Be a Witness: Stories about Transgender Day of Remembrance 2016

posted in: MCC News, TDOR, Transgender, Violence | 0

tdor2016


photo-by-maria-keays
photo by Maria Keays

It will come as no surprise to you who minister to our beautifully diverse movement that the lives of transgender people are at more risk than ever. Globally more than 300 murders of transgender people have been reported.

The 2016 USA report shows danger has been increasing with 24 murders so far this year. The Human Rights Campaign reports that there are 44 anti-transgender bills in 16 states and 23 target children. It is a dangerous year in so many ways.

Jesus, the angels, and God repeatedly told people, “Fear not!” “Don’t be afraid!”  We do need to listen to that message but not so we are lulled into acquiescence but so we take action.

Mark the transgender lives lost this year, not only today but each day as we honor Transgender Day of Remembrance. Make plans to be more out, open, and strategic in your support for transgender lives.


Be a Witness

Why is Transgender Day of Remembrance Important to Society and MCC Global?

The stories below are from individuals who were asked to respond to the question:

“Why is Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) important to MCC and the larger community.”The goal of the question and this collection of stories is to share authentic stories as a pathway to help the larger community better understand TDOR and Trans* rights.

Ultimately, we honor and memorialize those who are Trans* and have been victims of violence and discrimination. Our prayers cry out to God for the victims and their families.


TDOR is a Testimony of ‘A Named People’

by Denise Sudbeck
Anchorage, Alaska,USA

denise-sudbeckMy name is Denise and I’m a trans woman created in the image of God. In that understanding I am not broken.  Because I believe that statement to be true for me, that says something about who God is. And if that much is true, my life has meaning and purpose.

I came to that understanding after 57 years of closet and addiction, even through the years when I was a pastor in another denomination. Having been out of pastoral ministry for some 13 years, I returned to a healthy spiritual path in the care and support of an MCC church. In the beginning, I had no idea that Transgender Day of Remembrance existed.

The interim pastor of the church asked me one day if I’d ever considered a naming ceremony. Again I had no idea what that meant. Soon I became known as Denise publicly among God’s people, long before society acknowledged that fact.

TDOR is important in MCC churches because it represents a rejection of a cultural spirit which insists that trans* people are not created in the image of God. The day is instead embracing that same creation and insists that these people who have been so callously discarded indeed have a name which is not only known by God but is remembered.

We read those names for a reason.

I have survived addiction and violence. I remain. Around me stand others who remain. TDOR is the testimony of a named people who refuse to remain unnamed. The beginning of justice is to proclaim that I am a person with a name and I will not be silent.


Days of Remembrance Remind Us to Shine Our Light

by Rev. Elder Ines-Paul Baumann
Köln (Cologne), Germany

rev-elder-ines-paul-baumannHis name is Orrucio. I remember him every single day. With every single step I take. His necklace decorates my boots, for more than 20 years now. His “leather collar” belongs to me as much as my “pastoral collar” does. Orrucio would never considered himself “transgender.” Nor did I for more than 30 years. Born in a “wrong body”? Being a “man”? What do you talk about? Orrucio, an Italian gay-leather-fag, incarnated the most joyful way of transgressing gender roles, often by celebrating their stereotypes. Who cares, as long as we have fun? It’s this look at gender roles that helped me to re-/de-construct my own gendered body.

Orrucio died many years ago.

I came into being many years ago.

Orrucio was the opposite of me, in oh so many ways. But his example of being-who-he-was shines a light for me until today. And into tomorrow. It’s more than a light of remembrance. It’s a light of life, shining into a bright presence and a hopeful tomorrow. bootDays of remembrance remind us not to forget the past. They also remind us that what we do today might be history tomorrow. So take heart. Be as trans* and inter* and cis* and non-binary* as you are. Shine your light.

Orrucio never for a second would have thought that he would be my hero one day. I still see him wiping the floor. Decorating flowers. I hear him laughing. I remember the glimpse of sadness and brokenness in his beautiful eyes. It’s those things that make him a hero for me. Being the gendered stranger, but making his own homes.

Thank you, Orrucio, just for having been who you were. I love to remember you – with tears of sadness and tears of joy.


Phoenix Bones

A contemporary retelling of Ezekiel 37

by Rev. Caedmon Grace
San Diego, California, USA

rev-caedmon-graceAnd then I was taken by the Spirit of the Lord to a valley of dry bones.

She, Sophia, spoke to me without words. She played my memories like the Ghost of Christmas Past, showing this life to me as if I were the observer. I saw how the bones got there. It wasn’t the people of Israel who had perished;  it was the adventurers, the seekers, the dreamers and the prophets. The visionaries, the rebels, the seers and the guides, the healers and the Lovers. Day by day with micro-aggression after micro-aggression and victimization by victimization, neglect after neglect, disappointment after disappointment, lie after lie, fear after fear. They have lost their ability to trust their Truth, a deadly stronghold stepping in, slowly silencing their voice. The injury of broken eye contact when so many people can not bear intimacy. The unknown rules, the unmarked boundaries, the tides of change, and the rugs being pulled out from under. The Ruac, life force breath of the Universe became shallow in their bodies, pushing them into theory,  rhetoric and surrender to the suffocating weight of the world. We know when we are not believed in. We know when we are not seen and therefore, unknown; so we stop showing up and stop knowing.

“How did I survive?” I asked.

Silence.

“Why am I here?” I pleaded.

Silence.

