Posts Tagged ‘Transgender’

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Thoughts on Capital Pride Parade and Corporate Sponsorship

10 June, 2018

Disclosure: Over the last decade, I have interacted with the parade on three levels: viewer, protestor, and participant. As protestor, I worked with No Justice, No Pride as we prepared for the demonstration last year. As participant I marched with the Smithsonian GLOBE group this year. I recognise both the damage done to our parade by corporate sponsors and the value of seeing ourselves as participants and watchers.

My thoughts: LGBTQ+ groups and LGBTQ+ non-profits should be given primacy of placement at the head of the parade, it is OUR parade afterall. Then allyship groups should receive secondary placement. Placed, last in line, corporations demonstrating allyship and corporate sponsors demonstrating a support position; corporate sponsors should demonstrate their allyship by letting LGBTQ+ groups march first. Finally, groups that want to be corporate sponsors but who prey on the LGBTQ+ community, prey on other marginalised communities, or have a low HRC score should not be permitted to march or sponsor. Those on the Pride committee that voted to include them sold us out and should be removed from the committee.

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A Queer Storm

13 May, 2018

Sunday morning. It’s raining, which seems appropriate. As a Jungian Archetype, a universal symbol, rain carries triametric meaning: life; death; and the combination of the first two, rebirth. I’m sitting in the church parking lot as the rain washes over the car. I’m debating whether or not I should go in.

Church, the story of Christianity, offers the same three symbolic meanings: life, death, rebirth. Unlike rain, however, church is not a universal symbol. Here I am not refering to how some believe in Christianity and some don’t; rather, I am refering to the policing of faith by the church. The church authorities consider themselves the final say on who does and does not get to participate in the symbolic power of life, death, and rebirth. “‘And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven'” (Matthew 16: 18, 19).

That policing has impacted minoritised groups throughout history. What started as a community of outsiders embracing widows and orphans, adhering to the law of hospitality, and boldly proclaiming “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28) became judgemental and fearful force that murdered and forced converted, that upheld slavery, that encouraged segregation, and became inhospitable to anyone perceived as different and, therefore, defective.

I am one of the minoritised, one of the stigmatised, that is being policed out of the church. I am a queer woman and the United Methodist Church holds that, as a queer woman, I am “incompatible” with Christian faith. Like the rain which is simultaneously life and death, I am both condemed and redeemed. Like the paradox of rebirth, I am both queer and Christian. That scares straight, cisgender Christians because it means they are confronted by the idea that their faith is queer.

A saviour who came not with a sword and rebellion against the Romans, as expected, but with fish and bread and words of loving your enemy. That sounds rather queer to me, as I am sure it did to those who first heard it.

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25). That is a queer, paradoxical statement.

“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, spoke a blessing and broke it, and gave it to the disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is My body.’ . . . This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’” (Matthew 26: 26, 28). For a culture steeped in purity laws that included strictures against being near dead bodies and ingesting blood, this is extremely queer.

Am I, and other queer folks, a reminder of the queerness inherent in the Bible, in the Gospel, and in Christianity that modern Christians are afraid to confront? Has Christianity become so mainstreamed and comfortable that anything that makes you itch in that unsettling way, that makes you question where you sit, becomes anathema?

So, I sit outside the church and wonder if I should go in. If I can go in. If I have a responsibility to go in. When I enter the United Methodist Church, or most any church, I am asked to amputate my queerness and leave it outside. Sit quietly, don’t speak of anything controversial, and do your best to be a good girl. Blend in, look normal, and for our sake do not rock the boat.

But by my presence, I rock the boat. The very act of my entering and my visibility becomes a storm that rocks the boat. A storm like that which Elihu describes in Job, a storm that washes away weak and broken notions of God. My presence is the storm that threatens the boat in Jonah, until the disobient servent is cast into the see and swallowed until he repents of his own disobedience, the disobedience of denying God’s word and forgiveness to those he determines unworthy of it.

The rain has stopped and I must decide if I will go into the church. Into a church that is at once mine and not mine. The rain has stopped and I must decide if I will be the storm.

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My Barbara Bush Story

18 April, 2018

As so many famous people are sharing their Barbara Bush stories, I thought I would share mine. Two things you should know:

1. In 1998 Barbara Bush spoke at the Augustana College Boe Forum where she gave a talk on faith and family.

2. The exit to the Augustana cafeteria was into a hallway with two conference rooms in it.

Picture it, fall, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, nineteen hundred and ninety-eight. I was a young, trans girl not yet out but playing with presentation. My hair was long, full, and blonde.

