Dr. Durrell’s Spiritual Prescriptions
I’ll just say it: I’m P.O. (particularly outraged). One of the reasons that I am particularly outraged is because religion is important to me. My brand of religion is decidedly progressive, and is more about building community and offering hope in this world than about trying to figure what an afterlife might look like or how to get there. Nevertheless, as non-dogmatic as my religious experience is, religion remains important to me and building progressive faith communities that focus on human potential and the sacred value of all people is my life’s work. Religion, for me, can (and ought to) be about giving people tools for their individual spiritual journeys and bringing them together to celebrate life’s joys and to face life’s challenges. I believe religion can be a powerful force for good in the world, and I want it to be. So, when religion is used to hurt entire communities of people, I, as a religious person, am particularly outraged.
I am disappointed that the proposed Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) was defeated last week in Texas. I’m disappointed that it didn’t pass, but I am P.O. (particularly outraged) that transgender people were vilified, demonized, and dehumanized in order to defeat an ordinance that would have provided protections for many. Had HERO passed, the elderly, religious people, veterans, gays and lesbians, transgender people, people of all national, racial and ethnic backgrounds, people with disabilities and more would have been protected from discrimination. But anti-equality forces launched a smear campaign against transgender people saying that offering them equality would pose a danger to cis-gendered women in the city. They had the temerity to claim that men would cross-dress in order to harm women in public restrooms if HERO passed.
Of course, nothing before or since the vote would prevent predators from donning a disguise and trying to hurt people, but affirming the full humanity of transgender folk has nothing to do with violent criminals disguising themselves. The opponents of HERO tried to reduce the transgender experience to playing dress-up, and they added nefarious motives even to that. The ignorance of transgender realities was astonishing and the fear-mongering was reprehensible, if effective.
Fundamentalists celebrated all over social media the day after HERO failed. They were congratulating themselves for taking a stand for morality; but slander and discrimination are not the paths of the moral high ground.
Religious conservatives often insist they are victims when their prejudices aren’t enshrined in law or when people they find distasteful are afforded full and equal rights in society; but as a religious person, let me assure you: not letting discrimination disguised as religion have the force of law in all of our lives is not a denial of religious liberty; it is resistance against religious tyranny.
Marriage equality was a huge victory in this country, but the war on human dignity, on equal rights, on LBGT safety is not yet over. In fact, in some ways, it may be getting uglier than ever. This is not the time for the LBGTQQIA community to become complacent or to allow ourselves to become fragmented. We must continue to stand together, work together, and insist that all people have a right to love genuinely, to live safely, and to be treated fairly. This is not only a strategy for survival - it is what my understanding of healthy religion demands.