Trans Day of Visibility


The International Transgender Day of Visibility, as conceived by its founder, Rachel Crandall, is dedicated to celebrating transgender people and their contributions to society, and raising awareness of discrimination faced by transgender people worldwide.

To simply say that trans people face discrimination grossly under-represents the harm and horror that persist against the trans community worldwide and in our churches. There has been and continues to be an absolute genocide enacted against trans folx. In particular, BIPOC trans people are murdered frequently and their stories often go untold. In the U.S. alone, over 400 bills have been introduced, many specifically targeting trans children. Similar laws are being proposed and enacted around the globe that seek to strip away transgender peoples’  rights and deny trans identity altogether. It’s quite literally illegal to be visible in some places. 

Protest is needed, rejecting policies that discriminate against transgender peoples’ God-given identities, and calling out those who enact these horrific laws. A spotlight is needed on untold horrors, to show the world the countless trans lives lost to hate, to say their names and make them visible. A rebuking is needed of the ELCA’s and ELCIC’s subpar efforts to support and care for trans children of God, to call them to the witness of the Gospel.

Trans folx are beautiful children of God, created in God’s gender-queer image, bringing a manna of gifts into this world. 

Allies need to do more than simply acknowledge trans peoples’ existence or issue weak proclamations about all being welcome. Allies must fight for, care for, and protect our trans siblings.

Allies need to do more than raise awareness. Allies need to act. 

We invite cisgender allies to support trans visibility today by signing on to this petition, which will be shared with political and church leaders, and by engaging in the specific action items listed below. 

ELM hereby proclaims trans folx as beautiful and beloved children of God.

ELM hereby asserts that there is an attempted genocide in the United States being enacted against transgender people. ELM hereby rebukes all policies and movements across the United States and Canada that attempt to deny transgender people their rights.

ELM hereby calls cis people of faith to contact their local and national elected officials to speak out against any legislation that minimizes or attempts to strip away transgender peoples’ visibility, identity, livelihood, and lives.

ELM hereby calls cis allies to show up in support of their transgender siblings and share in the risk encountered in all of their spheres of influence. Allyship means facing derision and risking harm.

ELM hereby rebukes the subpar positions of the ELCA and ELCIC and their leaders, offering passive statements but doing nothing to actually care for the lives and well-being of transgender persons.

ELM hereby calls the ELCA and ELCIC and their leaders to care for and protect trans folx as beautiful and beloved children of God.

ELM hereby calls cis members and friends of ELM and all people of faith to engage congregations, synods, and bishops around cultivating and opening Safe calls to trans-rostered leaders. ELM further calls for those calls to include healthcare and fair compensation, as well as protection against workplace harassment.

We recognize that there are many needs and petitions of trans beloveds within and outside of the ELCA and ELCIC, including “Help me not freeze to death, because I got fired for being trans and can’t afford electricity,” and “Please help my trans child stay alive when their gender-affirming care is taken away,” and “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Responding to these petitions is the call of the Gospel.

Join us in committing anew, to actively waiting for YHWH, our help and our shield in whom our hearts find joy, in whose Holy Name we trust, to whom we boldly pray, “May your love be upon us, YHWH, as we place all our hope in you.” (Inclusive Bible, Psalm 33:20-22)

We recognize we cannot ask others to repent and act without first repenting and acting ourselves. The cisgender members of the ELM Board of Directors acknowledge and apologize for our complicity in trans invisibility throughout ELM’s history and today. We have done harm. We have failed many. We will do better, with God’s help.

Gracious God, soften our hearts and the hearts of those who fail to witness your heavenly creation in the world. Trans communities in and out of the church suffer. You grieve with them and offer comfort, while a collective silence, violence, and things left undone continue a pattern of harm on this community. The ELCA is perpetually blessed because of Trans rostered leaders, lay leaders, seminarians, and congregants who boldly live out your divinely inspired truth. Lord, too often the needs of the comforted are lifted up in the church rather than addressing the needs of the afflicted, as Marsha P. Johnson said, “No Pride for some of us without Liberation for all of us.” Lord, stir our hearts to comfort, support, and celebrate Trans persons and the entirety of your creation. We ask these things in Christ’s name. Amen.  


