transgender

Nothing Left to Say

By Rev. Mindi

I really don’t know what else to say, because I said it here in my post “Living By The Sword” and here in my post “How Long Must We Sing This Song?” and here in my post “Racism From Within” and here in my post “Don’t Give Up on the Work for Justice.”

But you know what, I’m tired.

When Sandy Hook happened, while I waited for news that my nephews and niece in Newtown were okay, though they had friends who were killed, I scrambled to find enough candles, twenty-eight of them in all. I remember when Virginia Tech happened buying a large bag of tea candles for the Sunday morning service, and invited everyone in the church to come up and light a candle for a victim of gun violence.

But I’ve run out of candles.

After most of the shootings, I have posted a prayer on my blog that can be used by churches when they don’t know what to say.

But I’ve run out of prayers, and run out of words.

Because it’s only a matter of time before someone comes in and shoots up the school my son goes to. It’s only a matter of time before someone comes in and shoots up the nightclub my gay friends or transgender family find refuge in. It’s only a matter of time before someone hates someone in my church and comes and shoots them.

Because in America we love guns more than God. We have made guns into God. We have broken the commandment and made an idol believing that a gun can save us and that only good guys with guns can help. When we look at the scarred, crucified Christ who said “those who live by the sword die by the sword,” how can we call ourselves faithful?

I’ve run out of patience. But what else can I say here that will make any damn bit of difference? The words of Jesus aren’t enough. The sacredness of life is not enough. The smiles of innocent children are not enough. The love between two people is not enough.

I’ve given up trying to make sense of it all.

America didn’t change when Sandy Hook happened, and we thought for sure we would. America will not change, until all of us look in the mirror and point the gun at ourselves. Only when we are able to do that, and see that we are killing ourselves, killing the very image of God, maybe we would change, when we realize that which we idolize is killing us.

But even then, I do not know.

This passage from Luke 14 has stuck with me:

“Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”

What if our cross that we carry are dead children, dead lovers, dead church members? What if we were never, ever, able to get their faces out of our heads and we had to live with their memory, day after day after day? What if that became our cross to bear?

“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.”

Have we weighed the cost of our silence, of our candles, of our tears, of our graves? Have we weighed the cost when we look in the mirror? America has not weighed the cost. America has not been willing to sit down and consider, or send the delegation. America is not willing to give up its idolship of guns.

But we must. We must look in the mirror and tell ourselves that we are okay with pointing a gun to ourselves, because the longer we do nothing, and we keep just writing blog posts like this one, we are killing ourselves.

Things we can do:

--Become Open/Welcoming and Affirming of LGBTQ persons. Talk about our openness, welcome and affirmation.

--Work towards legislation that would eliminate the kinds of weapons being used in these violent acts.

--Stop spending money at any store that sells these kinds of weapons.

--Talk about this at church. From the pulpit. And in Bible Study and Sunday School. Talk about what Jesus says and that his words actually mean something to us.

--Value our children more than we value guns.

Accessibility and Necessity

By Rev. Mindi

I remember when my child was less than a year old, joining a clergy group for breakfast, and finding out the hard way the restaurant bathroom had no changing table. And this was one of those baby pooplosions, where you cannot wait to change the diaper. It made me angry, and luckily, my clergy group decided to switch locations after that.

I also remember so many times my husband had to change our son in the car because the men’s public restroom did not have a changing table. Very few still do, and this is 2016.

With all the talk about bathrooms in the news these days, I wonder:

Are we having this conversation about accessible restrooms in our churches?

I serve a congregation where thankfully all of the bathrooms in our small building were renovated in the last fifteen years, are all accessible for disabled persons, and two out of the three having changing tables. All three are large enough not only to bring a wheelchair or walker inside, but also for someone to bring in another person who needs assistance in the bathroom.

My child is almost eight, and due to his disability needs assistance in the bathroom. Oh, and because both my husband and I are incredibly tall people (someone once remarked that we breed giants), our kiddo is the size of a ten-year-old.

I highly suspect this being an election year has brought this latest wave of transphobia and bathroom shock to light. Masked in the cloak of protecting our children from predators (look at statistics of child assault and abuse and you’ll find that 75% of the time it happens within the home from a relative) we have ostracized our transgender kin. And we have made restrooms—a basic function, a basic need of our humanity—less accessible than before.

Even if my kiddo didn’t have a disability that required some assistance in the bathroom, I’ll be honest: as a parent, I have a hard time sending my child alone anywhere with strangers. But I am 100% not worried about transgender folks. I am also 100% not worried about someone pretending to be transgender who might harm my child, because let’s face it, that is NOT happening. That is a lie perpetuated to drum up fear in an election cycle. No. I am concerned, however, of something happening to my child in a public restroom from a child predator, who most likely will be a white straight dude, based on statistics.

I remember the fear when I sent my child to preschool, after having moved, knowing no one in the area. Sending my child to a strange teacher with strange paraeducators in the classroom who would be helping my son use the restroom. Why? Because videos and stories of students with disabilities being abused by staff are abundant on the internet. New stories are abundant in the suburbs of Seattle, along with stories from parents.

