DignityUSA Board of Directors Participate in “Trans 101” Workshop

By Bob Butts, DignityUSA Secretary

DignityUSA Board members (as well as Dignity/Boston guests Marcia Garber, Stephen Young, and Peggy Burns) participated in a workshop called “Trans 101.”  It highlighted practical strategies to welcome the Transgender Community to chapters and faith communities.  The training took place on Saturday, July 22, at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel, during the recent Board meeting.

Session leaders Taneeka Johnson and Chastity Bowick from the MaeBright Group surveyed DignityUSA Board members in advance of the workshop.  They gathered information about ways in which DUSA and its board have supported our trans brothers and sisters.  We then discussed ways the entire Dignity movement can improve its response to the concerns of the transgender community.  They addressed these issues using a glossary of definitions, explaining differences among gender expressions, gender identity and sexual orientation.  They used exercises that challenged Board members to look beyond what one may see. (See definitions following this article.)

This workshop was a great learning experience for everyone. “Possibly the biggest take-away for me was assume nothing and ask questions respectfully,” said Bob Butts, DignityUSA Secretary. “I learned that this is about respecting how people see themselves—who they are in their minds is far more important, than what we may see or assume.”  It is best to “take the cue” from the transgender person regarding how to understand the person’s identity.

The workshop also included practical ways to reach out, including helping them to be aware of services that local Dignity communities provide.  Articles from transgender members, creating safe space in our worship spaces, and listening sessions to improve language and sensitivity to the trans community were some of the ways we learned and could incorporate into the Dignity movement.

Definitions from the MaeBright Group, LLC

Asexual is an identity for people who are disinterested in sexual intercourse.

Bisexual refers to a person who is attracted to, and may form sexual and romantic relationships with people of the same gender or another gender.

Gender Expression refers to the manner in which a person expresses their gender through clothing, appearance, behavior speech, etc. A person’s gender expression may vary from the norms traditionally associated with their assigned sex at birth. Gender Expression is a separate concept from sexual orientation and gender identity. For example, a male may exhibit an effeminate manner, but identify as a heterosexual male.

Gender Identity is a person’s innate sense of their gendered self as man, woman, both, neither, or something else entirely.

Gender Non-Conforming refers to people whose gender expression is (1) neither masculine nor feminine or (2) different from traditional or stereotypic expectation of how a man or woman should appear or behave.

Intersex refers to a spectrum of conditions involving anomalies of the sex chromosomes, reproductive ducts and/or genitalia. The most traditional definition of intersex refers to individuals born with components of both male and female biological sex characteristics (genitalia, hormones and secondary sex characteristics) and genitalia that are not clearly male or female.

Non-Binary Gender is an umbrella term that refers to gender identity as something other than man or woman. Some examples of non-binary identities are genderqueer, agender, gender fluid or gender creative. People who identify as non-binary might feel their gender is a combination of masculinity, femininity, and/or androgen, or feel like their gender is none of those things.

Pansexual refers to a person who is attracted to, and may form sexual and romantic relationships with people of any gender

Transgender or Trans refers to someone whose gender identity does not match their assigned sex at birth.  It is always correct to refer to a trans person based on the name identity and pronouns they currently use

Transgender Woman is a person who was assigned the sex of male at birth and who now identify as female.

Transgender Man is a person who was assigned the sex of female at birth and who now identify as male.