The devastating images of those viciously killed in 2011 for simply trying to be themselves is something we should remember, something that should burn in our souls.

The people we mourn for this day are a part of the community most would just as soon not deal with. Oh we go to watch the drag shows and tell our jokes and we have added a “T” to the GLB_Q but still don’t take seriously enough that folks in the transgender community live in a very dangerous and un-supportive world.  This year’s danger and lethal transphobia is no different from any of the last twenty years.

In fact, in almost (not all) but damn near every community meeting, the plight of the Trans community is brought up as an afterthought, kind of “oh yeah, let’s not forget the T’s”.

While progress has been made, while things have gotten better, there is still a long way to go and this community is still too often just an afterthought.

We still do not take it seriously enough that these children of God find it extremely difficult to get jobs, get health care or any kind of support and dignity.  In fact, many in our community, never mind the straight community, think if they would just dress correctly and be happy with how they were born there would be less trouble.

In our fair city of Atlanta, the shelters are still not required to accept those who are in transition unless they are willing to accept being forcible moved backwards in that transition.  Again, we arrive at this time of the year and nothing has changed.

People in transition walking down the street at the wrong time or in the wrong neighborhood stand a good chance of being stopped by the police and questioned about drugs, prostitution or both.

I am well aware there are some in the neighborhoods who think the Trans folks working the streets are responsible for the crime in the neighborhood and with vicious language have launched a crusade to rid the streets of this so called epidemic.

Let us get real here; if these sisters and brothers could get a job or be protected in the job they have maybe, just maybe they would not have to turn to the streets.

The fact is, most political leaders of the community still see the trans community as nothing more then a “political calculation”.  In fact, far too often these people are something to be added or subtracted from the political equation.  The political leadership has not and does not have the courage to stand up and say, “Enough!”

Instead, it’s “let’s study the issue, let’s explore what we can do”.  News flash: One’s gender identity has zero to do with the administration of equal rights, just do the right thing!

I still see far too often in community meetings the eyes roll or heads shake when the needs of the Trans community are brought up.

I am so sick of hearing that bringing justice, being fair and honorable and less phobic is so complicated when it come to the Trans community.  News flash:  Gender, just like sexuality, is a very fluid thing and to attempt to fit everyone into the same narrowly defined box is the height of ignorance.

So here we are this year and it is still open season on those who would dare to transition from one gender to another.

Let us not forget that it was these folks who started the whole “gay rights” movement we know today when they stood toe to high heel with the New York City police department at Stonewall.

Let us today acknowledge they have been with us every step of this bloody fight for our rights, our self worth and our very souls.

Let us recognize and have more than a passing thought that each day when they get out of bed and step into the world it may in fact be their last day.

So on this day I implore you to remember the transgender community…to pay attention to the day that has become known as “Transgender Day of Remembrance”

May we who mourn and remember today, take some comfort in these words:

“God is King, despite the chaos that may be roaring around us.” (Ps 93)

“If one member suffers, the whole body suffers…” (I Cor 12)

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … Nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8)

“Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10

“The Lord takes care of me as his sheep; I will not be without any good thing. He makes a resting-place for me in the green fields: he is my guide by the quiet waters. He gives new life to my soul: he is my guide in the ways of righteousness because of his name. Yes, though I go through the valley of deep shade, I will have no fear of evil; for you are with me, your rod and your support are my comfort. You make ready a table for me in front of my haters: you put oil on my head; my cup is overflowing. Truly, blessing and mercy will be with me all the days of my life; and I will have a place in the house of the Lord all my days.” Psalm 23

Sunday evening, here and all around the country, may we find ourselves moved to pray.

May these prayers be for all of the victims, their family and friends.

May we pray for our government to have the wisdom, the courage and a compassionate response to this insanity. Let us pray for God’s protection and a calming of theirs and our fears.

And may our prayers be accompanied by expressions of our faith – in which we are not conformed to the ways of the world and how they will respond to children of God, but to the way the Christ would respond. May we be in our speech and actions, the love of God.

Once again let us ponder the words of Gwendolyn Ann Smith:

We have lost so many people in our community to the hand of hatred and prejudice, yet we still are not seemingly willing to fight back. Meanwhile, we die at the hands of a lover, of police, of medical practitioners, and even parents, while the news media calls us “freaks” — and worse.

In fact, the media’s reluctance to cover our deaths lies near the heart of this project. It can be all-but-impossible to find honest, reliable media on the death of a transgender person: It either does not exist (which is how one can cover thirty years of cases and still only have as many as I have to present), or it uses names that the deceased did not own, and pronouns that did not fit their reality.

In the world we live in today there is no “safe way” to be transgender: Some are living very out lives, and some are living fully “stealth” lives. Some are identifying as male, some as female and some as both and neither. Some live in small towns, and some in major metropolitan areas.

There are things we can do and must do, if the killing is to stop. I would encourage our community and friends to:

• Let us educate ourselves about transgender issues.

• Let us be aware of our attitudes concerning people with gender-atypical appearance or behavior.

• Let us make more than a good faith effort to use names and pronouns that are appropriate to the person’s gender presentation and identity.

• Let us not make assumptions about transgender people’s sexual orientation, desire for surgical or hormonal treatment, or other aspects of their identity or transition plans.

• Let us keep the lines of communication open with the transgender person (s) in our lives.

• Let us become more aware of the things which would make life easier and the transition smoother, i.e. markers on drivers licenses, applications and forms.

• Let us not just sit on our lack of knowledge and understanding. Let us seek out support in dealing with our feelings. This is the 21st century and there are plenty of resources for us to get help.

Finally, but not least, let us turn out en masse this Sunday evening at the State Capital to show the “T” really is apart of LGBTQ and it does not stand-alone. I know it is Sunday night and I know you want to quit reading this every year.  So here is the deal:

I will stop repeating this blog when we as a whole community are as enraged as when they raided our bar, as enraged as when Matthew Shepherd was beaten to death or when the fight to pass protective legislation for our community includes the “T” as something other then an afterthought or a political piece to be thrown under the bus.

 


Rev. Paul M. Turner is the Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church of Atlanta. For more information, please visit www.gentlespirit.org or e-mail info@gentlespirit.org.

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