Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Monday, November 21, 2011
RIVERSIDE: Commemorating victims of anti-transgender violence
Eva-Genevieve! Scarborough struggled most of her life with being transgendered and reconciling her sexual identity with her strong Christian faith.
Friday, November 4, 2011
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
How much of this actually makes the papers is unknown at this point but here is the uncut interview with Rebekah Curtis:Yesterday I was asked to do an interview for the charity arm of Reuters in London. It turns out that our Transgender Day of Remembrance observance here has importance on a global scale - and so we make history in Riverside...Here's the obligatory plug for the event: Come out on Nov 20th at 2 PM to First Congregational Church, Riverside 3504 Mission Inn (at Lemon) in historic Downtown Riverside, 92501 and be a part of this!Dear Eva-Genevieve!I am a journalist at the Thomson Reuters Foundation in London (the charity arm of Reuters, where gender rights are among our key focuses), and am currently writing some articles about transgender rights ahead of the upcoming Transgender Day of Remembrance on Nov. 20.I am interested in speaking to people in various countries about their experiences of transgender rights and given your involvement in remembrance day – as seen on www.transgenderdor.org – I thought it would be of really great value to interview you about this topic.In case you would be happy to do this, I have included the questions below so that you can email the answers back.It’d be great if this is indeed possible, and I very much look forward to hearing from you,Many thanks and kind regards,Rebekah
Friday, October 7, 2011
Hugs and Blessings,
The play is directed by our own Jeff Wymer with Angie Wymer leading production. A third of the cast are members of our church and the entire technical support team also comes from our church. Initial funding for the project came from our Mission Board, many of whom are also assisting out front and behind the scenes. We can proudly claim this play as ours.
For those who are interested in serious theater, this show is truly a MUST SEE. I would strongly urge you all to attend and to bring your friends with you. This is not only an important piece of theater, it also goes to the heart of issues that truly matter to many of us who sit in the pews of our church.
BRAVO Jeff and Angie Wymer. BRAVO actors. BRAVO First Congregational Church.
Performances are Friday and Saturday evenings, this weekend and next at 8 pm. There is also a matinee performance next Sunday, the 16th, at 2 pm. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the door.
Monday, October 3, 2011
A Sermon based on Isaiah 5:1-7, Philippians 4:6-9 & Matthew 21:33-43
Two of today’s readings seem to be making social and political statements that could be read as very strong indictments of ancient Israel’s leadership. In Isaiah we hear the Prophet loud and clear about specific offenses by the rulers of Israel – he does not mince words as he lays his charges at their feet – and in Matthew’s Gospel we hear Jesus poignantly speaking in such a way that his words can be applied to the leaders of Israel 2000 years ago and also apply to the current leaders and wannabe leaders of our Nation today.
While it isn’t always good to include politically charged issues in a sermon there are times when the words of Scripture and specifically those of Jesus Himself do have direct bearing on our society today. I don’t think I am presenting anything profound or new here but I am simply filtering current events through the lens of the Scriptures. Obviously we don’t live in ancient Israel but there are many comparisons that can be made and it seems to me that this is one time when it is quite appropriate to do just that, in fact I think it would be wrong to ignore the implications.
Some of you already know my views and about my involvement locally as an activist regarding LGBT issues, faith issues and human rights and have heard me tell of my experiences as a transgender woman possessed of a strong Christian faith. You know that my motives are always to show the love of Christ and make it relevant in today’s crazy world, especially to folks who have been hurt horribly by people claiming to be godly and then beyond that to try and build up a community to which all of God’s lovingly diverse people can feel that they belong, whether they recognize God or not or whether they view God in the same way I do or not. It is within this context that I speak today and I hope you can find some strength and hope in my words.
Here we have Jesus giving us a parable that obviously has Isaiah’s words at the heart but I believe the application can be made to our own country. I see the USA as the tenant of this amazingly lush and productive land yet in spite of this our national leaders, elected and appointed along with the bulk of banking and large corporate interests seem to be completely blind to the needs of anyone but themselves – certainly there is very little consideration of the poor and the infirm in our once great land, many of whom feel abused and trodden down if not simply left for dead. I am dismayed at the extent of greed and selfishness. I am dismayed that lying seems to be the national and corporate language. When was the last time you heard on the news about a politician being honest? When did you last hear of a big corporation stepping forward on their own to own up to disasters they caused and compensating us fairly for the damage? When was the last time you heard of a large bank or insurance company dealing honestly with someone? When was the last time some government agency told us the plain truth about a situation? We are in one truly sad state of affairs in this nation.
