Recent stories from our work to create spaces for marginalized people to access resilience, healing, and spirituality, and resource faith communities and other groups for the work of radical inclusion, transformation, and culture shift.
The Transforming Hearts Collective is proud to have collaborated with the Religious Institute in creating and resourcing the National Weekend of Prayer for Transgender Justice, March 24-26, 2017. The weekend of prayer was originally envisioned as a way for people of faith to lend support to Gavin Grimm and his court case against a Virginia county school board for not allowing him to use the boy's bathroom in his high school, which the Supreme Court was planning to hear in late March.
When the Court decided it would no longer hear the case—in response to the executive branch's decision to remove Title IX guidance clarifying protection for transgender students—it became clear that a weekend of prayer was needed even more than before. Day in and day out, the suffering of transgender people, particularly those who are women and femmes, people of color, youth, elders, disabled, and undocumented, goes unnoticed by the mainstream.
So we broadened the focus of the weekend and helped create resources for faith communities to understand the moral imperative of transgender justice, practice guiding principles around working for transgender justice, engage in religious education related to transgender justice, and commit to next steps as faith communities to foster transgender justice both within and outside their congregational walls. Close to thirty different LGBTQ and religious organizations signed on as co-sponsors.
At the annual Creating Change conference hosted by the National LGBTQ Task Force this January, attendees were able to access care and spiritual practice in two brand new ways. Along with other LGBTQ faith leaders, co-leaders of the Transforming Hearts Collective spearheaded the creation of a Spiritual Care Team and a dedicated spirituality room, the Many Paths Gathering Space.
The Spiritual Care Team is a thirty-person multi-faith, multi-racial, multi-gender, multi-generational volunteer team of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two spirit, and queer faith leaders who were "on call" throughout the conference to provide care and support to attendees in many different ways. The team also led a variety of spiritual practices in the Many Paths Gathering Space that were open to all: offerings ranged from Muslim prayer to meditation to queer-inclusive Christian prayer to Earth-centering ritual to Catholic Mass.
A highlight of the conference was an interfaith ritual held during the inauguration on January 21, where more than forty people from more than fifteen different spiritual paths had space to grieve, heal, hope, and sing together in community.
The Clearing, founded by Transforming Hearts Collective co-leaders, is an emerging spiritual community in Durham, NC, that centers the leadership and needs of queer and trans people of color and focuses on self-love, self-healing, and community healing as radical and revolutionary acts. The Clearing is for people who don’t want or need organized religion but are yearning for community and connection, as well as people who love worship and spiritual community but haven’t felt at home in church for a long time.
In April 2016 the Clearing showed up in love for our communities when opening session began at the North Carolina General Assembly. We knew it would be a big day for trans and queer communities and organizers because it was the first major HB2 repeal effort since the special session that led to the passage of the bill. We also knew that we wanted to create a different kind of space for folks—one that would enable people to get away from the overly politicized, intensely divisive spaces that are often at the heart of protests.
We showed up with quilts and rugs, coloring books, and communion, and got a commitment from Believe Out Loud to supply us with snacks and fruit. We set up on the front lawn right in front of the legislative building, set apart from everything that was going on and in the midst of it, all at the same time, and waited.
Slowly but surely, people began to come. Many folks requested communion and a prayer before going to speak with legislators. Some folks wanted rest. Others wanted to color and talk with friends. We had community singing and a call-and-response moment of commitment and affirmation. People came to get a snack or some water. We had printed up many copies of a collection of inspiring and affirming quotes, and so some people stopped by to take a quote to keep with them because they knew they weren't going to leave when asked and would likely get arrested. One of the local organizers stopped by simply for a hug and a time to be quiet after a proponent of HB2 yelled at her that her mother should have aborted her. The Clearing was so much more than we could have ever anticipated that day, and it gave us the fire we needed to commit to moving it forward.