Whatever our beliefs, we should resist Senator Green's dichotomy between religious values and our existence
Just like the rest of the population, many LGBTQ people are not religious and many are. But whatever our beliefs, we should resist the dichotomy that Sen. Mark Green presents--his version of Christianity vs. the morality of our existence.
In withdrawing his name from nomination as Secretary of the Army, Sen. Green has put much of the blame on our community. We are blamed for defending ourselves from past attacks. That in itself is ridiculous. Our community didn't pick any fights with Sen. Green. Sorry if I sound like a 5-year-old on a playground, but he started it. There's not a one of us who singled out the senator before he opened his mouth.
You see, no one forced him to run an anti-LGBTQ bill like SB127 (Business License to Discriminate) or sponsor others. And no one forced him to tell a group of people his personal views of transgender people or to frame the discussion in terms of morality.
So we won't accept the blame for the collapse of his nomination because we didn't care one way or the other about him until he attacked us.
And we won't allow him to say that he is speaking for Christianity or that he is defending religious values. Picking on transgender people isn't a commandment or an article of the Nicene Creed or any other important summary of the Christian religion. He can't deflect rightful criticism of his legislative record and his remarks by donning a religious cloak.
Almost 100 clergy (most of them Christian) opposed his SB127 this year. So what do we make of the conflicting interpretations? Sen. Green has the right to call himself a Christian and he has the right to argue that his views are the correct interpretation of the religion. He does not have the right to have it taken for granted by the rest of us that he speaks for Christianity and he does not have the right to make assertions about others without them being challenged.
State lawmakers, take note. You will not be allowed to argue that you represent Christianity and you will not get away with using religion to beat us up with the law.
The TEP Foundation is pleased to announce our honorary co-chairs for The Big Payback, which is an annual giving day presented by the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. A variety of Middle Tennessee non-profits will be participating and the TEP Foundation has participated every year. Starting at Midnight on May 3, participants can make $10+ contributions to the TEP Foundation at this link.
Hon. Anthony Davis of Nashville Hon. Erica Gilmore of Nashville
Hon. Nancy and Ms. Joan Van Reece of Madison Hon. Zach Young of Goodlettsville
Karen K. Reynolds, MSG, USA Retired of Clarksville
Jef Laudieri and Will Peyton of Franklin
Brandon Thomas and Michael Finch of Smyrna
Jerry and Benjamin Camarena-Jones
Sam Felker and Keith Little
Jen Sheridan and Sabrina Torres
My Existence is Not Up For Debate
by TEP Board officer Brendon Holloway
My name is Brendon. I’m a Tennessean at heart, a graduate student at the University of Michigan, and a transgender man.
When I was 18, I embarked on this journey of owning my trans identity. I came out to my friends, family, and classmates and asked them to call me Brendon and use he/him pronouns. My friends and classmates at Middle Tennessee State University accepted me and encouraged me. My family accepted me and for that, I will always be grateful.
At 20, I discovered the field of social work. I discovered a field that would not only support me as a trans man, but a profession that would allow me to advocate for trans people and openly speak up for trans rights. After some time, I began an internship at Tennessee Equality Project and found my people: the LGBTQ community. I spent many days at legislative plaza combatting anti-trans legislation and many hours at night contemplating my existence as a trans person. The fight for trans equality was strong and worth it, but the harsh words and actions from others made it difficult to sleep at night. At that point in time, I had no idea where I’d be a year later.
A year has passed and I am in Ann Arbor, Michigan working toward my MSW. I will graduate in July with a new chest and possibly a mustache. Since moving to the Midwest, I have started hormone therapy and undergone gender reassignment surgery (otherwise known as top surgery). Every single day I realize more and more that I am enough, I am worthy, and I am thankful for being trans. On Trans Day of Visibility (TDOV), I am very privileged to be able to be openly trans and wear a shirt with the trans colors on it that basically screams I am a trans person. But not everyone is able to. For those who can’t be out: you are authentic and you are loved. Not being out does not make you any less trans or authentic. You are strong and you are trans. Not being on hormones does not make you any less trans and not having surgery does not make you less trans. You are wonderful just as you are.
For those of you who have supported me over the years, thank you. Thank you for taking me in and pushing me to transform society. I feel blessed to be trans and to be surrounded by love and support, especially from my trans family.
