Thursday, February 19, 2015

Stop Killing My People!

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I'm transgender. It's a piece and parcel of who I am, along with gay, a writer, blonde hair, dog lover, all those traits that form who I am as a person. Frankly, there are not a lot of transgender people in our population. Most estimates for those who are transsexual number between .3% and .8% of the entire population. Yeah, not even a full percent. Toss in the broader terminology gender variant, that is, those who are not entirely comfortable with being either extreme in a fictional binary of male and female, and our numbers go up from 3% to 5% of the population. Hardly a threat no matter how you define it.

Yet today I read where the pope says people like me are comparable to nuclear weapons aimed that his (in his mind) natural order. Modern day Herods he calls us. Politicians wring their hands in consideration of some sort of transgender menace. Okay, I'm chuckling. I used to have a t-shirt with that on it, but anyone who knows me could hardly call me menacing. I'm more the "didn't even see you were here" sort of person.

Yet these shrill voices of hate are doing a huge harm. Here's why:

1-19-2015 "First name unknown" Edwards Indianapolis, Ky Died of gunshot wounds.
1-17-2015 Lamia Beard Norfolk, Va Died of gunshot wound
1-26-2015 Ty Underwood Tyler, Texas Shot three times in her car
1-31-2015 Yasmin Vash Payne Van Nuys, Ca Repeatedly stabbed, then burned
2-1-2015 Taja Gabriella d Jesus San Francisco, Ca Multiple stab wounds
2-10-2015 Penny Proud New Orleans, La Multiple gunshot wounds
2-14-2015 Bri Golec Akron, Ohio Stabbed by her own father
2-15-2015 Kristina Gomez Reihold Miami, Fla stabbed to death

These are the cases we know about, some only thanks to reporting from local trans communities. Eight souls snuffed out, most people of color. People who only wanted a good life, living with what nature has dealt them, and me. Eight souls and the second month of the year is not even over with yet. But get this. These are only the people we know about in the U.S. Worldwide the same is happening. Please stop the killing!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Thoughts about Loving Community

Okay, first to folks who read my blogs. Don't run away with this one! I am NOT going to evangelize or proselytize. Friday night I attended a program with Bishop Carlton Pearson, himself a figure who has been through a number of spiritual transformations in this life. I'll speak a bit about that, and my own experience as well. But the heart of my message here is about forming Loving Community. Through my experience of the evening, it touched the heart of something that's been stirring within me for a very long time.

So first, a bit about me, then I'll give some background on Rev. Pearson. I was raised a Methodist, but lived in a family where on my Mom's side there were evangelists and pastors galore in the Evangelical Pentecostal tradition of the Assemblies of God. My goodness at at the age of two my Uncle A.G. Calloway was carrying me in his arms preaching fire and salvation. The music was powerful and emotional as we surrendered our bodies to the beat of the music. Very similar to that found in the African American Pentecostal tradition. I had met Oral Roberts at the age of 5 and some years later Jimmy Swaggert before he became nationally known. I've drifted around a bit since those days. In the seventies a stint with UU. After getting sober, I became Catholic, finding the practice of confession useful for me. I also loved the Eucharist. One of those rituals that carries regardless of one's personal theology, at least for me.

Of course there was conflict with being gay and transgender so I wound up with MCC in Houston. It's a ministry that is inclusive, especially for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. It was my first insight into what community could be. We were a multi-racial congregation with people from all walks of life. We had different choirs finding something for many traditions while becoming one community together. I still treasure my time there. Later after coming to Minneapolis I wound up at First Universalist, a Unitarian Universalist congregation that is currently my spiritual home.

Note I have not spoken about my personal theology. Each one of us has our own system of beliefs, and one of the things I've often complained about is the tendency of groups to create dogmas to exclude others. Here I found common cause with Bishop Carlton Pearson.

His journey was equally filled with twists and turns. A part of the Evangelical circles of folks like Oral Roberts and the Bakers, he had a mega church in Tulsa. He's an amazing singer and preacher in his own right. Then in his own growing awareness, he came to realize that instead of coming together, we were finding ways to divide ourselves. It was rooted in fear of an angry God and at times an egotistical exercise in being saved while those other souls were certainly going to hell. In his talk, he spoke of religion which separates and divides us vs spirituality where we find our common humanity. He paid a huge price for coming out with his new found Universalist belief, free of hell and rooted in our common humanity. In place he found peace and contentment.

