Trans Visibility &
the Life of Christ
First Congregational UCC of Lowell
Transgender people reflect the image of God in unique and profound ways. As such, there are insights to be gleaned from reflecting upon the life of Christ in light of the International Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31.
As we ponder the gifts and experiences of our Transgender family and friends, and consider the ways that Transgender people showed up in the life of Christ, may we see that they are more than the pain they experience because of people’s ignorance.
May we see the unique ways they reflect the image of God.
May we listen to their voices.
May we receive the gifts they share with us.
-Pastor Shannon Jammal-Hollemans
The diversity of creation demonstrates how, while we read in Genesis that God separated light from dark, and created land and water– the world is so much more than those binaries. Creation itself testifies to the incredible diversity of God’s creation, including all the in-betweens like sunrise and dusk, marshes and swamps. God invites us to open our imaginations to see beyond binaries.
Rae Mieskowski Seminary Student
The Gospel is a story about people who, in remembering who they are, also remember that who they are is greater and stronger than whatever violence may come their way. This is a story about a God who shows up to stand with them, with us. This is a God who not only understands the depth of our joys and the immensity of our heartaches, but who also turns them into opportunities for us to touch one another, to be touched by God. This is a God who is very queer, indeed.
Rev. Elizabeth M. Edman, Queer Virtue
Over 1.6 million people ages 13+ identify as transgender in the U.S. This is roughly .6% of the U.S. population.
Transgender people are over 4x more likely than cisgender people
to experience violent crime.
I’m Trying, God
adapted from Liturgies from Below
I’m Trying God But they keep pushing us out I’m trying God But can we really be safe? I’m trying God But they keep attacking our children All I ask for is you To let us live in peace Amen.
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
A FATHER’S UNCONDITIONAL LOVE
Dwayne Wade’s daughter, Zaya, came out as transgender in 2020. Last month, at the age of 15, Zaya was granted her request to legally change her name and gender, despite her mother’s legal objections. Dwayne Wade and his wife, Gabrielle Union, have been unwavering in their support for Zaya. They recently accepted the President’s Award at the 2023 NAACP Image Awards. In their acceptance speeches, Wade made this very special address to his daughter,
“I want to take this moment to publicly speak to our daughter, Zaya. Zaya, as your father, all I’ve wanted to do is get it right. I’ve sat back and watched how gracefully you take on the public scrutiny. Even though it’s not easy, I’ve watched you walk out of that house every morning as yourself. I admire how you’ve handled the ignorance in our world. I admire you, that you face everyday. To say that your village is proud of you is an understatement. Thank you for showing me that there is more than just one way to communicate effectively. You taught me that communication with my mouth isn’t enough. I have to also communicate with my two ears and my two eyes. As your father, my job isn’t to create a version of myself or direct your future. My role is to be a facilitator to your hopes, your wishes, and your dreams. Zaya you’ve made me a better human just simply by being who you were born to be, our baby girl, Zaya Wade. So, Baby, thank you for showing the world what courage looks like. I am proud that I was chosen to stand in place as your father.”
Learn how you can support and encourage LGBTQ+ people and their families by visiting PFLAG.
Founded in 1973, PFLAG is the first and largest organization dedicated to supporting, educating, and advocating for LGBTQ+ people and their families.
Jaime Diaz is a Mexican-American trans woman and self-taught artist who has been incarcerated in a men’s prison in Texas since 1995.
She is eligible for parole in 2025. Learn more about Jaime at her website.
Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him.” Mark 14:13
Biblical historians note that in that place and time, men did not carry jars of water. Like many places around the world, women did (as they often still do) the heavy lifting. In a culture with strict binary understandings of gender, telling people that they will see a man carrying a jar of water was the equivalent of saying, “You will see a man wearing pink taffeta”. This person is doing something that men just did not do, and they play a critical role in the story of the last supper. “Look for this person who stands out,” Jesus is saying. “See them. Follow them. They will show you the way.”
-Pastor Shannon Jammal-Hollemans
Siesta is from a series called “Tahiti” by artist Kehinde Wiley.
The series focuses on the Māhū, a community of Tahitian transgender women, whose once-respected legacy was suppressed by Christian missionaries in the 19th-century.
