United Methodists Show Support On Transgender Day Of Visibility

Parent and child carry Progress Pride flag

Clergy and laity call for recognition and protection of human rights, that all may experience wholeness and flourishing

An ad hoc group of more than 650 United Methodist clergy and laity from across the state have published an “Open Letter to the People of Texas” supporting International Transgender Day of Visibility on Friday, March 31, 2023.

The letter highlights several commitments from The United Methodist Church’s Social Principles, an often-overlooked portion of the United Methodist Book of Discipline, the collection of church doctrine and policies. These commitments include the belief that all persons are of sacred worth, and, therefore, worthy of dignity, freedom and justice, and the commitment to work toward societies in which each person’s value is recognized, maintained and strengthened.

The letter closes, “Given the way in which discriminatory and oppressive policies have been used historically to seek the marginalization and eventual erasure of entire groups of persons, we believe the observance of International Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31, 2023, is all the more important to the wholeness and flourishing of our communities and to raise awareness of issues impacting transgender, gender non-conforming, gender expansive and non-binary people.”

Lead organizer Rev. Geoffrey C. Moore, Ph.D., framed the motivation for the letter, saying, “Our first General Rule as United Methodists is to do no harm. These bills are putting our trans children, youth and families at risk of serious harm. In the end, they seek nothing less than the erasure of our trans population.” He continued, “This is a gospel issue. I acknowledge that some people don’t ‘understand’ transgender and gender non-conforming people. But Jesus didn’t call us to ‘understand’ others. In fact, on more the one occasion he rebuked the disciples when they tried to ‘lean on their own understanding’ and treated marginalized people with scorn. Instead, Jesus is clear that he is calling us to love and serve others. Full stop.”

Co-organizer Rev. Scott Gilliland said, “as both a pastor and a parent, I am inspired by the teaching of Jesus to care for the most vulnerable amongst us, and especially children. I’m proud to join with other United Methodist leaders, in the midst of our diverse beliefs and convictions, to clearly say that trans persons are beloved children of God and that our faith inspires us to protect their access to life-saving healthcare.”

In light of the wave of anti-trans bills working their way through the Texas legislature, especially SB 14 and HB 1686, which outlaw gender-affirming care for minors, the letter’s signers assert that the physician-patient relationship is a sacred trust. They contend it should not be compromised or interfered with. Furthermore, the consensus of the medical community, guided by established bioethical parameters, should be entrusted and empowered to determine what constitutes individualized best-practice, evidence-based care for patients who are guaranteed patient autonomy and informed consent.

The letter comes at the end of a two-week period in which the Texas Senate passed SB 14, which outlaws gender-affirming care in Texas for minors under the age of 18, and its mirror bill HB 1686 was given a public hearing in the Texas House Public Health Committee. Testimony for HB 1686 lasted more than eight hours and still didn’t accommodate the nearly 500 persons who had registered to testify. By the end of the day, approximately 2,800 persons had registered their opposition to the bill, far outstripping those supporting the bill 30 to 1.

The letter follows a resolution on trans youth and families passed by the North Texas Annual Conference in 2022. In it, the conference membership asserted that churches in the North Texas Conference would be safe sanctuaries for trans children, youth and their families. It also stated that, while they acknowledge the obligation their clergy have as mandatory reporters, they do not, because of their convictions of faith, consider gender-affirming care child abuse and would, therefore, not report it as such. Conference members adopted the resolution by a 98% margin.

Published: Friday, March 31, 2023