Friday, July 24, 2015

My Ninth Anneversary

Today. July 24, is my ninth anniversary as Eva-Genevieve! It was exactly 9 years ago that I made the permanent switch from Evan to Eva, from male to female in my outward gender presentation. All told these have been the absolute best years of my life even with the occasional hiccups of the human condition, both mine and those of others. I am not ashamed of, nor have I any major regrets over the choices I have been making since that balmy July day in 2006. Even the ones that have turned out to be mistakes have contained disguised blessings because I have tried to walk humbly before my God. I am thankful to God that I am alive and have my health and even a few wits occasionally - none of these are things I have managed to obtain on my own nor deserved after the wreck I made of my life prior to transition. God is Great and now a chapter in my life closes and a new one begins. I'll be all right so long as I proceed in the light of God's magnificent grace. I will miss so many of you here in Southern California who have enriched my life in the most amazing ways and I will carry all of you in my heart as I go. Tuesday evening I get on the Southwest Chief heading East to make my home in Illinois. I will arrive (God and Amtrak willing) on July 30.

And so the story begins...

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Still I Rise – A message for Women’s History Month and Palm Sunday 2015

Eva-Genevieve! Scarborough – March 29, 2015

I am honored to be here today. I am always humbled when I am asked to speak, especially in Church because I know the depths to which I have sunk and from which I have been rescued and I embrace my humanity, but yet the Spirit of God lives within me and so, like the rocks, I must speak out.  Figuratively I’ve been asked to drive the car today but it is just as likely, or more, that in other circumstances I’ll be the one to jump out and push – either is an honor because both bring us closer to God, God who has made and molded us and given us purpose. I can only pray that my words here today glorify our God and are used to lift you up.

Normally I would read the passage first before speaking but since I’m already coming at this from a somewhat unexpected direction I’m putting the cart in front of the horse and I’m going to save the reading until I close.

I asked if there was to be a topic beyond being generally something suited to Women’s History month figuring that a Scripture passage would be forthcoming and I could talk, maybe about Ruth or another of the heroines of our faith, but no, that would have been easy.  I am familiar with Scripture… and Science-Fiction – I can talk your ear off about warp drives and scientific concepts, great Space Opera, and even great women sci-fi authors, but a poem by Maya Angelou? Not so much – I’ve never been much of a reader of poetry until very recent years – I suppose it wasn’t until I had accepted myself fully as God’s woman that poetry ever resonated in me because my spirit was not free and could not resonate in the ways it does now. What a difference it makes when one wholly accepts who and what God has created them to be. And if there is any one thing I would like to impart to every one of you is that you need to embrace yourself, nurture yourself, and love yourself because God has made you perfect! With God you can rise.  You can mount up with wings as an eagle! You can feel God’s loving embrace even when your world is being rocked and shaken all around you. Embrace God and then embrace yourself and then you will know what it means to be free, to rise!

Speaking of Maya Angelou on the occasion of her death, President Obama said she “had the ability to remind us that we are all God’s children, that we have something to offer.” And I believe that we all have that ability in us to rise! She found it and I have found it and many of you here today I know have found it.

Now I know from recent-past events that Maya was an amazing woman who from very humble, abused and troubled beginnings rose to great fame and could claim as friends Martin Luther King and Barack Obama. These are people who most certainly know what it means to “rise” in the sense of the poet. So the other day I read Maya’s poem “Still, I Rise” for the first time wondering what I would hear. I was blown away because here was that same message, the very same thing I have discovered through my painful and cathartic journey the long way around to being a woman and often spoken of, but here the poet has spoken so much more eloquently, so clearly, so brilliantly I can feel my spirit bearing witness with the Holy Spirit that herein is foundational truth. So this is why I must put my humble words first because hers shine like the sun! If I were to read her words first then there would be nothing left for me to say.

There is also some intersectionality here—a word my Pastor Jane Quandt has been using a lot of these days—some of which I have never spoken to publicly before and so I am stretched a bit today. Try being a Christian and an activist for Transgender and LGB equality, or any justice issue for that matter, and you will rapidly find opposition on both sides and you left in the middle feeling all alone, and in these past few weeks this is again stormy territory – friends have been divided and misunderstandings and angers have flared and I don’t know what too do and just like that, I feel alone and caught in the middle, but I’m in good company here. Because I know upon whose promises I stand I can say with Maya Angelou, “still, I rise”. I think I have the right sense of it, only I lack the eloquence, the depth and clarity of the poet.