I was eating in the cafeteria. Likely, it was granola because they served a lot of pasta and I didn’t want to gain a sophomore 30. After finishing my cereal and studying I dashed to the drop off window and then quick to the exit. Where I ran into, almost literally, two men in dark suits.

One said, “You can’t go this way.”

I said, “I have class in ten minutes.” My class was with history professor Mike Mullins who was renowned for fast spoken, straight through lectures. For the first two weeks, I didn’t even know what the man looked like (smokin’ hot, by the bye) because I never looked up from my notebook. I did not want to be late for class.

“You can’t go this way,” the dark suited man repeated.

“Oh.” I said. Then I slipped my 135 pound self between the two of them and out the double doors where I ran into, almost literally, former First Lady Barbara Bush. I dead stopped and felt my famous too-pale-for-you flush of embarrassment rise from my chest to hairline. Then I felt very heavy hands on my shoulders and left arm.

I gaped at Barbara and she glanced at me and then, to the security escorts she said, “Let her through.”

The hands released me and I dashed past Barbara Bush and down the stairs faster than Peter Cottontail out of Farm McGregor’s field. It was over an hour before I realised the matronly, conservative woman said “Let /her/ through.”

I still smile with the thrill of proper gendering when I think of this.

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A Queer Pedagogy

7 February, 2018

I worked as a public-school literature teacher for just shy of a decade. I had the privilege of introducing pre-teen and teenage children to good stories well-told and the honour of hearing them tell their own stories. It was never easy, and if I am honest, it was often grueling. Some classes, of course, are more difficult than others. Some were even resistant to what I had to offer. But, every few years, I got a class that was just the right make-up of kids at just the right time with just the right experiences to make the stories live, to make the words sing and the narration dance. But whether it was a difficult class struggling against every lesson or a shining class stretching the words beyond the author’s own limited horizons, I told them all the secret to finding meaning: seek the seed of truth; look for the human experience that tells you what it is like to be alive and together in the world.

Every class found this, at least at first, to be queer. They were right; it is queer. Certainly, in the literal sense of the word it is. To have an instructor insist on multiple answers to the important questions even as the school system administers tests that demanded a single right answer, is strange. The encouragement to empathise with an antagonist’s anguish and to grapple with the darkness lurking in a protagonist’s heart seems perverse to good girls and good boys. Though, as a mentor told me when I was a student, as a storyteller you cannot ever be the good girl.

It’s this last truth that makes the perspective I taught them queer in the outcast sense, in the beaten and bleeding sense, and in the passionate and holy sense. I was asking my students to place themselves on the margins. To see the world through the eyes of the other: the other belief, the other gender, the other morality. To take what they held as most normative and twist it round, viewing the world upside down and inside out. To stop trying to be the good girl who is quiet and accommodating or the good boy who derives his value from his strength and to queer their perspectives, running at oblique angles to the rest of the world. In the final years of my teaching career, this was intentional, but in the early years, when I was struggling to be the good girl who arrived early and stayed late, who attended school concerts and sporting events all while being the virtuous spouse of Proverbs 31, this queered pedagogy only seeped in when I was exhausted and could no longer maintain the tweed-jacket expectations. It happened when I was in my most vulnerable and honest place. I believe that stress and exhaustion reveal our inner character and what I learned was queer perspectives came naturally to me because I was a queer woman.

Perhaps, it’s better to say, what I re-learned. My earliest sense of self was as a queer girl. I was four when Mrs. Peterson informed me I was standing in the wrong line: I was in the girls’ line and I belonged in the boys’ line. I did not have the word queer—with all its danger and strength—at that age, but what I felt was distinctly queer. I knew who I was and who I wasn’t with the same surety that Mrs. Peterson believed she knew which line each child belonged in. That sense of queerness stuck with me throughout my half-day kindergarten class. I played with the girls, I ate with the girls, and I sat with the girls during story time. But at nap time I was told to lay my sleeping mat—a rug woven of earthy greens and reds and purples—alongside the boys and be quiet.