Now take a look at the state of religion in our land – especially those groups that make the most noise and are spending the most money on politically charged issues. These are the people who claim to have our spiritual best interests at heart, who would tell us how to be saved and have sanctified marriages and who should know what the word righteous is since they throw it in our faces so much. These are the very people who tell us that God works miracles yet the minute He does they scream “abomination”! I don’t know if you are sick of hearing their tired old rhetoric about how LGBT people are trying to teach other children to be gay or transgender, or hearing about their efforts to deny us our rights as citizens of this nation and even to deny us the dignity of equality or acceptance, but I am sick of it – and I feel righteously indignant about it. These are the people that would beat the messengers and kill the very Son Himself and would try to co-opt the vineyard all for their own benefit. I am very tired of these types being the tenants and leaders of this land and I believe that God is too. I can really relate to what Mt. 21:41 says, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end”…“and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”
I think it is time to decry from the pulpit leaders who act just like children and treat the country like it was a toy. In Ecclesiastes 10:16 (NKJV) we are told,
”Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child,
And your princes feast in the morning!”
I hope and pray for leaders to arise who will consider and care for the poor and the sick and the cast-offs of society, lawmakers and decision makers who love their neighbors as themselves, and for corporate executives who listen to Jesus when He tells us in Luke 12:48,
“For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they ask the more.”
I get very depressed when I focus on the condition of this Country, seeing the depths to which we have already sunk. I’m very afraid for the future if things keep degenerating. I also get really worked up over all the abuse of LGBT and other folks by the religious “right” and their ignorant followers but I also have learned that if I act and speak out of the hurt I have experienced or the anger and upset I feel then I am doing just as much of a disservice to all of you as they are.
So what, you might ask, is the way to deal with both the social/political situation and the harmful religious attitudes, without getting all caught up in an emotional firestorm? How does one keep from being overwhelmed? Well, let’s look at our Second Reading again – Philippians 4:6-9 in the New International Version:
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
This is exactly how I hold on to hope and how I pick myself up out of depression and anxiety: I seek God, I think about things that are wholesome – I read the Scriptures and I remember the kindnesses people have done for me and the times that godly people have encouraged me, I think about the times that God has delivered me out of harm’s way and know I’ll be OK. I experience the peace of God which transcends my own understanding. And then, like Paul I channel my passion and anger into pro-active action.
For any of you who are still in doubt that God loves you or that you can find this peace I speak of I am living proof that this is dependable truth. I know beyond a doubt that the love of God is right at hand, just for the believing and accepting even if there are those who wrongfully say people like you or I have no place in God’s family. Think on this: God did not make you the person you are only to turn around and condemn you for being this way. God welcomes you with open arms just as you are! If you have questions or simply wish to discuss this please seek the Pastor or myself out after the service.
May God richly bless you, Amen.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
A sermon based on Matthew 15:21-28
Taken on its own this passage seems clear enough, but yet something doesn’t quite ring true in my mind. Unless there is something more to it I see a contradiction here between the Jesus I believe in, who was all about reconciling sinners to himself, who proclaimed loving one’s neighbor as oneself as second only to loving God with all of one’s heart, mind and soul and the Jesus depicted here, one who seems harsh, insensitive, prejudiced and rude, someone I would tend to shy away from rather than trust with my very soul. Hmm – when it comes to acceptance of those who differ from society’s norms this latter Jesus sounds like some of the Evangelicals, Fundamentalists and cultists in the news lately.
Recalling sermons and teachings I have heard on this passage over the years in several Churches or have seen in several Bible Commentaries I note that it isn’t uncommon to hear things like “Jesus was testing the woman’s faith” or that “Jesus really didn’t want to heal this woman’s daughter but it was her perseverance that won out in the end”. I believe there is an element of truth to these interpretations. To be sure, being sure of one’s faith and persevering in the face of opposition are absolutely necessary attributes for anyone who takes being a Christian seriously. Still, I can’t help thinking there is more to this than that, especially since we Christians have been called to carry the Gospel to the ends of the earth, to love our neighbors as ourselves and we are told that all peoples and nations will bow before Him. Let’s take a closer look.