In the video below, Brendon takes you through the process of a T injection. Note: Be advised that the video shows needles used to extract and inject testosterone.
A new critical point: Together we have achieved something stunning. The most damaging bills to the LGBT community in the Tennessee General Assembly are disposed of for now--the anti-transgender student bathroom bill and the TN Natural Marriage Defense Act. That allows us to make a decisive shift in our work to the subtle, sneaky bills that are also damaging.
To get an orientation to the sneaky bills, read this TEP op-ed in The Tennessean.
What you'll find below is a set of actions and reflections designed to help you play a part in unmasking the sneaky bills and fighting them. If you live in Middle Tennessee, you have a built-in advantage because you are closer to many of the events and I hope you'll attend some of them. But there will be steps anyone in Tennessee can take. Regardless of where you are, March 31 through April 7 is a good week in which to make your voice heard. Look through the calendar and do as much as you can. Also try to use the time to read the reflection questions and think about your role as an equality advocate.
Friday, March 31
March 31 is International Transgender Day of Visibility and that provides a good focus for the day as we head into a busy legislative week.
3. Whether you are a trans person or an ally, consider devoting a social media post to the holiday. It can be as simple as "Happy Transgender Visibility Day." Does that make you activist? No, it takes far more than a Facebook post to make you an advocate, but you may help start a conversation or send a signal that someone needs to see. No one at TEP would ever suggest that a social media post is enough to make you an activist.
4. Read this piece by GLAAD and examine your own use of terminology. Make a commitment to change any ways of speaking or writing that are inaccurate and disrespectful.
5. Check this link for next week's events related to state legislation and mark your calendars. For example, the April 5 subcommittee meeting about the Business License to Discriminate bill can be found at the link.
1. Had you ever considered all the anti-LGBT bills in Tennessee affect transgender and gender non-conforming people? Yes, even the TN Natural Marriage Defense Act does. Have you been speaking about certain bills as if they only affect gay, lesbian, and bisexual people?
2. Put yourself in the place of someone who is about to speak to a state legislator. What have you heard about what many legislators think about gender, the gender spectrum, and trans and gender non-conforming people? What do YOU think might convince them to shift their thinking to a more inclusive position?
Saturday, April 1
1. Attend TTPC's Letter writing party at 1pm in West Nashville. RSVP at the link.
2. Consider planning your own letter writing party against the #SlateofHate bills in Tennessee. It only requires you and a few friends or many friends gathering to write letters against negative bills. We can help you. Contact us at email@example.com .
1. What is your own preferred way to communicate with legislators? In person, email, phone calls, writing a letter? And why is that? If you are reluctant to use one or more forms of communication with legislators, what would make it easier for you and would that allow you to have more of an impact on the legislative process?
2. What effect does it have on you when a legislator answers your message or ignores it? Does it affect your ability to sustain your advocacy if you feel legislators aren't listening or aren't demonstrating that they are listening? On the other hand, are there times when you know you got through and made a difference with your message?
3. If the bills you are communicating with legislators about are sneaky or subtly written, how do you communicate differently or with more urgency to make your point? How do you convince your friends that a bill really affects the LGBT community when it doesn't appear to do so?
Sunday, April 2
1. Consider sending emails to Representatives Bill Beck, G.A. Hardaway, and Andrew Farmer thanking them for asking tough questions about the TN Natural Marriage Defense Act that got the bill sidelined for the year. Their email addresses are firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, and firstname.lastname@example.org .
2. Study the Pew Research Center's Religious Landscape Study on Tennessee. Think about how the findings have an impact on Tennessee politics with respect to LGBT issues.
3. Take a minute to learn about the "Religious Left" at this link.
3. Are there clergy you know you could join this list against the #SlateofHate ? Can you help recruit them? Will you reach out TODAY?
1. If you're a person of faith, do you find it easy or difficult to make common cause on issues with people who hold no faith or no particular faith? Likewise, if you are not a person of faith or not a member of a faith community, what is helpful and what is a barrier to you working with people of faith on LGBT issues?
2. Whether you're a person of faith or not, what values do you think you share with legislators or other people who are socially conservative? If your fundamental values are different, what works for you in having a conversation about LGBT issues over the divide?
