Transgender State of Emergency

“RESOLVED, That we continue to oppose steadfastly all efforts by any governing official or body to validate transgender identity as morally praiseworthy (Isaiah 5:20); and be it further
RESOLVED, That we oppose all cultural efforts to validate claims to transgender identity; and be it finally”

-Southern Baptist Convention-On Transgender Identity 2014

“Every year since, growing numbers of trans people and advocates worldwide take a moment to pause and remember the countless lives lost around the globe to transphobic violence.”

-The Advocate on TDOR

This year, the Transgender community was heralded as reaching a “tipping point”. This was primarily because of the visibility of celebrities like Laverne Cox or Caitlyn Jenner. Perhaps it was because the national organizations decided that since marriage equality had been made legal, now  it was finally time to pay attention to the trans community. Yet it seems that this tipping point has instead created a State of Emergency- with the most marginalized of the transgender community facing the brunt of a transphobic backlash against the strides for progress that have been made. We have seen an increase in violence against trans individuals, but especially against Trans Women of Color.

There are very obvious groups who deserve the blame of furthering hate of Transgender individuals, such as the Southern Baptist Convention. Transphobia wrapped in false interpretation of Scripture is deadly; and many evangelical churches have played in role in creating a culture where 23 Transgender individuals were murdered this last year and where many more took their own lives.  Surely the words of 1st John resonate here: “Whoever says, “I am in the light,” while hating a brother or sister, is still in the darkness.” (1 John 2:9 NRSV). It is vital for these organizations to be confronted for their evil.

However, it is easy to blame others without reflecting on the ways in which I have participated directly or indirectly in oppression. This has led me to reflect on the ways in which I have failed to fight against racism and classism in both my own life and in the wider LGBT community. In my past years of activism in the Trans community I knew of the idea of intersectionality, but did not quite realize the ways that I was contributing to further marginalizing of oppressed groups. And because of this lack of realization about marginalization, lives have been put at risk because of lack of safe spaces.

As a leader in a faith community, I must look for action to address these problems. I believe God is a creator of safe spaces for the marginalized- as Isaiah states, “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them” (Isaiah 41:17). Am I making sure that no one is being forsaken? Am I forsaking others when I could be making a difference?

What can we do? What must we do? We must hear the stories of those individuals we lost this year. These are 23 lives taken from the Earth for simply living out their authentic selves. 23 families and groups of friends who lost someone important in their lives.  We must make sure there are safe places for people to not fear for their lives. We must work on making our whole society a safe space for people to live authentically.

However we must begin to realize that we must fight all forms of oppression. We must realize that simply fighting to “become normal” in the eyes of society, while pushing others away, will not bring anyone freedom. Freedom only happens when we are all truly free.

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Am I My Brother’s Keeper? Reflections on the Eve of Columbus Days

Cain said to Abel, “Let us go out in the field,” When they were in the field, Cain turned on his brother Abel and killed him.  God asked Cain “Where is Abel your brother?” Cain Answered, “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”
-Genesis 4:8-9 (Inclusive Bible)

“We are the party of independent individuals”
-Republican Platform from GOP.com

——

In coming out as a transgender woman, I saw firsthand the loss of my patriarchal privilege as I transitioned from being seen as a cisgender man to being seen as a transgender woman. I am fortunate that my experience opened my eyes to the varieties of other people in the world, and the necessity to be open to learning about other’s experiences. In doing this, I have had to confront the harsh truth that I am privileged as a white person, as a Christian, and as an American.

I have placed high priority on studying and learning about what has lead us to our current moment in history. I have slowly begun to learn about things like white supremacy, colonialism, the patriarchy, wealth inequality, and heterosexism. In learning about these things, I have tried to theologically reflect on them from my perspective of Christian Theology.

In these reflections, I have thought about our understanding of independence both as Americans, and American Christians. We are fed the ideas of the individuality, and our ability to make our own way in the world, we are told that our country has had some flaws, but that we are making progress. To me, I cannot as a Christian let these ideas stand without challenging them theologically.

