Crossing the T

Life at the intersection of Church and Trans with Rev. Allyson Robinson

Archive for Current Events

Can I Quote You? Renee DeMusiak on voting your conscience

From last Saturday’s Fresno Bee, via Box Turtle Bulletin, comes this little snippet about a straight religious woman, Renee, and her boss Michael, a gay man planning to wed his partner of 16 years.  The money quote is at the end.

DeMusiak, 52, the florist shop employee, grew up with the idea that marriage meant only a man and a woman.

“I just always went by the Bible. Mom is mom and dad is dad. I was never really for gays getting married,” she says.

But in November, she plans to vote against the ban and for same-sex marriage.

She had only worked at Chase Flower Shop for two months when her dog got sick and needed expensive medical care.

“Michael gave me his credit card and told me to take care of her,” she says. “I’d never vote against him.”

She says her own search for a mate has been the stuff of blues songs: cheating men, hurt, and true love never arriving.

“I’m struggling to find someone. I see gay couples come in here all the time who have had better luck than me. It’s so important to have someone love you for who and what you truly are,” she says.

“I know religion is really going to come down on this one, but I just don’t think I can be opposed any more. I vote for people to be happy.”

Speaking of Faith seeks input for future show on marriage equality

Kate Moos, the managing producer of my favorite public radio program, Speaking of Faith, posted the following at the show’s blog today:

It’s been quite a while since we’ve done a program examining the gay marriage issue. Our last treatment included the voices of 2 self-described evangelicals—Richard Mouw, the president of Fuller Seminary, and Virginia Mollencott, a  Professor Emeritus  at William Patterson University. We wanted to frame the conversation in the terms most often used in our culture to discuss it, so we chose two evangelicals. But we also wanted to go beyond the yelling and meanness of the debate, which may have reached a peak about the time we did the show. I think we succeeded.

But along with a good amount of positive feedback, and despite our deliberately conciliatory approach, we heard from people form all “sides” that we had hurt them, or offended them, or otherwise inflamed them.  I mention this not to say I think we did it wrong, but because to me it’s a measure of how much pain people are in on this topic.

With the California ruling recently, the door is open to that state beginning to marry gays and lesbians as early as next week, and we have asked ourselves what our next forway into the subject might be. It seems clear there has been a great deal of movement in the last couple of years. Witness, for example, a press release that crossed my desk this morning about GLBT families, led by Jay Bakker (son of Jim and Tammy Faye) attending services on Father’s Day at Saddleback Church (Rick Warren’s church) and then meeting with its leaders.  That perhaps would not have happened a few years ago.

What are your thoughts about how to cover this issue? Share your thoughts here if you have some.

The Father’s Day visit Kate mentions is the American Family Outing, a series of events being held this spring by Soulforce in order to establish dialogue between LGBT families and six of the country’s largest Evangelical churches and their leaders.  The previous five visits have been incredibly successful, and many have ended with pledges to continue the conversation and build on the relationships that were formed.

I’ve got an idea, Kate.  Perhaps Speaking of Faith could bring together members of the American Family Outing and leaders from the churches they visited at some point, say six months down the road, in a forum that encourages continuation of this dialogue?  That’s a program I’d really like to hear.  (Of course, I’m such a fan that you know I’ll be listening regardless!)

Daughter of Christian singer Steven Curtis Chapman killed in accident

I’ve been weeping since I read the news at CNN

The 5-year-old daughter of Grammy-winning Christian music star Steven Curtis Chapman was struck and killed Wednesday by a sport utility vehicle driven by her brother, authorities said.

The girl, Maria Sue, was hit in the driveway of the family’s home Wednesday afternoon by a Toyota Land Cruiser driven by her teenage brother, said Laura McPherson, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

On a blog set up for the public to leave messages of support, Chapman’s manager wrote,

Your prayers are needed for all in the Chapman family. This is a family who has so generously loved and given to so many. Just hours before this close knit family was celebrating the engagement of the oldest daughter Emily Chapman, and were just hours away from a graduation party marking Caleb Chapman’s completion of high school. Now, they are preparing to bury a child who blew out 5 candles on a birthday cake less than 10 days ago. These words are unthinkable to type.