Monday, April 3
1. Consider attending the We Are Watching rally at the Capitol in Nashville with other progressive activists resisting a variety of oppressive bills. RSVP here. TEP will provide signs about relevant bills.
2. If you can't attend the event, will you publicize the link?
3. Give the protesters some back up. Tell your state senator and your state representative that you support the We Are Watching protesters who show up at the Capitol every Monday. That is a way to amplify their work and join it. You can find your state senator and your state representative at this link. Look for the "Find My Legislator" tab.
1. Are you comfortable protesting? Are you supposed to be comfortable protesting? What are your preferred ways to taking action against discriminatory bills?
2. What do you think the value of protesting is? How can protests draw attention to discriminatory bills?
Tuesday, April 4
1. Attend TEP's final Advancing Equality Day on the Hill. See the schedule here. If you want to join an existing appointment and get connected with your district captain, email me at email@example.com .
2. If you can't attend Advancing Equality Day on the Hill, email your state senator and your state representative and tell them you support the people who are on the Hill today working for LGBT equality and fighting discriminatory legislation. You can find their names and email addresses by going to the Legislature's website. Click the "Find My Legislator" tab.
3. Consider visiting your legislators a different week. If you would like help setting up an appointment and getting talking points for your meeting, contact me AFTER APRIL 4 at firstname.lastname@example.org .
1. Is meeting with elected officials new to you? What would make you prepared to speak effectively with them about LGBT issues? If it's something you've done for years, have you learned more about the process that has made you more effective each time or do you feel stuck?
2. Why don't more LGBT people and allies come to events like Advancing Equality Days on the Hill? Is it because they interfere with work or school? Is it the distance? Is it that they think they wouldn't know what to say? What would be the impact on LGBT issues if 300 people or more participated in events like Advancing Equality Days on the Hill?
Wednesday, April 5
1. Attend the House State Government Subcommittee meeting at Legislative Plaza in Nashville. RSVP here. The Business License to Discriminate bill will be up for a vote.
2. If you can't attend, consider sharing the link that morning.
3. In the morning, email the subcommittee members and ask them to vote NO on HB54. You can find their names here. When you click on the picture, it takes you to their page and you can find their email addresses. Put in the subject line of your email: Vote NO on HB54. The body can be something like:
"Dear Representative __________, please vote NO on HB54 this afternoon. The bill ties the hands of government in contracting with the private sector. It opens the door to lawsuits against government and it enables discrimination against LGBT people. It's a bad deal for taxpayers. Thanks for considering my views. (Your name + your street address)"
4. If the bill passes in subcommittee, are you willing to write a letter to the editor about the bill? If so, contact me at email@example.com.
1. Why do so many legislators in Tennessee care more about discrimination against business than they do about discrimination against LGBT people? What can we do to shift the concern?
2. Why has there been so little media coverage of this bill? What has the media focused on in terms of legislative issues this year? Why is that so?
Thursday, April 6
1. Read about the sneaky LGBT Erasure bill. It is SB1085/HB1111. Now compare it to SB30/HB33. The bill was not on notice (or up for a vote) this week, but we expect it to be on notice soon. Reading the bill helps you prepare.
2. If you're not in the TEP Facebook group, join it and read the last few posts to be up to date on what happened with legislation this week and what is coming up. We post frequently. You can also join the TEP email list here. If you're more of a Twitter person, you can follow us at TNEQUALITY.
3. How have you taken time for yourself? Many people don't invest much time in advocacy, but some people invest a great deal of time in advocacy. If you are spending a lot of time on legislative advocacy, you may want to think about how you are handling the stress. There are many online resources with suggestions. This link provides just one of many. In terms of the legislative calendar, there are some meetings on Thursday, but Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are good days to take it at a slower pace. Make sure you are stepping away when you need to. The work will be there when you return.
1. Is the new political situation with anti-LGBT discrimination at the state level coupled with setbacks at the federal level resulting in higher levels of fear, anxiety, or depression for you? Is it resulting in more physical danger for you? What friends and professionals can you speak with about what is going on with you? If you're doing OK, are you noticing these signs in the lives of friends?
2. Do you find that participating in activism/advocacy gives you more confidence and a sense of community that helps you deal with the stress of the new political situation?
Friday, April 6
1. If you took Thursday off, which we support, check the TEP Facebook group for what is coming up with #SlateofHate legislation. Or you can check Twitter at TNEQUALITY. You can also check this link at the main TEP Facebook page.
