What motivates religious conservatives to discriminate against the transgender community, and how should transgender people respond to such attacks?
On Aug. 9, Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted, hosted a discussion about the transgender community and faith. Diversity counselor and trainer the Rev. Dr. Julie Nemecek, a transgender woman and former pastor, led the talk. Nemecek helped those present explore an aspect of many transgender people's lives not often touched upon: faith.
Nemecek started out by discussing five motivations for religious discrimination against LGBT people. She titled her presentation 'Religion and GLBT People' because often, religious arguments used against trans people are specifically about LGB people.
The first motivation, Nemecek said, is legalism. Those using religious arguments against trans people emphasize legalism, as opposed to the love and grace emphasized in the Bible. Another motivation is 'selective literalism.' Some conservatives may feel that they need to honor or protect the word of God, so they apply their own understanding to passages.
'This is the same response used toward a round earth, slavery and women in society,' Nemecek said. She reminded those present that years ago, people were put to death for saying the world was round, because others interpreted the Bible as saying that God thought the world was flat. 'Today, they are making the same mistake with GLBT people,' she continued. Other motivations include the desire to preserve male privilege and superiority, using religion to justify bigotry and believing the issue is about behavior, not biology. 'Some people think that if they can cloak it in religious-sounding language, it makes it okay,' Nemecek said. 'But responding to hate with hate does very little to resolve anything.'
Even though there are religious leaders or denominations who attack LGBT people, Nemecek reminded those present that there are denominations and congregations in many places, including Chicago, that are very welcoming and progressive.
Nemecek also went over seven of the most popular passages used as arguments against LGBT people. She tackled each passage one by one, explaining how conservatives and bigots use some of the aforementioned motivations, such as selective literalism, to twist the word of God and use these arguments to attack LGBT people.
One of the most powerful ways to respond to such religious arguments is knowledge, Nemecek said. She urged attendees to study the passages often used as arguments against LGBT people and learn how these passages have been misread or twisted by the religious right. She added that people should learn the opponents' arguments and the scriptures that are most popularly used.
But knowledge alone isn't enough, she said, stating that people should be kind and tell their own stories, explaining how being LGBT has impacted their faith.
'With hate, when there is a face attached to it, it is much harder,' Nemecek said. It is also important to respond with decorum, she stated. 'Answer with kindness and grace,' Nemecek said. 'Those are the best answers with opportunities to change hearts and minds.'