The ELM Board of Directors

ELM Lent Blog: Cary Bass-Deschênes

[Jesus] said to [the two disciples], ” Go into the village over there. As soon as you enter, you will find a donkey tied up and a colt with it. Untie them and bring them to me. If anybody says anything to you, say that the Lord needs it.” He sent them off right away.  (Matthew 21:2-3)

At eighteen years old, I shouldn’t have been in the warehouse dance club on Huger Street in Columbia, South Carolina, but the doorman had waved me by with a raised eyebrow because I was accompanying an off-duty bartender who I’d been sleeping with. It was at that club, that night, when I attended my first drag show. And watching men perform over-the-top numbers in women’s clothes and makeup made me extremely uncomfortable.

Because I was bullied for being effeminate when I was very young and in high school, I subsequently developed a straight act, so I couldn’t hack the idea of men putting on women’s clothing and performing, because it undermined my beliefs that men should be masculine, especially gay men. And drag queens, being public performers, seemed to be at the head of every Gay Rights march or rally in televised news reports in the 80s. I lived in dread and fear of being associated with them, particularly as it would have made me face at an early age my own gender identity. 

However, as the AIDS pandemic exploded and I was becoming more politically aware, I developed an appreciation of drag not only as an art form but also as a form of political commentary. Drag performances may include comedy that satirizes public figures or current events. Drag also subverts the concept of gender norms and shines the light of day on queer issues. It is literally performance art in the most distilled definition of the term.

Out queer people are particularly well suited for engaging in all sorts of performance art and public statements. There is a certain freedom that comes with having one’s identity public. Queer people can be creative and showy and sometimes you need a great spectacle in order to drive an important point to the heart of society.

Jesus knew how to put on a spectacle. Details of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem are contained in all four of the gospels and the differences among the accounts may not even be important as scholars agree on the historicity of this amazing event. Jesus sends disciples to fetch a donkey, (in our reading this week from Matthew, two donkeys) because of a prophecy in Zechariah. Disciples spread their cloaks along the road and shouted in Hosannahs, with many individuals in the crowd following suit. 

There are no miraculous feats here, no parables, only a master designing a performance to create fervor and tie him to prophetic scriptures of old, knowing full well what danger he was placing himself in. Witnesses saw the Messiah, they saw a king of peace, they saw their salvation from the boots of Rome.  They call out, “blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”

Those images remained fixed on the people’s minds even after the week is out. While the people have turned; their expectations quashed, and he is executed by the state for declaring himself king, a crown of thorns on his head. Remembering the performance and the high excitement it generated, Jerusalem now descends into mourning, its great loss resounding.

Riding on a donkey from Bethphage into Jerusalem on cloaks and branches, Jesus created a stir and sent a message to a great number of people in no short order. He generated a buzz that he knew would last long after he left them in the flesh.

Prayer: O Holy One, in the example of your life, you led the way for us to live, and in your death, you freed us from the shackles of death, that we may live eternal life in your resurrection. Grant us the courage to be public witnesses to your good news, that we may send your message of hope and peace in the world today. In your holy name, Amen.
Cary Bass-Deschênes (they/them) lives with their husband, Michael, in their home in Richmond, with their two dogs, Luna and Esby, and is currently between calls. They were the lead pastor of Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley between 2015 and 2022 and served as sabbatical pastor at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Pleasant Hill in Spring/Summer 2022. Last year, they published their third short story, “The Chaos Artist” in the graphic novel A Matter of Right by Variance Press.

ELM Lenten Blog- Rev. Aaron Decker

A Mind Set in Flesh

Why does Paul hate flesh?

Ezekiel’s “dry bones” always set my mind on the past. College was difficult, coinciding with my first appearance of bipolar depression. There wasn’t a name for it yet, let alone good treatment. I suffered for years before dropping out. It wasn’t until seminary that I finally found competent medical help.

Back then, music lifted my suffering. I got involved however I could, including assisting with the local youth symphony. One semester, we performed Saint-Saëns’s Carnival of the Animals. It’s a memory of joy from a time long gone—a dear one that rings in my ears when Ezekiel rattles his own ancient fossils.

The prophet proclaims a fleshly image. Bones hear God’s presence and then are covered with flesh. And then again, filled with Spirit. Like the human-dust in Genesis 2 that needs God’s breath to live, flesh is not enough. Is that why Paul complains about flesh?

