Friday, November 16, 2012

Resources for Transgender Day of Remembrance - Nov 20

Greetings! We are sharing some worship resources for individuals and congregations to mark the International Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20. They are written by the Rev. Jay Wilson and can be found on the ReconcilingWorks website.

But first, please see this note (below) about the Transgender Day of Remembrance from Rev. Wilson, who describes himself as a queer and genderqueer transguy, autistic and disabled. He also identifies as a Lutheran postmodern, third-wave feminist, academic geek, disability rights activist, and social justice advocate. Jay completed his Masters in Social Work from College of St. Catherine/St. Thomas University and completed his Masters in Divinity from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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Dear Friends in Christ:

November 20 is set aside each year as the International Transgender Day of Remembrance. Started in 1998 by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, transgender activist, as a way to memorialize Rita Hester, who was violently murdered in Allston, Massachusetts, the day has evolved and grown such that today it is marked internationally in more than 185 cities in 20 countries.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance has historically been a day to remember those who have been murdered as the result of ignorance and transphobia.  It is a day set aside to call attention to the violence, extreme discrimination, and alienation towards those in society who are transgender.

The Rev. Jay Wilson
But we know that not all of the violence perpetrated on transgender people comes in the form of murder, and sometimes the victims are not themselves transgender but are allies of transgender people.  Just two days ago, Brandon Lacy Campos, a poet and activist living in New York City, died at age 35. Campos wrote and spoke often about how multiple oppressions interact in complex and often tragic ways.  I also remember my uncle, my friend's brother, neighbors lost to a workplace shooting, and my neighbors lost every week to violence and poverty in my community.

It's important to name oppression broadly, in part because the Transgender Day of Remembrance list of victims reflects privilege and oppressions of many kinds. The list includes mostly young people of color, mostly male-to-female or gender-nonconforming people, and mostly people living in poverty. It is true that violence against transgender people is a threat to all of us, no matter how well we "pass," no matter how traditionally gendered we identify, or how privileged we are otherwise. Yet, like in the rest of the world, violence and poverty affect people disproportionately. Women are murdered at far higher rates than men, whether trans or not. People who are  gender non-conforming are at higher risk than people who "pass," although passing privilege can be transient. Poverty, hunger, disease, and self-destructive behavior correlate with early death. The church must speak out about this, whether we explicitly mention transgender people or not. And when we do mention trans people, we need to be careful that we are not mentioning only those who are most likely to "pass" and be middle class, since then we're missing most of us, particularly those of us who are most at risk.

ReconcilingWorks and I encourage RIC congregations and members to offer a petition in your worship services in recognition of the Transgender Day of Remembrance during the Prayers of the Church, either this Sunday or the next, November 18 or 25. It is also a great time for starting the conversation in a congregation in other ways, such as adult forums. 

For sample prayers and for liturgies of Confession and Forgiveness, please see ReconcilingWorks website. Let us end this note with prayer: God, we give thanks for your transgender saints whom we lost this year to violence, both the saints we know of and those who died unknown. We remember those whose stories were buried with them, whose families or officials named them or reported their deaths in a way that did not honor their gender. We know you know the names of their hearts. We hold that you know them by name even when we do not. Neighbor them to us. Keep them in our hearts, and move us toward deeper community with transgender and gender non-conforming people across your world. Amen

Grace and peace,

The Rev. Jay Wilson

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For sample prayers and liturgies of Confession and Forgiveness written by Jay, please see  ReconcilingWorks website.

For more information on the Transgender Day of Remembrance, see


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