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What is gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation?"In a Gender Binary system there are only two distinct options: male and female. Some people do not fit into the Gender Binary choices. The following paragraphs attempt to explain some of the terminology surrounding gender. Sex is determined by physical characteristics of the person. In a gender binary system, if a baby appears to have female external genitalia, then the sex is female, if a baby has male external genitalia then the sex is male. But sex is determined not only by genitalia, but by reproductive organs, chromosomes, and hormones. People with ambiguous genitalia or other biological complexities may identify as Intersex. Gender identity is a person’s internal sense of self. For most people, our sense of our gender aligns with the category originally identified at birth. This is referred to as cisgender. For transgender people, their internal sense is self is in some way different than their birth certificate. Gender identity can also be experienced as neither woman nor man, or a combination of woman and man. Some people in the middle of the gender identity spectrum identify as gender-queer. Gender expression is how we live as a gendered person, including clothing, career, and hobbies. In our society, gender expression is guided by a complex set of cultural rules and expectations as to what is appropriate behavior for men and women. People that do not fit the rigid definition of masculine or feminine may identify as gender non-conforming. People with equal combination of masculine and feminine may identify as androgynous. Sexual orientation is whom the person is attracted to. In a Gender Binary system the person is attracted only to the opposite sex. Sexual orientation is complex and people may be attracted to the same sex or both sexes. People that are attracted to both sexes may identify as bisexual, pansexual, or queer.
Why do we have to go through the ONA process as our church already welcomes all?While the United Church of Christ (UCC) has been involved in ONA in some form since in 1969, not all UCC churches have gone through the process and become an official ONA church. The process of ONA discernment is an important step, so that all voices of the congregation have an opportunity to be heard. The discussions during the discernment process allow us to build relationships, as we discover shared values and grow in faith. A public statement that UCC Tolland is officially ONA sends a clear message to all seekers, including the LGBT community, as well as straight folks that identify with the values that ONA represents. In addition, our congregation’s support of an ONA covenant can be a life-saving moment for those who may have felt excluded from society in some manner, especially for LGBT youth. If we become ONA, our church will be listed on the UCC and ONA Coalition’s websites so that Christians looking for a church family can be assured of a welcome from our congregation. This public welcome statement can actually help our church grow.
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