But Lazarus, too, is a fleshly creature. “Come out,” Jesus cries! And Lazarus does, out of hiding, into the celebration, strides like a debutante into the banquet that is life. His body–his FLESHLY body–still wrapped in the clothes of death, is filled with Spirit and life.

Paul says, “You are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you.” But he is wrong. We are human; we are flesh. So is the second person of the Godly Three. And it is very good.

But Paul has a point. In college, I was trapped in misbehaving flesh. The musical Spirit let me breathe, occasionally, in those years.

Today, I am on a bench, waiting for colleagues to drive me to an obscure Andean village to hear adult theology students present their learning. Not the typical career for a twice college dropout. I wait in a busy public transit station, with too many people waiting to get into the city below. Tired faces, hopeless, visibly trapped by poverty and abuse in this land where poverty and abuse are epidemic.

But, in these villages where resources are scarce, where time and flesh go to die, I encounter joy unexpected, revealing God’s grace unbidden.

“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.” Paul’s—and God’s—concern for us is our flesh. Our mortal bodies will be raised by the Spirit. Is Paul talking about more than just us? If we are beings of Spirit, do we bring Spirit to the flesh around us? Are we whose bones were once dry, now called to resurrect dead Lazarus, to speak to dry bones, to proclaim incarnation?

Spirit is useless without flesh. Flesh is dead without Spirit. This is why Christ had to be both. May you know the Spirit in our Flesh, and as we share it with others, may your Flesh dance.

Rev. Aaron Decker (he/him) is a theological educator with ELCA Global Mission. After dropping out twice, he did manage to earn a Bachelor’s, and is now working on his third master’s degree. It turns out that in Jesus Christ, resurrection always follows death. Either that, or he is just addicted to school. It might be both.

ELM Lenten Blog: Alex Sheppard-Witt

A couple of weeks ago, I preached at one of our ecumenical Lenten services, and I talked about the power of hymnody. We sang “Just as I Am” together, raising our voices together for the first time since the pandemic began. With nearly one hundred people in a small sanctuary singing together, I felt it in my bones. And I felt my emotions rising along with my voice. 

Music has this way of holding the breadth of human emotion and experience. And tapping into it, when we struggle to find the words to hold it ourselves.

I tend to find myself turning to the Psalms in the tough times (and the good as well). Like music and hymnody, the Psalms contain and preserve the breadth of human emotion and the range of the human experience of the divine. The Psalms challenge. The Psalms comfort. The Psalms inspire. The Psalms engage. They encourage wrestling with God and with the realities of real lived life. The Psalms both utter feelings of God’s forsakenness and trust that those feelings can never turn God away.

This Sunday, Psalm 23 is the appointed Psalm. My favorite translation of the Psalm comes from Robert Alter. He has this way of being accurate with his translations while keeping the feel of the Hebrew – no easy task. I can feel this one in my bones, at the core of me. 
The Lord is my shepherd,
                        I shall not want. 
            In grass meadows He makes me lie down,
                        by quiet waters guides me.
            My life He brings back. 
            He leads me on pathways of justice 
                        For his name’s sake. 
            Though I walk in the vale of death’s shadow,
                        I fear no harm,
                                    For You are with me.
            Your rod and your staff – 
                        It is they that console me. 
            You set out a table before me
                        In the face of my foes. 
            You moisten my head with oil.
                        My cup overflows.
            Let goodness and kindness pursue me 
                        all the days of my life.
            And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
                        for many long days.
[Robert Alter, The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary, (New York: W. W. Norton, 2007), 78-80.]

In this text, I find a God who has this stubborn will for life. In God, we find life where death surrounds and closes in. God desires for goodness and kindness that pursue us all the days of our lives.

As Christians, we believe that God doubles down on that will for abundant life for us and all of creation. In becoming human, in living, in dying, in rising, in the person of Jesus, God takes a stand. 

We stand in the shadow of the cross trusting that because in Jesus, God has been there, because in Jesus, God uttered the words “my God my God, why have you forsaken me” we are not alone. We have the promise that God is with us as God godself experiences the vale of death’s shadow on the cross.

Living on this side of Easter, we also stand at the empty tomb. In the resurrection, we have the promise that the worst thing isn’t the last thing. We have the promise with the God made known in Jesus that not even the vale of death’s shadow will have the final word.