So here we were listening to his story and sharing song. It felt really good to me. I found immediate kinship to the music so close to that of my own childhood experience, and considerable delight that I knew the songs. We talked about spiritual search in thinking and spiritual search in feeling, an how they both had a place. Here we were in this sanctuary, singing praise and waving our arms and moving to the sound and thinking deeply, and people from different traditions laughing at ourselves, even as in this moment, we were one. He spoke of the experience back at the Tulsa UU group. A regular UU service (think NPR), a service with elements of the music and tradition more common in the tradition from which he came, and a third service for those humanists that would rather not hear any God talk at all. More important, how they went to different services, and how all of these disparate souls, gay and straight, all races, all traditions, coming together in common community. Looking around, I saw a microcosm of this in the sanctuary Friday night.

We've spent all our efforts for so many years to create separations that divide us from each other. But oh how beautiful it was to see us all under the same roof, united in our common humanity. I did not necessarily agree with all that Bishop Pearson said. I know very few people who have ever believed exactly as I do. But I felt our common humanity, a vision of what is possible in this world. Our difference, our diversity to me was a beautiful thing. For me, with my varied upbringing, I also found some of my own roots, and that was an added plus. I really do believe Beloved Community can be formed. It's a goal worth pursuing. For me, the evening was a special one. Special enough to share here.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Please Stop Taking Transgender Lives!

Today is February 6th, 2015. Not really different from this past year, or the year before ad nauseum. The ticking of the clock brings with us once again the growing number of transgender people having their lives snuffed out because of hate and fear. I will never really understand that level of hate or fear, but I've known first hand its reality. Here's where we are so far this year,watching with anger and frustration as our body count grows.

January 9th. "Goddess" Edwards. The name Goddess assigned since we have not learned her femme name to date. Indianapolis, Kentucky, She died from a gunshot wound.

January 17th. Lamie Beard. Norfolk, Virginia Shot to death. Media added insult to injury by mislabeling her gender in their coverage.

January 26th. Ty Underwood. Tyler, Texas, the town where I grew up. Died from three gunshots as she entered her car. Friends are certain it was due to hate.

January 31st. Yasmin Vash Payne. Van Nuys, California. Stabbed then burned.

February 1st. Taja Gabrielle De Jesus, San Francisco, California. Multiple stab wounds.

This story of hate and murder goes on unchecked year after year. Police often criminalize the victim in early pronouncements. Dehumanized before AND after death. It bears noting that of the people listed here, all five are to my knowledge people of color. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), 72% of all people killed in LGBTQ or HIV hate violence are Trans Women and 67% are Trans Women of Color.

Make no mistake about it. I take this extremely seriously. Two decades ago, a younger Jessica found herself while taking a walk, surrounded by a group of guys fully intent on making me a statistic. I managed to make a break and ran faster than I've ever run before the block and a half to the police substation on lower Westheimer in the Montrose neighborhood of Houston. Of course they were not apprehended. I remember with such clarity the fear in that moment. There but for grace I could have become one more statistic, one more trans life extinguished.

Here we are at an intersection of movements. Black Lives Matter. So do Transgender Lives. The majority of those lives lost are black and brown lives. I'm so grateful that Black Lives Matter In their public pronouncements include trans lives. We've reached a point where this constant assault on our lives, and the added insults to our memories when we are gone, SIMPLY MUST END!

Let me say this with clarity. I'm no damned target for your hate! I'm not the insult at your parlor parties. Yes, we even are at risk for fighting back. Look only to Cici McDonald here in Minneapolis who went to prison after she was attacked first by a woman white supremacist, then later her swastika bearing boyfriend. A bottle smashed in her face, then the boyfriend enters the fray. In the struggle, she stabbed the attacker (the guy) and Cici goes to prison. Self defense according to the law is not an option they are telling us.

We as a nation has a long history of oppression. The numbers of those oppressed are rising, and the numbers of the oppressors are decreasing. There is coming a historical "come to Jesus" moment. Either we deal peacefully to end these oppressive systems and bring true justice for us all, or we will rise up and overturn this system for one that does work. Take a glance out on the streets now. We see Black, Brown, and White, Trans, Gay, Bi, Straight and Queer folks marching arm in arm. Businesses are shut down, freeways closed, shopping hindered. Black Lives Matter and Trans Lives Matter, righteous anger is welling up, presently in peaceful non-violent but effective measures to send a message. Listen to that message carefully. Ignoring it will have a terrible price.

Beautiful people are dying. It is not acceptable and it must end. Hate must not win this time.