Thursday, June 26, 2014

In the News: Bay Area Reporter

Shining a light on unsung heroes
Guest Opinion

Published 06/26/2014
by Michael G. Pappas



A year ago, almost to the day, San Franciscans awaited with anxious anticipation the U.S. Supreme Court's decisions on the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8, California's same-sex marriage ban. On the eve of Pride, as those high court pronouncements echoed throughout every conceivable media, we as a community never seemed more liberated or united. We shared together in that euphoric moment, feeling, in a profound way, that we were both witnesses to and participants in the making of history.
Meandering through the masses at the Castro Street celebration of those high court decisions, I encountered local photographer Bill Wilson who shared a revelation, "I just photographed a mother and her infant child and it dawned on me, that child will never know a time when there was not marriage equality." A hopeful realization, I thought, yet I speak to so many 20- and 30-year-olds today, whose only comprehension of the isolation and shame of the closet and loss of friends and loved ones to the epidemic is limited to oral history passed down or academic study. Seen in that context, it's hard to help but feel that the human rights victories and liberties we celebrate today with revelry at Pride were fought, not only by today's activists, but by the heroes of previous generations, upon whose shoulders we stand.
Not the least among those heroes, laboring tirelessly to "increase equality, eradicate discrimination, and protect human rights for all people," are the commissioners, staff, and citizen leaders who, for almost four decades have served on the SF Human Rights Commission's LGBT Advisory Committee.
Past chairs include such luminary LGBT activists as Martha Knutzen, and transgender icons Theresa Sparks, the current HRC executive director, and Health Commissioner Cecilia Chung.
A microcosm of our community, today's LGBT Advisory Committee comprises of thought leaders from every sector. Lending minds and voices to the conversation are representatives from the nonprofits Trikone, Shanti Project, Larkin Street Youth Services, Out4Immigration, OneJustice, API Wellness Center, Family Violence Law Center, Transgender Law Center, Our Family Coalition, and Forward.US. Those nonprofit leaders stand shoulder-to-shoulder with members of the tech community, including a leader from Google's Gaygler LGBT Employee Resource Group. Add to the mix an advocate from the city's deaf community, members from the religious community, including an LGBT Mormon activist and a Lutheran pastor advocating for the homeless and transgender youth; an African American veteran activist who just finished his tenure on the city's LGBT Aging Policy Task Force; an HIV/Infectious disease specialist; leaders in immigration; the transgender community; a congressional staff person and an assistant district attorney.
An integral and vitally important component of the Human Rights Commission, the LGBT Advisory Committee provides community involvement and opportunity for in-depth study and exploration of issues, offers assistance and advice to the commission regarding discrimination against the LGBT communities, advocates for the civil rights of persons with AIDS/HIV, and educates our LGBT partners in advocacy about a diverse range of issues that impact our community.
Considered by many the unsung heroes of public policy making, the SF Human Rights Commission's LGBT Advisory Committee, workgroups and policy and social justice unit staff, over the years, have researched, deliberated, presented reports, and incubated policy measures that led to the drafting of such legislation as domestic partners benefits, the formation of the LGBT Aging Policy Task Force and, most recently, SF law enforcement agencies' decision to discontinue the use of condoms when prosecuting cases involving sex workers.
The LGBT Advisory Committee has never been shy to take on bold and controversial issues. Over the past decade the committee was responsible for the formation of a task force and held a public hearing on intersex issues, including the human rights aspects of surgeries performed on intersex infants in order to assign gender when the surgeries are not medically necessary. Both the advisory committee and commission urged the Board of Education to pass a resolution to establish a high school course on LGBT history, politics, and culture and commit to funding LGBT support services. It held panel discussions and community meetings to study bisexual invisibility and issued a report entitled, "Bisexual Invisibility: Impacts and Recommendations." Together with the commission it held a public forum on unrecognized families and issued a report "Beyond Marriage: Unrecognized Family Relationships." It initiated a resolution unanimously passed by the commission urging lawmakers and the governor to enact state Senate Bill 1172, making it illegal for state-licensed psychologists to practice "reparative therapy" on minors.
Current issues being addressed by the advisory committee's work groups include comprehensive immigration reform for impacted LGBTQ individuals and families; deaf and people with disability advocacy for LGBTQ individuals; keeping nonprofits serving the LGBT community in San Francisco; advocacy related to trans empowerment for immigrant trans women and trans women of color; research, advocacy and a policy review of the city's ID program and the program's impact on transgender residents with respect to name and gender change; and advocacy related to bridging the gap between the tech and LGBTQ communities.
Among the issues emerging from the commission's policy and social justice unit are the call for comprehensive transgender health care reform in the Healthy San Francisco program; the creation of a long needed LGBTQ youth citywide sensitivity training and cultural competency program required by an ordinance, on which we partnered with the Youth Commission; reports on human trafficking, anti-bullying initiatives and equity and inclusion of communities of color in the LGBT community. That unit is also working diligently to support efforts to develop policies and guidelines that would facilitate gender neutral bathrooms and public accommodations for transgender individuals.
Pride means different things to different people. For the SF Human Rights Commission's LGBT Advisory Committee, it is the occasion to recommit ourselves to laboring for and securing the rights and freedoms our community deserves. In sharing this brief overview of our work we invite you to join us in honoring those heroes who came before us by helping to write the next chapter of our exciting movement.
Michael G. Pappas is chair of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission and chair of the commission's LGBT Advisory Committee.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Pre-Order two upcoming books!

