On June 24, 2017, delegates to the Unitarian Universalist Association’s General Assembly in New Orleans overwhelmingly voted to approve language to make Unitarian Universalism’s second source more inclusive of people of all genders.
Unitarian Universalism affirms and promotes seven principles, drawn from six sources of our faith. The current language of the second source, as documented in the bylaws of the denomination, reads: “Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love.”
Delegates voted in favor of changing “women and men” to “people,” specifically as a way of deepening inclusion of people who don’t identify as women or men.
Mx. Jami Yandle, a candidate for the UU ministry, a member of the First Unitarian Church of Toledo, Ohio, and a member of TRUUsT (Transgender Religious professional Unitarian Universalists Together) spent a considerable amount of time drafting the proposal and getting the required number of congregations to endorse the amendment, in order to send a message that Unitarian Universalism values non-binary people and needs our gender-fabulous youth to be our prophets.
Jami made the proposal to the General Assembly as follows, supported by colleague Marcus Fogliano:
I move that we adopt to change our second source which currently reads “words and deeds of prophetic women and men” to “words and deeds of prophetic people,” replacing “women and men” with “people.” Using language like “women and men” reinforces the gender binary, which fails to acknowledge the gender fluidity of cisgender people and does not fully embrace the experiences of gender non-binary and transgender people.
I wish to thank the churches that rallied in support of this movement and got their petitions to the UUA. I wish to also acknowledge those who have come before me, particularly womanists and feminists, who gave so much in order to be included at the table alongside men. And now it is our turn to continue that work, in order to ensure a more inclusive world for our children and youth, so that they know that they are included and embraced here.
In a significant move, there were no delegates to the General Assembly who desired to speak against the proposal.
Below is the statement, written by TRUUsT members Mx. Jami Yandle, Mx. Elizabeth Mount, Zr. Alex Kapitan, and Rev. Anya Johnston, that was read during the debate on the change by TRUUsT Steering Committee member Rev. Chris Rothbauer:
I am here to represent TRUUsT – Transgender Religious Professional Unitarian Universalists Together. We officially endorse this amendment proposal to liberate the second Source from the gender binary and create a more inclusive covenant for gender non-binary, gender non-conforming, and transgender Unitarian Universalists.
We have watched this denomination move toward becoming more trans-inclusive, making improvements to Our Whole Lives, the Welcoming Congregation Program, and the inclusion of gender identity in our non-discrimination bylaw.
The 44 members of TRUUsT, all of us leaders in our movement, include not only trans women and men but also people who are non-binary, genderqueer, gender fluid, agender, intersex, two spirit, and polygender. Whenever the words “men and women” are used, they exclude the majority of us in TRUUsT. Changing these words in our second source will not only acknowledge our existence but will proclaim that people of all genders are prophetic. It will tell the gender-fabulous children and youth of our movement that we will not only shelter them when they need us, but that we need them to enrich this faith and be our prophets.
We honor the history that made the wording “women and men” a true and courageous move toward justice when it was first written. Affirming a multitude of genders is our aspiration now, and we hope that this General Assembly is ready to take this challenge into our hearts and into our Sources.
Several additional delegates spoke in favor of the proposal, including Tamara Vatnick, a member of All Souls Church Unitarian in Washington, DC, who called on the Unitarian Universalist movement to not only vote yes, but to not stop there:
I am fully in support of this change that makes me feel more included in our faith tradition, and I would also like to take a moment to remind us that this inclusiveness should not stop with this one change. For example, as the teen youth group facilitator for All Souls Church, I’m getting trained in [Our Whole Lives] this summer, and while there doesn’t seem to be anything in writing, the practice has traditionally been that the teacher teams for OWL are one person who identifies as male and one person who identifies as female. While I can see why this practice occurs, it also leaves literally no place for me to participate. Therefore while I am in support of this amendment I’d like to remind us all that it is not just in our language but also in our practices that this kind of thing matters.
The proposal will now go to the 2018 General Assembly for a second vote, which is a requirement for all bylaws changes.
You can watch the full debate online via the recording of General Session IV, General Assembly 2017, timestamp 3:12:25 to 3:43:15.