Here we have Jesus and the disciples trying to get away from the crowds for some well-deserved rest. Please note, Christian ministry can be grueling at times and those who participate in it do need a break once in a while. But now, breaking the calm that they sought, here comes this pesky woman messing up their plans. We hear the disciples fussing about her, saying stuff like she’s an inconvenience to us, get rid of her! She’s not one of us, she isn’t of our culture, she doesn’t live by our rules and besides that it’s not our job because we’re sent to the Jews only. Then after being silent and seeming to agree with the disciples Jesus takes up the same theme. Many of the commentators also seem to agree that she wasn’t one to whom Jesus was called to minister and many believe Jesus was justified in saying “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” and “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs” either to try and dissuade her or as a test of her faith. In many cases they say this was to be a lesson to her and to us about perseverance yet here is where I think the real truth lies.
We know from other passages that Jesus knows the hearts of all persons – In Luke 19 we learn that He knew Zaccheus the Tax Collector longed to see him and was up in the tree waiting for Him to pass by. Jesus knew well enough in advance of the encounter to have already made dinner plans at Zac’s house! In another passage Jesus knew that virtue went out of him when the woman with the bloody flux came and touched the hem of His Garment and was healed. In several other passages Jesus always seems to know just what the disciples are whispering or thinking about and often calls them on it – so to say the Jesus had to test this woman’s faith is a very weak argument. Jesus, being the son of God, always knows the minds and hearts of those around him. Jesus knew she was coming and what she needed before she got there and He knew her heart.
In Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary (1706) the notes on this passage start out this way: “The dark corners of the country, the most remote, shall share Christ's influences; afterwards the ends of the earth shall see his salvation. The distress and trouble of her family brought a woman to Christ; and though it is need that drives us to Christ, yet we shall not therefore be driven from him. She did not limit Christ to any particular instance of mercy, but mercy, mercy, is what she begged for: she pleads not merit, but depends upon mercy…” and he closes with “…From hence let such as seek help from the Lord, and receive no gracious answer, learn to turn even their unworthiness and discouragements into pleas for mercy. ”
This woman came humbly to Jesus in faith seeking mercy, showing a depth of knowledge about who He really was – she even called him “Lord, Son of David” proving that she wasn’t just seeking any old magician or spiritual healer – she knew her place. What she did by being persistent was turn the prejudice of that day back around on the disciples who wanted to get rid of her. This gave Jesus the opportunity to make an object lesson of the religious prejudice of the day by voicing what the woman knew to be prejudice to anyone who happened to be in earshot – and especially the disciples who had succumbed to that religious rhetoric much like well-meaning religious people today fall on the same old foolishness regarding Gay, Lesbian and Transgender people.
Have you ever been bantering with someone and said something that to a casual observer would seem outrageous, mean-spirited or prejudiced knowing that the one you were bantering with would get the joke? Sometimes when I am bantering with another transgender person I parrot the prejudice shown to them or myself in some situation and we understand that it isn’t prejudice on my part but an acknowledging of what one has had to endure. Words in print alone fail to convey the full truth of a situation like that but I think this is what Jesus was doing with that faithful woman as she was coming to Him seeking mercy for her daughter’s desperate need. Yet to us it is another example of not judging things by mere appearances – even the Scriptures!
I think Jesus was simply acknowledging that this woman was, by faith, enduring prejudice on the part of His disciples, knowing full well that he was going to heal the daughter and by doing so He would be chiding them for their lack of faith and compassion in the process. It was the disciples who had again forgotten who Jesus really was, coming as this event did on the heels of loaves and fishes, and Peter walking on water and then sinking in the previous chapter. I can hear echoes of Jesus words to Peter in the previous chapter “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
This is far more in character with the Jesus I believe in than if it were meant to be a test or a lesson to the woman. I can imagine that when Jesus said those harsh words to her that there was a twinkle in His eye or maybe a wink or a nod to her indicating that He knew what was up. The reality is that God isn’t going to reject anyone who turns to him in faith seeking only mercy and that is the only qualification.