Isaac Villegas, in a Christian Century article, puts it this way: “That’s what the gospel is all about: that God makes room for eternal life to grow, for divine love to multiply even in the worst conditions, even in the valley of the shadow of death. The hope of Easter is that not even crucifixion can put an end to God’s work of making space for life in the world. God turns a grave into a place for new birth. God is stubborn for hope, stubborn for life.” [Isaac S. Villegas, “April 26, Fourth Sunday of Easter: Psalm 23,” The Christian Century, April 14, 2015.]

As a recently “out” queer pastor, I have to trust in God’s hope for life, despite the world that tries to bring about death for us. 

Pulpits that were open to me last year in that ministerium group are now closed to me. In the ELCA, I know my next call process will be even more difficult than the one for my current one was. I have to be conscious of where I hold my wife’s hand in public. I don’t always know where I will hit those moments when the world tells me that I shouldn’t exist – at least as my full authentic self. I must lean into the promise, “you are with me.” 

As the world targets drag queens, queer youth, trans & non-binary folks – all too often with the real threat of death – I must lean into the promise, “my life [my God] brings back.” This is not what God hopes or dreams for, and I have to believe that God’s stubborn hope for life will make a way out of death’s shadow. 

My prayer is that the divine love will multiply and that God will continue to make space for life, that the pathways of justice will be made known. For us. Now. My prayer is that we’ll see the death-dealing ways of the world – racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. – make way for the restoration of life abundant. 

Pastor Alex Sheppard-Witt (she/her/hers) is serving as pastor at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Norge, VA. Pastor Alex has a love for wrestling with the biblical text, looking for a blessing. Recently married, she has made a home with her wife, Caitlin, and her pup, Ginger. 

ELM Blog- Lent Series- Brian Biery

31 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 No longer shall they teach one another or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord, for I will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

This selection from Jeremiah 31:31-34 is one of the most well-known and widely celebrated texts that speak about God preparing to do a new thing. And these words are often seen by Christians not only as a prophetic message for the nations of Israel and Judah, but also a message about the coming Messiah, who will give us a message of salvation through faith, rather than through works of the Law.

That’s all wonderfully theological, but let’s step back and ask a simple question: What is the context of this message?

The truth is that, as with most prophetic texts that speak of future hope, this message is delivered in a time of difficulty, and perhaps even despair. And messages like this one from Jeremiah have a long history in the story of God’s people. Consider for a moment the Law itself, which Jeremiah references. When did God make this covenant with God’s people? It was after a generation or more of slavery in Egypt. God’s people were forced into labor by a pharaoh who despised their very existence, and it was after God liberated them and they were a broken and homeless people, wandering in the desert, that God first made a covenant with them and promised that if they kept these laws- that if they lived in true relationship with God and one another-the Lord would be their God and they would be God’s people.

God did a new thing and gave hope to God’s chosen people in a time of change and uncertainty, and the people to whom Jeremiah speaks and writes are living in a no less uncertain time. Those who would have first heard Jeremiah’s words were a people that had been conquered, displaced, and oppressed. The northern kingdom of Israel had fallen to the Assyrians in 722 B.C.E. and the southern kingdom of Judah to the Babylonians in 587 C.E. So, effectively, God’s people have lost their ancestral home. They have been taken away to live in diaspora- communities scattered across a foreign empire, and I’d say it’s a safe bet that many of them thought God had abandoned them.

This sense of loss and abandonment, of wandering lost and homeless in the wilderness, is one that hits awfully close to home for some in the LGBTQ+ community. How many have been pushed away or abused by their families? How many have been kicked out of their familial home? How many have been made to feel, time and again, like God has forgotten or abandoned them? How many have felt hopelessness and despair at the way their families of origin have treated them, nevertheless how those who claimed to be their family of faith behaved toward them?

Yet we see, if we read on through Jeremiah, that our God is not a God who abandons a chosen people. To God’s people, scattered across the ancient Near East, the Lord says, “Behold, I am about to do a new thing.”The covenant that I made with your ancestors is still a promise for you, but this covenant with its laws and prescriptions will no longer be an external thing. I will write my law in your hearts so that you will not simply live according to the covenant, but the covenant will live within you and will be a part of who you are. I will be your God and you will be my people, and it will be an inherent fact of your existence. And in this, nothing will come between us or break the bond that we have.

