Advent 2015: Hope

29 11 2015

Today is the first Sunday in Advent, and the theme is Hope.

About a month ago, on Samhain (the Wiccan analog of the Day of the Dead), my wife was in the hospital. Shortly after arriving in the emergency room by ambulance, she went into cardiac arrest. Her heart stopped. She had a deep-cerebellar stroke. She was revived and spent a week in the intensive care unit. She would spend another week in a regular hospital room. She’d even have another overnight stay a little later to get two units of blood and for observation.

Until the beginning of October, she had been the primary source of income for our little family of two. After getting laid off, she began job hunting. During this time, I continued to attend seminary and work my very part-time, one-night-a-week job, all the while hoping that her job search would yield something that would allow us to survive while at the same time hoping that if she had trouble that I could find a job and just take a leave of absence from my seminary studies.

That all changed on October 31. My hope for her became focusing on her living through this illness. I abandoned my studies, telling my professors about our situation, and returned to the job hunt. Now, my hope for myself is that I’ll find a job that will allow me to pay all of our day-to-day living expenses as well as attend to the mounting debts and bills that we’ve been delaying paying due to lack of funds.

Yes, those are very personal, inwardly focused hopes. These aren’t the hopes that I suppose a minister and seminarian would be traditionally expected to write about, especially in light of recent local, national, and world events.

I’m not turning my back on social justice issues. Being transgender, I can’t. If I did, I could pretty much just say good-bye to the employment equality that I need right now to provide for Anne and myself. But, I am taking a break from the wider world of social justice ministry. It’s the end of November and I still don’t have full-time work. I would need to work between 70 and 90 hours a week with my current very part-time job in order to make enough money for us to survive. And, it’s not a minimum wage job. It’s not much more than minimum wage, though. If I had a minimum wage job, I’d need between 80 and 100 hours of work to make ends meet. And we only have a 1-bedroom apartment that actually costs less than a lot of others in this area. The car is paid for, and was paid off before I met Anne. We aren’t living in the lap of luxury. Not even close. We are two middle-aged persons with various medical issues that require money to treat, her more so than I. We also have outstanding debts to attend to. But even without those factors, a full-time minimum wage job would not be enough.

So my primary hope for this Advent season is economic justice. Let everyone who seeks work be able to find that work, so that they may survive.

Amen, and blessed be.

Thanksgiving and the Marginalized

28 11 2015

This year, the Transgender Day of Remembrance was on a Friday. Due to Anne’s illness, I didn’t participate in any public worship or ritual. But, I was scheduled preach on the Sunday before, November 15th.

It had been my preference to preach on the 22nd, the Sunday after the TDoR and there were a couple of reasons for this. First, the 22nd is closer to the actual date of the TDoR. But also, I wanted to do something on the Sunday after because it’s the Sunday before Thanksgiving. I wanted to draw attention to the fact that for those trans and gender expansive persons who survive, many of them lose their families. They are intentionally excluded from being a part of this holiday in which family gatherings play a big part.

As I didn’t participate in any TDoR this year, it could be argued that I don’t have anything to complain about. But, I was somewhat upset with the pastors of these two churches. It wasn’t intentional cissexism, it was just that there are certain celebrations they want to attend to in the course of the liturgical year. As another transwoman put it, this is what institutional cissexism looks like. I was trying to think of a way to blog about my (self-)righteous fury when I saw the following Facebook post on Thansgiving:

My only gratitude today?

The survival of my indigenous Ancestors in the face of wave after wave after wave of imperialist colonizer rapists and murderers.

“They tried to kill us we survived, let’s eat!” – true even of more than just Exodus.

This was posted by Xochiquetzal Duti Odinsdottir, who aspected the Morrighan during the “Yes They Are!” ritual at PantheaCon 2014, a ritual that touched me deeply (and that’s putting it mildly). I had two reactions to this post.

One is that I found myself thinking about something that had been said in the sermon during community worship at the Pacific School of Religion on the previous Tuesday: There are times when maybe it’s not necessary to speak truth to power. Why? I thought. Why would we not speak truth to power. After all, wasn’t that what the pastors of my two churches were asking of me, to not speak truth to power because of the particular date? And then I read Xochiquetzal’s post. I would never dream of telling them to not speak truth to power. Yet what they had to say was unsettling to me, as I was going to be spending a good portion of the day with my kids and their mother.

I wasn’t really reacting to Xochiquetzal’s post properly. In no way was I being told to not be grateful for my kids or their mother, my ex-wife, who doesn’t hate me in spite of the divorce. No. Rather, I was being told to be mindful of a holiday that revolves around gratitude while erasing the horrors that were perpetrated against Indigenous Peoples. What happens to trans and gender expansive persons seems to pale in comparison to what happened, and still continues to happen, to Indigenous Peoples.