The agitation grows and my venom spills out… “Stop fucking abiding with me. You disclose to me things that don’t match reality. You show me things that I cannot accomplish. You think of me more than I am. Finally when I decide to give us another chance at working together, you stop speaking to me? You frustrate me, Spirit!”

Silence.

More silence.

Much  more silence.

My silence has become passive aggressive because I want to argue. Yet hers is peace.

This angers me more. I know I’m in a metaphor, a dream or a vision, and I can’t get out. I just want to be in my body. I just want to be around other bodies without pretense, without trying to escape from the moment. A moment should be able to stand alone on its own. A moment should have the potential for life and love that Spirit guarantees, but that is not happening.

“Can these bones live?” She asks.

I’m fed up with these riddles and parables and paradox. I give Her the evil eye, “Quit messing with me.” I walk away.

Silence.

She begins to play my memories again. She shows me how he was a manipulator, an exploiter and a liar. “It’s not that safety isn’t possible, Love, but you weren’t safe there.” I am stopped dead in my tracks when She speaks.

“What did you just say?”

“It’s not that safety isn’t possible, Love, but you weren’t safe there.”

She plays another memory. She shows me how it was because of the pain in my mom’s body from the cancer, her guilt and fear was why she was angry and distant when I needed her. “It’s not that you’re unlovable, Love, but you didn’t get the love you deserved.”

“Excuse me? You can’t talk to me like this!” The pain of the Divine Love of God witnessing, speaking the answers to the questions I had written Her off for not answering was a painfully sweet sensation.

“It’s not that you’re unlovable, Love, but you did not get the love you deserved.”

I’m dumbfounded. How is that just be being validated by my True Love could make all my concerns dissolve, the puzzles are solved? Do all of these questions cease to exist?

She takes to my thoughts again and plays a series of sexual encounters, by now I’m so curious what She might have to say…

One by one, she corrects the meanings I’ve made:

“It’s not that you’re too affectionate, Love, she hated her body.”

“It’s not that you’re incapable of understanding her feelings, Love, what she said and what she meant were two different things.”

“It’s not that your body is broken, Love, but those people didn’t see you for who you are and that wasn’t love.”

These declarations from the mouth of God carried such force that the winds began to swirl. My awareness shifted and I began to notice the sun bleached white bones had disintegrated into red and orange ash. Like dust rising and filling the sky, the ash arose and began to take shape.

“So tell me, Wise Warrior, can these bones live?”

I am so taken by the glory I feel around me, being seen by my Divine True Love, that my heart soars. How can there be any doubt that these bones can live again if by just one Word from God I can be reduced to just the Light that I am? No more excuses. No more stories. No more attachments.

“Can the Dreamers dream again?”

I can tell by the way she poses the question that the answer is yes!

“Can the Healers heal again?”

“Can the Seers see again?”

A birdlike head forms with a long sharp beak with a stance that is big and powerful and strong. It grows, long extended wings on fire, trailing long, ornate tail feathers. I am watching in awe at the majesty of color and form, seeing the process of life coming from death.

“Can the prophets find their voice?” She continues.

“And Wise Warrior, what say you of love? Can Lovers learn to love again? Can soul mates find their way Home? Is there anyone to be found that could be trustworthy? Do you believe?”

I am absolutely stunned. How is it that all this power to believe lives in me, and why does life hinge on my ability to weigh every reality? And still, in the face of it all, I choose to believe in the possibility of a world that I cannot see?

My heart decides before my mind and I, too, turn to deep red and orange ash. I form my beak, my head with the regal feather brow; my body sprouts wings of feathers on fire. The wonderful irony that even the becoming contributes to my death, which becomes the very substance that my next incarnation is made of.

“Soar over the ash, Wise Warrior, and see how it feels to give Life.”

I don’t know what She means until I flap my wings and glide above the wind stirred ash.

All at once the remains of the dreamers, the lovers, the seers, the healers, the prophets begin to rise as the ash becomes a valley of a hot sun-like flock of Phoenix.

I return to Spirit’s side and in my heart I feel I should apologize for my doubt and disheartened demeanor. Before I could speak she said, “Look!” ande sent my gaze to the valley. There are no bones. There is no ash. There is no sign of what just happened. Only on the edge of the horizon is the final visage of a red-orange Phoenix tail as it flies free. I am completely awestruck by the frenzy and unbelievability of it all, then I hear her say, “Why the silence…?”


MCC Offers Gateway to Seek the Divine

by Beth Kind
San Diego, California,USA

beth-kindI think we should all have a special/secret, physical place where we can go to relax, meditate or just feel at peace with ourselves. For me, that place is a botanic garden at a local community college. As an amateur photographer, there is little I enjoy more than spending a few hours at this little jewel and marveling at the beauty that surrounds me. What has always impressed me at this place is the majestic Torii, or Japanese Shinto Gate that defines the entrance. When I pass through that gate, I reflect on the first day I walked into MCC San Diego as my authentic self (trans). I was full of tepid confidence, apprehension, fear, and sadly a sense that “it can’t get much worse.” Now, years later, I realize that MCC can and does serve as a gateway of sorts to not only the marginalized of our world, whatever their label, but to all who seek something divine in themselves and in others.

This week as I reflect on Transgender Day of Remembrance, I think back to that Torii and see how that first step I took through the MCC Gateway has led to so many more gateways for myself, just as described in Shinto tradition. Each of the new gateways I’ve passed under have brought peace to myself and love to and from others. We, as a world denomination and a local church, not only offer that first step or gateway to those living in fear or loneliness, but also to those passing through expanded gateways themselves on their own journeys. Wherever you are on your path, know this…. the Temple is right up ahead.