Our nation and our own selves, are intrinsically linked with our past, and we must acknowledge it. We must acknowledge that we as white Americans, like Cain, have murdered our brothers and sisters. I have murdered my brothers and sisters. You have murdered our brothers and sisters. We cannot let the history of systemic genocide towards Native people and enslavement of Africans simply be a hiccup on our nations narrative of progress. These are sins that we have committed, and that must both be spoken of and repented of, then we must find true Justice to address them.

We must acknowledge that this nation is founded on colonial exertion of power over those who were different, and his been written into how our society functions. Our country operates on a false narrative of equality while ruining the lives of so many through institutionalized and individual racism and privilege.

It is these systems that decimated the Native American Population. It is these systems that have perpetuated slavery, Jim Crow, and Mass Incarceration. It is these institutions that cause us to now view Hispanic or Arabic Americans with suspicion as not belonging here. It is these systems that have led to the killing of queer people, and especially LGBT people of color.  These are not past sins, but sins that we are part of continuing today.  I am responsible for the death of Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Sandra Bland,  and so many others. All of us are, as we benefit from this system.

We may say “I’m not like those people, I would never…” or “I’m not racist”, but we cannot simply look past the fact that we have abandoned the Christian belief that we are our brother and sisters keeper, and instead have marginalized so many as “the other”. We cannot simply look for a scapegoat, it is all too common for us to talk about “those racists”, or “those conservatives” or “the 1%” instead of acknowledging that the whole system is guilty, but that we love the system and benefit from it ourselves. We eat food or buy cheap clothes without thinking of those who were robbed of the fruit of their labors in order to make us a $5 t-shirt or a $1 burger. We buy houses on land that was stolen from the people who lived here for centuries, while told narratives of Columbus discovering America.

Repentance must start with listening to others, acknowledging our part in these sins, and working to “decolonize” our minds- leaving behind the lies we are fed to justify these sins. We must become accomplices in breaking down this system, instead of simply allies in knowing about oppression (Wonderful Article About This Concept). We cannot let these systems simply sit as assumptions, but must be willing to confront them.

Please join me in acknowledging our sinfulness, in repentance, and in seeking justice.

Let us live a creed that spans all religions: we must love others as ourselves.

-Em
GoldenRule
(Picture Found at Link)

Sorry

Sorry folks. I disappeared from blogging. This summer has been hectic. But Seminary starts in 2 weeks and I am so excited. I will definitely be blogging to keep everyone in the loop.

To recap the summer:

  • Had an awesome mission trip with my youth group
  • Supported one of my best friends- Rev. Benjamin David Hutchison as he was ousted from his position as a pastor for being openly gay.
  • Visited family
  • Went on a personal leave from my position at Lowes with the intent of leaving officially by next summer
  • Have read a few books: New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin. I’m trying to get educated on Racial Justice issues.
  • Started a GoFundMe for my transition: http://www.gofundme.com/z5g3a5n
  • Played a lot of Splatoon on the Wii U
  • Prepped for Seminary and completed online work
  • Really started to use twitter a lot (follow me- emkelley39 )
  • Officially am now a Member in Discernment in the United Church of Christ. One step closer to ordination!

Hope all are well. Will be sharing more soon!

Em

Day of Rest

One very important concept in life and in theology is that of the Sabbath. Or day of rest. We as humans have also realized how important it is to rest for our own well being. 

Unfortunately that’s hard to do when your working 2 part time jobs, getting ready to go back to seminary, married, and have an almost 18 month old. Instead I end up with days like today where it’s so hard just to function. 

Be well friends. 

Em

#CaitlynJenner : My Attempt At Reflecting on Pop Culture

I’ll admit, once upon a time my wife and I did binge watch some Kardashians on Netflix while we were both sick. I can’t pretend it was not a guilty pleasure. But we haven’t followed much of their lives since (besides the occasional Kanye & Kim news). But suddenly, the whole world was drawn in by the gossip about whether there was something going on in the family. Did a family member have a big secret?  The world has since gotten to know Caitlyn Jenner.

