It was intended as a ‘heart’ rather than a ‘head’ day – a celebration that would nourish the soul: and it did that richly, profoundly. Linked together by John Pfumojena’s extraordinary singing, the addresses, the workshops, the networking over food, and the final free-flowing eucharist carried people on a wave of positive energy and an awareness of God’s unadulterated love in the lives of the diverse crowd who had gathered to celebrate.
I was moved by people’s faith journeys, especially their persistence in responding to Christ’s call to follow. Despite experiencing inconsistency, injustice and a lack of respect or understanding from the Church of England ‘system’, people were enthusiastic about ministry, pastoral care, theology and preaching – no wonder the place was buzzing!
There were so many highlights, but one with ongoing significance, was the presence of Jay Hayes-Light, Director of the United Kingdom Intersex Association, who led two workshops about his work and the role of UKIA in researching, educating, and campaigning on behalf of intersex people.
I was startled when Jay reminded us that the protected characteristics of the Equality Act 2010 – which of course include sexual orientation and gender reassignment – do not include intersex people. This is a much overlooked group of people, who may have very specific needs: Jay’s account of his work with parents, clinicians and children revealed how cultural expectations around male and female can prove particularly costly for intersex people whose condition manifests at birth.
Intersex organisations have sometimes kept a distance from LGBT organisations, (as trans groups have sometimes done from LGB ones), no doubt for sound reasons, but in the struggle for full inclusion in the Church of England we have reached the point where everyone needs to work together. On Saturday, at Unadulterated Love, in St Elisabeth’s Church, Reddish, Changing Attitude, England – and the LGB&T Anglican Coalition – became an Associate of UKIA, and the official card was laid on the altar just before the bread of communion was unwrapped and the wine uncorked, another element in the flow of this wonderful occasion.
I am writing to express my thanks for a most uplifting day. I can only speak from my personal perspective of course, but I came away inspired at the way in which I and the message from UKIA was received. I also came away with memories of a great common purpose between those attending, which served to remind me that however complex we each are, at the roots our needs are quite simple, to live as we are, not what others impose upon us.
Thank you for accepting the Associate invitation from UKIA. You are now authorised to speak of and on-behalf of UKIA and are part of a world wide group of Associates including medical and legal professionals, parents, individuals, often working alone in some of the most challenging places, where intersex is not only little understood, but rejected as shameful. Places where intersex babies are discarded with the household rubbish. There is still so much to do, but with God’s guidance at least we know the route we should take.