Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My interview with Reuters of London

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,
How much of this actually makes the papers is unknown at this point but here is the uncut interview with Rebekah Curtis:

Could you tell me a little of what spurred you to get involved in the day of remembrance, and if possible your full name/occupation/age?

I'm Eva-Genevieve! Scarborough, I legally changed my name in March 2010 from Evan Kent Scarborough and there is a bit of a story just in the name I chose and if you don’t mind I would like to share that too. I loved the name my parents gave me and wanted to choose a name that would, at least in my own opinion, still sound a bit distinguished and that would honor the name originally given to me. Eva was simple, just drop the “n” and keep the pronunciation the same, though this made it sound more French than before. So I wanted to find a name that flowed well from Eva. There was nothing to be done for Kent – I toyed with Kendra but that just did not fit me at all. After a lot of thought I came across the name Genevieve in a book I was reading. The “Gene” part comes from Genesis – God’s creative work and the ”vieve” part refers to God breathing life into His creation, like the “vive” in revive. Since I am a Christian – more solidly since transition than before even – this was perfect for me and it fits real well if said with French sounding pronunciation.  I add the exclamation point because it is my way of thanking God for this amazing second chance at life every time I write my name.

I’m 56, presently I am disabled. I came out as trans and started living full time as a woman in July of 2006. Previously I was a Printed Circuit Board Design Engineer (30+ years in the industry), and I even had my own business for a while but that ended in a hard crash as a result of the 9-11-2001 event here in the States. For independent contract designers like me the resulting changes in the Aerospace, Military and prototype design industry were so severe that all the work in the area I lived in dried up completely over the next year or so and as the nation became paranoid and ultra-security-conscious I was unable to break back into the workplace. Transitioning a few years later seems to have put the kibosh on my ever getting back into it even part-time. So now I am an activist of sorts, as I am able, regarding Transgender, LGB and Human Rights in general and I am a Lay Preacher – occasionally preaching at a small independent Christian Church in Riverside CA called Safe Haven. I believe strongly that the Gospel of Christ does have a deep and abiding application to all people who have been rejected by families, churches and even society as a whole simply because they have dared to stand up and be counted as their true selves.

I deeply resent the vile and hurtful rhetoric that American Fundamentals and Evangelicals and a few others in the world have used for way to long here to crush the spirits of all who are seen as “different” somehow – to paraphrase Jesus, by  their traditions they make the laws of God out to have no effect. Having been saved in a Fundamentalist Church back in May of 1980 and still believing that I am saved because of my faith in Christ I absolutely know that it is wrong, discriminatory doctrine to reject LGBT folks and I do all I can to heal such wounds in others and share the love and compassion of God for those He has lovingly created. God doesn’t make mistakes and He/She doesn’t reject people created with certain needs, desires or mixes of attributes.

I host a blog called “Living Transgender in American Society Today” http://livingtransgender.blogspot.com in which I address some of these issues and you are welcome to take a look at it and even use parts of it if it suits your article.

Finally to the question of why I am involved in TDOR.  There are several reasons and the biggest is awareness. Society needs to be made aware that atrocities such as the murder of trans folks are still happening all around the world and they need to be so offended by this that they get involved and help stop it. I think it is important for trans-folks who have been murdered to be remembered as people too and not just as statistics. Why should these wonderful, colorful and unique folks along with their unnaturally shortened lives be swept away and forgotten when they only thing they did was to tell the world “look – this is who I am” or because they made some other people uncomfortable.

Every human on the planet deserves this much dignity! To be known and remembered as God’s children is a right of all humans in my book, even if we appear to be an inconvenience to those people who refuse to accept the diversity of creation as a good thing. To be known and accepted just as one has been created by God (or the Universe if one prefers not to invoke God) is foundational to a sense of well-being and good self-esteem, not to mention foundational to the well-being of society. Too long have people had to mold themselves into something and someone they are not just to fit some arbitrary or traditional behavior or appearance, and it isn’t just trans-folks. I think that if people learn of the plight of trans-folks they can begin to accept the broader spectrum of humanity and make the world a better place for all humans.

I also think that TDOR observances are a time for us who are trans-identified, who remain alive and have the chance to be out in our communities and who have found happiness as their true selves to reflect on and be grateful for those who have gone before us. Some people tell me that they don’t observe TDOR because it is too morbid, but I see it as an opportunity to move forward, to build on the foundations left by others who tried to live free and were killed in the process. We do have to be careful but we must not be driven back into hiding because of the risks. I look forward to the day that no one has to hide or be killed, or bullied or teased or rejected simply for being the person they believe themselves to be!

