Statement on Transgender Day of Remembrance 2019

Earlier this year, someone was convicted in Glasgow Sheriff Court of sending me threatening and abusive messages. The offence was found to be aggravated by prejudice related to both sexual orientation and transgender identity. Someone had threatened my life, and my own association and support for trans people was one of the reasons for the prejudice and one of the reasons that the court and the police took the offence as seriously as they did.

Whilst it was unpleasant having to deal with that incident, I’m well aware that it was the one time in my life when I’ve seriously suffered myself from prejudice against people with a trans identity. Those who are trans have to deal with this prejudice every day as they make their way through life. Such prejudice seems to have become more vocal and confident recently.

My own limited and partial experience of dealing with this is one factor in why I am prepared to stand alongside those who mark today as the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Violence and prejudice against people is wrong. Trans people are simply people. Prejudice and violence against trans people is simply wrong.

However, in stating that I stand alongside trans people in remembering that they suffer from violence and prejudice, I also am reminded that as I stand alongside trans people I stand alongside people whom I’ve known to be creative, brave, funny, interesting and whole. I know and have worked with trans priests and admire them. My own congregation includes trans people with all kinds of diverse experience who are not simply defined by their trans identity. When I think of them, I think of people who make the world a better place.

The world will be a better place when violence against anyone because of their identity is eliminated.

Remembering trans people whose lives have been taken from them, I lament their loss and pray that they may rest in peace and rise to make heaven more glorious.

Remembering trans people who are alive, I thank God for them and pray that their lives may be filled with joy.

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Transgender Visibility and the Church

Today happens to be International Transgender Visibility Day of Visibility.

As yet, I’ve heard nothing today from anyone from a faith background. No bishops making statements either positive or negative, no-one threatening to leave a denomination over it, no statements at all really.

It seems to me that it is worth me going on record to say that St Mary’s is a church which has transgender people connected to it.

I suspect that wouldn’t particularly surprise anyone. Most people will shrug and say “oh, that’s just St Mary’s for you”

However, I think it is worth my while saying that each of the three church communities that I’ve been part of since ordination has had transgender people as members of their communities. I’ve also met trans men and trans women in both of my times working in university chaplaincy. This has made me conclude that being transgender is a more common thing than I used to presume and it really is surprising that the church has nothing much to say about it.

Members of the body of Christ are transgender.

I’ve had to learn a lot as I’ve listened to people with that experience tell me about their lives.

One of the things that I’ve learned is that some of the very common narratives that I have become used to hearing from lesbian and gay people of faith don’t really map onto transgender experience very well.

Many many times, I’ve heard stories from gay and lesbian people of alienation and frustration within church communities which I’ve met by saying, “Well, I don’t think God makes mistakes – God made you attracted to the people you are attracted to and God doesn’t make mistakes”.

However, that doesn’t really work for people who are on a trans journey. Not quite anyway. I’ve changed what I say a bit and now I think that I’d be more likely to say is that the essential truth is that God loves us as we really, truly are.

Transgender people and those who are close to them are welcome at St Mary’s. I’d like to think that people already know that but I guess that with the silence I hear from the wider church it is worth saying out loud. The fact that I’ve known people with this experience in very different religious communities to the one I now lead gives me some hope.

So – God bless all transgender people on this day of transgender visibility.

God blesses the whole church through them.