Dear Deputies and Alternate Deputies,
As you may have heard by now, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued a letter Tuesday to state health agencies saying that medical treatments provided to transgender adolescents—widely considered the standard of care in medical circles—should be classified as “child abuse” under existing state law and reported as such.
While it is not clear whether this order is enforceable, it is nonetheless a reprehensible statement that puts some of the most vulnerable children in our society, and their families, in grave danger. Denying the full humanity of transgender people, putting beloved children of God at risk, and threatening to separate loving families is cruel and antithetical to the way of Jesus.
We must do all we can to protect the children whom Governor Abbott has targeted to advance his own political standing and, more broadly, to stop the wave of anti-transgender legislation sweeping across the United States.
The General Convention of the Episcopal Church first called for equal protection under the law for gay and lesbian people in 1976 with Resolution A071, and expanded the call for equal protection to include transgender people in 2009 with Resolution D012. Subsequent conventions have reaffirmed these calls, and passed numerous resolutions supporting the lives and ministries of transgender people in the church and the world.
In March 2016, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and I were lead signers on an amicus brief signed by 1,800 clergy and religious leaders in a U.S. Supreme Court case that sought, unsuccessfully, to restrict transgender people’s use of public restrooms. Later that year, we wrote to the church expressing our opposition to a so-called “bathroom bill” in North Carolina. And in 2017, as our church was preparing for the 79th General Convention in Austin, we twice wrote to Joe Strauss, a Republican legislator who was then speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, praising his opposition to Governor Abbott’s repeated attempts to pass a bathroom bill in Texas and asking him to spare us the difficult choice of reconsidering the location of convention. Thankfully, the bill did not pass.
Our church’s progress in recognizing transgender people as beloved children of God has at times been too slow, and it is not yet complete. But the progress we have made is due in large part to the work of TransEpiscopal, and I commend you to their website and Facebook page.
Last month, Executive Council heard from transgender, nonbinary and gender non-conforming Episcopalians who gave us a sense of the work that our church must still undertake. “I invite my beloved Episcopal Church to live fully into the stances, canonical changes and statements we have made over the years,” Deputy Cameron Partridge of the Diocese of California told the Executive Council. “These moves we have made at churchwide and diocesan levels and parish levels truly matter and I’m profoundly grateful for them. And I want to see them lived into consistently at all levels of our church’s life, especially the congregational level.”
The situation in Texas is particularly egregious, but transgender children and their families all across the country have been under heightened attack since last year. The Human Rights Campaign reports that more anti-transgender legislation was filed at the state level in 2021 than at any time in modern history and predicts that 2022 will “eclipse even the brutality of last year.”
No matter where transgender children of God are under threat, the Episcopal Church must stand with them in love and solidarity. To ensure that we are a church in which vulnerable people are not only welcomed, but also protected, Episcopalians must respond with our voices, our votes and our prayers. Here are four things we can all do:
- Write your senators and tell them to pass the Equality Act, which would for the first time include sexual orientation and gender identity alongside race, gender, religion, national origin, age, and disability as protected classes where federal law bans discrimination.
- Make it clear that your diocese, your congregation and your community welcome transgender people and their families and will strive to protect them. Where this is not the case, work to make it so.
- Advocate against anti-transgender legislation when it comes before your state legislature. Write to your state elected officials and tell them that you support the dignity and equality of transgender people because of your faith, not in spite of it.
- And please join me in praying for transgender children in Texas, for their parents and caretakers, and for all transgender people everywhere who face discrimination, intolerance, and bigotry.
The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings
President, House of Deputies