As I followed the story on social media yesterday, I couldn’t help but reflect. Anything that Fox News Correspondents link to the decline of the Civilization must be a good thing. And I also saw people on Twitter freaking out that Caitlyn was being called brave, and not the troops (honestly I don’t understand peoples logic about how calling her brave takes away from anyone elses bravery)- but if it was making people flip out on social media for stupid reasons, it also had to be a good thing.

So, everyone acts like some huge accomplishment happened yesterday.

What actually happened?
1) Caitlyn is now able to live her life authentically. Anytime anyone can do that I think it is a positive.
2) A Trans Woman made international news with her journey… It’s my hope that spurring conversation is a good thing.
3) Hopefully some young trans kids see that there is hope for their journey. Transgender people have a 41% attempted suicide rate… if Caitlyn gives any trans kids some glimmer of hope, it is good in my book. I wish I had seen visible trans women growing up.
4) Caitlyn is an example of the daily misgendering that many of us face. I know I am sick and tired of being called he, sir, and my birth name. She is dealing with the same. Hopefully people reflect and see that what they are doing is hurtful both to her, but also to friends and family members in their own life.

What did not happen?
1) Transphobia and our societies unjust treatment of Trans people did not suddenly end. Real work for social change needs to happen.
2) Trans women of color are not suddenly saved from the very high murder rate that they face.
3) Trans people every where are for the most part not extremely wealth, with most either living in poverty or barely making a living wage. We did not all suddenly come upon great wealth which would enable all of us to have our transitions make us fit societies expectation of what a man or woman looks like.
4) Trans youth are still proportionately higher in facing homelessness due to rejecting families. It is nice that Caitlyn has a good family, and it’s great to have them demonstrating to the world what acceptance is- but most trans people do not have that reality.

Overall- Best of luck to her. She has done a fairly okay job at her sudden expectation of being a trans spokesperson. I have seen her say “not everyones journey is like mine” and she has tried to discuss violence towards trans women of color. I hope she grows and uses her fame, and wealth, to help make a difference for the trans community.  How do you feel?

Awareness

First off- sorry for the delayed blog. The holidays kept me busy. I am a bit tired out after a very active (and fun) weekend.

My thoughts may be short today.

Yesterday, I was browsing through my twitter feed, reading about the bombings in Gaza, and it had me thinking. “Remember when you were unaware of things going on in the world?”. Coming out as trans shook my image of the world. Confronted the privilege I grew up with.

Even this last year, being confronted with police brutality, and finally confronting my own internalized self hate, and confronting my own part in our messed up system.

It’s  challenge, admitting your own guilt. Admitting that you are part of the problem. But only if you do that can you truly help make lasting change.

I won’t lie that their aren’t days that I wish I was unaware. Its so hard sometimes to see negative all over the place. To realize that things are messed up. I grew up thinking that Israel was God’s ordained country in the middle east. Now I can’t stop thinking about the innocent children in Gaza who have their lives ruined by state sponsored terror. Do I wish I could go back to my privileged lack of awareness? Sometimes. The world is easier when you don’t deal with the negative. But I would not change a thing. I feel called to make a difference in the world, and I can’t do that if I don’t confront the real problems of the world.

Reflecting

Today I don’t have a blog. My thoughts are too scattered.

Some of my thoughts today:

How do I define my faith?

What am I doing to make the world a better place for future generations?

What can I get involved with to make the world a better place?

How do I better structure my life so that I don’t end up having days like this where I can’t focus?

Am I truly going to be able to handle school again?

Why the heck would God call me to ministry?

What should I try and accomplish this summer?

What am I doing to encourage growth in my life?

How do I love everyone?

What does it mean to be a good parent?

Who are my mentors?

Should I set up a GoFundMe for transition costs?

Anyways. Lots on my mind today. Hope you are well friends