Anyone who comes to God by faith is welcomed into the family of God. By faith this woman was already counted as one of the House of Israel. We know from Scripture that “the house of Israel” includes more than just Jews born that way even though it seems that the ultra-religious ones looked down on anyone who wasn’t just like them. Look at Isaiah 56:3-8
3 Let no foreigner who is bound to the LORD say,
“The LORD will surely exclude me from his people.”
And let no eunuch complain,
“I am only a dry tree.”
4 For this is what the LORD says:
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose what pleases me
and hold fast to my covenant—
5 to them I will give within my temple and its walls
a memorial and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that will endure forever.
6 And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD
to minister to him,
to love the name of the LORD,
and to be his servants,
all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it
and who hold fast to my covenant—
7 these I will bring to my holy mountain
and give them joy in my house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house will be called
a house of prayer for all nations.”
8 The Sovereign LORD declares—
he who gathers the exiles of Israel:
“I will gather still others to them
besides those already gathered.”
I know I am beginning to repeat myself but this is of life-changing importance for everyone to grasp. The lesson today, especially for those who are faced with the prejudice of religious people is that God already knows our hearts, our crises and our anguish and when we come to Him by faith He accepts us. He sees us when we are far off and He rushes out to meet us and draws us into the fold. He cares not one whit for what the religious people say or what the bigots and ignorant people say. Just as we are regardless of what those others say about us, even if it happens to be more of Jesus’ disciples trying to get us to go away because they see us as inconvenient, we can persist and succeed if what we seek is God’s mercy. For we are all humans who have fallen short of His Glory – this is the lot of every living soul – and His mercy is freely given to all along with the grace necessary to arise renewed.
May The God of Heaven and Earth richly bless you all.
Friday, July 29, 2011
I too am one of the “professional” (though I don’t seem to be making any money as such), very out, activist, blog keeping (but very lazy about it lately) trans women. I hope one day I can simply forget my male roots and just be a woman, even if it is just for a day or two, but I can’t and the reality of the matter hits home on several levels. As with you, Matt, there is a long list of things – many of yours I can relate too though we travel in the opposite direction across gender lines.
I have 2 sons and I am their father – that fact isn’t going to change; I have a rather large build so I stand out in a crowd and am often read because of that extra level of scrutiny even though I try to dress very fem and age appropriate; my voice is of a timbre that is somewhere in between masculine and feminine and draws extra scrutiny; I spend most of my time in a town where many people knew the old me (though fortunately most of these people are very supportive and like the new me far better); and being very active in Trans and TLGB activism I can’t help but be aware that I am trans. And if that isn’t enough there are enough jerks in the world that love to make snide comments and act the bully, ever ready to remind me of my flaws (real or imagined on their part) – lately it is every couple of weeks I have some such encounter. (It disturbs me that this behavior seems to be on the rise, but that is for a different discussion sometime).
I simply have to rest secure in the knowledge of who I am, why I am here and that in my former pseudo-man life I proved over and over to myself that, in spite of having a penis, I really was not a man though God knows I gave it my best shot. I have to draw strength from these facts and from my faith that tells me God made me this way intentionally (I am NOT a mistake!!) and my being trans is a loving gift (though I for a long time considered it a curse). It is this faith, by the way, that drives me to be an activist and very out and visible – it is that “let your light so shine…” kind of thing for me so I dare not forget from whence I came to be a woman.
I am generally very happy that I am trans because life is so much better being out and free to be myself than it ever was in all the years I tried to hide it, fight it and deny it. Basically I have a “this-is-the-real-me, deal-with-it!” attitude. Having gone from someone who had to hide her feminine side just to survive her adolescence and early adult years to now trying to hide the damage done by 50 years of testosterone overdose I think I have a greater appreciation for being a woman than I would have had I simply been born female thus taking everything fem about myself for granted.
