Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Homily for Transgender Day of Celebration

Vivian Taylor offered the following homily as part of Boston's first Transgender Day of Celebration service which was held at MCC Boston on May 19th.  Rev. James Terry, one of the organizers of the event, explained the event as follows: "While many of us suffer severely from oppression of many sorts, our lives can not and should not be reduced to that dimension. TDOC is partly about taking back the public narrative, reminding ourselves and each other that we are alive, that we are multi-dimensional people, and that we have much to celebrate.”


My soul doth magnify the Lord : and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded : the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth : all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me : and holy is his Name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him : throughout all generations.
He hath shewed strength with his arm : he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat : and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things : and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel : as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed for ever. (Luke 1: 46-55)

I had a very hard time trying to write this little sermon. Don't get me wrong, I love being trans. I love challenging gender norms, I love playing with my appearance, I love getting to play at being tall and maybe beautiful and definitely rebellious against a toxic system of power based on gender and racism and wealth and violence and a hundred thousand other things.

I love living into the freedom of being a human, I love knowing the reality of transformation, of ambiguity, and of fluidity. I love the brilliant, fascinating, brave trans people I have met out in the world, who have been a more incredible blessing to me that I could have ever imagined.

But writing this sermon worried me. I was terrified that in celebrating I might be white washing the terrible problem that face my people. One opening I considered was "WOOHOO EVERYBODY! The rate of prevalence of HIV among trans women hasn't grown as fast this year so far! Wooo! Maybe in a few cases trans women of color are being imprisoned at slightly less obscene and outrageous rates!" I thought of unemployment and street violence and estrangement from family and addiction and homelessness and the ways in which trans women are not always wholly welcomed into the LGBTQ community and the marginalization of people of color in our community and all the other plagues trans folks suffer and I felt crushed and hopeless.

Then on Thursday I learned a family member's cancer, after several months of chemo treatment was found by new hospital tests to be in nearly full remission at the moment. Back in the fall he learned that he had a metastasized cancer that had already spread to vital organs and that his life expectancy was reduced to a few months.

I did not allow myself to hope. I tried to come to terms with a God who would not move, who for some reason, some unknowable, probably celestially good reason, would let this person who I love, who I do not know how I could do without, die far too soon.

Thurday’s news is not without its caveats.  Clinical trial evidence for the chemo drug he is on shows that the cancer can return.  All of this must remain a matter of prayer.  And perhaps Thursday’s news means only that he was only the tiny tip of a massive bell curve, the winner of some biological lottery, but for me, I have no language to talk about this but as a miracle, the work of Christ in the world, a sign of Christ's irresponsible and promiscuous love.

I am knocked flat. I am swimming in a flood. The world is shifted under my feet.

What I celebrate today is that trans people will overcome our challenges. Trans people and those that love us will do the hard and painful work to overcome these problems that plague our communities, that harm us. I don't care how bad the situation looks, I don't care how unlikely it is that we will succeed.

When it becomes apparent, obvious that there is nothing we can do, that we are clearly beaten, there will still be God, creator, redeemer, sustainer, who is lifting up the lowly, who is pulling the mighty down from their throws, who feeds the hungry and sends the rich away empty. It may be unlikely, but it will be done.

I celebrate that despite there being a world of forces against us, despite those forces doing true and terrible harm, that in our respect and love and frank need for one another and God's love and need for us, that we shall overcome!