But now thus says the God who created you, O Jacob, who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned; and the flame shall not consume you. (Isaiah 43:1-2)
So many incidents of violence are pouring over our communities like floods of water and walls of fire.
On May 20 Janell Crosby and Tyra Woods were assaulted on an Atlanta train by two other passengers, who verbally harassed them and then stripped Janell's clothing from her body. No one came to their aid, and some bystanders cheered or videotaped the attack to post to the Internet with derogatory and dismissive comments.
Since that time the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries and representatives of the Metropolitan Community Church have worked with other local leaders and representatives of MARTA to initiate the changes that will hopefully lead to greater safety for all.
On June 3 the body of Kandy Hall was found in a field in northwest Baltimore. She is the second trans woman to be killed in Baltimore in just over a year. The killer of Kelly Young, murdered in April 2013, was never caught.
On the Transgender Day of Remembrance in November, many MCC congregations join with our communities in grief to name those killed in transphobic attacks around the world. Reports vary on how many we have named since the event started in 1998, but by any account, far too many of our trans siblings are assaulted, mocked, and killed.
These names and the violence that claimed their lives roll and roar, washing over us like a flood of water and racing like wildfire across the landscapes of our consciousness, burning hatred and fear into our awareness. None of us is unaffected; the violence hurts us all. So many of our tribe are lost altogether. Trans people in the neighborhoods where these attacks occur live in fear that they may be next. And non-trans men and women, whether allies or people unaware of the full toll that gender violence takes, still live fenced-in and truncated lives, not fully free to wear clothing or enjoy hobbies or express emotions -- or love the person their heart claims -- when that falls outside our society's narrow gender expectations.
In Isaiah, God calls us not to live in fear. At first blush this may seem to be a callous or trivial response to what is in fact a horrifying reality. But the prophet who wrote these words and the community that heard them were living through the floods and fires of their own terrifying circumstances.
The prophet proclaims that God created and claims us. In a meaningful and deeper way, Isaiah is calling us to find within the storm a peace and a strength -- from faith or God or community, that inexplicable peace that passes understanding. And, importantly, the prophet is urging us to act, not from fear or revenge but from that strong and peaceful center into lives of justice and conscience. Again and again, God's people are targeted and cornered and nearly annihilated, and again and again God reveals a way out. Just as importantly, God reveals again and again that nothing that evil can do to us can intimidate us when our first and last thought is for a safer, more whole, more abundant world for more people.
The work we can do to support the trans and gender-nonconforming communities will be different from country to country, and it will vary from large-scale actions for legislation and policy reform to the very personal decisions about the language we use, the jokes we laugh at, and the assumptions we make about who and what determines gender. It will include recognizing and naming the connections between racism and sexism and poverty, forming coalitions to work on the intersections of oppression, and being willing to admit that some lives are not valued by our social institutions as much as other lives.
Does your town or city have a liaison to the trans communities? Have the police, fire department, and emergency medical technicians been trained about the unique aspects of trans health and safety? Does your town or country even recognize the humanity of its trans and gender-nonconforming citizens? Are you willing to use the places where you personally enjoy unequal access to leverage to empower other voices to be heard? At whatever place you find yourself, there is much to do.
MCC's Global Justice Institute is working with other human-rights organizations and communities of faith for the passage of a trans-inclusive ENDA and trans-inclusive hate-crimes legislation at every level. To support those efforts, contact Public Policy Team member Rev. DeWayne Davis at email@example.com.
All of us can take action today to make sure a 16-year-old girl who has been incarcerated in an adult-male prison in Connecticut is moved to a safer juvenile facility. Learn more here.
We need not be afraid with a God beside us who knows us intimately and calls each of us by name. The trials of life need not define us or stop us from knowing abundant life and a just world. And the peace and strength we find in a loving God is the very power from which we draw to build loving community for ourselves and all God's children.
Isaiah's vision was of a world where all life is equally safe and equally valued. That was our founder's vision too, and it's our legacy to carry on now.
The Rev. Miller Jen Hoffman
Mr. Angel Collie, Program Officer
Trans/GNC Advisory Council
Metropolitan Community Churches
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This statement was prepared in conjunction with the Moderator's Public Policy Team and the Global Justice Inistitute, Kareem Murphy (member) and the Rev. Pat Bumgardner, E.D.