I have seen the stares, heard the jokes, seen the rolling eyes by women as I bring my tall son into the bathroom with me. I remember once at a child’s play space a young girl complaining that “there is a boy in the bathroom!” I once had someone complain when my child was three—yes, three years old—that he didn’t belong in the women’s bathroom with me.

I am afraid for transgender people. I am afraid that they will be abused and harmed, even killed, by someone claiming to “protect” someone else. I am also afraid that as my child grows larger, as he gains more independence and uses the restroom by himself, people will report him because of his strange sounds and the time he spends in the restroom. I have known many parents of teens with disabilities telling me how they had to talk with a police officer outside of a public restroom where their child was inside because someone called the police on a “dangerous” person inside. I am also afraid that someone will take action themselves and claim to be “protecting” others.

So what can we do as the church? I’ve seen many conversations in social media focusing on certain laws and policies, but what about within your own congregation’s physical space?

We can start by creating safe spaces in our churches. Create restrooms that are accessible for persons with disabilities and their caregivers. Make it known that these restrooms are accessible and gender neutral. If you have existing men and women’s restrooms, if they have single stalls this makes it easier to go gender neutral, but also consider the need to renovate (if you can, knowing how church budgets are these days) to make them accessible for persons with disabilities. Also add changing tables, and if you are able to, adult changing tables. I have seen one restroom with an adult changing table. Yes, they are necessary for many adults with disabilities, and finding them in public is a very difficult task.

The simple, shortcut answer, is to create one gender neutral restroom, one accessible restroom out of the rest. This can ostracize folks, singling them out to use that restroom. Also, to be quite honest, it’s a pain to have to wait in line for the restrooms anyway—but to have to wait for that one special stall, or that one special bathroom to open up while everyone else is at least moving forward in line—that’s degrading. The longer-term solution is to make all of our restrooms accessible to all people.

While the debate continues over laws and policies, can’t we, within the church, start making safe and accessible spaces, including restrooms? Can’t we lead the way?

Many thanks to the Unitarian Universalist Association for this inclusive restroom sign.

Many thanks to the Unitarian Universalist Association for this inclusive restroom sign.

Fully Human Jesus

By Rev. Mindi

On Palm Sunday, I went to the last show of a six-week musical run at our local little theater.  I went to the last show of Jesus Christ Superstar.   I really wish I hadn’t gone to the last show only so that I could urge others to go see this fantastic production, but the last show was incredible. Amazing. The band rocked, the voices were incredible, and many numbers received applause afterwards or reverent silence.

Did I mention that it was an all-female cast?

I have seen passion plays and other productions of Jesus Christ Superstar that were good, but this is the only production that has ever left me with tears in my eyes, unable to speak.

Just as in Shakespearean days with the actors being all men playing both parts, so in this production, the actors were all female and played all roles. They didn’t change the words of the songs. They still referred to each other as “he,” referred to Jesus and Judas as that “man,” but they told this old story in a new way, even new from the original production.

As I watched this Jesus, beaten, stripped, covered with blood, raised up on a cross writhing in pain and crying out, I saw Jesus. Maybe at first it was the just-below-shoulder-length brown hair, the way this Jesus looked at others, or the crown of thorns, but for a moment, I forgot that this Jesus was a woman.  At first I thought this was powerful: an image of Jesus that transcended (trans-cended) gender.  But then, as this Jesus became a victim of violence, I saw

the woman who was raped in Steubenville

Malala Yousufzai, shot by the Taliban in Pakistan

Mollie Olgin, killed and her partner Mary Chapa injured last summer in Texas

and countless others, named and nameless women raped, injured and killed every day in our culture of violence, specifically the culture of violence against women. 

This Jesus was no longer gender-less, but fully human, male and female.

The suffering of this Jesus was raw, emotional, and right in front of us. Not a story we could skip the page, not a name we could forget, not a newscast we could pass over.  This was Jesus, in front of us, bearing the wounds and scars that go forgotten by so many.  This Jesus that first impressed me by being portrayed in line with traditional renditions, then surprised me by seeming to go beyond gender, lastly brought me to tears because this Jesus was a woman.

This Jesus showed the horror of violence, but specifically because Jesus was being played by a woman, and the actress was phenomenal in her keeping to the role as traditionally played while showing her genuine, raw emotion—no one could ignore the fact that this production seriously calls into question our glorification of violence in our culture, and specifically, our culture that encourages violence against women. 

As we near the Cross of Good Friday, and the empty tomb of Sunday, I know I will visualize the story differently, and I hope as a pastor, I will tell the story differently. No more will I see the women on the sideline until the resurrection.  No more will I only see a crucified man up on the cross. I see Jesus, beyond and inclusive of gender, taking up the fullness of humanity in life and in death, overcoming our violence that leads to destruction and death in the resurrection.  In Jesus, I have hope that we will end our violence, both the spoken and unspoken, both violence against men and women, young and old, violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender—violence against all people. Jesus came in the fullness of human life. All too often, we tell the story of Jesus as God becoming a man, instead of the Word becoming Flesh, God entering our humanity. We must tell the full story of Jesus, and to do so, we must acknowledge the fullness of humanity that has suffered, the same suffering that Jesus went through, in Jesus’ death on the cross.