This came today from Georgia Equality,
“Transgender Day of Remembrance
Saturday, November 20th
6:30 – 9:30 p.m.
GA State Capitol Courtyard
(Washington St. side)
201 Washington St. SW
Atlanta, GA 30303
Let’s stand together as a community for a vigil in observance of Transgender Day of Remembrance. Throughout the world, people gather every year to pay respect to those needlessly killed by hate crimes against the transgender community, and to call attention to the threat of violence faced by gender non-conforming people.
This event is hosted by the Juxtaposed Center for Transformation, Inc.”
When I think about people actually killing someone because their heart and mind do not match their body, all I can do is shake my head in confusion.
I watched Oprah this afternoon. On it were several people who had gone to see “John of God.” They had each gone for different reasons. Some on the show went to him for healing, some as a journalist and at least one went to prove him a fraud. “John of God” is a spiritual healer in and from Brazil. He performs “spiritual surgery,” or rather, claims that God works through him and sometimes that involves surgery. This surgery is often a scraping of one’s eyeball or inserting this probe up a person’s nose. Most often though, he does nothing that can be seen or even felt. There are thousands of accounts of healing however and the most convincing fact of all may be that he doesn’t charge for his services.
I personally saw this “John of God” myself a few years ago when he came to Atlanta. I was still in ministry then and had been invited to go along with other “clergy.” We were directed to wear all white and were lined up at the front of the huge auditorium and we each introduced ourselves before the healer arrived. We were then ushered into a room and directed to meditate until further notice. At the time, I meditated regularly and sitting still on a hard chair for a couple of hours was relatively easy. We were told not to open our eyes.I had no divine revelation or profound insight.
I’ve always been one to follow directions, a trait that has both served me well and been a curse. I kept my eyes closed and while I had no great insight, I was very aware of when the healer walked through the room we were in. It wasn’t because I heard anything. It felt as if a strange wind had blown through, not a scary wind, but not warm and comforting either. It felt strong. It felt powerful. It felt foreign. After a couple of hours, we were allowed to go before John of God, joining the long line of those hoping for miracles. He simply took our hands and nodded at each of us, as I recall.
I say all that because each of the people on Oprah today, both believers and skeptics say that they were changed by the experience whether healed or not. One man, a doctor in fact, the one who went to prove him fraudulent, said that he now believed we are all so much more than we think. Our lives and living have far more dignity and significance than we think. He said he now feels this life both conceals and reveals our truth (I love that statement, by the way). This doctor went on to say we have no idea who and what we are and how connected we are.
They all spoke of the energy of hope in the room and how they had all been instructed to think loving thoughts. THey all said that combined feeling of hope felt good.
None of what was said on the show today was new to me. I taught it from a pulpit for years. Yet, it struck me as ironic that this aired just a few days before this Day of Remembrance that most won’t even be aware of.
Most are not aware of transgender anything.
Most don’t know a transgender anyone.
Most have no idea people are killed for being trans.
As for the Day of Remembrance, one can’t remember what one doesn’t even know. But, one can remember to be kind, compassionate, fair and even how to love.
It’s like asking what is our default mechanism?
What comes natural to us when faced with something or someone new; someone or something we don’t understand?
Is it kindness or cruelty?
judgment or acceptance?
love or hate?
Since I became a part of the “LGBT community,” my default mechanism isn’t near so trusting as it was before. I hope however, it is still kind.
Kindness really is easy. It does come naturally to us. We started out that way.
Remember to be kind to yourself, too. Let’s all hope. They said it feels good when we all hope together. I guess I need to remember that.
I have an old and dear friend who is a devout Christian. We talked on the phone today and had a very long and passionate discussion. She had watched that same episode of Oprah about Mike Sisco and said that for the first time ever, she’d thought of writing Oprah and thanking her. The part of the show that had impacted her so was when Oprah asked those townspeople of Williamson, West Virginia “where was their compassion?” Oprah told them she saw hatred, intolerance, cruelty, but no compassion at all. They claimed to be Christian, living in a Christian community, yet had essentially crucified this young man. My friend said she cried through the entire show.
Former Episcopalian Bishop John Shelby Spong is in town this weekend. Lee and I heard him speak over an extended period of time at a retreat a couple of years ago. Spong is the author of such books as Jesus for the Non-Religious, and Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism and has been a fierce advocate for the LGBT community within the Christian church. He was asked at the retreat why he remained in the church when he disagreed with so many of their beliefs and actions. He said he dearly loved the Episcopal Church and believed he could affect far more change from within.
My friend and I also talked of how we had both gone through extreme changes in our lives and have had to leave much of our previous lives behind. We’d both had to leave both things and people behind, including some people we loved and cared for deeply. It occurred to me that while we try so hard to not throw out the baby with the bath water, sometimes we have to. I had to. I am grateful for those, like Spong, who have had the strength to work in hostile environments against great odds and resistance. I am grateful my friend can continue to embrace her Christian beliefs and even work within a Christian school while her own beliefs expand and embrace other ideas and people. Mike Sisco’s sisters say he was glad he went on Oprah that day in 1987.
Personally, I threw out the baby and the bath water. It was the only way I could get fresh water.
A Federal judge has ruled “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” unconstitutional. How anyone would have ever thought this tactic was healthy or functional or productive to anything boggles my mind. Yet, this theory that if we don’t “really” know or don’t “really” tell anything makes it less real is rampant everywhere, even in my own mind.
My older daughter just turned thirty. She wrote a long letter to many family members and friends. In her letter, she spoke of her thoughts, beliefs, reflections at this milestone anniversary of her birth. She expressed her gratitude for the love in her life and the manner in which each of us had played a part. She began speaking of that very typical feeling that little has been accomplished after thirty long years. She moved quickly on however, not dwelling on regret, but rather speaking of wisdom gained and blessings received. One statement she made in particular greatly effected Lee and I.
She said, ” So even though I sometimes wonder what the hell were you thinking, I know that at that given moment it was exactly what I wanted. So why regret something that once made you smile. Don’t! I have learned that, not to ever regret something that at one point was exactly what you wanted.”
What does that have to do with “Don’t Ask, Don’t tell?” As we reflected on our daughter’s words, we both became aware of how we give events and choices entirely different meanings when thinking back on them, choosing to see them as mistakes or nightmares and ourselves as fools or victims rather than to claim the past as a valid reflection of exactly who and what we were at the time.
Again, what does this have to do with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?” We do this all the time. We all do this. We don’t ask ourselves and we don’t tell anyone the truth, especially ourselves. My daughter’s letter led Lee and I into a deep discussion of something we both pretend was other than it was. We pretend because we were afraid to know the truth. The truth was just a thought away. Our discussion freed the thought. The thought, the one we had been afraid to ask and even more afraid to tell, the one we had feared was horrible, was nothing more than a glimpse at our selves. It wasn’t ugly as we’d feared. It wasn’t shameful or guilty. It was okay. It deserved our love. In fact, it was a good.
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” hides a boogie man of the mind. It hides the monster that isn’t really under the bed. It hides something beautiful that fear made like itself, something to be feared. Hooray for that Federal Judge for shining that light under the bed.