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The PC(USA)’s Advocacy Committee for LGBTQIA+ Equity recognizes Transgender Day of Visibility

It’s been a half-century since a hand-written sign was hoisted on the General Assembly floor, asking, ‘Is anyone else out there gay?’

by Shani E. McIlwain | Presbyterian News Service

Photo by Alexander Grey via Unsplash

In response to a recent General Assembly mandate, the Advocacy Committee for LGBTQIA+ Equity is at work assisting the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in providing full expression to the rich diversity of its membership as described in the Book of Order.

The committee is made up of teaching elders Ashley DeTar Birt, Daniel Hammer, and Omar Gonzalez; ruling elder Tim Haworth; and deacon Salina Brett.

Committee members say they’re proud to announce the commencement of the committee’s mission dedicated to amplifying the voices of LGBTQIA+ Presbyterians within the PC(USA). With its unwavering commitment to fostering inclusivity and equality, the committee aims to build upon the groundwork laid by pioneers like the Rev. David Sindt, whose courageous act 50 years ago marked a pivotal moment in LGBTQIA+ history.

In a bold demonstration of solidarity and visibility during the 1974 General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., Sindt stood on the Assembly floor holding a hand-written sign that read, “Is anyone else out there gay?”

Today Presbyterians can offer an emphatic “Yes! We are here.” This watershed moment reverberated through the decades, inspiring many individuals to embrace their identities and assert their presence within the Presbyterian community.

The Rev. Ashley DeTar Birt

When asked the question, “Why are you here?” DeTar Birt responded, “It’s about feeling so moved and passionate about something — the work, the people, the theology — that you cannot help but be around it.”

As the committee embarks on this transformative journey, committee members seek to honor Sindt’s legacy and those of a host of allies who have championed LGBTQIA+ rights over the years. Their tireless advocacy and unwavering dedication have paved the way for progress.
The committee also recognizes and honors the contributions of LGBTQIA+ people of color, both past and present. There’s no LGBTQIA+ liberation, after all, without people of color, especially trans people of color. Committee members say they honor the intersections of race, gender identity, and sexual orientation, and commit to amplifying the voices of LGBTQIA+ people of color, especially trans people of color, as much as possible.

The committee’s mandate encompasses a broad spectrum of initiatives, including advocacy for inclusive General Assembly overtures, heightened transgender visibility, and structural reforms to ensure equal access to benefits and opportunities for all members of the LGBTQIA+ community. By leveraging the collective power of all voices, the group hopes to create a more inclusive and equitable PC(USA) that embraces the diversity of its members. The committee invites all members of the PC(USA) to join in this historic endeavor to build a future where every individual is valued, respected, and celebrated for who they are.

The Transgender Day of Visibility is being observed on Sunday. The committee has issued this statement:

“Picture a life shrouded in secrecy, where your true essence remains concealed from the world. Your official documents do not reflect who you truly are. Every public appearance demands that you wear a mask, hiding behind a facade that doesn’t align with your inner truth. Imagine facing legal barriers that limit your access to essential health care, participation in sports, and even the use of public restrooms. Amid this oppressive environment, consider the profound significance of discovering a small community of allies who not only accept but celebrate your authentic self, allowing it to shine brilliantly amidst the darkness. This is the significance of the Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV).”

“TDOV is a day that our local churches can embrace and celebrate the diverse identities of transgender and non-binary individuals, affirming their intrinsic worth as creations of God. By providing a welcoming space for positive and genuine representation, a local church can help these individuals feel acknowledged and valued for who they truly are. Furthermore, TDOV serves as a valuable opportunity to dispel misconceptions and promote understanding of the transgender and non-binary experience. Using educational resources and social connections, a local church can foster empathy and solidarity within the broader LGBTQIA+ and PC(USA) communities, thereby creating a more inclusive and supportive environment for everyone.

“The Advocacy Committee for LGBTQIA+ Equity (ACQ+E) encourages both local churches and presbyteries to continuing our ongoing denominational efforts of diversity, inclusion, and Christian unity by recognizing March 31 as Transgender Day of Visibility.”

Paul puts it this way in his first letter to the church at Corinth: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. (I Cor. 12:12, 26)

Haworth, who chairs the committee, sums it up like this: “It has taken us 50 years to come to this place where LGBTQIA+ folks are officially given a voice within our denomination. I recognize that milestone with sadness that it has taken so long and with gratitude for those who have tirelessly and successfully advocated for this recognition and validation of LGBTQIA+ Presbyterians.

“I’m a little awestruck by what they accomplished, and I look forward to working with my fellow committee members, our dedicated advocates and staff to make our church fully open and affirming for all.”

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