The recent appearance of pastors and churches declaring their willingness to perform marriages for same-sex couples has led to some of the most amazing imagery of the marriage equality struggle. Imagery the likes of which seemed all too impossible not long ago, especially in the deeply-red states of America.
The pictures and stories of courage and love have been a welcome and wonderful sight. People of faith standing tall with smiles and warm hearts and celebrating the joys of victory, love is love, fair is fair, right is right, we have arrived. To many of these institutions of faith, I would say, “Welcome to the party. Perhaps you might think about getting into the game.”
If progressive-minded institutions of faith have been waiting for the environment to become safe, they might want to consider the fact that the LGBT children of God have been living and dying in the same unsafe environment that they were afraid to enter. Marriage equality only changes that marginally. Violence will still happen. People will still be fired because they are gay. Transgender people will still be evicted for having the courage to live authentically. Young people will still take their own lives because they can’t imagine a world where they can be accepted for who they truly are.
This is not to say that there haven’t been examples of faith institutions who have been in the game from the beginning. In my own home (indelibly red) state of Kansas, Rev. Jackie Carter and First Metropolitan Community Church of Wichita have shined a lonely guiding beacon of light for years, actively involved in improving the daily lives of LGBT (and other marginalized) Kansans. The problem is that MCC Wichita is more of an exception, than it is the rule.
Many churches have been temporary safe havens for LGBT people and the list of these churches has grown remarkably over the last few years. MCC of Topeka was the safe haven I found over eight years ago that gave me a place to be me and started me on my journey of authenticity.
Other institutions of faith are getting involved, even in places like Kansas. The Unitarian Universalist Fellowships in Manhattan and Topeka publicly declared their support for marriage equality before it became a reality. Central Congregational UCC in Topeka held a series of rallies at the Kansas State Capital in support of everything from Medicaid expansion to reproductive health care to LGBT rights.
College Hill United Methodist Church of Wichita hosted the 2nd annual TransKansas Conference in July. Central Congregational UCC in Manhattan has been the perennial starting point for the Little Apple Pride Parade. And these things are not just happening in Kansas. Similar stories of faith-based courage have been in the news across the country with amazing regularity.
Marriage equality is not the end-all game-over victory we need. When LGBT people make up 3-5% of the population but 40% or our homeless youth are LGBT, there is work left to be done. When 41% of transgender people will attempt suicide, there is much left to do.
Celebrate? Yes, by all means, celebrate. Celebrate with all your worth and stand up tall among the true heroes and heroines who have taken us to this moment. Then feast your eyes on the mountains left to climb and prepare your hearts for the battles left to be fought.
Do not be afraid to enter onto the daily battlefields of the marginalized and oppressed. As people of faith, it is the only place we are ever asked to go. It is the only thing we are ever asked to do.
Stephanie Mott is a transsexual woman from Topeka, Kansas and a nationally known speaker on transgender issues. In addition, Stephanie is the executive director of Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project and a commissioner on the City of Topeka Human Relations Commission. She can be reached at email@example.com