Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance. In many locations around the world, vigils will be held to remember those transgender persons whose lives were lost to violence and fear. I hope that you might be able to light a candle or join a vigil to remember, but also that you might be able to envision a world that is free of gender-based violence. Beyond this Day of Remembrance, we must work to eradicate mis-education, transphobia, and fear of difference. As a gay man, I am thankful to my transgender and genderqueer friends who have held me accountable of my own gender biases. I thank God for their words their words of challenge, and for their words of grace when I forget my cisgender privilege.
A few years ago I posted a "note" on Facebook entitled "Why I Stand for Transgender Rights." I'd like to share part of that today, giving thanks, remembering, and working for justice and a less violent world.
"I know that my own identity was shaped, for better or for worse, around what was considered masculine and feminine. Much of my adolescence was shaped, not solely around physical and emotional attraction to other males, but because the society around me told me that the things I enjoyed: singing, dancing, reading good literature, and acting were all “gay.” In reality, my early sexual identity had little to do with actual sexual experience. It depended greatly on the social construction of gender. This is true for most others, too – regardless of sexual orientation. My transgender friends have helped me see that a deeper understanding of gender and gender identity is not only healthy for those who are transgender, but for all of us who transcend the binary structures of masculine and feminine each and every day of our lives.
It is because of those friends who are transgender that I am able to stand for transgender equality. From San Francisco to Boston (and towns and cities in between), I have been fortunate to meet transgender and genderqueer individuals who have shared their stories and have allowed me to be part of their journey. I stand for transgender rights because of them. I stand because they are unable to have consistent and quality medical care. I stand because they are discriminated against in the workplace (if they are fortunate enough to make it through a job interview). I stand because their legal marriages and health benefits are called into question. I stand because sometimes changing their driver’s license could be a task more daunting than applying for a home mortgage (if it’s even allowed). I stand because it takes them longer to get through airport security because of ignorance. I stand because going to the bathroom can be a frightening experience for some. I stand because they have been denied housing and because homeless shelters aren’t much of a shelter for people who don’t fit easily into “men’s housing” and “women’s housing.” I stand because I take seriously the Christian theological idea of the redemption of all creation, and I believe truly that all means all."
On this day set aside for remembering, I remember that violence happens in a multitude of ways. When I stand silent about transphobic language, I add to a violent culture. When I don't work to change unjust laws, I add to a violent culture. When I don't challenge my Church to welcome all God's children, I add to a violent culture. Join with me today in lighting a candle that eradicates the darkness of phobia and difference, and illumines a world that is awash in God's love for all people.
Chett Pritchett is Interim Executive Director for the Methodist Federation for Social Action. He is a graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College and Wesley Theological Seminary, and serves as Lay Leader at Dumbarton UMC in Washington, DC.