Pre-Order Our Upcoming Titles:

With A Day Like Yours Couldn't You Use a Little Grace: Daily Grace for Diverse People Living in a Complicated World
This book, by our Pastor Megan Rohrer, is for everyone who has been lied to and told that God couldn’t love them. In addition to reminding you that nothing, nothing, nothing can ever separate you God’s love, Pastor Megan Rohrer will also help you learn to accept this gift of grace and love yourself just as you are.

Whether you skim, only pull it out when you have a rough day or a bad breakup, or make readings part of your daily routine for a year, With a Day Like Yours, Couldn’t You Use Some Grace speaks to saints, sinners and everyone in between.   

Pre-order the May-August Edition

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Bible Study that Doesn't Suck: An Illustrated Retelling of The Gospel According to Mark
This Bible Study, by our Pastor Megan Rohrer, will be available in December.  You can help us get this book printed by pre-ordering your copy now at a reduced rate. 

Choose from the pre-order options below:

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Monday, June 16, 2014

In the News: South Florida Gay News

Should the Trans Community Stop Using the ‘T-Word’ or Reclaim It

The t-word has been tossed around a lot lately, especially by celebrities in the media. But is the word really OK to say to a transgender person.

“I was called it once, and it was done lightly, but it still shocked me really hard,” said Brendon Lies, a 23-year-old Florida Atlantic University student who’s transitioning from female to male.
Everyone has had different experiences with the word.

“A friend of mine used to call me a tranny in Alabama, a good friend of mine,” said Reilly Clemens, a 27-year-old transgender University of Florida graduate student. “I asked him why he did that one day. He said he was trying to toughen me up because people would call me it all the time.”
Some people have been fortunate.

“I’ve only ever heard it once on a television show where people are transgender, and it was never mentioned again,” said Christine Preimesberger, a 19-year-old University of Southern California student who identifies as agender. “I’d be very insulted if someone called me that.”

The word Tranny, according to M to F trans activist Kate Bornstein, originated as a way for M to F transgender people and drag queens to be united under a common name. It came to include all in the trans community.

Cisgender (non-transgender) people quickly began to use it to group and target trans people.

“By being an ftm called this word, especially by cis people, its context generally echoes less so with a lack of understanding, but more with an attitude that we’re all grouped together as something less than human,” Lies said. “It’s become a key word used to look down on us, and that’s usually what I feel from it when it’s used towards me.”

RuPaul and other drag queens have recently created controversy because of their decision to use the word publicly despite protests.

“He [RuPaul] claims he’s coming from a place of love,” said Nicholas Cavallaro, 21-year-old drag queen and student at the University of Florida. “There’s a difference between intent and impact. I think Ru should take a step back and listen to what trans people are saying who have lived their everyday lives transitioned. Ru has been doing this every day of his life, but he goes home and takes that make-up off.”

For most transgender people, hearing the word can still be a painful experience as it is most often associated with violence.

“I’ve never been called tranny in a positive way, and I think what’s interesting is that it seems like people who identify as transgender, meaning that they are transitioning in their hormones or their body, that word is often used in a derogatory way and offers violence,” said Megan Rohrer, a 33-year-old transgender pastor.

But all agree that using the word in public should be avoided.

“Because that word is used to perpetuate violence, in public it might not be OK for anyone to use it,” said Rohrer. “When I hear it, I worry something violent will happen.”

If among close friends, people should first ask consent before using the word.

“It’s very important that the person they’re using it with be OK with it,” Clemens said. “If they’re going to call a friend of theirs a tranny or use the words in comments, as well, they need to be very aware of who they’re using it with because some people take an issue with it.”

Rohrer agrees, saying that just because someone uses the word, doesn’t mean they’re in the wrong.

“I think there are cases when tone of voice outweighs anything else, and so if someone is, for example, the cisgender person married to someone who’s trans that word might come out differently in loving conversation rather than just on the streets,” Rohrer said.

Famous transgender people like Laverne Cox, star of the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black” have recently started an empowerment movement to “reclaim” the word, so it can be difficult to tell who finds the word acceptable and who doesn’t. Asking can help clarify.

“Most people who are asking the right questions aren’t trying to be hurtful,” Clemens said. “I’m comfortable with being called that, but most people would be more comfortable with other terms like transgender or trans woman.”

It’s important to remember that some people do find it acceptable, and even empowering.
“I would see it as an empowering word,” Clemens said. “It incorporates our history, and people understand it to be a negatively connoted word. It sets us apart. It describes a way of being. I don’t think that’s inherently bad.”

But there’s also a flipside.

“If you’re with a close group of friends and you’ve embraced the word yourself, I’m not going to stop you from using it,” Lies said. “It’s more of a problem to me if you ignorantly call people that and you don’t know how they feel.”

Consent and context are the keys to using the word. Don’t be afraid to ask if you feel comfortable enough around that person.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

New Living Lutheran Post

Are We Really an Aging Church  

By Megan Rohrer

In the past 12 years I’ve preached at countless Lutheran, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Congregational and Swedenborgian congregations nearly every Sunday. But, I could count on two hands the number of congregations who had worshipers younger than me.

During this same period, I baptized six adults and two children. Only the children were baptized in congregations. The adults, who were almost all younger than I was, asked me to baptize them in bars, restaurants and gardens. Each of these baptisms was accompanied by a story about how the individuals had become estranged from congregational worship.

With each baptism, I thought about all the people who have declared that the Lutheran church is dying and aging. Is it true, or are we pushing people away and letting people believe the lie that they are unable to be loved by God.  And if people gain church membership through their baptism, then why are so few members choosing to attend worship?

When I was called as the pastor of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in San Francisco’s Sunset District this past February...

- Read more at the ELCA's Living Lutheran.