PRAYER OF REPENTANCE
Saving God, forgive us for failing to recognize your image in others, particularly when Your image challenges our binary thinking. Forgive our violence against Transgender persons, both by our words and through our actions. Forgive us for willfully turning away and tuning out their cries. Forgive us for our ignorance and inaction. God Who is Still Speaking, challenge our binary thinking. Continue to broaden our understanding of who You Are, and how you are at work. Move us from good intentions to acts of hospitality, solidarity, and mutuality that make positive impacts on lives being threatened by people who claim to love You. God, continue to reveal your goodness to us so we can reflect it in our lives. Amen.
One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The ill man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am making my way someone else steps down ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk!” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.
This passage has been interpreted, and misinterpreted, in ableist ways that demean the image of God in persons with varied abilities. But what if Jesus was more concerned with healing the barriers to this person being in relationship with God and with others than anything to do with their body? Christ’s act of healing meant that this person, who was once barred from the Temple for being different, now has access to the presence of God. Similarly, Transgender persons have been barred from being part of the community of God–the Church. Gender affirming surgery is one way for Transgender persons to stand up, pick up their mats, and walk.
Rae Mieskowski Seminary Student
Qusuquzah, une très belle négresse 1, 2011
© Mickalene Thomas / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Artist Mickalene Thomas is about the work of finding light, capturing it, and illustrating it. She first photographs her subjects. Using rhinestones, acrylic and enamel, Thomas animates her subjects in what she describes as “a complex vision of what it means to be a woman and expand common definitions of beauty.” Almost always choosing women of color as her subjects, Mickaelene Thomas does profound work in her illustrations of transgender women. Her intentional decision to place Queer identity in the foreground of her images reflects the strength, beauty and pride of her subjects.
-Pastor Shannon Jammal-Hollemans
Zack, he/him, age 9
What hobbies do you have these days?
I really like rock climbing. I like painting. Sometimes I make dinner for my family, and I always make a dessert.
Ooh, like what?
I take a cookie and then I add a lot of chocolate. I once made an Eiffel Tower of chocolate. I took a cookie and put a layer of Nutella and banana on it and another layer of Nutella and some York Peppermint Patty Minis and another layer of Nutella and chocolate chips on top.
What’s your favorite animal?
I like snakes and tarantulas. I haven’t seen a tarantula but I want to.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
At school, we have ‘question of the day’, and my teacher just asked that question! And I said either a food inventor, rock climber or DJ.
Do you remember when you realized you were a boy?
I realized I was a boy one night right before bed, and it just came to me. I yelled that I was a boy. My mom and my sister were in the room. My friend was in the bathroom brushing her teeth. I don’t know where Daddy was.
How did it feel to yell that? Good.
What’s the best thing about being seen as a boy?
When people talk to me or about me, they don’t say ‘she’ or ‘girl.’
How did you choose the name Zack?
At first, it was going to be Jacob because we read this book, The Pants Project. It’s about this girl and she went to a new school where they had a uniform and she had to wear a skirt all the time and she didn’t like it at all and there was a boy named Jacob who had a disease that made his legs sometimes not work and so then he and the girl became friends and she told Jacob that she was trans and she went to the school with her friend and then they made a petition and all the boys wore skirts to school and she wore the boys’ uniform. I don’t know why I picked Zack, it just came to me.
When did you transition at school?
Third grade. Everybody was fine with it. There is one teacher who doesn’t really understand it, though. She says she tries but she really doesn’t. I just had class and she called on me and she said, ‘She’s had her hand up for a long time,’ and I tried to tell her I was a boy, and she said, Shhhh.
What have your parents, sister or other people done or said that’s been helpful?
My mom said she was going to email the teacher about it, which is helpful.
What do you wish people knew about being trans?
Some people think there’s something wrong with you and they think it’s just a phase but the only person who gets to decide that is you.
What would you tell a younger kid who is realizing they’re trans?
If somebody tells you it’s just a phase, don’t listen to them. It’s not their choice. Don’t listen to people who tell you you’re different or you’re weird. Well, if they tell you that, take it as a compliment.
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Spirit of life and love that resides within and among us, we enter this moment with all that we are, with an open heart, and with a love for justice.
We hold in love and prayer all transgender people, so many of whom live under the weight of violence, fear, and intolerance. We hold in love and prayer all the ways that transgender people have survived and thrived in a hostile world. We hold in love and prayer all who recognize the significance of gender justice for all people.
We who believe in freedom will not rest until it comes. We pray for the dawn of a new day when the very humanity of transgender people is no longer called into question or ignored.
We pray that physical, emotional, and spiritual violence will come to an end.
We pray that a spirit of compassion and care will fill us to overflowing, that we may have the capacity to listen, learn, and grow not only in our awareness but also in our willingness to act.