by Anna Czarnik-Neimeyer
CW: mention of White Supremacy Culture, Police Violence, Transphobia
Who makes you feel real?
I invite you to actually think about that.
Are there two, maybe three people in your life who help you feel acknowledged, loved, understood, and safe? Oh, and also affirmed in who you REALLY are?
We all deserve to be acknowledged and loved for who we really are, but for many, that is not the reality. Though we are known and loved by our Creator, human systems do not always follow this example.
George Floyd was lynched by Minneapolis police just over a month ago, on May 25. Two days later, Tony McDade, a trans man, was killed by police in Florida. Initial reports of his murder misgendered him.
White Supremacy relies on dehumanizing black and brown people, distancing from Blackness. Transphobia relies on willfully ignoring the trueness of affirmed selfhood. Both rely on denying the real personhood- the real Good-ness of another. That can look like questioning if a Black person suffocated under the knee of the state somehow “had it coming” or “should have listened.” That can look like valuing buildings and possessions over people. Or in Tony McDade’s case, it can look like malicious reporting and simply less coverage overall: erasure.
White Supremacy (which we know is intertwined with the social sins of Imperialism, Capitalism, Heteropatriarchy) reproduces itself by valuing buildings, property, and merchandise over Black lives. I defer to Sonya Renee Taylor, divine black Woman scholar-prophet, to help us understand: “As long as capital is more important than black bodies, black bodies will need to disrupt capital.”
But God, who knit us in Their womb, knows we are real. Knows each one and knows each one in their divine Blackness, Transness, Queerness, Made-Good-ness.
From my Christian perspective, I choose to- have to- believe in Good News. The Good News from the Gospel of Sylvester: “You make me feel mighty real” can be a prayer to the One who dwells within us, the Constant One- our God. And this Source, this Creator knows, through Jesus, what it is to be fully human- to be “real” in the way that we understand it in our corporeality. In fact, Jesus (a brown man) also knows what it is like to suffocate on the cross at the hands of the state.
Sylvester was an out, Black, Gay man who excelled in drag, raised Pentecostal, and remained a Christian throughout his life. His gender presentation was expansive and glam. Sylvester contracted AIDS in the late 1980s, and the 1988 Castro Street Fair in San Francisco was titled “A Tribute to Sylvester.” He is quoted as insisting: “I don’t believe that AIDS is the wrath of God.” At his funeral a few months later, he had full makeup, dress, and sermon, and choirs at his church, Love Center. He bequeathed his future music royalties to local AIDS support organizations.
Social sins of White Supremacy and Transphobia attempt to make us believe that others are less than, less real. Hold tight to those who “Make you feel mighty real,” tell them you thought of them when reading this blog, and know that to our mighty God, through the gift of grace, you are always already beloved- and mighty, mighty real.
PS: I invite you to learn more about Sylvester through:
Recent Pride 2020 Documentary: ”Love me Like you Should” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3q-cKZX2Og
Biography: The Fabulous Sylvester https://us.macmillan.com/books/9780312425692
BBC (CW dated language around gender): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SsQhJiAm20
Short Music Doc: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3lww-USS7Y
Anna Czarnik-Neimeyer (she/her/hers) is a white anti-racist queer woman seminarian in the ELCA by way of Seattle University (yay Jesuits!) and Luther Seminary (yay Lutherans!). She lives on the unceded land of the Duwamish people of past and present (Seattle). In non-COVID times, she liked thrifting, potlucks, and dress-up dance parties. In COVID-times, she likes cultivating plants, Zoom Church, a home-made mask with her partner’s dog printed on it, and being a cabin counselor for “QueeranTeen Camp” for queer interfaith youth.