I feel that this is a call to rethink Thanksgiving. This is something that’s being done in shifting Columbus Day toward Indigenous Peoples’ Day, so why not with Thanksgiving, too? Yes, I can be grateful for my own existence and the extistences of my loved ones. But if I’m going to expect that my non-trans allies to acknowledge their privilege, then I’m going to have to do the same regarding the privilege I have as a European-descended person living in what we call North America.

Earning vs. Deserving Respect

22 11 2015

Shortly before the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR), I shared an article by my friend and mentor, Rev. Gina Pond, on Facebook about who should be considered elders in the Pagan community, which I prefaced with the following comment:

“Age is not entirely relevant here.” AMEN! Elders do not deserve respect simply because they are elders. That respect needs to be earned. I do not reflexively respect my elders just as I do not expect to be respected by those who are younger than me.

Hayden Reynolds (also known as Sister Hera Sees Candy), whom I met at the “Yes They Are!” ritual at PantheaCon 2014, wrote the following in a TDoR-themed post:

I have read over the past couple weeks an idea that I disagree with:

People have to earn respect.

Mostly I’ve seen it in regards to elders and their foibles as of late. There is something so inherently selfish about that statement. It says, “I am the judge and jury about whether you deserve respect.” That’s fucked up. I’m sorry. It is.

Everyone deserves unearned respect. EVERYONE. Respect can be lost. It is not infinite. But it must be given. And I have to think that folks that murdered our loved ones probably didn’t believe they deserved respect.

They do.

After reading the above admonition, I feel I should clarify my position.

Like Pond, I also believe “that it’s appropriate to respect our elders in the general sense,” and since I also agree with Reynolds we could replace the word “elders” with the word “people.” However, there are different levels of respect that I still at this time think are appropriate.

All persons deserve the respect that any being deserves. I do not challenge this. The elders of the Pagan community, or any community for that matter, have indeed done a lot of work and they deserve that additional acknowledgement. But what happens when they subsequently alienate those who have come after them? Persons like me are routinely denied involvement in various Pagan communities because of our gender identities. There are elders and their supporters who do this, in addition to forcefully enforcing the concept of the gender binary. What then? Should we accept this exclusion without critique?

For instance, there was a time when I considered myself to be a cross-dresser rather than a trans woman. In Susan Stryer’s book Transgender History, I read about Virginia Prince and the Society of the Second Self. This was a group designed to support heterosexual cross-dressers. Though I was married at the time, I identified as bisexual and not as heterosexual. The more I learned about Prince’s ideas, the more I began to think that this person couldn’t be a role model for me. That said, the work that Prince and Tri-Ess did can be viewed as work that did indeed help me to an extent even if that wasn’t their intention.

Though I don’t know Reynolds as closely as I know Pond, I don’t think Reynolds had suggested that we accept exclusion without critique. Rather, the message is more like be respectful with our critiques. I am a Christo-Pagan, a Christian-Wiccan. It would be a violation of the Golden Rule, the second half of the Great Commandment, and the Wiccan Rede to not follow Reynolds’ advice, not to mention just being do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do. And if I’m going to take seriously the Open Source Alexandrian Tradition’s concept of radical inclusion, I need to be mindful of how I phrase my critiques. I’m a high priest and teacher of this tradition. I must embody the tradition’s teaching if I want to be worthy of this title and position.

To label these elders as bigots, or at least as being bigoted, still seems to be a fair accusation. I reiterate that I don’t expect Generation-Y and the Millennials to reflexively respect me as an elder, especially if I falter in living radical inclusion. I will have to live with being excluded by elders, acknowledging their positions as elders, while at the same time respectfully disagreeing with them. This is very possible.

I can respect these persons while speaking out against their ideas of exclusion.

The Liminal Space Within the TDoR

20 11 2015

It’s a little before 9:00 PM, Pacific Time, and I’m listening to music at my computer using YouTube. I’d thought of doing some more work on the third draft of my second novel, when the enormity of the Transgender Day of Remembrance suddenly hit me.

I feel so fucking powerless in this world where the lives of persons like me seem to be worth so much less than those who aren’t in any way gender expansive. (To my harassers on Twitter: No, I haven’t given up. I’m gonna stand, and you can gargle my junk!)

I’m in a liminal space these days. Anne’s illness and my need to provide for our family has me reevaluating what my plans for ministry really could or should be. Do I take a leave of absence and return to the MDiv program in the Fall 2016 semester? Or do I focus on my multi-faith ministry exclusively from the Pagan side? Do I follow the example of Jesus and take up my cross, accepting the possibility of martyrdom for the betterment of trans lives? Or, do I take inspiration from the Morrighan and take up my crossbow and go into battle, no longer content to work for trans liberation but actively fighting instead? The work I had completed this semester shows that I am quite clearly an adversarial theologian. Should I embrace that and become and emissary of the Adversary, flipping tables and shaking foundations?

What I am capable of? What needs to be done?