2. If you're in Nashville, consider attending this Nashville Grizzlies event in support of TEP at Play. If you can't attend, consider making a small monthly contribution to TEP at this link. If you prefer to make a one-time donation, you can do so at this link. TEP is grateful to have the support of the Nashville Grizzlies and so many people across the state.
3. Do YOU want to host a house party in which a TEP representative comes to you and talks about state legislation and/or LGBT advocacy? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
1. Have you ever given to LGBT causes? Why or why not?
2. Do people in your part of Tennessee take LGBT advocacy seriously? If not, what could change that?
3. Is there a TEP committee in your community? If so, and you're unsure how to be involved, contact me at email@example.com .
4. What would enhance rural LGBT advocacy in Tennessee? Do you see it as critical to victories in the Legislature?
Rep. Mark Pody has filed a last-hour amendment to the TN Natural Marriage Defense Act (SB752/HB892), which will be heard in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee on Wednesday of this week.
You can see photos of the amendment at the end of this post. We apologize for the light print that emerges in the photos.
Rep. Pody is basically arguing that Tennessee hasn't really received a final order on some marriage issues, issues he thinks weren't really addressed in Obergefell. So until Tennessee gets a final order, (a) the public policy of the state is that marriage is between one man and one woman and (b) the state will defend any local officials who go against Obergefell.
If passed and signed into law, it would take effect immediately.
Implications: The bill, if it gets amended, still interrupts marriage equality and the lives of families and has the potential to result in the massive costs outlined in the fiscal note. It would also, of course, result in massive boycotts against the state resulting in millions of dollars in lost tourism and economic development.
And it creates legal chaos, resulting in random local elected officials around the state taking matters into their own hands in denying marriage licenses or refusing to recognize the marriages of existing couples.
Take action: Calls the members of the subcommittee with this message:
"Representative _________, please, vote NO on House Bill 892 when it comes up in the Civil Justice Subcommittee. Even with the amendment, it disrupts families and it will result in massive legal costs for the state and a loss of federal funds for vital programs. Thank you for considering my views."
Rep. Mike Carter (615) 741-3025
Rep. Bill Beck (615) 741-3229 (has indicated voting NO, tell him Thanks)
Rep. Glen Casada (615) 741-4389
Rep. Martin Daniel (615) 741-2287
Rep. Andrew Famer (615) 741-4419
Rep. G.A. Hardaway (615) 741-5625 (has indicated voting NO, tell him Thanks)
Rep. Debra Moody (615) 741-3774
Fight back this week against the anti-LGBT #SlateofHate.
One thing you can do without coming to Nashville is leaving Rep. Zachary a message to withdraw the Business License to Discriminate bill. The number and script are here and when you finish let us know at the form at the link: http://bit.ly/2nmoJS3
Monday, March 27
3:30 Nashville We Are Watching rally at the Capitol (not a TEP event)
6:30 Knoxville Gather for Gavin (TEP is a co-sponsor)
7:00 Nashville Gather for Gavin (TEP is a co-sponsor)
Tuesday, March 28
3:00 LP29 Hearing on Anti-Trans Bathroom Bill (HB888)
Wednesday, March 29
9:00 LP31 Hearing on TN Natural Marriage Bill (HB892)
1:30 LP29 Hearing on Biz License to Discriminate (HB54)
Saturday, April 1
1:00 West Nashville Letter Writing against #SlateofHate (hosted by TTPC)
For immediate release: March 18, 2017
TN Natural Defense Act would cost Tennessee $.5 Million and may reach $2 Billion, according to fiscal note
Nashville, TN--The Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act, SB752/HB892 by Senator Mae Beavers and Rep. Mark Pody, was assigned a fiscal note on March 17 that forecasts costs as high as $2 Billion. The fiscal note is available in pdf at this link. The bill is up for consideration by the House Civil Justice Subcommittee on March 22.
The legislative summary of the bill reads: “As introduced, enacts the ‘Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act,’ which states the policy of Tennessee to defend natural marriage between one man and one woman regardless of any court decision to the contrary.”
