforming caucus and training with our local partner and transgender advocate, Char Davenport. I was moved by just how vulnerable and supportive everyone in the room was with us and with one another. Of all conference attendees, 12 transgender, particularly transgender women, and gender non-conforming people participated in the workshop that I co-facilitated with Char. During the caucus session, we shared a wide rage of stories that included affirming experiences and heartbreaking incidents.

During the session, we grappled with questions of faith, gender identity and expression, and what it means for transgender people in Michigan to find and build spiritual homes. We also thought intently about our expectations for people of faith on the journey to being affirming allies. We wrote our “Manifesto” on a piece of big presentation paper, which we shared with the cisgender faith allies participating in the training.

It was incredibly inspiring to feel the warmth and enthusiasm being shared by everyone in the room. I felt particularly connected in some way with everyone in the room—as I had already held phone conversations with many of them over the past few months. I had never coordinated an event like this with members of the LGBTQ and faith communities, as a matter of fact, before I took on the role as an organizer with the National LGBTQ Task Force—and certainly not in Michigan!

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So, as I enjoyed the interactions and presence of the people who attended the conference and training, I felt an encompassing sense of satisfaction. Satisfaction at putting faces with the voices of people I had inviting to be a part of this opportunity. Satisfaction at seeing my colleagues, who aren’t on the ground in Michigan as often as Kathleen, Camden, and I are, joyfully greeting, engaging, and building relationships with people I’d been getting to know. Satisfaction that the passion I have to work for justice, liberation, and equity for transgender and gender non-conforming people and faith communities came together for a successful day of community development. This experience has been influential to the vision of what a faith network of allies that centers transgender and gender non-conforming experiences could and should look moving forward in our movement work.

By Bri Sanders, Field Organizer, National LGBTQ Task Force 

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