Worry, Hospitality, Privilege, and Discernment

22 10 2014

It’s been a while since I blogged a sermon reflection, and you’re getting a two-for-one this time. And this reflection is for sermons preached by seminarians.

On Sunday, 12 October 2014, seminarian Jorge Parry Bautista was the preacher at the Congregational Church of San Mateo. His sermon revolved around the “birds of the air” and the “lilies of the field,” and especially Matthew 6:27 (NRSV): “And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to the span of life?” The basic message is that we should trust in GOD and not worry. There was spontaneous applause at the end of his sermon.

A week later, on 19 October 2014, seminarian Andrew Young was the preacher at Grace North Church. What struck me most about his sermon was his discussion of how hospitality is the foundation of Christianity, especially hospitality to the marginalized. With the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) about a month a way, this really spoke to me.

But, it spoke to me in various ways.

First, there is the fact that transgender, gender creative, and persons with non-binary gender identities are indeed marginalized, even to the point of being told that our use of the word “cisgender” is unnecessary and offensive. Apparently, it’s just fine to tell us that we’re not the norm as far as gender identities are concerned, but if we choose to use a word that simultaneously destigmatizes gender variance while denormalizing the assigned-at-birth gender binary then we’re oppressing the oppressor class. Classism is real, and those of us who do not conform to the genders assigned to us before we could speak have been indeed relegated to an oppressed class. That said, I acknowledge openly and completely that not all cis persons actively oppress gender variant persons. However, all cis persons do benefit from a society that caters to them. This is what cis privilege is.

Being told not to worry can be a demonstration of privilege, and the TDoR is a reminder of the privilege that persons such as myself do not have. And so, I do worry. Is that nasty glance I’m getting because I don’t “pass”? Is it a prelude to verbal harassment? Or will the situation become violent? We who cross gender boundaries do indeed have much to worry about. Sure, I can trust GOD that I won’t be attacked, but I know that’s not enough. I know the threats are real. If you don’t believe me and if you have the nerve, attend a TDoR memorial service in your area. We are a hunted class of people.

That said, I don’t think that Jorge was trying to diminish the real-world concerns that plague those of us with lesser privilege.

How am I shown hospitality as a person who’s marginalized for my gender identity? This happens in a variety of ways, and one of which is when cis persons acknowledge their privilege and support me. I have been blessed to have the allies that I do. Are they always perfect? No, but no one is. One of the ways one can show hospitality would be to become a pen-pal to someone in prison. Again, as I contemplate the TDoR, I struggle with this. It’s one thing to say, “As a Christian, I acknowledge that I’m required to show the love of Christ to everyone, including those who would attack or murder people like me and those who have indeed done these things.” But, it’s another thing entirely to be able to actually put this into practice. Again, the idea of privilege arises here. One who hasn’t faced transphobia and cissexism can’t fully understand how triggering it could be to hear such advise. This is another example of inadvertent cis privilege.

Did Andrew know that there would be a trans woman in the congregation who might find his words extremely difficult? Probably not. Likewise, he couldn’t have known that I’m helping to plan a TDoR service at CCSM and that in doing so I’m going through a lot of strong emotions at this time.

I hear these sermons and think, “What discernment is there for me?” Well, will worrying about transphobia and cissexism add any time to my life? No, but it could prevent the shortening of it by leading me to be aware of my surroundings at all times. Worry, in my experience, can help one puzzle through problems. Additionally, it could be in my best interest to learn to be hospitable to those who would harm me. Forgiveness can aid the forgiver as much or more than the one who is to be forgiven. This form of hospitality could lead to healing, in a way.

I have much to reflect on, and so I thank Jorge Parry Bautista and Andrew Young alike.

Coming Out Day 2014

11 10 2014

It’s October 11th: Coming Out Day. On this day, I will reiterate that I am a panromantic, pansexual, genderqueer MTF trans woman. Furthermore, I offer the following pride flag for my partner, my Ally+:

It is the Trans Pride flag superimposed with Ally symbol in the Bi Pride colors. And as a gesture of appreciation for all my cisgender supporters, I offer the following flag:

Once again starting with the Trans Pride flag, it has the Ally symbol in the Het Pride colors.

That’s right: on this Coming Out Day I want it known that I love and appreciate my allies, straight and queer and cis. I wouldn’t be who I am today without you.

“It’s ridiculous” is ridiculous

20 09 2014

No, it’s not ridiculous. It’s just outside of your experience. So stop being contemptuous and stop using the phrase “special snowflake.”

The Spirit is Willing, but the Flesh Needs a Job

16 09 2014

Meetup.com is great for a lot of things other than just social events. I found a group of queer Christians last summer (but alas, the Hella Holy Hoppers group seems to now be defunct), and more recently I found the LGBTQ Career Network. This group hosts meetups for MGRSI persons looking for work. There’s just a couple of problems with their primary meetup times.

  1. The Tuesday morning Job Club conflicts with the weekly chapel service at my seminary.
  2. The Thursday evening interview coaching and résumé boot camp conflicts with my coven’s meeting night.

I really want to attend chapel and coven night. But at the same time, faith alone won’t pay the rent. It’s a bit funny because this semester I’m taking a course about spiritual practice, and for the time being I feel that I need to be a little more focused on my job search rather than attending these things. I can make exceptions occasionally, and I probably will.

But for this point in time, while the spirit is willing the flesh needs a job.

Reblogging: Religion and Asexuality Overview

12 09 2014

I’ve been following the Ace Theist’s blog for some time now, and it’s been a truly educational experience. What follows is a masterpost of sorts.

Writing Prompt: Hiding in the Light

8 09 2014

Toward the end of orientation at seminary, I attended a workshop about writing as a spiritual practice. One of the phrases that stayed in my mind was:

Hiding In The Light

This is a great way to describe at least part of the trans experience. We can be everywhere, and yet we might not be seen. Or, we might not be seen for who we truly are. It can be even worse for those who have a non-binary gender identity.

The phrase “hiding in the light” can also be a great way to describe what it’s like to have key parts of one’s identity erased. Yes, I see much online as people try to address such issues as bisexual erasure, asexual erasure, aromantic erasure. But not so much for pansexual/panromantic erasure, demisexual/demiromantic erasure. The list can go on.

So, I issue this writing prompt not only for myself, but for all other persons who feel that significant parts of their lives are not seen or recognized by others, even as we live them on a daily basis.

Identity and Call

7 09 2014

Before worship this morning was a meeting of the In Discernment committee at the Congregational Church of San Mateo. In this meeting, the other two seminarians and I gave brief talks about what led to our calls. The three of us gave condensed histories of our religious and secular lives as they led to us applying to seminary.

It’s no surprise to me that my gender identity as well as my romantic and sexual orientations greatly inform my own faith journey. But it was during worship itself that I was able to more completely understand why. One of the scripture readings was from a non-canonical text, the Gospel of Thomas:

Jesus said, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth was is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”

My gender identity and my romantic and sexual orientation are very important aspects of my being. My transition set in motion the various situations that led to this point in my life. So, it seems safe to say that my gender identiy, romantic orientation, sexual orientation, and my call to ministry are inextricably linked.

It seems I now have a little more clarity for when I go before Committee A.


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