Personally I never like to be just a spectator at events so I have volunteered at TDOR events in the past – in Los Angeles in 2009 and in San Luis Obispo, CA last year (there are photos on my blog). There has not been a public TDOR Event in Riverside before and so I thought it was about time someone organized one here outside of the small, private events at the Local University here in Town (U of California, Riverside). My Church is very supportive of LGBT folks and I have a lot of community connections from being very involved in stuff, so it seems that I am the one to try and pull this together. I’m working with people from the local University and lots of other groups on this event and I am hoping it gets a lot of attention.

What more needs to be done in the field of transgender rights in your country/the world?

One word: lots.

It is sad that the United States used to be a world leader in human rights and civil rights but we have lost that edge to many others – places like Argentina are very progressive when it comes to transgender rights and I think places like Brazil and Thailand are too – they all still have other problems but transgender folks seem to be much more accepted, and even Cuba now has health care that covers transgender SRS surgery – from what I have read the surgery is free. Canada has a good health care system that provides for transgender people too. Here we seem to be having a resurgence of very closed-minded views of humanity and the ultra-religious fanatics seem to have the biggest voice these days in the fight against acceptance of all humans as equals and our Health care system is still really closed to and ignorant of trans issues unless one has lots of money. Our Medicare system certainly is not supportive.

I can’t really speak about the world situation beyond the impressions I get from the news media but here in the States I think it comes down to a need for people to be taught that all humans need to be accepted and allowed to mature without being pressed into someone else’s mold.

Beyond that I think it is kind of up to the transgender folks themselves to make a difference. So many stay hidden and I would like to find a way to encourage them to take a stand and take the chance and just come out anyway.

I have had much success by being bold and just acting like I belong where ever I happen to be at any given time. Once I realized and accepted who I am, and that took me until I was 50, I came out and stayed out and have found great acceptance. Though I do experience some harassment from time to time I spent far too long hiding my feelings and stuffing the best parts of myself down and I now simply refuse to do that anymore for anyone. Life is just too short to stay hidden and miserable! I know that there are many who just can’t do what I have done but I keep hoping there will be more because only when trans-folks are regularly seen being involved in every-day life just like everyone else will there be wide spread acceptance.

What message do you hope for people to take from the day of remembrance?

Hope and a sense of belonging to a community that is learning to accept people as they are, a community that needs all of our participation in order to be whole and mature. I hope to show the local trans-folks that there is a lot of support and acceptance already at hand. I am lining up lots of local Clergy, Care-Givers, other community leaders and business people who will come out to our event just to be seen as supporters of the transgender community – so far I am getting a lot of positive responses.

I also hope to get the message across that we all need to stand together and work for changes while we support each other in all of our diversity. The time for dividing down lines of difference is past and it is time to group together by our similarities. This isn’t, at least as I envision it, just about murdered trans-folks but it is about all people who have been killed, bullied, hurt, harassed, etc. for simply living their own lives.

What positive changes have you already seen in your country’s/the world’s stance on transgender rights?

This Nations youth are amazing – all across the country in High Schools and Colleges there are groups usually called Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA) or Pride associations and there is a national network of these groups that are working for acceptance of all LGBT people and there is a lot of success.  I gain a lot of hope from the young trans-folks I meet. I hope I am alive when these young people are taking the lead in our society.

Also there are a lot of on-line and face-to-face support groups and discussion groups where people find the courage to accept themselves. Thank God for the Internet and the ability to communicate with others.

We have a couple of “mainstream” Church denominations in this Country that are very progressive and work towards acceptance of all people too, and others seem to be coming around slowly. I believe it is the responsibility of the faith community to reach out to all people and make them feel wanted and welcome.

Several States, Cities, Universities and large companies have recently adopted anti-discrimination laws that include gender identity and here in California our Governor just signed 3 bills that have a positive impact on trans-folks. There is progress on a lot of fronts but there is also a lot of resistance so we have a long way to go until we are simply accepted as just plain folks.

Please feel free to add any further comments.

I just want to thank you for the opportunity to be heard. May you and your readers be very blessed.

Eva-Genevieve! Scarborough

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Laramie Project

Last night was opening night for our production of The Laramie Project. We have 5 more performances to go and when it's over I'll hopefully have some pictures to post. for now here's our Poster and a review from the Pastor of my Church.

Hugs and Blessings,

Last night was the opening performance of The Laramie Project at our church. I can't think of any time I was ever more proud to be associated with this community of faith. It is a stunning performance, one that left us all feeling more than a little shell-shocked. I spoke with one of the actors after the show who expressed profound gratitude to our church for allowing this powerful play to be performed here. Allowing?! This was truly a privilege!

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

Wretched Tenants

A Sermon based on Isaiah 5:1-7, Philippians 4:6-9 & Matthew 21:33-43
delivered 10-2-2011

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.