“The bill would expose same-sex married couples in Tennessee to discrimination with dire consequences and prevent other same-sex couples from getting married while it is challenged in the courts. But the fiscal note makes it clear that the whole state will suffer because the Bureau of TennCare’s funding could be cut as well as other programs,” notes Tennessee Equality Project executive director Chris Sanders. “Although hard to estimate the exact cost in legal fees, they are a certainty if this bill passes. There is no way LGBT Tennesseans will stand for the State attempting to nullify the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court ruling. Considering the human and financial costs, there is no justification for the bill.”
The Tennessee Natural Marriage Defense Act is part of what Tennessee Equality Project calls a “slate of hate,” or discriminatory legislation filed in Tennessee in 2017. Other bills include SB771/HB888 (the anti-transgender student bathroom bill), SB30/HB33 (LGBT Erasure bill), SB1085/HB1111 (replacement for the original LGBT Erasure bill), SB127/HB54 (Business License to Discriminate bill), and SB1153/HB1406 (artificial insemination bill directed at lesbian couples).
Over 80 Tennessee clergy have voiced opposition to these bills that are directed at the LGBT community. Find their names here.
Tennessee Equality Project is a statewide organization working the equality of LGBT Tennesseans. For more information, go to TNEP.org .
Discriminatory legislation is on the move in Tennessee. On March 16, the sneaky LGBT Erasure bill passed the House after debate was cut off. The week of March 20, several anti-LGBT bills are up for a vote. Get involved by participating in one of the events listed below. Consider making a small monthly investment in TEP's legislative work here.
*Click on each event to follow a link to a Facebook event.
Monday, March 20
5:00 p.m. Knoxville rally against slate of hate
Tuesday, March 21
Wednesday, March 22
Thursday, March 23
Tuesday, April 4
For immediate release: March 15, 2017
Contact: Chris Sanders, 615-390-5252 or firstname.lastname@example.org
TN House to vote on HB1111 with clear links to attacks on same-sex couples and LGBT parents: Video link included
Nashville, TN--The Tennessee House of Representatives takes up HB1111 by Rep. Andrew Farmer on Thursday morning, a bill the Tennessee Equality Project calls the “sneaky LGBT Erasure” bill because of its consequences for same-sex couples and LGBT parents.
The legislative summary reads: “As introduced, requires that undefined words be given their natural and ordinary meaning, without forced or subtle construction that would limit or extend the meaning of the language, except when a contrary intention is clearly manifest.”
The language is remarkably similar to SB30/HB33 whose summary reads: “As introduced, requires that the words "husband," "wife," "mother," and "father" be given their natural and ordinary meaning, without forced or subtle construction that would limit or extend the meaning of the language and that are based on the biological distinctions between men and women, except when a contrary intention is clearly manifest.”
“The similarities are not a coincidence. After the backlash that followed the obviously anti-LGBT SB30/HB33, there was a shift to HB1111,” notes Tennessee Equality Project executive director Chris Sanders. “And now we have clear evidence of the connection between the two bills in a video by Family Action Council of Tennessee. As well as being outraged by this attack on our relationships and our ability to be parents, we are disturbed that the organization lobbying for the bill is unconcerned that it is likely to be found unconstitutional.”
To see the video linking the bills, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4ZoHFLXrPc .
Tennessee Equality Project urges legislators to pause before rushing into an unconstitutional attack that would disrupt Tennessee families. The last time Tennessee fought marriage equality, the state was liable for legal bills of about $2 Million.
Over 80 Tennessee clergy have voiced opposition to HB1111 and other bills that are part of a “slate of hate” against the LGBT community. Find their names here.
Tennessee Equality Project is a statewide organization working the equality of LGBT Tennesseans. For more information, go to TNEP.org .
There are many ways to get involved and resist discrimination this month. Join us for one of these meetings and events.
*March 15. Gallatin. TEP Sumner County Committee meeting. RSVP at the link.
*March 16. Antioch. Lobbying 101. RSVP at the link.
*March 20. Nashville. TEP Nashville Committee meeting: Planning for action. RSVP at the link.
*March 22. Clarksville. TEP Montgomery County Committee meeting. RSVP at the link.
*March 23. Memphis. TEPizza Night. RSVP at the link.
*March 23. Murfreesboro. TEP Rutherford County Committee meeting. RSVP at the link.
*April 4. Nashville. Advancing Equality Days on the Hill. RSVP at the link.