I can barely type through the tears.  Steven’s music has meant so much to me over the years, and his commitment to his wife and family have been a great inspiration to me.  During my last year at Truett Seminary he led our chapel services once and I was so blessed to share that with him.  Teary-eyed from the service, I approached him to shake his hand, and he reached out and gave me a big hug. 

Steven, Mary Beth, and family–you are in my prayers today and into the future.  You are so deeply loved.

Tel Aviv plans memorial to gay holocaust victims

From the Jerusalem Post (thanks to Andrew Sullivan):

When Tel Aviv city councilman Itai Pinkas was in Amsterdam last year, he stared for a long time at the monument honoring homosexuals killed in the Holocaust, sensing its impact was going to stay with him for a long time.

When he got back to Tel Aviv, he took that powerful feeling and raced straight to Mayor Ron Huldai’s office to talk.

Now, Pinkas and Huldai have revealed the outcome of the meeting: Tel Aviv is going to be home to the country’s first memorial to gay victims of Nazi persecution. The public sculpture is slated to go up in the centrally located Gan Meir by midwinter.

According to the article, Tel Aviv will soon open what is thought to be the first LGBT community center in the world to be financed and run by the local government.  The mayor’s comments touched me:

The gay community in Tel Aviv is very significant in numbers and contributions to the city’s cultural life and economy, and there is no reason why the local government should not give necessary services crucial to these citizens.  Also, some people have bad experience sharing their being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, and others are understandably afraid to do so, so this place will be an open and safe haven for them.

Can I Quote You? Chief Justice Ron George on marriage and the state

Under these circumstances, we cannot find that retention of the traditional definition of marriage constitutes a compelling state interest.

California State Supreme Court Chief Justice Ron George, writing for the majority in today’s ruling in favor of marriage equality.

And a comment from me: Thank you, Lord. Let justice roll.

Day of Silence

Please understand my reasons for not blogging today.  I am participating in the Day of Silence, a national youth movement protesting the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their allies.  My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by harassment, prejudice, and discrimination.  I believe that ending the silence is the first step toward fighting these injustices.  Think about the voices you are not hearing today. 

What are you going to do to end the silence?

UMC to debate policy on transgender clergy

Received this week from Soulforce (emphasis mine):

In 2007, the United Methodist Church’s Judicial Council ruled that a newly-transitioned transgender pastor, Rev. Drew Phoenix of St. John’s United Methodist Church in Baltimore, could continue to serve his church, as his congregation desires. However, because church law makes no reference to transgender people, the Judicial Council referred the broader question of whether transgender ministers are eligible for clergy appointments to the church’s main legislative body, the United Methodist General Conference, which will convene in Fort Worth, Texas, April 23-May 2.

The judicial council’s ruling has inspired both inclusive and discriminatory legislative proposals. A coalition of progressive organizations within the church have proposed expanding the church’s statement of civil rights to affirm support for “all persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.” The coalition has also proposed amending the church’s membership rules to state: “no person shall or will be excluded from baptized or professing membership in the United Methodist Church for reasons related to sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Unfortunately, anti-LGBT organizations have proposed legislation that is misinformed and discriminatory. One such proposal comes from the leader of an ex-gay ministry:

“Therefore, be it resolved, that in faithfulness to Scripture and Christian/Jewish tradition about God’s gift of male and female, and out of deep compassion for persons struggling with gender and sexual identity issues, we do not recognize transgenderism or transsexuality as part of God’s good intentions for humankind and we oppose sex reassignment therapy (hormonal or surgical) as a solution to these conditions.”

Another piece of legislation, introduced by an employee of the right-wing Institute for Religion and Democracy, would make simply “identifying as transgender” a “chargeable offense” for clergy.

The United Methodist Church is the 2nd largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. The impact of this General Conference will resound beyond the denomination and ultimately affect conversations about civil rights.

