Largest-Ever Gathering of Trans Unitarian Universalist Leaders

by Zr . Alex Kapitan

From April 10-13, the second-ever retreat was held of TRUUsT, Transgender Religious professional Unitarian Universalists Together, in Palm Harbor, Florida.

Twenty-seven trans leaders and two allied Unitarian Universalist Association staff gathered together for community, worship, and organizing to support the many varied ministries of trans people within Unitarian Universalism. Attendees were directors of religious education, music directors, youth directors, seminarians, and community and parish ministers; hailed from all corners of North America—from rural Ohio to the San Francisco Bay Area, from Portland, OR, to Montreal; and encompassed a broad diversity of race/ethnicity, ability, sexuality, and gender identity (including woman, trans woman, man, trans man, non-binary, genderqueer, agender, two spirit, polygender, gender fluid, and intersex).

The retreat was facilitated by Lisbeth Meléndez Rivera, an organizer and trainer at the intersections of sexual orientation, gender identity, and culture specifically as they relate to communities of color. Highlights included four worship services led by TRUUsT members, the opportunity to provide sacred witness to TRUUsT founder Mr. Barb Greve as he shared his odyssey as a trans religious professional within UUism, and the honoring of new ministries and leadership transitions. Blessings were offered to Dr. Janice Marie Johnson, Multicultural Ministries and Leadership Director for the UUA, and Michael Crumpler, LGBTQ and Intercultural Programs Manager for the UUA, in acknowledgment of their service and dedication to the TRUUsT community.

The TRUUsT community also celebrated Rev. Sean Parker Dennison and Rev. Sunshine Jeremiah Wolfe, both of whom ended their service to the TRUUsT steering committee at this retreat, and welcomed three new steering committee members: Terry Cummings, Jo Mosher, and Rev. Chris Rothbauer.

One attendee shared:

The TRUUST retreat provided an incalculably valuable space where religious professionals can be affirmed, supported, and recognized in our genders, especially for those of us who do not have that affirmation, support, and recognition, either in our home or congregational lives. Though UU spaces may be open—in theory—to trans people, the lived experience of many trans people is an expectation to be binary-gender conforming in order to live up to existing ideas of professionalism and the authority of religious leadership.

When we can come together as a trans UU community, we can model for one another the respect we all deserve in our ministries, and we can feel valued for our individual contributions, neither because of, or in spite of, our gender identities.

Another reflected:

Not having previously met any trans people within UU, I had significant concerns about how trans religious professionals would be supported within the movement. This retreat offered me a clearer vision of both the struggles and opportunities for trans people. It also offered a great network of supportive people in various roles within UU across the US and Canada. I left with a renewed excitement about following my calling.

A third said:

It’s not often that people in leadership in our faith have the space to be ministered to. I was offered this space and the opportunity to be ministered to FULLY. All of my being was validated and appreciated.

TRUUsT offers its heartfelt thanks to the Panel on Theological Education of the Unitarian Universalist Association for providing the bulk of the funding for this second retreat.

Since the first TRUUsT membership retreat in 2016, the organization has grown to include thirty-nine members. Membership is open to all trans/non-binary/agender/intersex individuals who are living out a call to ministry within Unitarian Universalism and agree to the TRUUsT covenant. Join us!

Photo provided by TRUUsT