Wednesday, August 27, 2008

My Knight(mare) in Shining (Rusted) Armor

With Friends Like Barney...

...who needs Republicans? Looks like Rep. Barney Frank still wants to kick me out of his little club. The gay blog, Towleroad, interviewed the Ol' Barn at the Democratic National Convention, to which he declared:

"If we pick up 15 or 20 Democrats, most of them will be supportive. But I am disappointed in the transgender community. They seem to think that if Nancy Pelosi and myself, George Miller and a few others waved a magic wand we could deliver it. Look, this past year in the legislatures of Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York, efforts to add transgender protections...were defeated. And I testified for it in Massachusetts and lobbied for it. And as a political problem out there, I wish there weren't, but pretending that something doesn't exist is never a good way to deal with it. I am afraid that too many people in the transgender community think that talking to me and Nancy Pelosi is the way to do it. I don't yet see enough grassroots lobbying on their part.

"I do think that the hearing that we had — and by the way, we had a hearing in the House over the objections of many of the transgender leadership. But I really doubt their political wisdom...Because they said it was part of our deal to separate it from ENDA and they wanted to not have anything separate. We did a good job in that hearing and we helped persuade some people. So we're making progress. We'd make even more progress if the transgender community was willing to do the hard political work. And not, frankly, think they can just talk a few leaders into handing this to them."

Wow....could he have been just SLIGHTLY less demeaning? Could he have said just SOMETHING inclusive or encouraging? Dear Barney, I ask you....I beg you....please stop talking "for" me. You don't. In 2004, many believe the election of George Bush was made possible by the tactic of Karl Rove to develop "wedge issues", one of which was gay marriage. The mantra God, Guns and Gays was affixed to the effort. Who needs Rove in 2008, we've got Barney!

Who else has done more to divide the LGB and T "community" than Barney? Who else has done more to lend authority for those of the LGB part to express their own transphobia and tran-hatred. I've read the blogs. Its horrible. Never in the history of advocacy groups or organizations has a bloc expressly divided its constituency as Frank and the Human Rights Campaign did with the ENDA vote last fall. A vote that was doomed to failure anyway. And they just keep at it.

Let's see...Barney suggests that us transfolk are some Dickensian waif pleading for his gracious benevolence in rescuing our poor lives from such horrific existences. Pish. I've done just fine without ya Barn. Let's see...Barney suggests that us transfolk are so politically naive that we'd be lucky to find the appropriate restroom (trans joke intended here!) in the Capitol. Pish. Here's a political reality for ya Barn...I'm done with politics and supporting spineless self-aggrandizers who'd push their own mother off the bus if they felt it meant political capital for them. Let's see...Barney suggests that us transfolk were against (!?!) the recent Congressional hearing. Pish. The biggest complaint was that you kept moving the date (four times?) so that us naive, waiflike transfolk couldn't come in support or to simply watch our history unfold. OUR history, Barn, not yours. Besides, in all honesty Barn, we both know that Congressional hearings are often just sop offered to a fellow member. Make one wonder what favor Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ), chair of the subcommittee was repaying.

HRC's own website says as far back as 2002 that they were advocating and educating Congress about transgender issues. So now you say that transfolk didn't do their job? What has HRC been doing then all this time? Nevermind, I already know the answer - the proof was in that vote. The one where they said wait it was 48...Democrats were too jelly-legged to stand up for an inclusive measure.

If Barney would stop trying to "represent" me, I'll be happy to stop my commentary. But until then, my support for his party has evaporated, my voice for issues that are important to LGB people but not the T people is silent. Obama? Forget it. I'll watch history be made, but I won't be a party to it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

An Amazing Three Years

Welcome to My Church!

The phone rang last night a bit after 8:30. It was Nancy from church. That usually means only one thing since she coordinates who participates as an usher or communion aide for our weekly services. It just had to be another one of "those" messages - not from Nancy though, but from someone a bit higher up.

