Retreat: Farewell, Comfort, and Reason

25 06 2015

What follows is an abridged transcript of the worship service I wrote for the Cazadero Adult Spirituality Retreat on Sunday, 14 June 2015. The theme of the retreat was “Jesus: the Man, the Myth, the Legend.” This was the first worship service I ever wrote from start to finish.
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Gathering:
Whoever you are, wherever you are on life’s journey,
Whomever you love, however you live,
Whatever your faith or lack thereof,
Whichever deities you believe in or disdain,
You are welcome here.

Scripture Lesson:
I was excited to see that in the camp curriculum there were passages from the Gospel of Mary Magdalene. First, it’s an uncommon, non-canonical text. But also, Mary Magdalene is very important to me. To me, she’s one of the greatest of the disciples as she was one of the few who had the courage to approach the tomb on Resurrection Sunday. Her faith had such a profound effect on me that when I was ordained a Wiccan priest, I chose the priest name Antinoë Magdalene partly in her honor.

The passage in the curriculum starts with a final message of hope and instruction from Jesus before he leaves his disciples.

4 The Savior’s Farewell
1When the Blessed one had said these things, he greeted them all. “Peace be with you!” he said. 2“Acquire my peace within yourselves!
3“Be on your guard 4so that no one deceives you by saying, ‘Look over here!’ or ‘Look over there!’ 5For the child of true Humanity exists within you. 6Follow it! 7Those who search for it will find it.

The following was excluded from the curriculum, but I have access to the seminary library!

8“Go then, preach the good news about the realm. 9[Do] not lay down any rule beyond what I determined for you, 10nor promulgate law like the lawgiver, or else you might be dominated by it.”
11After he said these things, he departed from them.

There’s a couple of noteworthy points here. Jesus tells his followers to preach the good news, but to avoid laying down any laws. It seems he’s saying be loving and righteous, but not dogmatic.

The selection continues with Mary offering comfort to the other disciples after Jesus has departed. They weren’t too keen on carrying on Jesus’ ministry, knowing how the local authorities treated their leader.

5 Mary comforts the other disciples
1But they were distressed and wept greatly. 2“How are we going to go out to the rest of the world to announce the good news about the realm of the child of true Humanity?” they said. 3“If they did not spare him, how will they spare us?”

The previous verses were left out of the curriculum; it started with verse 4:

4The Mary stood up. She greeted them all, addressing her brothers and sisters (kin in the Spirit), 5“Do not weep and be distressed nor let your hearts be irresolute. 6For his grace will be with you all and will shelter you. 7Rather we should praise his greatness, 8for he has prepared us and made us true Human beings.”

Okay, so I changed the phrase “brothers and sisters” to “kin in the Spirit.” I’m trans, and my ministry will be gender inclusive.

Here, Mary seems to advising the followers of Jesus to stay strong, and have faith in what they’re going to do. A literal interpretation of Mary’s words might suggest that the disciples wouldn’t face the same persecution and martyrdom that Jesus did. Well, we know this isn’t true and that several of them were killed for their ministries. A different reading could be that his followers will be “sheltered” in that they will know what they’re doing is right even if those in power don’t appreciate it. We see this in the #BlackLivesMatter protests and in the quests for trans rights and marriage equality in our society.

The selection ends with Mary describing a vision she had.

7 Vision and mind
1She said, “I saw the Lord in a vision 2and I said to him, ‘Lord, I saw you today in a vision.’
3He answered me, ‘How wonderful you are for not wavering at seeing me! 4For where the mind is, there is the treasure.’

The next three verses were excluded from the curriculum, and it appears that verse 7 was fragmented in the source material.

5I said to him, ‘So now, Lord, does a person who sees a vision see it with the soul or with the spirit?’
6The Savior answered, ‘A person does not see with the soul or with the spirit. 7Rather the mind, which exists between these two, sees the vision…'”

What really struck me about the end of this selection, (the part that for whatever reason wasn’t included in the curriculum) was that Jesus seems to say that one’s own ability to reason shouldn’t be cast by the way side. It seems to go against some of the key ideas put forth in some religious circles.

Here we seem to have Jesus saying that it’s not enough to follow and preach the good news. Rather, it must be understood at the intellectual level, too. It’s like the concept of grokking from Robert Heinlein’s book Stranger in a Strange Land. To grok something was to understand it with every fiber of one’s being. As is said in that book, “That which groks is god.”