That evening, as my parents drew me a bath and prepared to wash the day’s play off me, I asked them how they knew I was a boy and not a girl. I had been thinking about this and it occurred to me that some girls had short hair and some girls had Smurf t-shirts and some girls looked like boys and they were still girls. My parents recited primer biology; the biology adults still recite authoritatively to children, and to transgender people in a disgusted and vicious tone, and to themselves when they are most desperate for reassurance: boys have penises and girls have vaginas. Even at the age of four that didn’t square with my understanding and now, as an adult woman of transgender experience, it feels queer that some girls are believed when they yell, “I’m not a boy; I’m a girl!” and some girls aren’t.

The attempts to exorcise me of my queerness and to turn me into a good boy fractured me. I hid my true face from people, presenting them with what they wanted to see while I viewed them over my shoulder through a compact’s shattered mirror. It was in this way, I learned the importance of stories. The stories we tell to keep ourselves safe, the stories others tell about us to maintain the illusion, and the early seeds of our stories, the ones we bury deep inside ourselves.

These seeds are the ones I encouraged my students to seek. Kernels buried deep and choked out by all the “good” vegetation planted by professors and politicians and pastors and parents. I taught them to dig their hands into the earth, rip out those straight rows of pedestrian flowers, and look for the bits beneath. Find what is sleeping in the dark, waiting for its chance to stretch deep roots and poke green shoots into the light and burst with vibrant reds and purples.

I worked as a public-school teacher for just shy of ten years and I am transitioning out of that season into something new. I have exhorted students to engage with human stories well-told and I suspect what comes next will be radically different than what has come before. Still, the essence inside me is queer and I know that I will carry my queer pedagogy into whatever I do next.

This post was written for the Queer Theology Synchroblog 2018 – check out others’ posts here

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Exilic Theology

30 December, 2017

A new study has shown that of the 100 largest churches in America 7 have a person of colour as their pastor, 1 has a woman as their pastor, and 0 are LGBTQ-affirming. A faith that once offered hospitality and hope to the disenfranchised and minoritised outsider has become the arm of the white, straight, cisgender man. We have seen this approach to faith before and we have seen how it ends:


Enslaved by monarchical theology in Egypt,

an exodus restored freedom to the oppressed.


Ruled by monarchical theology in a divided kingdom,

an exile restored commitment to the poor, the widow, and the orphan.


Dominated by monarchical theology under Rome, a pacifist Messiah ate and drank with tax collectors and sex workers and brought them salvation.


The church must abandon supremacist theology

or face a new exodus.


The church must abandon patriarchal theology

or face a new exile.


The church must listen to the messianic voices of and among the LGBTQ community

or they will lose the way to salvation.

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On Lukewarm Christianity and the Nashville Statement

31 August, 2017

In light of the Nashville Statement I have a scriptural reminder for those clergy and congregation members who have decided to remain neutral:
“These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

Revelation 3:14-16
“I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”

Amos 5:21-24
The good thing that has come out of the Nashville Statement is that I and other LGBTQ people of faith know where the signatories stand in regard to our ability to worship and participate in community. They have pulled the sheets from their faces and made it clear their communities are dangerous, are toxic, to us and we can separate ourselves and our faith from them. It has, also, brought to the fore religious leaders who are unequivocally on the side of the oppressed. It helps us to see where we are welcome and where we can be full and contributing memebers as our authentic selves.

Churches, clergy, and laity who stand silent in the face of announced discrimination and hate are dangerous places for LGBTQ people. It gives us an ungrounded hope that maybe we are welcome while providing enough doubt that we can never act and live as ourselves for fear of condemnation. In their attempt to be everything to everyone, these communities are crushing the spirits of LGBTQ members who are forced to live in a state of doubt and fear. No one can worship and commune when they are living in fear of rejection. As it says: were you hot or cold we would know where we stand with you, but as you are lukewarm, we are left neither fully part not fully barred from community.

If you are clergy, we need you to make clear from the pulpit that we are welcome in your house. We do not expect that every member of the congregation will be in agreement with you, but it makes it clear that if/when conflict comes you are in our corner; that we can rely on you to stand with us and preserve our right to worship. Or, to express the opposite, so we can know that we are not viewed as integrated members and we can seek a place where we are.