You see this weekend is the anniversary of when I felt called to attend church for the first time in four decades - maybe my entire life for that matter. My mother had passed away earlier in the week and I had been barred from attending her service by my father. To this day, I still don't know why I felt so compelled, but I am thankful that just two days prior to my mother's passing, I had met two wonderful souls from this church, Country Club Congregational UCC, who wanted to learn more about what it meant to be transgender. The United Church of Christ has the expression "Extravagant Welcome". That day, I began to experience "Extravagant Welcome", even though I was looking for solace not a Home.

While I had made certain plans to attend service this week - admittedly my attendance has been a bit spotty over the summer - I was also planning on doing so "quietly". Perhaps I would even sit in the balcony, where there is usually just a smattering of members, thus providing a bit more space to be in solitude. I thought it would be best for me to be more to myself, in reflection of these past three years and in remembrance of my mother. There is a point in our service for quiet prayer and reflection. Sometimes I shed a tear or two, and sometimes not. I know I shall shed more than just a couple of tears this weekend for sure.

Yes, it has been an Amazing Three Years. And at the very core of all the good that has occurred is the loving people of this little white stucco church nestled among the tall, leafy trees. I wrote earlier of all the activities in which I have participated at church. I'm sure there are those in the congregation - probably nearly all - who think its no big deal that I have participated in so many ways, but for me it is truly the most affirming expression they could offer to their first transgender member. That innate ability to embrace has provided me a basis of strength from which all else that I have been able to accomplish as Donna in just three "short", amazing years has sprung.

In all things regarding participating in the life of my congregation, I reference the sermon from Rev. Sue Thorne on that very first day, "Pay Attention to the Signs God Puts Before You". So you see, this wasn't just a call from Nancy that I answered last had to be another one of those Signs. And so I am not destined to sit in solitude this weekend. I was extravagantly welcomed three years ago this weekend. It is thus my call to serve as head usher this Sunday, to extend that same extravagant welcome I received three years ago to those who enter the front door. I said "yes" to Nancy, but I know who was really calling.

Perhaps I will be honored with welcoming a person just like me three years ago, entering an unknown space in search of finding Home.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Courage, or the Lack of

An example of what it is and an example of what it is not

Whatever your belief structure you've discerned from Scripture, I think there is one lesson upon which we can all - Conservative or Liberal, Catholic or Protestant - agree regarding the ministry of Jesus. He was the epitome of Courage. He preached a message that was in direct opposition to the keepers of religion of that time. And did so knowing such "heresy" would cause his life to be taken by these same keepers of "truth".

This week, I've found two stories - one that demonstrates the lack of courage found so often in today's religious leaders (and you can reference the entry about Archbishop Rowan Williams about that as well). The other provides hope that there are people of the cloth willing to stand for their principles and let happen whatever consequences ensue.

A story from the Sydney Morning Herald [click on link to read] from Australia reported on the effort of a Baptist minister Mike Hercock who called upon his fellow clergy of all denominations to sign a pledge apologize for the way the Christian church has treated gays and lesbians (and presumably us transfolk as well). The "100 Revs" were then asked to march at the Sydney Pride event. And it was then that the cold feet went frigid. Pastor Hercock reports receiving many calls from those wanting to withdraw from the march and the pledge. Some were honest - they'd received threats from parishioners and/or hierarchy jeopardizing, at the very least, their calls and ordinations. Some were dishonest cited some mythical "conflict of dates" excuse. Pastor Hercock is to be commended for his courage. The cowards are the ones who ran and hid. Those who have the "heart" but not the "backbone" are, to me, lower than those who have the integrity to be open about their hate.

