FIRST PERSON | Trans Rights Are Humanist Values

Photo via Atheist Community of Polk County

Despite more than 250 anti-GSRM (Gender, Sexual, and Romantic Minorities—a more inclusive alternative for LGBTQIA++) bills filed already in states across the US in 2021, we “rainbow people” do still have a lot to be happy about. Every year, more and more people feel safe to come out of the closet, and the more of us who are out and proud, the safer younger folks feel about exploring their identities and being public about who they are, too. Some people see the increase in visibility of GSRM-identified people and assume that something in the water (or Satan) is making more queer folks, but the truth is simple—we’ve been here all along, it’s just becoming safer to talk and be open about our identities.

I am a transgender woman and I spend far more time than should probably be necessary explaining why secular people of various labels should care about trans issues. This year, legislatively, has seen many attacks on my community. Of the over 250 bills, more than 120 directly target transgender people and at least 66 would specifically ban transgender girls from participating in sports “consistent with their gender identity,” according to Human Rights Campaign.

Here in Florida, my State Senator Kelli Stargel filed only two bills in the 2021 legislative session, one of which was a transgender sports ban. That bill died in the Senate Rules Committee, but in the 11th hour was added as an amendment to Senate Bill 1028, a wide-ranging education bill—and passed. Governor Ron DeSantis purposely waited until June 1st, the first day of Pride Month, to sign this bill into law at a private Christian school, no less.

In my role as a Humanist Celebrant and Humanist Society Board Member, I’ve found myself reflecting a great deal on my role in the community beyond the established traditions and rituals around marriages, births, adoptions, child namings, and end-of-life rites. What does it mean to provide leadership, meaning, and guidance as an ambassador of humanism and of the Humanist Society?

Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships.

Humanist Manifesto III

Photo via Atheist Community of Polk County

After the signing of that bill into law, a dozen or so trans people and allies met outside Senator Stargel’s local office. We planted trans and rainbow flags in the landscaping around the office and delivered letters written by constituents. One by one around the circle, people shared how they were feeling in that moment, expressing frustration, anger, and fears. We hugged (I’m a hugger—with consent, of course) and formed new relationships. As a trans person, this was very therapeutic for me, but it was also an opportunity to provide some humanist leadership and “pastoral” care to my community.

Having proudly hung my trans-flag-themed “When Equality is Under Attack, Atheists Show Up” sign on the Senator’s door, I shared my values as an atheist humanist. By the very nature of being human, we all have inherent worth and are deserving of being treated with dignity. We have an obligation to defend against discrimination, especially against marginalized communities.

While not all religions are biased against the GSRM community, the discrimination we experience almost exclusively comes from religious doctrine, dogma, or culture. Ideas like “one man and one woman” and “gender is assigned by god and immutable” are clearly borne out of religion. And even for people who are in favor of preventing trans girls from playing on girls’ sports teams who insist their objections aren’t religious, I have a feeling with a little introspection, we’d find that some old, uninspected, dogmatic thinking probably lies within.

Toward the end of the gathering, as if to prove that point, a man showed up with large protest signs yelling at us about, for some reason, equality of the unborn child. His signs boasted scripture and he hurled loathsome thoughts about how “men are men” and “women are women” toward us while removing our trans and pride flags from the ground.

Photo via Atheist Community of Polk County

Beyond just this one community and issue, this has been an extremely difficult time for humanity. A literal global pandemic during a time of renewed enthusiasm for wild conspiracy theories and anti-science thinking also caused painful hospitalizations and deaths, unknown long-term health effects, and record job losses. Here in Florida, an unemployment system designed to fail sent many people into an even deeper crisis of food insecurity, homelessness, bankruptcy, compounding health conditions, and much more. All of this I have been shouting from the rooftops, about how this is an extreme cruelty we humanists should be outraged about and leading the way in solving. Meanwhile, my governor and state legislature were busy playing down the seriousness of COVID-19, passing a law banning trans girls from playing on girls’ teams, and little else.

Indeed, there is much for humanists to be passionate about right now. But in the midst of all the noise, for a few quiet moments, our small group came together to unite in common cause, over our shared humanity and concerns for trans youth. To be an ambassador of humanism, to me, can be as simple as being present in that circle to say, “I’m a humanist. I hear you. I see you. And I care.”