If you are laity, we need to know you are accepting of us or not accepting of us. It is to everyone’s benefit that your views are clear. If we have an ally in you, we know that we can be genuine with you. When we are able to be vulnerable with you it opens us to be a support for you when you are feeling weak and vulnerable. It allows us to offer our whole selves in our support of you. Conversely, we need to know if you are not accepting because we will know that our genuineness would hurt both of us.

Or maybe you do not know own where you stand on this. If that is you, I urge you to be honest about that. Ask respectful questions, get to know us as people both as LGBTQ people but also as people of faith and members of a community. Hiding from what you do not understand or are uneasy with will not help you to grow and learn. Seek to understand us; we are willing to meet you on that path and we are open to learning about you as a person of faith, as well.

Do not stand neutral in the face of this deceleration. Use it to make your stance known or to embrace your own doubt and to grow.

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Ten Things Cis Allies Can Do To Help Trans People

1 April, 2017

I received another ask recently about what cisgender allies can do to support transgender people. So, here are ten things a cisgender person can do to support transgender people.

1. Educate yourself by reading and listening to trans women and trans men on what it is to be trans. Sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how many people value what cisgender (from the Latin prefix cis, meaning the same or same side of, the medical term denoting people who are not transgender) people say about being transgender rather than what transgender people have to say. I recommend five books to start: “Whipping Girl” by Julia Serano, “Redefining Realness” by Janet Mock, “Transgender Warriors” by Leslie Feinberg (trans masculine writer and author of “Stone Butch Blues”), “A Transgender History of the United States” by Susan Striker, and the essay collection “Manning Up: Transsexual Men on Finding Brotherhood, Family & Themselves Connected.” Along with this is the important task of educating yourself in proper terminology to avoid micro-aggressions–the GLAAD media reference guide is a good starting place.

2. Follow trans inclusive media that has trans women and men writing for them. My personal favourites are Mey Rude on Autostraddle, Kat Callahan on Jezebel, and Samantha Allen on The Daily Beast. Feministing.com has good stuff, too.

3. Donate to trans groups and charities, e.g. The Transgender Law Center and the National Center for Transgender Education. Donate time or money to local charities that are explicitly transgender inclusive.

4. When people you know are being transphobic or trans misogynistic, correct them. Having someone standing up for us in everyday situations is the most powerful support we have. Educate the people around you and work to dispel the misunderstandings and lies believed by the average person.

5. Write to your local, state, and national legislatures. Demand they stand against transphobic bills, praise them for trans inclusive actions, and suggest changes that can be enacted​, like non-discrimination policies that specifically include transgender people.

6. Do not buy from companies with anti-transgender policies, donations, and/or attitudes such as Chic-Fil-A, Brilla Pasta, Jelly Belly, or Urban Outfitters. Do buy from transgender inclusive companies like Starbucks, Apple, or Amazon. The HRC maintains a record of and inclusiveness ratings for many companies (and politicians).

7. Get one of these #IllGoWithYou buttons and be ready to support transgender women, transgender men, and non binary people when accessing public restrooms (note: the restroom a person feels comfortable using will vary depending on presentation and how far along a transperson is in their social transition). This is huge because trans people experience medical complications as a result of avoiding restrooms for 8 to 12 hours everyday: urinary track infections, kidney problems, and malnutrition from not eating or drinking all day so they won’t need a bathroom. Not to mention the verbal and physical attacks they face. According to a 2013 survey in DC, 65% of transgender people have been denied access to, verbally harassed in, or physically assaulted in public bathrooms. It may seems like a little thing to cisgender people who use public bathrooms regularly without incident, but it can be life or death to transgender people.

8. When you receive good service from a transgender employee take a minute to tell their manager. Everyday managers receive complaints about transgender employees just because they are transgender. By complimenting their customer service, work ethic, et cetera, you provide a counter-narrative to the “I’m offended you employee a trans person” complaints. If employers see only negative responses to a trans employee’s presence they will terminate the employee–even in the handful of states that have non-discrimination policies. By taking a few minutes to compliment them, you could literally save their job and prevent them from having to seek alternative sources of employment (sex work is often the only viable alternative for trans women).

9. Know that even in places with laws against discriminating actions towards transgender people in housing, employment, healthcare​, and education people still find subtle and malicious ways to discriminate.

10. Listen. Listen to what transgender people say and take their fears and concerns seriously, even when it may not align with what you have experienced. The worst thing that can happen to a victim of harassment, abuse, or discrimination is having their experiences minimised.