Soulforce is organizing an opportunity for delegates to the UMC General Conference to meet with transgender people and their allies this Friday.  More information is available here.  Christianity Today also has coverage.

“Day of Silence” meets “Golden Rule Pledge”

This Friday marks the twelfth consecutive annual observance of the Day of Silence.  From the official site:

The Day of Silence, a project of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), is a student-led day of action when concerned students, from middle school to college, take some form of a vow of silence to bring attention to the name-calling, bullying and harassment — in effect, the silencing — experienced by LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) students and their allies. This year’s Day of Silence will be held in memory of Lawrence King.

DoS has become a hotly contested front in the culture war, as evidenced by all the strategizing among conservative Christians on how best to deal with the DoS (which they see as an attempt to legitimize behavior they oppose).  Some conservative leaders have called their followers to keep their children home from school on Friday.  Others have sought to institute a “Day of Truth” to draw attention to their beliefs about sexual identity and gender expression and to counter the message of those who keep silence.  The American Family Association has asked parents and teachers to use their influence against schools that support the DoS and to force students to abandon their vows of silence or face disciplinary action. 

Recently, Warren Throckmorton and Michael Frey announced a different approach: the Golden Rule Pledge.  From Dr. Throckmorton’s website:

We believe the teaching of Christ in the Golden Rule should guide our actions and attitudes regarding all. We also believe that we should work to make school a safe place for all students.  Thus, we advocate students spread a message like this on the Day of Silence:

This is what I’m doing:

I pledge to treat others the way I want to be treated.

Will you join me in this pledge?

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31).

The Day of Silence cards passed out by the students observing the event will ask, “What are you going to do to end the silence?” meaning what will you do to help secure a safe environment for GLBT identified students. This group advocates that we answer that question with a commitment to their safety and the safety of all based on the teachings of Christ.

A safe zone is where the teachings of Christ are truly observed. GLBT students and peers as well as other who appear different have been the target of harassment, violence and scorn. We believe this is wrong. The church should lead the way in combatting violence and harassment in schools. A variety of options exist on the DOS, including silence. Whatever option one chooses, we do not encourage protests, divisive actions or criticism of others. One way to live out our faith is to treat others fairly and with respect.

This, I think, is a good thing.

Edit:  Maybe.  Alex Blaze makes a very good argument at the Bilerico project that this is unethical  “counterprogramming”:

The idea is that Christians are supposed to against all violence, and that they don’t have to be OK with the gay to be against anti-gay violence.

Of course, in the process, they erase queer identity from the day, students who specifically are targeted for expressing themselves. These students need specific protection because the problems they face are unique, so countering that is problematic since it looks like an attempt to sweep the violence they face under the rug.

But it’s more than that – it’s counter-programming. And when someone already knows what one group of people has scheduled and sets up another celebration, event, or remembrance for the same time and the same people, no matter what it is, the intention is clear: to prevent people from participating in the previously scheduled event.

I need to think more about Alex’s argument.  When I first read about the “Golden Rule Pledge,” my context for thinking about it was very personal.  Many of my friends and colleagues (and even a few family members) disagreed with my decision to pursue gender transition on religious grounds, and I respect their feelings on the matter.  And yet none of them would sanction violence against me.  How, I’ve wondered, can they express their opposition to violence against me without compromising their beliefs?  Having read Alex’s article, I’m wondering how joining me in my observance of the DoS would compromise those beliefs.  Is it really necessary for someone to say, “I agree violence against LGBT people is wrong and should be stopped, BUT I still think homosexuality and gender variance are sinful?”  Why not just say, “I agree violence against LGBT people is wrong and should be stopped?” 

I would hope that Christians on both sides of this issue can at least offer one another sufficient grace to cover the complexity of it. 