And lest I put Maya on too high a pedestal and she become hard for any of us to relate to let me hasten to say that she had to pull herself up by her own boot laces and make something of her life. It was not particularly easy for her, she knew heartbreak, betrayals and the loss of friends, suffered much, yet she stood strong – an example for us all to follow. Anyone who has felt the stings of prejudice, bigotry, abuse, oppression and etc. can find comfort, strength and hope enough to hold out for rising time right here, right now! Have you been bent over and broken, stooped down before your oppressor weeping bitter tears and wanting only to die? I have, and yet my time for triumph over my enemies came. Though I came close to ending it just a moment before the miracle happened, I am so very glad that by God’s grace I stuck around – Still, I Rise!

And yes, even though we celebrate Women’s history this month, you men here can also find what it takes to “rise” and not as my partner Ken would have said, lose your “man-card”, though you may find yourself becoming a better and stronger man, father or husband in the process! Anyone who has been rejected or hurt, or anyone who has fallen short of the glory of God with just a glimpse of this truth can grab hold of Christ by faith and you can shout it to the heavens too… Still, I rise!

Galatians 3:28 says of those who believe,

 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Still, We Rise!

But I also see God’s fingerprints all over this because intersectionality is God’s special place in our lives and our world – it is where you’ll find God at work today. How else could any of us relate to Scripture at all? It spans thousands of years of written history and thousands more through oral tradition, some of it is told in great epic style, some as law with specific details for the priestly order and some in parables or even simple children’s tales and even some boring lists of genealogy. Yet when we read God’s word we understand it because it resonates with experiences or feelings we have had and so, whoever we are, we can come to believe and trust God – we may not be able to explain or define God but we feel God. And when we hear the words that resonate in the depths of our souls and spirits, as do many of Maya’s it is here at the crossroads where the supernatural intersects the natural; we know God is speaking to us, working in us and using us because it feels familiar. If we stand by faith and hold to the truth that resonates in our souls we can and will still rise.

And it is this sense of familiarity that I have found in Maya’s words that I would highlight briefly today. This is the intersection where God’s messengers are standing on the soapbox decrying the evils of the day. This is the intersection where Christ came to bear our sins on the Cross, to die for us and to give us new life, and when we internalize this and own Him then the Gospel becomes familiar to us and we begin to live it—
 not because of the law as many denominations say but because he first loved us we love Him, and Still, we Rise!!

Today is Palm Sunday and so I would like you to reflect on this just a bit over the next week as we approach Easter, and then remember not only that we shall rise with Christ in this newness of life but we can do it right here and right now! We don’t have to wait any longer!

Today all over the news and the Social media feeds we hear voices calling out “Black lives matter” or “Trans lives matter” and others holler back “All lives matter”. Which of these is right? Where in this gap would Jesus be standing? That conversation is still raging in our Nation today and we find some truth on all sides of it and we find humanity on all sides of it and we all have to stretch, we all have to broaden our horizons to see the diversity of the human race more clearly and become more inclusive in our way of thinking and living. We behold the light of Gods truth, which says it isn’t simply one of these but it is all of these yet we must stand together with the last and the least of these who have been trodden under foot , no matter the color of their skin or their gender or any other God given trait and when we do, Still WE rise!

And we will rise as we reach out, as Jesus has said, to lift up the downtrodden and care for the homeless and the elderly and the weak and sick and unwanted among us. We help those who have been cast down or kicked to the curb to stand again and find their self worth so that they also can rise. I think the solution comes down to each one of us being called to reach out to someone in need right where we are; we are to be instant (ready, prepared), in season and out to speak, preach, teach and most of all to help others rise. To my fellow transgender brothers and sisters I say just being ourselves openly can give someone else the courage to rise up. And to all I say none of us have to do great and powerful works but Jesus did say that we who believe would do greater things than what those in his day saw him do! We Should Rise!

So, finally, with these things in mind here is the reading for today’s message, Maya Angelou’s “Still, I Rise”…

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
   Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
   I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
   I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

   I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
   I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
   I rise
   I rise
   I rise.