We remembered those who have served our country by furthering the civil rights of our LGBTQ citizens, and realized that the work continues, as Ashe Mason invites Vermont to be a Brave Little State that stands up for gender inclusive athletic programs. With special guest: David Moats, editor who received the Pulitzer Prize for covering Vermont’s support of Civil Union and Equality of Marriage.
Special Music: Jannalee Nieuwenhuis, from Grand Rapids Michigan. Claire Gurry, from Adelaide, South Australia.
Order of Service
Preservice: Budding Tree Moon & Everything’s Possible compiled by Liam Greenwood
Prelude: Rainbow Connection by Paul Williams sung by Jannalee Nieuwenhuis
Bell: Recognition of Abenaki Land Julia Chant
Welcome & Pathways to Connection: Liam Greenwood, Worship Associate
Call to Worship/ Chalice Lighting: Liam Greenwood
Music: Everything’s Possible by Fred Small sung by Jannalee Nieuwenhuis
Time for All Ages: Mike & Liam’s Wedding
Music: Civil Unity composed and sung by Claire Gurry
Milestones & Passages: Liam Greenwood and Jordan Young. Future ones can be shared at https://cvuus.breezechms.com/form/YellowCard
Reflection: From Civil Unions to Trans Farm Workers David Moats
Reading: A Letter about Justice Ashe Mason (see text below)
Departing Blessing: Liam Greenwood
Postlude: True Colors sung by Jannalee Nieuwenhuis
Thanks to David Moats, Ashe Mason and Jordan Young for their special testimonies, Jannalee Nieuwenhuis and Claire Gurry for music, our “Stream Team” Margy Young and Richard Hopkins, and Abi Sessions for managing the zoom room.
Thank you for joining us for worship!
From the GSA (Gender Sexuality Alliance)
of Middlebury Union Middle School, ACSD
Dear Leaders of Education and Athletics in Addison County and Vermont State,
As students and teachers, we are appalled by the laws being considered by some Midwestern and Southern States against allowing trans students to participate in athletic events according to their self-identity. Growing up and discerning who you are as a young adult is difficult enough without the fear of humiliating expectations, invasive scrutiny and fear of legal action. We applaud those students and families who are brave enough to stand up against this binary discrimination to say, “I may be trans, gender fluid or queer in some way, but at the end of the day, I’m part of the human race — a race that loves to run, compete, play, and pursue happiness. I have a right to be included within public sporting activities on the basis of who I am and how I name my own identity.”
In contrast to restrictive States, we invite Vermont to stand up with us and be a Brave Little State that does not legislate traditional binary boxes in education and athletics, but rather, structures and promotes the inclusion of gender diversity within educational and athletic organizations and events, especially during the middle grade years (5th through 9th grade).
During young adolescence there is greater developmental difference in strength, balance and athletic abilities within one gender than there is between the genders. Estrogen enhances growth early (5th to 8th grade) and testosterone stimulates development later (8th to 10th grade). Consequently, most of the difference in athletic development during the middle grades is due to socialization and life-experience, but not biological gender. So why do we divide students into boys baseball and girls softball, boys basketball and girls gymnastics? Many of these divisions are a result of cultural stereotypes that are reinforced by promotions, sign-ups, team uniforms, coaching and expectations.
What would be the benefits of athletic programs that are deliberately inclusive of gender diversity?
First, fewer students who are discerning their gender identity would attempt suicide. Quite simply, it is easier to accept yourself, if there is real evidence in the community that you are acceptable. When a student sees a unisex bathroom sign or a sign-up for a gender-diverse baseball team, then they can more easily believe that they will be safe and welcomed within the community.
Second, students can focus on the game of sports and not the divisions of society. Comments like “You throw like a girl,” or “Walk it off like a man,” will be replaced with more helpful comments like, “You could do some work on throwing and catching,” or “Know when to stretch it and when to rest it.” In short, we can play on an inclusive field of sport, rather than get stuck in divisive boxes of stereotypes.
Third, students will benefit from having at least three years of adolescent development that refrains from pressuring them into binary choices. We have been challenging the socialization of gender for over 75 years, ever since Rosie the Riveter proclaimed “We Can Do it!” Girls can play baseball. Guys can do gymnastics. Transgirls can run track. Gender fluid students can play basketball. We can do it!
Fourth, an athletic program that integrates gender diversity can help the cis-gendered majority practice working within teams of diversity. This life skill of accepting differences while pursuing a common goal, may lead to safer college campuses, more productive workplaces and more empathetic leaders.
The important question we are asking is this: Can Vermont be a Brave Little State and create safe and inviting places for all students to cooperate and compete without separating students into the traditional binary boxes of gender expectations? We look forward to answering this question positively and proactively.
We look forward to athletic directors, school boards and leaders of public education working with GSA and student leadership groups around the state in drafting policies and best practices that can be a shining example for a nation divided. Much like Vermont shone the way in honoring same sex marriage by proclaiming, “Let love be love,” we can now shine the way in including gender diversity by simply saying, “Let sport be sport.” This small change on our part can support young people who are wrestling with big changes on their part as they wonder, “Will my school allow me to be me?”
We appreciate your attention to this,
The GSA of Middlebury Union Middle School