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Category Archives: May Memorial Unitarian Universalist Society

Words I spoke at this morning’s service recognizing, and cellbrating Transgender Day of Remembrance

Below are the words I spoke this morning in our congregations service.  I was honored to be asked to speak, honored to be able to speak, honored to be a mother with something to add.

So I speak to you today not so much as one of your ministers, but as a mother.  The transgender day of remembrance has become important to me as a mother because I am the mother of a son Toby who is trans.  In an email to me recently this is how Toby described his gender identity “I identify as trans, male, androgynous, fem, gender-fluid, and agender. Most of them most of them time, all of them some of the time. I use he/him/his and ze/zim/zis (or just ze/ze/ze’s) for pronouns.”  Do you find some of that confusing?  I do.  But that is OK.  Just own your confusion.

Toby was born with another name and was identified as a girl.  She was loved and affirmed and given lots of space to be who she was.  She was a cute little girl, wickedly bright, a voracious reader.  She was creative, tenacious, loved to think, cared about others, and could be bitingly sarcastic.  She was not particularly athletic and was a bit prone to be nervous or shy in new situations, especially in situations where there was a physical risk.  It was really hard to teach her how to ride a bike.  She felt deeply –  When she was happy she was so happy, and when she was down she fell hard.

In the spring of 2005, not too long before I took my position here my daughter came out to me and identified herself as male.  To say I was shocked is an understatement.  I was angry, confused, scared, worried, anxious.  I wanted to understand.  My child told us to call him him, and to call him Toby.  There ensued months of tongue tripping pronoun confusion.  I must say Toby was pretty gracious about it.

I’d like to tell you that I was this perfect mother who heard Toby’s coming out and affirmed him and told him he was wonderful and loved.  I’d even like to remember it that way.  But the truth is that I was scared as a mother, and when I am scared as a mother I do not do my best mothering.

Toby and I had many discussions about how he identifies.  Some were really good conversations, some were not.  I remember some yelling and cajoling.  I remember hugs and tears.  I also remember that I  made a promise to Toby that when I was full up with a conversation about his gender identity, when it had gotten too much for me I would own up to that ask for the conversation to end with the promise that we would come back to it.  We would always come back to it.  I would not leave a conversation permanently unfinished.

Overtime we made our way through a very rocky period.  Two incidents stand out in my memory.

The first we were in line at Wegmans.  At this point Toby had been doing odd and interesting things to his hair, it was partially shaved, partially dyed – made a statement.  In line behind us was a woman I would guess was about 75 who made some comment about Toby’s hair.  I braced myself for an uncomfortable conversation.  Toby replied describing what he had most recently done.  And then the woman pointed to her two color dye job and said, “Well look what I do to my hair, it’s all part of the same.”  It was a moment of normalization that was unexpected and so welcome.

The second incident came from my ex-mother-in-law, Barbara.  We had been somewhat estranged since I had divorced her son.  She was a good woman who had been very important in my life.  She was a very conservative Republican, who had very traditional views about men and women.  Through this process of Toby coming out we had a couple of conversations.  In one of them she said, “I don’t understand what Toby is.  But we have got to stand by Toby.  Kids like Toby end up on the street and when they end up on the street they don’t make it.  I may not understand Toby but he is my grandchild and I love him and I don’t want to lose him, and so I will stand by him.”

Those were strong words of welcome.  They meant a lot to me and a lot to Toby.  Naming the welcome is important because if you self identify as  transgender, genderqueer, gender-fluid,, agender (no gender),, pangender (all or multi-gender), , the default in our society is no welcome.  And that is not who we are as UUs.  We are a welcoming folk, who stand on the side of love.  And so we must name the welcome – for the sake of those we welcome, and for our own sakes too.

