This letter was written by jennifer caitlín eller and sent privately to her friends; it is published here with her permission. jennifer is a member of Queer Theology’s online community Sanctuary Collective. You can connect with her at caitlinsong.wordpress.com or on Twitter @RiverSong1938
An Open Letter to All my Friends Who Are Faith Leaders,
Monday, 20 November, 2017 is the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Every 20th of November services are held to remember and make visible the known transgender people who have died due to anti-transgender violence. Black and brown transgender women make up the majority of these victims. This year continues the trend of seeing more transgender people killed than the previous year, yet these attacks and the Transgender Day of Remembrance receive very little acknowledgement outside of LGBTQ circles. The vast majority of Americans are unaware that on this day, every year, a day of mourning happens to honor the people lost solely because of their gender identity. This year, we mourn over two dozen Americans.
In light of this being Transgender Awareness Week and the week ending in the memorial service for those who have been lost, I encourage my pastors, my friends who are faith leaders, and all faith leaders to specifically mention the Transgender Day of Remembrance in their services and in their public prayers. Pray for and act on behalf of the victims of anti-transgender hate crimes. Pray for and act on behalf of victims and survivors, their friends, their families (chosen and biological), and their community.
Today, I present myself to you as a voice crying from the wilderness. A wilderness of fear, anguish, and suffering. A wilderness so dark that it cannot even be said to be ignored or rejected, but lost. I am the Canaanite woman begging for your fallen scraps; for even your pets receive the blessing of Saint Francis once a year. I am the bleeding woman reaching out in hope of a miracle; I am extending my hand to you in faith that you will act to stem this bloodshed. I am the woman with the crooked back, bent over and hobbled, having seen nothing but dirt for decades; I stand before you now and hope you will lift our faces that we might see you and be seen by you.
I understand that the choice to do this comes with risk.
There will be those who will be surprised or confused by what you say. Still more, there will be those who reject and actively resist what you say. I know that you have a position and a responsibility to your congregants and your superiors. You are expected to adhere to the dogma you were empowered under.
I appreciate the gravity of what I am asking and I am asking it all the same.
For God wants justice to flow down like mighty waters and that is powerful imagery. Mighty waters are overwhelming and not a little chaotic. They rip apart established structures and consume them. Mighty waters are not gentle, they do not only come if you are ready, and they do not ask your permission or acceptance for their flood. Scripture is demanding that justice, true Divine justice, be not concerned with what is political, or expedient, or comfortable. Scripture demands we be prepared and willing to rip out the old structures and dogma, if it stands between God’s children and God’s justice. Are you willing to unleash those waters and let them wash away the injustices the church has shored and bolstered?
According to Matthew, Jesus said, not a sparrow falls from heaven without God seeing it, and how much more are we than sparrows. God sees us. I am asking that you, also, see us. God cares for us. I am asking that you, also, show care for us.
I invite you to engage with Transgender Day of Remembrance by attending a service organized by your and silently bearing witness. Find one near you by Googling “Transgender Day of Remembrance” + your city.
You are also invited to offer a prayer privately, with your small group or Bible study, or with your congregation.
- Transgender Day of Remembrance Prayer by Vicky Gibbs
- Transgender Day of Remembrance Prayer by Sunshine Jeremiah Wolfe
- Prayer of Confession for Transgender Day of Remembrance by AnnMarie Kneebone and Regina Shands Stoltzfus
You can view all of Queer Theology’s transgender resources at queertheology.com/transgender