November 20 is Transgender Day of Remembrance, and our neighborhood church in a first-ring St. Paul suburb marks it each year on the Sunday closest to the Day itself.
That happens to be on the Sunday right before Thanksgiving Day this year. It gave us the chance to look at how transphobia and gender-based violence is rising along with incidents of racism. And how as Christians, we can change the culture around God, gender identity and gender expression by talking about being SAFE SPACES, and protecting SACRED SPACES such as trans children of God.
Every bit as much as sacred space was violated when the shooter opened up on congregants of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh a few weeks ago, the sacred is violated every time a religious person justifies violence against a trans person.
We are truly living through a time of crisis in regard to people who don’t fit the dominant definition of gender. Religious people, particularly, seem to claim a special, divine sanction to denigrate the humanity of people who want to live openly as who they are, and justify the desecration and destruction of these children of God by their fear-based religious norms.
The Human Rights Campaign is one organization that tracks trans killings each year, and after 2017’s 29 documented murders of people because they were trans, the fact that we’re at 22 already as of the end of October is no surprise.
And if you go to HRC’s list for this year, you’ll also see that it affects trans women of color more than any other group.
This is where you see intersectionality write large—where racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia come together.
Being part of a faith community whose job is to witness to hope means taking the risk of naming and resisting evil openly—speaking up when we hear remarks, or see something happen, and recognizing how this can change the culture around us to be kinder, safer, and more accepting, even empowering, to people who don’t conform to traditional gender categories.
Speaking up is not something white, upper-income, well-educated congregants are used to—it means being socially unaccepting of bigotry when it would be all too easy to just “go along to get along.”
GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, publishes a list of tips for trans allies (https://www.glaad.org/transgender/allies) which I find helpful, and shared with our folks on Sunday at worship.