And so who is Toby now.  Well as his mother I only probably know the side he lets me see.  But he is wickedly bright, a voracious reader, creative, tenacious, loves to think, cares deeply about others, and can be bitingly sarcastic.  He is still not particularly athletic and is a bit prone to be nervous or shy in new situations, especially in situations where there was a physical risk.  He has finally learned how to ride a bike.  He feels deeply –  When he is  happy he is just so happy , and when he is down he falls hard.

He is a wonderful young man now living in Santa Fe NM.  He is on his own journey.  I am proud of him and proud to be part of his journey.

RE at May Memorial It’s GREAT!

Sunday at May Memorial can mean different things to different people.  For some it is a time to gather with out liberal community, for some it is a time to listen and think, for others it is the enjoyment of the music, and some come for the coffee.

Our Sixth grade Sunday school class made this video.  They made me proud and captured the spirit of our community.  We had them filming our congregation for many Sundays and then they edited and here is what they made:

The Most Astounding Thing

Sometimes when I can’t sleep I watch science shows.  They are interesting informative but there are not gunfights or car chases that get the blood pumping and so it is easier to fall back asleep.  But the real reason I like watching them is that if a different vocation could pick me (and I would get all the requisite skills like higher math) I long to be a theoretical astrophysicist.  Although it may be that I would not make a good astrophysicist because the immensity and beauty of the universe as we can see it right now leaves me speechless.

Last Sunday I wrote a story, and told it, at the time for all ages about the big bang and creation.  What inspired the story is what Neil DeGrasse Tyson is talking about here, where we come from and our place in the universe.  Really at its simplest we are all stardust.  Stars are like the oven of the universe cooking up atoms of matter that then coalesce into new solar systems and some of those atoms eventually became you and me and all that we see.

Take a look at this video, say a prayer or reflect on how lucky we are to be here at this time.

Then if you have a moment take a look at the comments under the video.  Like most comments under youtube videos they are what they are some vapid some interesting.  But what intrigues me is that almost immediately the word God is introduced.  I don’t think what Tyson is saying proves or disproves God.  But I do know that when we humans consider how wonderous we are and how wonderous this universe is our feelings go to the largeness of it all, and to the sacredness to it all.  Some call that God, some call that Life.

What I call it is important.  It is important to take a moment and consider the largeness of you and me and all that is around us.  Perhaps I will treat this world a little better today, perhaps I will treat the humans around me a little better today when I consider that they are, and I am stardust.

If you are interested you can read my story here: the big bang

Being with Each Other is Just Plain FUN

This coming Sunday September 25 is opening RE Sunday for Religious Education at May Memorial Unitarian Universalist Society in Syracuse, NY.  There are still a lot of details to take care of, emails to write, phone calls to make.  Last Sunday was opening RE Sunday for many many UU congregations.  Our congregation does something really wonderful and a little different (which is exactly how I would describe the congregation itself).  Each fall two weeks after Labor day weekend we rent out a UU camp not too far from us and about 60 adults, teens and children hang out together for the weekend.  Yep that’s right we just hang out.  Some of us go hiking.  A couple of brave souls actually went swimming in the lake.  This is late September in the Adirondacks yikes!!!  Some of us sit by the fire.  The teens hang out; the children run all over the woods.

Mostly we cook together, eat together, play together.  For me the real beauty of this weekend is that there is no programming.  This is not a weekend retreat for the Board to set its goals and vision for the year.  It is not a weekend for us to learn more about our UU identity.  The video above represents about as much programming as we are likely to do.  For me as Associate Minister I just don’t get that many opportunities to just be with folk.  We are a busy place.  I think just hanging is pretty special for all of us.  The picture below tells you why there isn’t much programming.  There is nothing I could think up to do, say or create that can compete with this.  Sometimes you just need to sit down, close your mouth and soak in the beauty.

So for those of you who are interested in being part of community that really values being a community enough to actually take some time and be with each other; if you would like to be part of a place where we really enjoy each other; if you would like to be part of a group that values the questions more than the answers, if you would like a place where you can bring your kids and they are likely to have some fun and feel valued then you might want to consider visiting us.  You can visit our website at