Crossing the T

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

Archive for Hate Crimes

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.


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?

“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.)

Can I Quote You? Irena Klepfisz on what we struggle for

What we grieve for is not the loss of a grand vision, but rather the loss of common things, events and gestures. … Ordinariness is the most precious thing we struggle for, what the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto fought for. Not noble causes or abstract theories. But the right to go on living with a sense of purpose and a sense of self-worth — an ordinary life.

Dr. Irena Klepfisz (bio), survivor of the 1943 Warsaw ghetto uprising, speaking to commemorate the 45th anniversary of that event.

And a comment from me:  This week marks the 65th anniversary of the start of the Warsaw ghetto uprising.  For a brief history of the uprising, read Garrison Keillor’s Writers Almanac entry from this past Saturday, April 12.

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


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.

Can I Quote You? Gary Nelson on speaking without entitlement

[It takes] humble sensitivity . . . to live as a biblical people in a place where you are only one voice of many and are not necessarily the dominant voice.  [Churches] must respect that they are only one voice in a number of voices, and the ability to dialogue in a pluralistic world is not so much about prison as they are about creating healthy places where their voices can be heard.  I do not fear prison as much as I would be concerned about simply being ignored or marginalized even more because I have chosen to speak with a sense of entitlement and assumed moral authority that others around me have not granted. In Canada we earn the right to speak, and speak we do with courage and sensitivity.

Dr. Gary Nelson, General Secretary of Canadian Baptist Ministries, responding to the recent assertion by Southern Baptist Convention President Dr. Frank Page’s that pastors in Canada can be jailed for speaking against homosexuality

And a comment from me:  Page’s original comments came in the context of an interview in which he decries an alleged liberal bias in the media.  It strikes me as curious that a theology that affirms the righteousness and justice of the market economy would be so fearful of the marketplace of ideas.  Can a fundamentalist theology of human sexuality compete in a marketplace where all ideas are placed on an even field?  More importantly, can they compete in a way that upholds the traditional Baptist value of soul competency and refuses to descend into oversimplifying the issues, mocking the competition, or fear-mongering?  Time will tell.

Thanks to Ethics Daily.

Hope: the knowledge that someone is listening

Earlier today I pointed my readers to a video and companion essay by transgender activist Joelle Ruby Ryan entitled “Casualties of Gender” in which she calls attention to the ongoing violence against those who defy society’s gender conventions.  Commenting on the piece, I decried the silence with which conservative Christian leaders have met these acts of violence, which I see as giving tacit approval to the use of violence to enforce gender norms.

Tonight I read a report in the Bowling Green State University News of a rally held at there to raise awareness of violence against gender-variant people.  Joelle, who founded the university’s transgender advocacy group, returned to speak at the rally.  But it was a comment from a participant at the end of the article that caught my attention:

Supporters from outside the group included Henry Koch, a Bowling Green resident, and David Ordorica, a campus minister at St. Thomas More Catholic Church, who both want to see the bigotry transgendered individuals face on a daily basis stopped.

Just because a person doesn’t agree with the way a person lives doesn’t mean that person should have to put up with violence against them, Ordorica said.

“I’m here to be a conservative Christian witness to the fact that we love LGBT people and stand against violence of any kind against them,” he said.

Thank you for listening, Mr. Ordorica.  You’ve given me hope.