If There Is to Be Peace: Peace in the Margins

Homily- Nia Lovvorn
I don’t stand for the pledge. I haven’t since I was in seventh grade, when my teacher said we had to because it was respectful. Looking back, I wish I could have gotten the chance to explain why I don’t stand for the pledge. I probably would have said something along the lines of this:

I don’t stand for the pledge because of the ways minorities are treated in America. The oppression that people of color face is completely unfair, and I refuse to show pride in a country where equality is so far away. I want to focus on the words “Liberty and justice for all”. We repeat these words daily at my school, without even thinking about what they mean. Is there actually justice for all? Is there liberty and justice for Trayvon Martin, who was shot at just 17 years old? What about the LGBTQ+ community, whose rights are constantly being attacked by our president? Are the refugees fleeing from violence and poverty given liberty and justice?

I am a queer woman, which makes me a minority. I know that I have a lot of privilege as a white person, however, my fellow queers and women have been oppressed for centuries. As a young queer woman, I have come upon a lot of homophobic and sexist comments that I have to pretend to ignore. Sitting for the pledge, for me, is a way of silently protesting all the hate I receive based on my gender and sexual orientation, as well as protesting for others whose rights are violated. When I think about reciting a pledge, entwining myself to a country where I am constantly dismissed and ridiculed, my stomach turns.

Another part of the pledge I find problematic is the line stating, “One nation under God”. Of course, not all Americans believe in a God, and in my experience, ‘pledging’ myself to a higher power makes me uncomfortable.

This year, in the 9th grade, while my classmates stood up for the pledge, I sat. My film and tech teacher told me I had to stand. I believe his exact words were, “if you don’t want to stand for the pledge you can see me after school and explain to me why”. This infuriated me. Why should I have to spend my free time explaining to my teacher why I wouldn’t stand for something I thought had a dark history behind it? I ended up not seeing him after school, and for the next couple weeks I stood for the pledge, angry and upset. But then, just as suddenly as I started to stand, I stopped. I knew that even if my teacher wanted to get me in trouble, he couldn’t, and I would gladly argue with him in front of the whole class about my decision.

Now, this may resonate with some people more than others. Perhaps you already do not stand for the pledge, or are forced to in your school. Even if you do stand, I would just like to say that the next time you’re about to stand for the pledge, with your hand hovering over your heart, I want you to pause. Think about it for a second, before pledging yourself to an unequal, oppressed country.

Homily- Michael Conn
Hello, everyone. My name is MIchael Conn. I am a 9th grader at Tucker High School, and a student here in the YRUU program. Today, I want to talk to you about the correlation between CHIVALRY and MISOGYNY. I first stumbled on this idea while on a “friend-date”. The situation was one that may seem familiar to you. You go out with a friend. You order your food and all is well. Then comes the dreaded moment. Time to pay. Your friend starts to pay. You then intervene saying you will pay. This breaks into an argument that lasts a solid 30 seconds. Then, it is resolved. You pay for both of you. You then finish your food and proceed to leave. On the way out, you hold the door for them, out of courtesy, as it is just something you have learned to do since you were born. However, the origins of this prove it to be something more. These actions might be called chivalrous, referring to chivalry. Chivalry (For those of your who don’t know, Chivalry was a code of conduct which asked those with power to treat others with respect and if not, admiration. It specifically asked knights (Chevaliers as they were called) to help those in need, treat all respectfully, and use their power to settle disputes efficiently and fairly. While this may sound good, and mostly is, it is the way women were treated under this that make this topic controversial today. To give you a little extra background information, this ideology was first composed between 1098 and 1100 C.E. in the medieval times. Back then, it was customary for women to do the “Inferior” Jobs around the house and to leave the “Real” work to the men. It was also customary for the men to treat women as if they couldn’t do anything for themselves. This is what I’m getting at. Back then, it was that men were supposed to provide and care for women, and treat them as if they were inferior and weak. Nowadays, however, we know that women can take care of themselves and that they are equals to men. Therefore, instead of getting into these debates on who is going to pay, a simple, “Hey, can I get that for you?” May suffice. So, instead of assuming you can go and do stuff for people, try asking, and if they refuse help, just be cool with it. Women should no longer have the label from 900 years ago sticking around today. Upon my next time hanging out with a friend, I was sure to do what I had taught myself too. I was polite, but not cheesy. After my friend had ordered, I simply asked to pay and when she said no, I simply said “OK”. Lastly, at the door, I held the door but out of politeness instead of doing it because it was what I had always been told to do. Now for this next part, you may see it as a little bit unrealistic, but I noticed something about my Friend. I noticed that she seemed more happy at the end of us hanging out this time. I could tell this, because there was a sparkle in her eyes just like a weight had be taken off of her shoulders. When I asked her about the cause of this new look she simply replied, “I don’t know. I guess it just feels good to not feel in debt to anyone.” I sat and thought about this for a moment. When I tried to treat her in a chivalrous manner, she was somewhat unhappy, while not being chivalrous and just being polite made her feel better. Overall, I pulled from this experience that women are more happy to be treated as equals, happier providing for themselves, and happier to be treated under a new era’s customs rather than old customs. Therefore, I am calling on everyone. UU’s, non-UU’s, community members… Everyone, to step up and treat each others more politely and equally instead of using chivalry. Please be sure to remember that while it is still largely used today, chivalry is an old and outdated way of thinking and acting and should be replaced. This is the 21st century. This is our future. Thank you.