I’m in need of temple time, for lack of a better phrase.

Work that Matters and Paying the Bills

18 11 2015

When I was laid off in July 2014, I was headed to seminary to pursue a Master of Divinity and a Certificate of Sexuality and Religion at the Pacific School of Religion with the ultimate goal of or ordained ministry in the United Church of Christ. While I wasn’t sure what I was going to do for income while at PSR, I was hoping that I’d be able to find work with non-profits or with organizations that did beneficial work in the world. I had thought that my work with Epocrates was doing this, but their primary focus was supporting “big pharma” rather than the medical professionals who were using the software.

For the bulk of my working years, I’d been focused on the bottom line. I needed to work to help my co-parent support our kids, and now I need to work to support Anne, who won’t be in any shape to return to the work force any time soon. I do not regret this in any way. My family will always be my first ministry, and if that makes me unworthy for ordination in the UCC then so be it. I just wish I could find a way to make a living doing work that matters.

I recently applied for a job with Gender Spectrum, a group that I learned of when they made a presentation about “gender variant” children at the Congregational Church of San Mateo, my home primary home church. Ultimately, I wasn’t selected for an interview, but they did encourage me to apply again if I see a job listing that I qualify for. And also to their credit, then thanked me for the volunteering I did with their Family Conferences over the past few years. Now, there is an organization I’d love to work for. And while I fully understand the need for volunteers, volunteering won’t pay the bills. I really wish that wasn’t the case.

There are so many worth non-profits that I’d love to work with, but I can’t just now. There are only so many hours in the week, and I need to spend mine working to find work so that I can support my family. Hopefully, I can return to seminary at some point in the future. Hopefully, Anne will be able to eventually get her Master of Public Health and fulfill her call to be a public health nurse.

But answering such calls takes financial privilege. It’s not just those who feel called to such vocations who get to serve in them. It’s those who can afford to answer the calls. And that’s just one other problem with how this society regards education.

Privilege and the White Trans Person

13 11 2015

Over the past few years, I have repeatedly read “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh, which I learned about from “Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person” by Gina Crosley-Corcoran, another article that I’ve read multiple times. The thing is, these articles don’t seem to take into consideration orientation, gender identity, and ability.

A lot of the items on McIntosh’s list of twenty-six priviliges I either don’t have or experience to a significantly lesser degree because of my gender identity as well as my sexual and romantic orientations. Media representation for trans persons has only recently changed, and I still don’t really see pre-op and non-op trans persons represented. Persons who are pansexual? Almost nowhere that I’ve found except for pornography and fan-fiction. And that’s just being marginalized for ones gender and orientations. What about applying physical and mental abilities to McIntosh’s list? These privileges do indeed get muted by other factors. These things, it seems to me, are rarely either-or, binary situations.

I can readily accept that I am a statistical anomaly to an extent, but cissexism (also known as transphobia) is very real. Considering my work experience compared with the difficulty I’m having finding adequate employment, I can no longer dismiss cissexism as a factor in this, the longest period of unemployment/underemployment of my adult life. However, I’m also a middle-aged woman: two other ways in which workplace discrimination comes into play.

I even turned to, asking if there was any opportunities for me as a trans model as they seem to hire them. Unfortunately, I’m more than ten years older than what they are looking for and I lack the desired body modifications that their customers want. You read that correctly: I can’t even find employment as a sex worker.

No, I haven’t done anything to address what’s happening at #Mizzou. Part of that was due to the fact that my wife spent most of the first week of November in the Intensive Care Unit at a local hospital. On Samhain, the Wiccan day of the dead, I was waiting as she hovered at the Veil between worlds, even having crossed over to the Land of the Dead for a brief time. But by all means, criticize me for being underinformed. It was only my life partner knocking on death’s door that distracted me.

Again, I do not deny that I have privilege for being white. And as a trans woman, I even have the “privilege” of being able to still pass for male, affording me a measure of safety that other non-adequately-passing trans women don’t have. Passing is one of the few privileges that folks actually work for to achieve. But the results are there: passing can guarantee a greater measure of safety. This safety can mean the difference between life and death, but it’s a safety that I don’t really have.

But the fact is that cisgender/non-trans/non-gender-expansive people of color have privilege in the US over trans and gender-expansive people of any race. There isn’t a Cisgender Day of Remembrance because cisgender persons aren’t singled out for violence simply because they’re cisgender. And while it’s true that persons of color are singled out because they are persons of color, it gets much worse when one is trans.

One of my biggest struggles with the social justice movements that I try to work with is the allegation that persons of privilege are presumed guilty until proven innocent. And it seems that there’s no way for them to be proven innocent.

Reblogging: Antinoüs the Liberator 2015

10 11 2015

May it be so that I join the Legion of Liberators!

Ave Antinoüs!

#WeAreLegion -|- #WeAreRebellion -|- #WeAreTrans


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