But what’s also said in that book book is, “That which groks is god. Thou art god.”

Our theme for this camp was “Jesus: The Man, The Myth, The Legend,” hence the name tags that say “The Man, The Myth, The Legend.” or, “The Woman, The Myth, The Legend.” Mine says, “The Trans, The Myth, The Legend.” Being a gender equality activist I’d change the theme to The Being, The Myth, The Legend. We are the church, we are the body of Christ. With that in mind, we are called to grok the Being, Myth, and Legend that was Jesus, to embrace that with every thought, word, and action of our lives.

In doing so, others will grok, too.

Please pray with me: We came here as our own Beings. Help us, GOD, to write our own Myths, the scriptures that will describe our lives, so that our lives and love will be the stuff of Legend. In the Names of GOD, amen.

Call to Communion:
On that Legendary night, Jesus took the bread, broke it, and gave it to his followers saying, “This is as my body which is to be broken.” After supper he took the cup and said, “This is as my blood poured out for the world. Do this in memory of me.”

What is the difference between Myth and Scripture? Point of view, really. Myth says Jesus’ body had to be broken and his blood had to be spilled so that the world would be redeemed. When he said, “Do this in memory of me,” did he mean for us to celebrate the Eucharist to remind ourselves of this sacrifice? Or, did he me for us to be willing to take up our own crosses even to the breaking of our own bodies and the spilling of our own blood? Perhaps. We do this in memory of how he showed us to live.

Communion is offered here to all, regardless of what you might or might not believe. Take the bread, dip it in the cup, and eat. If you do not wish to partake of communion, please cross your arms with your hands on your shoulders and I’ll ask if you would prefer a blessing.

Come and partake as you see fit in this blessing, fashioned from the foundations of the world.

Benediction:
We came here this weekend to honor and celebrate Jesus, the Being, the Myth, and the Legend, in each of us.
Let us go forward, Being our own Persons, Writing our own Myths, and Living our lives in such a way that the Legendary love of Christ is shared with all whom we encounter.

In the Names of GOD, amen.

Source for the Gospel sections above:
King, Karen L. The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle. Santa Rosa, CA: Polebridge Press. 2003.





Days to Honor Parents

22 06 2015

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day can be very difficult days for trans persons who are parents. Last year I suggested a gender-neutral day to honor parents in general, but a friend of mine pointed out a potential problem with that idea:

So, what are the best options: support divorced parents at the expense of gender expansive parents, or support gender expansive parents at the expense of divorcees? Is it possible to find a way to support both groups without somehow marginalizing either?

And then, there is the backlash against Father’s Day by certain schools of feminism which in some ways can be summed up by this Facebook posting:

A comment like this, while seemingly intended to uplift mothers who had to deal with deadbeat dads, completely nullifies the experiences of persons who had been raised by abusive mothers or disowned by them. Again, who should be uplifted?

And by that comment above, it should be reversed. I know a man who’s wife died when their son was 5, and he raised his son alone. So, I guess we could say of this man and others like him, “Happy Mother’s Day to all those Fathers who did all the work.” But, this would trigger an onslaught of comments and messages about isolated instances and how no one really means that all men are bad (#notallmen but #yesallwomen).

It is a myth that all mothers are good mothers who are worthy of praise. There are mothers who will sacrifice their families to further their careers. When women do this, I notice that a common feminist reply is that there should be more to a married woman’s life than being a wife and mother. Let a man who is a husband and father put his career first, and he will be assailed for being a poor husband and father.

If feminism is going to be about equality among the genders, then some cohesion would be a good idea, I think. Should there working parents of all genders and lack thereof be expected to choose which is the greater priority: work or family? It’s my feeling that they should be easily enabled to balance both, but my experience has suggested otherwise. Parents who put their families first can find themselves punished in the work place. Employers demand loyalty that supersedes all things. And things like the “at-will clause” pretty much make equal opportunity laws unenforceable.

I’m still not certain where I stand on this. My friend’s comments about not sharing a parent’s day with her divorced co-parent describes a valid situation. But I can’t help but feel that it throws gender expansive parents under the metaphorical bus. My other friend’s comments about Mothers who did the fathering as well ignores abusive or absent mothers. And, I guess I don’t really have to mention that neither of these friends are trans.

Gender is complicated. It’s not binary. It’s not M or F. It’s not trans or cis/non-trans. There are deadbeat moms. There are moms who become dads and dads who become moms. There are men who are moms and women who are dads. There are parents of all genders. There are parents without a gender. There are single parents, and there are communal parents.

