Workshop Reflections: “Putting the T in LGBT”

Thursday was a full day for Pink Mennos! Workshops, Hymn Sings, Movie Screenings, Really BIG Hymn Sings, Coffeehouse and Conversations. I attended and particularly enjoyed the Brethren Mennonite Council sponsored workshop on “Putting the T in LGBT”–understanding transgender. Even as a member of the LGBT community, I confess a significant lack of education and understanding of transgendered people.

The workshop was extremely helpful, both in helping me to expand my vocabulary and understand better vocabulary like sex/gender (sex being physical, gender being identity–they don’t necessarily need to line up), cis-gendered (when sex and gender match up and feel connected in a person), genderqueer people and the differences between someone who may be transgendered or transsexual (not all transgendered people are transsexual, and most transgendered people have not actually physically transitioned to a different sex).

I also particularly appreciated the videos we were able to watch, hearing various experiences of transgendered and genderqueer people. One of the more powerful things I took away from those videos is the importance of never making someone’s gender identity or expression (particularly for transgendered or genderqueer people) into their entire identity. Perhaps someone is transgendered, but they may also be a dog owner, a teacher, a great neighbor or a gourmet cook. These are often the ways we, as humans, identify most strongly and I appreciate the reminder to value people for these identities primarily and yet respect all gender and sexual identities. The reminder to ask people how they identify and what pronoun they prefer to be referred to with was also important.

Another topic of conversation was the readiness with which society asks new parents: “Boy or Girl?”–assuming that is a ground NEEDED to be defined before other questions about a new baby or child can be asked. Personally, I have noted this trend and felt a bit uneasy about it. I suggested and we discussed other questions to ask new parents that are gender neutral and don’t assume that a child’s gender is the most important and primary part of the child’s identity:

  • What makes your baby/child smile or laugh?
  • Has you child shown any particular interests or talents so far?
  • Are there foods your child particularly enjoys?
  • Does your child have a favorite toy or stuffed animal?
  • Do you read to your child? What books do you enjoy reading with your child?
  • Who in your family do you think your child looks like? Whose personality do they resemble?

In my experience, asking questions like these can be a breath of fresh air for parents who are so constantly asked only or firstly whether their child is a boy or a girl. Do you have any other question ideas? Or comments on how to value young children as children, not as pink/blue, boy/girl?

As a seminary student, I will look forward to continuing to learn about transgendered people and their experiences in the church. I also look forward to theological reflection on how we can faithfully show God’s love to all people, and become a community who values people as human and not necessarily as assigned binarily to one sex or another.

Today’s Quote from the Hospitality Room:

“What I am looking for is not out there. It is in me.”-Helen Keller

3 comments on “Workshop Reflections: “Putting the T in LGBT”
  1. Miriam, Sarasota says:

    Thank you, BMC! Thank you on behalf of my friends who remain painfully closeted about their gender identity! And Caitlin, I **love** the list, and have copied it to my files.

    Okay, so I’ll try adding some…how about:

    Does your child seem to prefer any particular kinds of music?
    What do you love to play with your child?
    How did you decide what to name your child?

    This is fun! Anyone care to join me?

  2. Chris says:

    I definitely agree about the excessive emphasis on gender specification, but just wanted to point out that there is also a very practical reason for asking about a child’s sex up front–unless we’re fine with only calling the child in question “it” or “the baby,” we’re going to need to know which pronoun is accurate to use when referring to the new addition to the world. But yes, it would be better if one at least asked for a baby’s name before inquiring about its sex–sometimes the name can be enough to figure out which pronoun is appropriate.

  3. annabeth roeschley says:

    “The reminder to ask people how they identify and what pronoun they prefer to be referred to with was also important.”

    a challenge to the Pink Menno / LGBTQ+ally community : what if we all asked this of everyone, not just of people who seem gender-nonconforming? even people who seem to have a typically male or female name? might seem odd, but it would be a step towards T & Q inclusion.