Special thanks for editorial assistance to Rev. Emily E. Ewing.
The time of changing seasons often sits with me and grows me. I write anticipating the onset of Advent and the commemoration of the Reign of Christ. During these days, we commemorate transgender awareness month and transgender day of remembrance. These are my favorite days of the year – the days when we acknowledge the world as it is and anticipate the world as it could or should be. This is my favorite time of year for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that the thin days of the beginning of the month have started giving way to the rich depths of early winter. The gifts of this time of shifting seasons provide an opportunity to know and name the points of tension within ourselves, and to process emotions and events which sit within us.
About two years ago I wrote a piece, Jesus Sits with Us in Our Grief. It was a powerful piece to write; it took much of my deep sadness and grief and transformed them into something consumable for others. It took my anger and grief and made them palatable. Today, I write with much the same purpose. I have deep sadness and grief and I need to metabolize them into something consumable for my cisgender friends and colleagues. This time though, I need you to hear and see my anger and rage. Over the time that I’ve composed this reflection, International Pronouns Day came and went, as did the news of the government’s proposed redefinition of gender, and the release of 369 of God’s beloveds who died this year because of their transgender status. International Pronouns Day Is the first ever day of its kind, celebrating the importance of pronouns in a transgender person’s transition. Pronouns are important, as they are the baseline of acknowledging the humanness of a trans person. Legal recognition of a transgender person’s gender is also important. Pronouns and legal recognition do not mitigate my anger.
Pronouns are not enough to liberate transgender people.
Legal protections are not the fullness of what we hope for in the reign of God.
Correct names do not set us free.
They’re the first week of class; they’re the information that the professor assumes you have when you walk into class. Legal recognition is the basic level of dignity which I am entitled to because I am a human being.
Now, let me be clear – I am happy to explain the difference between gender and sexuality, the different ways in which gender and sexuality intertwine, and the ways in which we tease them apart. and. And. And. I’m tired. I’m tired of putting my liberation on hold because people need me to teach them transgender 101 and rudimentary respect. I’m happy to do these things, and I need my cisgender colleagues to do these things for each other; it’s exhausting to continually defend my humanity and dignity at the most basic of levels and to do so while the government continues its assault on the rights and dignity of transgender people.
Since the beginning of the fall semester, two transgender women of color have died in my city; including one just a few miles from where I live. It is incredibly difficult to live with this reality, where I must continually defend my personhood and know there are people near me who want people who look like me dead.
Dejanay Stanton deserved to live a full and fulfilling life. Instead, she was found shot in an alley a few miles from the school I attend. Similarly, Ciara Minaj Carter Frazier deserved to live in dignity and to live even in the midst of a domestic disagreement. Even more so, the three-hundred-sixty-nine of God’s beloved’s who had their lives ended because of their transgender status between October 2017 and September of 2018. Name, Pronouns and legal protections do not bring back the unjustly killed. Names and pronouns do not remove the barriers faced in attempting to survive in a capitalistic society – nearly two-thirds of those killed this year worked in underground economies. I see all of this and I need to scream. I need to rage. I need to see the world as it could be and soon.
Let me be clear; I fully believe that Jesus sits with me in my grief, and right now I need something different. I need Jesus to join me in my living room, on the street, in boardrooms and circles of influence… I need Jesus to demand change in the world. I need Jesus to scream with me. I need to see Jesus raging with me.
When the memo leaked stating that the goal of the change in how the federal government defines gender was “to remove civil rights protections from those who should not have them,” my body responded viscerally. The essence of the message is that our understanding of who people are and how they interact with the world cannot progress through time. That once a society reaches an understanding it cannot change or alter that understanding – that new information cannot change the way we interact with each other.
Two years ago, another trans woman of color was killed in Chicago. Her name was Keke Collier, and she died just a few miles from my school. There was a march in downtown Chicago, as a collective community, transgender Chicagoans came out to proclaim that Black Trans Lives Matter.
The core of the conflict between these ways of looking at the world is eschatological. There is no hope for God to breakthrough into the world as it is to bring about the world as it could be without changing us in the process. God screams with us and for