Another edit:  Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin has written an excellent critique on the “Golden Rule Pledge” that has pushed me over the edge on the topic.  He lists four problems with this response to DoS:

  1. It is counterprogramming.
  2. It appears to be motivated by opposition to homosexuality rather than opposition to violence.
  3. It perpetuates the false Christian vs. LGBT dichotomy.
  4. The “Golden Rule” cards do not actually address violence; they are too susceptible to exploitation for the purposes of hate.

Jim sums up:

The Golden Rule is one of those wonderful aphorisms which serve more as a Rorschach test than a standard. It can mean whatever anybody wants it to means, allowing it to a provide a “nice” cover for those who have no intention of changing their attitudes or behavior. It’s too easy for the Golden Rule Card to become a sanctimonious, self-righteous and passive-aggressive reaction to the Day of Silence. It allows them to claim the moral high ground — a high ground which by their definition is not a level playing field.

Thank you, Jim and Alex, for helping me think through this.

(Thanks to Box Turtle Bulletin.)

Action alert: Demand investigation into murders of trans-women in Columbia

I just received this alert from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission:

On March 23, 2006, 19-year-old Darlyn Acevedo Ramirez was murdered in the city of Santiago de Cali, Colombia. This is one of 13 unsolved murders of trans women that have taken place in the past two years. Besides these terrible crimes, the physical, psychological and ethical mistreatment suffered by trans women in Santiago de Cali is a serious and continuous problem, and a daily violation of the human and constitutional rights of this community.

Among the rights violated in this case are:

  • The right to life;
  • The right to and security of the person;
  • The rights to be free from discrimination;
  • The right to equal protection before the law; and
  • The right to simple and prompt recourse to a competent court for protection

ACTION

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and Santamaria Foundation GLTB of Colombia ask your support in seeking the urgent resolution of these crimes as well as in instituting measures to prevent them from happening in the future. We request that letters be sent immediately to the Colombian authorities, demanding immediate action to investigate and prevent these terrible human rights violations.

Read the entire alert here, where you can also find a sample letter you can cut and paste along with email addresses for Columbian government officials. 

In the past two years, the community of over 3,000 Cali trans women has experienced 13 homicides and over 30 attempted murders.  That means that a trans woman in this community has more than a 1-in-70 chance of being a victim of a life-threatening attack.  And before you object by noting that Columbia has one of the highest murder rates in the world, note also that a trans woman’s chance of getting murdered is over 20 times the national average.  And that not a single case has been solved. 

Please take a moment to send some emails.  If you won’t do that much, please take ten seconds to pray that this violence will end.

Coming to a megachurch near you: Soulforce’s American Family Outing

I received the following today from Soulforce, the organization that sponsors the annual Equality Rides. I volunteered with Soulforce last year and have been impressed and inspired by their deep commitment to justice and non-violent action.

American Family Outing Aims to Find Common Ground with Families in Six of Today’s Largest Mega-churches

Recently supporters of the Family Research Council received an envelope stamped with the words “EXPOSED: Radicals’ plan to attack churches!” What was the nature of the “plot” that had FRC in such frenzy? Well, in December of 2007, Soulforce, COLAGE, the National Black Justice Coalition, and the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches sent letters to:

  • Joel Osteen and the Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas
  • Bishop T.D. Jakes and The Potter’s House in Dallas, Texas
  • Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr. and Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland
  • Bishop Eddie Long and New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia
  • Rev. Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois
  • Dr. Rick Warren and Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California

In these letters we expressed a desire to share a meal with leaders and families in their congregations on a designated weekend between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day 2008 (see complete schedule at www.soulforce.org/afo). Our goal is simply to traverse any division and try to find common ground, despite our differences on the issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. We seek first to understand, and then to be understood, as we engage these congregations — all with pastors who have been ranked by Christian organizations as among the 50 most influential Christian leaders in America. These churches have large memberships, some exceeding tens of thousands, and each leader has an enormous influence on American culture through speaking engagements as well as best-selling books, radio and television programs that reach millions of homes each week.

I’m committed to praying for these families and the churches they’ll be visiting, and I hope you’ll to do the same. As the sacrament teaches us, reconciliation can begin with the sharing of a meal.

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