To my way of thinking, all parents who truly care for their children should be honored, and it should be done in a way that honors all parents.

But if you use your kids to get back at your divorced former co-parent, you’re doing something tremendously wrong. Leave your kids out of that fight.





What the heck is legal gender?

17 06 2015

Here’s a vlog update I made in response to questions I see arising concerning the concept of legal gender.

Here’s a transcript of the video’s audio:

Hi there! It’s me, Constance, and today I want to talk about something that’s come to my attention.
Apparently there are cisgender or otherwise non-trans persons who don’t seem to understand the concept of legal gender. Apparently, because I’ve been through a legal gender change, I’m somehow being dishonest. I don’t quite get that, but that’s the allegation.

Do you see this? [holds up a California birth certificate] This is a Certificate of Live Birth. It is a legal document that everyone who is born in the US has. And on that legal document it lists one’s legal name as well as the legal names of the parents and the presiding medical professional. Among other details are the gender of the child who is born.

What this means is that everyone born in the US has a legal gender. Whether they accept the gender that was assigned to them based on an examination of their genitals when they were born or that gender is based on self-determination later in life is irrelevant. Gender, in the United States, is a legal aspect of your identity.

For example, a person who was observed to have been born with a vagina is designated legally female at birth. That means that on the certificate of live birth, this legal document, it will say “female.” However they could be genetically intersex, having two X-chromosomes as well as a Y-chromosome, but still have a vagina. That’s what’s going to be looked at; it’s basically a visual examination. So they’ll be described legally female. And this will also be the case for a person born with a vagina and they do indeed have two X-chromosomes and they grow up to not challenge or question their gender in any shape, way, or form. They accept it, they don’t feel a need to challenge it. They’re still legally female. That legal gender still persists.

In the US, what appears on your legal identification are your legal identifiers. So for persons who are not trans, you still have a legally defined gender. That is the way of it. And when persons like me submit the public announcement of our gender changes and then do not have the court papers sealed, thus making it a matter of public record, there’s no deception, there’s no dishonesty. Quite the opposite. We’re volunteering truths in ways that our detractors never will of their own.

So just a quick recap: If you live here in the US and you have identification for the US, it’s got your legal gender on it. Whether you’re transgender or not, you have a legal gender, and that’s part of your identity. Whether you choose to accept that fact is irrelevant.

After all, legal gender is at the heart of marriage equality debates. That’s one of the reasons why this legal gender has really come to the forefront. Being able to legally define gender is critical for those who seek to make sure that this isn’t the land of the free. For those who seek to make sure that only certain people have access to certain rights, in spite of all the things that they say when they reflexively say the Pledge of Allegiance or sing the national anthem, it’s just regurgitated poetry. That’s all it is.

Congratulations: every last one of you who is not trans, you still have a legal gender. You still have a legally defined gender identity. Welcome to our world.

Peace be with you.





I Don’t Fear You

12 06 2015

[Image description: A screen capture from Twitter shows an account called “Worth_in_Rubies” sending a message to “SillyLiberals” suggesting that I’m a pedophile. This was done in response to the #MyVanityFairCover post I had made. I replied to both accounts saying, “I make no effort to hide my birth name. If you think I’m a criminal, report me.”]

Worth_in_Rubies is the account of a so-called Christian mom and homeschooler. SillyLiberals is the account of a gun rights activist and meninist.

To these, and other hopelessly misguided cissexist transphobes, read my lips:

I. DON’T. FEAR. YOU.

Once again, for those skulking in the back.

I. DON’T. FEAR. YOU.

Even if you silence me, I am but one of many. We are Legion.

You’ve already lost. Give up, and stop making a spectacle of yourselves.

By order of the Superior Court of California, my name is Constance Anne McEntee and I am female. My birth name was David William McEntee, and I DON’T FEAR YOU.





[Reblogging] The Apple: For Alan Turing

8 06 2015

Hail Alan Turing!
Ave Antinoüs!
Hall the Beloved Dead!





#MyVanityFairCover

4 06 2015





Little Free Library

28 05 2015

So, I noticed this, a Little Free Library, on Arch Street in Berkeley not far from my seminary, the Pacific School of Religion.

And I thought, hey I should put my book in there, adding my Facebook link and email address to the cover page:

The other day as I was visiting the campus, I noticed that my book was no longer inside. It looks like somebody borrowed my book!








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