Homily- Andy Welch
The first time someone thought I was male was a few years ago, when I didn’t know what I identified as. My family went to the mall, and we went to the food court to grab dinner. I was allowed to go get my own food, and so I went to some fast food booth. The dude working the register asked my what I wanted to have, and I meekly ordered some chicken nuggets. And I distinctly remember— ”Will that be all, sir?”
I almost cried then and there. It felt so right and yet so unfamiliar. I grinned at him, filled with confirmation, and nodded. And then he asked me my name… and I reluctantly told him my female birth name. He apologized for assuming, but I wanted to tell him: “Thank you. Thank you so much.”
That was one of the first clues that I didn’t understand my gender yet. I had to figure out who I was.
My name is Andy, now. You may know me by some other name. I’ve changed it again and again, but for now, I’m Andy to everyone. I am also transgender. My gender identity is in between being male and non-binary, which is not identifying with either binary gender. and I was identified as female at birth. I use he/him and they/them pronouns, which confuses people sometimes, because I’m not multiple people.
My identity and pronouns are often disrespected. When I’m in class, if I know someone from middle school, they’ll say the wrong name with no regard for my changing identity. They aren’t close to me, and make mistakes that seem mean-spirited, regardless of what they meant. I try to correct people when they get it wrong, but I am not brave enough to take this in stride every hour of every day.
It should be said, too, that even in my safe spaces, I’m not always completely safe. I could get a letter from someone I’m not out to, addressed to my deadname. If I’m spending time with people who haven’t gotten adjusted, they’ll make mistakes and misgender me. My family, though very rarely, makes mistakes. My grandma won’t say the correct pronouns until the second try.
One important issue I face because of my identity is how other people interpret my body. I don’t always look one way. If I’m not putting in any effort, I’m wearing a hoodie and sweatpants, and I look feminine out of lack of masculinity. It’s hit or miss when I’m in public, even if I’m wearing masculine clothing. Because of this, I’m always holding my breath—I am always worrying about someone misinterpreting my body. I don’t get to relax, because a fundamental piece of my identity could be disrespected at any moment. I eventually get discouraged because I’ve been at this for a year, and people still make mistakes.
Nonetheless, I also experience gender euphoria alongside my gender dysphoria. If a stranger guesses correctly, I get excited and they’ve made my day without even trying. I’ll put on an outfit, look in the mirror, and get struck with a bolt of love for myself, my gender, and my body. It’s a moment of pure bliss.
Another major challenge to my transition is transphobia. At school, the principal doesn’t want me in the boys’ restroom; I have to go to the nurse’s office instead. One of my teachers will avoid mentioning my name or speaking about me at all. It’s dehumanizing, even if he’s trying pay me the bare minimum of respect.
I also experience transphobia within my pagan beliefs. Many neopagan communities (mainly variations of wiccan beliefs) are innately tied to being cis and female, neither of which I am. It alienates trans and gender nonconforming people, because it focuses on the cis female body as holy. This is upsetting because it implies that my body, what I hate about myself and doesn’t match the rest of me, is what is really holy about me. It alienates trans-feminine because it implies that their lack of a cis female body makes them disconnected from the religion. I protect myself by practicing independently instead of chancing it.
Unitarian Universalism, however, is affirming in my identity. I am accepted here. The seven principles affirm my existence as a transgender person. I have inherent worth and dignity, no matter my gender identity. I am treated with justice, equity, and compassion by UUs and Unitarian Universalism as a whole, and it accepts me with my gender identity, not despite it.
That is why I’m here with you today. Because you all accept me as I am and love me even more for it. I am here because of my transgender identity, and I am here regardless of my transgender identity.
Even people here, at UUCA, make mistakes. I’ll be presenting femininely, and someone will misgender me. I don’t blame the congregation. I don’t wear a nametag, and I don’t make an effort to present particularly masculine. But it’s still unintentionally hurtful. This is one of my safe spaces, and I encourage you all to keep it that way for all members of the congregation. Be respectful of what people call themselves, and they will respect you.