uu-unoThe Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office hosted the annual Intergenerational Spring Seminar on April 4th through the 6th. The title this year was Sex, Love and Violence: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in a Globalized World. We had 135 attendees of all ages from all around the United States and Canada. The seminar illustrated two different perspectives on how to advance equal rights for all humans, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The first perspective examined the importance of governments and inter-governmental organizations, such as the United Nations, working on equal protection under the law, by passing laws (countries) and setting global standards (United Nations). The second perspective explored changing the hearts and minds of people, thus creating sustainable change. This can be created through efforts in different constituencies in our communities: Religious communities and sports are two important examples. Change starts within yourself, one person at a time.

Panel on Global Discrimination & Criminalization of LGBTQ.
Panel on Global Discrimination & Criminalization of LGBTQ.

At the heart of our Unitarian Universalist faith is a call for universal salvation. In humanist terms this salvation is not contained under the rubrics of “acceptance” or “tolerance” but rather the rubric of “love.” Similarly, this salvation is not inert or predetermined but is instead living and fluid. In other words, for  Unitarian Universalists, salvation is lived. The Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office’s 2013 Spring Seminar on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity took up this issue of lived salvation in a myriad of ways.

Through each of the speakers, panelists, and creative presentations of the participants, the seminar strove to explore the question of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) through an international lens. Key themes that were focused on were those of the power structures replicated through use of certain language, the facts and figures demonstrating oppression of non-heterosexual youth globally, and what individuals situated in our cultural context can do in our everyday lives to live with love and not ignorance.

Intergenerational Seminar Attendees outside the United Nations.
Intergenerational Seminar Attendees outside the United Nations.

During the morning of the second day of the Spring Seminar (Friday), a young Ugandan refugee, stood up and shared his story. This was a turning point in the seminar, marking the point where the planning, the people, and the panels all stopped and everything came into clear focus: The reason we work for awareness, education, and advocacy on these critical human rights issues is for individuals. We are promoting the inherent worth and dignity of ALL people, we are fighting for the right that people can love whomever they want without fear or death, we are working to unlearn stereotypes and assumptions about SOGI and LGBTQ persons. Being a part of the international community, it is easy to get caught up in the logistics and policies, but as we continue building bridges in our communities and moving forward in our work in SOGI rights we must not forget the individuals. We will stand, speak, and act in solidarity!

During the envoy lunch, we talked about multigenerational work and how envoys take the lead in showing how empowering congregations to participate in multigenerational, multicultural service and structures are beneficial not only for congregants, but also for the Unitarian Universalist movement.

Spring Seminar Attendees at the Interfaith panel held at the United Nations.
Spring Seminar Attendees at the Interfaith panel held at the United Nations.

Coming out of the 2013 Spring Seminar there was a common conclusion held among the participants that nature creates diversity and that life cannot be accurately described in binary terms. There are many sexual orientations and many gender identities. Whatever our sexual orientation or gender identity, we all deserve a safe and dignified life. Our Interfaith panel affirmed that no matter how we worship, there is no justifiable theology in any religion to oppress people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In fact, scriptures were discussed from Islamic, Jewish, Hindu and Christian sources which affirmed the dignity of worth of every person regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. There is no scripture in any religion which calls for people to be killed, deprived of an education, health care, housing, employment or the love of the adult partner of their choice.

Check out a detailed list of the panel discussions and panelists and view video from the Interfaith panel:

UN Web TV

 

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