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The Ministry of Justice, Activism, and Weeping

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Guest blog by Asher O’Callaghan

Photo credit: Emily Ann Garcia

Photo credit: Emily Ann Garcia

It’s been about 4 years since I came out as transgender. I’ll always remember the first vigil I participated in as a part of the International Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR). This day has been observed annually on November 20th since 1998 to honor the memory of those whose lives have been lost in acts of anti-trans* violence during the past year.

I had only been out for less than a month when I attended my first vigil and the experience was jarring. The event was held at a church building in a warm room with lots of candles and we sat in chairs forming concentric circles. As is typical at these vigils, each of the names of people who had been murdered was read. Even though I went into it aware of the heavy nature of the event, I was disturbed.

That year I was unsettled by several things I noticed about the names and people we were commemorating. Most of the people who had been lost that year were transwomen of color. We couldn’t pronounce many of the names. I will forever remember a comment my girlfriend made as we were driving home: “They butchered so many of the names.” It was true. Most of the people we were commemorating that year were from Central or South America. Yet most of the people gathered for the vigil (including me) were monolingual English speakers. I’m still glad the vigil was held, but the facilitators’ inability to correctly pronounce the names (and my own inability to do any better) spoke powerfully to me about how far my own experiences and privileges were from those of other trans* people around the world.

Transgender Day of Remembrance is important because we still live in a world where hate crimes happen based on gender identity and gender expression. The most basic of all human rights is the right to live. While coming out certainly did feel scary for me, this vigil and the others I’ve participated in since have been reality checks. Though I may worry about my right to marry, or the prejudices I may occasionally encounter, I feel pretty safe in public on a daily basis.

Some progress has been made towards trans* equality. Much has yet to be made.  Surely God grieves over this world in which some of God’s children are not safe to live their lives as themselves. We are all called “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God” (Mic 6:8). For me, part of this call to ministry has meant bringing my whole self and all my experiences into the ministry I do: my gender identity, my sexuality, my cultural background, my privileges. At times this call to ministry has been a call to activism. At other times, it’s been a call to listen to the experiences of others. Sometimes a call to ministry means remembering to “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15).

If you’re interested in participating in a local vigil, you can find one nearby here: http://tdor.info.

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What does the asterisk stand for in trans*? The asterisk is meant to symbolize that the term is being used as an umbrella to include a broad diversity of gender identities. So this term is meant to include not only people who identify as transgender or transsexual, but also people who identify as genderqueer, non-binary, gender fluid, third gender (just as a few examples). To read more on this, click here.

Asher is a faithfully fabulous bisexual transguy. He’s a Proclaim member, a candidate for first call, and is serving on ELM’s Board of Directors. In December, he’ll be graduating from Luther Seminary. Asher is excited to have been assigned to the Sierra Pacific Synod. He’s from the gloriously gorgeous land of Colorado and looks forward to spending lots of time doing outdoorsy things in another lovely part of the country.

2 Responses to “The Ministry of Justice, Activism, and Weeping”

  1. Anita Hill says:

    Thank you Asher, for this blog. For your care and awareness raising. For the ways you name your own privilege. For your ministry reminder that a call to ministry includes remembering “to weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15). Your ministry has touched me today.

  2. Sharonlee Burmeister says:

    A beautiful piece of writing and so very like the fine sermons that you shared with us at ULC. We miss your voice and your pastoral presence.