I know several trans women who have been able to pass perfectly and blend in and for a while I envied them, but I don’t any more. We trans-folks have so much more to give in support of others if we are out and visible. We make a positive difference in our world simply by being seen and known and we make it a safer place for those who will in the years to come discover their true selves and walk out into the light.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Thursday, June 2, 2011
Recently I talked to another Trans Christian, one I just met on-line and our conversation has caused me to ponder how we must walk by faith in this world – even Trans and Gender Variant folks that do not have the same belief system as we Christians do – certainly it is an act of faith to step out into the world as our real, authentic selves; we risk everything the moment we hit the street. Even more so those who know they have to remain hidden from co-workers and others simply to survive must walk by some sort of faith even if it is just faith in the fact that one is part of a group that is pressing for acceptance. I speak from a Christian perspective about faith (and hope that this draws others into the family), but faith even without this context is key to what I am speaking about.
I could not live openly as myself now without Jesus by my side - it is all a walk of faith even though the Evangelicals and Fundamentalists can't quite grasp the truth I (and other Gender Variant people) represent. I wonder if that isn't a little like how Jesus felt as he walked among the religious people of His day. He embodied the Truth – all of it – and He loved God with all His being, yet he was ridiculed and eventually brutalized and put to death, so obviously He knows what it is like to be tortured, bullied, teased and ridiculed by family and religious people and likely even amongst His peers simply for being Himself. We have something in common with Him and this becomes important in the times when others turn against us and when we must endure our situations without giving up.
Lately I have faced a lot of harassment from people on the streets and this seems to be on the rise as I spend a lot of time walking and taking Public transit around Riverside and Los Angeles. I suppose this is due to the turbulent current Social, Political & Economic climate that seems to be pushing towards some sort of critical mass. Though I always try to dress tastefully and appropriate for a woman my age people that “read me” seem to have something hurtful to say and if it were not for this commonality I have with Jesus I would surely crumble under the weight of their hatred and ridicule. What I want most to do is share the Love God has for them with them because I really do know what that love is like, but in the heat of the moment I also want to lash out and get back at them so I usually wind up saying nothing and move along trying to keep my bruised feelings from showing. I go home and cry it out and then fight the depression that generally follows behind such challenges to myself and to my self-esteem – and it has been a struggle lately. Again if it were not for Jesus being by my side (faith) I would not be able to pick myself up and move forward again.
So what is it that we Gender Variant folks represent? I think most of all we represent the fact the God is still speaking, still creating, still alive and well and accessible to each one of us by faith, also that He is well able to function outside the tiny, tradition steeped box that most people think of as Christianity. We stand in stark contrast to the limits of religious tradition. We are told, you can’t live that way, “its evil”, “its abominable”, “it teaches our kids to be promiscuous” and even (with a little tongue-in-cheek here) “it makes them wonder who or what they should marry”. Of course nothing is further from the actual truth; such things can’t be taught – one either is or isn’t “that” way by nature, however one identifies. What we represent is the glory of God and Her ability to challenge and shake up the status quo even in these modern (and oh so enlightened) days. We represent living Truth just as Jesus did and that scares the beejeebers out of folks!
We have heard it said often enough that God can do anything but when He actually does do something miraculous it is those shallow, reactionary religious people that scream and say “that’s abomination!”, though it really is simply because who we are makes them uncomfortable and challenges their beliefs. I believe that such challenges to ones beliefs are healthy and it is something that God is still in the business of doing today, in real-time and right in their (and our) faces.
Please take this to heart: each and every one of us is one of those miracles in the flesh, just as Jesus Christ was one in the flesh! Talk about being trans – He had the Spirit of God fully dwelling in his human flesh. We put the lie to the traditions of today’s religious people regarding Gender Variant folk. Jesus said it of the Jews in His day(Mark 7:13 “Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.”), and our very existence combined with the faith we have makes the exact same statement to all those religious folks who tell us we are wrong, evil, abominable & etc.
I just had lunch with a Pastor friend of mine today and I would like to adapt a quip she quoted to me that happens to speak volumes to our detractors: If God hates Transgender and LGBQ… folks so much why does he make so many of us? So whether you have faith in God or just faith in the fact that there are so darn many of us, as always I encourage you to be out because just by being out you make a difference. I encourage you to be proud of who you are and to stand firm even in the face of opposition (though avoid becoming violent if you can). Get involved in support groups so you have a personal support network, get involved in civic affairs and take your place regularly so you can make a difference – Woody Allen once said “eighty percent of success is showing up”. Remember that you are not alone as you struggle to be free.
Hugs and Blessings,