Silent No More
This brief piece is the result of conversations between friends Craig Bossi and Matt Foreman. Matt is a respected leader and accomplished advocate for meaningful change for LGBTQ+ people in areas ranging from anti-violence to nondiscrimination to marriage equality. Craig served on the board of directors for two organizations Matt led as executive director. What follows is a distillation of their extended and ongoing dialogue. Matt and Craig hope that by sharing, they will encourage spiritual reflection about the growing challenges that target many vulnerable individuals – including LGBTQ+ people, family and friends – in the current political environment.
Since January, more than 400 bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country targeting LGBTQ+ people. These include measures outlawing gender-affirming care for transgender people young and old, forbidding any mention of sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools through 12th grade, banning books with gay characters, and prohibiting drag performances. Dozens of such bills have been signed into law. Along the way, LGBTQ+ people and the parents of trans youth have been demeaned and devalued by bizarre claims and bogus science.
This wave of legislative and rhetorical attacks against LGBTQ+ people is unprecedented. Why is it happening now? And why has there been near silence from those who side with LGBTQ+ people in their struggle for equality? Has “mainstream” society become inured to the pain and misery inflicted by this raft of initiatives so hostile to LGBTQ+ wellbeing and security?
Ongoing opinion research shows that public acceptance of bellwether issues such as marriage equality and military service is actually growing, not declining. And a recent Associated Press analysis of the current surge of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation concludes that it does not appear to be based on grassroots initiatives, but is rather the product of special interest groups, well-financed and often with close ties to so-called evangelical communities.
The exploitation of “Christian” and “family” values to promote anti-LGBTQ+ legislation only serves to divide communities. It taps into people’s lack of awareness about the realities of gender and sexuality, while fanning fears about changing “the way things are and always have been.” Anti-LGBTQ+ initiatives embody a lack of true care and compassion that echoes other prior and current legislation, including bills that provide no meaningful help to a mother forced to bear a child or to a gay widower after his partner of 40+ years dies.
The Episcopal Church has historically been at the forefront of embracing LGBTQ+ people with “the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the church” for decades. The church has taken fundamental and decisive action, including updating strictures regarding the sacraments of Ordination and Holy Matrimony. And while detractors cite this open support as a prime reason the Episcopal Church has lost congregants and congregations, they do so without acknowledging that attendance in almost all Christian churches – including white evangelical congregations – is also declining.
Decades ago, the Episcopal Church followed Jesus’ commitment to pursue justice for the marginalized. The work is not yet complete. We must continue to pursue the path of God’s love. We must follow Jesus’ righteous anger and start throwing over the tables of those persecuting LGBTQ+. We must employ the same avenues of expression and action that Episcopalians have used before – going to rallies, writing op-eds, taking a forceful position in social conversations, and yes, when need be, turning over tables. Our faith demands it, and our church will be enriched as we act with greater purpose in support of the LGBTQ+ community.
Craig Bossi serves as Vice President of Finance and Chief Operating Officer for ECF. Prior to joining ECF, he served as comptroller at The General Theological Seminary. He also spent more than 10 years on Wall Street as a managing director in corporate finance, specializing in mergers and acquisitions, and served as a director of financial and business planning for a satellite communications company and a computer hardware company. Craig received his bachelor’s from Haverford College and his master’s in business administration from Yale University.
Matt Foreman is a nationally recognized LGBTQ+ leader with a background in political advocacy, civil rights, and grantmaking. He is a senior program director at the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, one of the largest foundation funders of the LGBTQ+ movement. He served as co-chair of the Civil Marriage Collaborative, which coordinated over $163 million in funding to support the freedom to marry, and as the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (2003–2008), the Empire State Pride Agenda (1996–2003), and the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project (1990–1996). A graduate of the New York University School of Law, Matt is a founder of Heritage of Pride, which organizes New York City’s annual LGBT Pride events, and a former member of the New York City Human Rights Commission.
- I Want to be Like Bean Blossom by Anna Olson, an ECF Vital Practices blog, November 16, 2016
- 7 Steps to Prepare for Hate Attacks by Tom Ehrich, an ECF Vital Practices blog, July 31, 2015