Lia Rivamonte (she/her), Beloved Community Communications Team
“I'm committed to the rigorous practice of knowing that I don't know and of being open to a multiplicity of possibilities.” Alfonso Wenker, Team Dynamics
Receive and Believe. When someone tells you who they are, believe them. It is an invitation to open our hearts and minds a little wider, to accept that the world may not always conform to some of our most deeply-rooted perceptions—in this case, that of gender; that gender is binary and this “fact” is to be regarded as not only sufficient, but a moral truth. Many or possibly, most of us feel able to declare our gender with certainty. We might ask ourselves, what precisely allows us this certainty?
As a cisgender female born and raised in a white, male-dominated society, this aspect of my identity (cisgender) has never been questioned, never been subjected to scrutiny, disbelief, or mockery. I may have been treated as less than equal for other reasons: for being in a brown body, for my Asian heritage, for an assumed immigrant status, and native language. But I have never experienced any doubt, or denial when I describe myself as being a woman. (Yes, women have historically been and are still sometimes perceived as inferior human beings by the dominant culture but that’s another story.)
I watched the YouTube video of and viewed the slides from the Team Dynamics’ LGBTQ+ Justice session, which was held on Tuesday, February 28, 2023 at Unity. I am sure it would have been a richer experience to be in the room and to participate in the group discussions but it is well worth the time to listen to the recorded session and click through the slides. Alfonso Wenker of Team Dynamics who led the session is an engaging and gifted facilitator.
The idea behind “receive and believe,” a phrase Alfonso repeated throughout the session, seems basic to those of us who have never feared rejection, hatred, bias, or outright bodily harm for how we name, describe, and/or present our own sexuality, sexual orientation, and/or gender must live into these words. When it comes to keenly personal descriptors regarding gender and sexual identity, do we take family members, friends, colleagues, neighbors, and strangers at their word? Do we avoid making assumptions based on how they present? Do we make them feel welcome in the spaces we frequent? Do we make an effort to use the terms they have shared that will help make them feel respected, included, and valued?
As Alfonso says, “We are all part of the social construction.” It is the construction of a few who are determined to hold onto their power. You have only to turn on the news and listen to any number of politicians who are determined to rein us in by legislating laws that try to dictate who we can and cannot be as sexual beings.
Placing limits on and ascribing nonnegotiable labels for gender, sexuality and sexual orientation, or reinforcing the binary, is an extremely powerful tool for controlling our bodies and our existence as full human beings. It is a way for those in power to enjoy comfort and security. Whomever controls the body, controls the wealth, Alfonso says, toward the end of his presentation.
Think about it the next time you hear our politicians who espouse a return to “family values” attempting to instill fear in the hearts and minds of the populace about trans affirming care, bathroom usage, and the “danger” of drag performances. Who are they really trying to protect?
The truth is, we are not so easily labeled. Picture the antiracist, multicultural, spiritually invigorating community we yearn for: lovely, messy, and full of mystery—a feast for the curious. Please, tell me who you are—give me a minute, and I will tell you who I am.
Beloved Community Resources
Unity Justice Database
Team Dynamics House of Intersectionality
Anti-Racism Resources in the Unity Libraries Collection
Creative Writers of Color in Unity Libraries
The History of Race Relations and Unity Church, 1850-2005
Beloved Community Staff Team
The Beloved Community Staff Team (BCST) strengthens and coordinates Unity’s antiracism and multicultural work, and provides opportunities for congregants and the church to grow into greater intercultural competency. We help the congregation ground itself in the understanding of antiracism and multiculturalism as a core part of faith formation. We support Unity’s efforts to expand our collective capacity to imagine and build the Beloved Community. Here, we share the stories of this journey — the struggles, the questions, and the collaborations — both at Unity and in the wider world.
The current members of the Beloved Community Staff Team include Rev. Kathleen Rolenz, Rev. KP Hong, Rev. Lara Cowtan, Barbara Hubbard, Drew Danielson, Laura Park, Lia Rivamonte and Angela Wilcox.