The picture you see is that of Fr. Roy Bourgeois who attended and offered an homily at the ordination of Janice Sevre-Duszynska. For many denominations, ordaining a woman is quite welcome. Fr. Bourgeois and Priest Sevre-Duszynska are Roman Catholics. Fr. Bourgeois found the sexism in his church to be untenable - "I feel this is something I had to do in conscience in the context of my own faith journey. I feel very much at peace with it". He is the first male priest to attend the ordination of a woman priest. He knew their would likely be repercussions and he has been called on the carpet by his religious superiors to "explain himself". How often was Jesus called before the Pharisees to "explain himself"?

Again, my admiration for Fr. Bourgeois isn't so much his support for ordaining women - which is something I do support, but each faith has its own right to establish those standards - as it is his willingness to stand for his principle in the face of expected retribution. Indeed, it is quite likely he will be defrocked. Jimmy Creech, now of Faith in America, lost his ordination by performing a same-sex commitment ceremony - and he, too, knew his principle might end his career.

My censure for those who cowered in the face of adversity isn't based so much on my support for my gay, lesbian and transgender brothers and sisters in faith, but by the lack of courage they displayed in abandoning their principle.

Prayers for Fr. Bourgeois and Thanks to Pastor Hercock - you are shining examples of the Courage of Jesus.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Anglicans (expectedly) Waffle

I am no expert on the polity of the Anglican Communion, only that the Archbishop of Canterbury - currently Rowan Williams - is considered the head of the denomination even though he has formal authority to unilaterally rule or dictate. He is considered "primus inter pares" or First Among Equals - which frankly is an odd concept for most to understand, myself included.

Like many Christian denominations, the Anglican Communion - of which The Episcopal Church in the United States is a part - is "discerning" the role of gay, lesbian, bisexual and, ostensibly transgender (although most of the time we're not mentioned in these discussions - except wrongfully included in "sexual orientation") people. The Anglicans are further chagrined by the presence of an openly gay bishop, V. Eugene Robinson, amongst their midst.

So strident are the voices of condemnation that Archbishop Waffle, uh Williams, disinvited Bishop Robinson to the once-every-ten-years Lambeth Conference - a conclave in which the world's Anglican bishops discuss things. Archbishop Waffle, uh Williams, also disinvited a couple of the more visible homophobic prelates, mostly Peter Akinola of Africa and Martin Minns of the United States. Several of their "brethren" joined them in not attending Lambeth - a huge snub to Archbishop Waffle, uh Williams, and the Anglican "communion".

Rather than knuckle down and get to the issue - at least this one - at hand Archbishop Waffle, uh Williams offered no "agenda", no "votes", no real plan to facilitate discernment amongst the bishops. Without that basis established, there could really be no way to adequate address any substantive issue. It recalls the character Linda Richman, played by Mike Myers on Saturday Night Live, who was a cable TV talk show hostess who rarely had a topic, but would get "verklempt" in the middle of everything and suggest the audience "talk amongst yourself" giving them a topic completely inane and off kilter.

As Lambeth concludes, Archbishop Waffle, uh Williams, has called for a moratorium on installing, or consecrating, any additional openly gay bishops arguing they need "space for study and free discussion without pressure" to deliberate same-sex relationships. He's gone further in asking that the Episcopal Church in the United States and the Anglican Church in Canada stop offering prayers, blessings and ceremonies for same-sex unions suggesting that a lack of acceptance of this moratorium by them places the Communion in "grave peril".

It seems to me that Lambeth, under strong leadership, would have been the perfect place to bring all parties together and require them to engage in discussion and discernment. Perhaps, the Archbishop doesn't have that kind of authority - but my sense is if he can "disinvite" certain bishops he can also "require" their presence as well.

All this to suggest that within the majority of our Protestant denominations there is no real "leadership" among the "leaders", only a passive hand on the helm hoping that the ship won't founder on their watch. As Lambeth happens only every ten years, its fair to suggest that Archbishop Waffle, uh Williams, will have successfully passed the buck onto his successor while the flames continue to smolder, even rage, for the next decade. Unfortunately for him, he has grossly miscalculated the intensity of emotions that will certainly boil over before that next ten years have elapsed.