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.