And we know that God’s promise does not end there, for God sent his only Son into the world to teach us God’s word, to die for our redemption, and to conquer death itself in his resurrection. And through Jesus Christ, God grants us salvation by faith, which is God’s gift to us according to God’s grace. Because we are the people of God- wherever we are on the sexuality spectrum, regardless of our skin tone or our ancestral roots, no matter our gender expression- God has written God’s law of love in our hearts through faith. How much more, then, can we expect to receive God’s promises: “I will be your God and you will be my people,” and “Behold, I am doing a new thing?”

That said, it feels like we’ve waited a long time for this “new thing” to occur. For two thousand years, members of the LGBTQ+ community in the Church have felt like change might never come; like the Church would never truly internalize and live out God’s command to “love your neighbor as yourself” when it came to us. Yet God has continued to promise, “I will do a new thing” – for we are part of God’s chosen people. Even in the face of discrimination, adversity, and hate, God has continued to proclaim, “You are my beloved children. I will be your God, and you will be my people.” Many have tried to drown out the voice of God with their own words of prejudice, but God’s promise has never been erased. 

And now is the time. God is doing something new. God is calling us and empowering us to be the living and active presence of the Good News of Jesus Christ in the world, just as we are, just as God has created us and gifted us to be. God is calling us into a deeper relationship with God and is sending us out to invite others to join us in that communal relationship. God is showing us the way, even in the face of adversity and hate. We only need believe God’s promise and let God open our eyes, our ears, our minds, and our hearts to the new thing that God is doing, so that even the haters will be forced to see with their own eyes how God is doing a new thing through us and through the whole LGBTQ+ community.

Brian Biery (he/him/his), Pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in Shrewsbury, PA. I am also a Spiritual Director, trained through Oasis Ministries in Camp Hill, PA. 

ELM Lenten Blog: Colleen Montgomery

Can I ask you a question?

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. John 3:9

This is one of many questions that kept Nicodemus up at night. In this coming Sunday’s gospel text, Nicodemus comes to Jesus in the night with urgent questions about faith. Nicodemus comes at night because that is when it was safest for him, being seen with Jesus was a big risk for him. He was a Pharisee and they didn’t get along so well with Jesus. However, without hesitation, Jesus listens to him and asks some of his own questions. Because of Nicodemus’ risk in seeking out Jesus and asking his up-at-night questions, he becomes the first person to hear the expansiveness of God’s love. Jesus came so that the whole world could know abundant life and love. 

So, I wonder what’s your up-at-night question? Maybe you have no idea what the answer is so keep trying to puzzle it out. Maybe you’ve got a few possible answers or solutions and you’re up trying to discern which is it. Or maybe you know the answer and are afraid of it, so you let the question linger. 

For those of us in the queer community, the questions that keep us up at night may be about our gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation. Will they ask me my pronouns? What will they say when I come out? Will they like me back? The question that kept me up at night for a long time was: Am I really straight? 

Sometimes those questions stay in the depths of our hearts for a long time. Maybe they stay there forever. My question stayed there for 35 years. Other times the questions come out as whispers, as cries, as bold wonderings. Though depending on who we have taken those questions to, in the night or in the day, we may not have received the type of grace that Nicodemus experienced from Jesus. 

Yet over the course of time, I believe that God sends us to and draws near to us those who embody Jesus’ grace to us. They may not be the people we had hoped would show us grace. They may be unexpected. But their presence with us enables us to trust ourselves more deeply, hear our own voice more clearly, and be able to answer the questions that only we can. Likewise, our presence with them shows them new reflections of God’s love too. 

I’ve been out as bi for over a year. Now I have other questions that keep me up at night. I’m sure you’ve got your list too. In the face of those questions, I firmly believe this: No matter what question keeps you up at night, God can handle it. God’s love is always for you, wherever, whoever, and however, you are. Jesus responds with his own questions and is with you as you listen for an answer, discern what’s next, or even finally accept the answer you’ve been afraid of. The Spirit sends us conversation partners that we can share our questions with through late-night texts over a mid-morning coffee. 

May we always question like Nicodemus so that we can continue to see God’s love in new, expansive, and inclusive ways at all times and in all places.

Pastor Colleen Montgomery (she/her) is the pastor of All Places Together, an online mission development of the Virginia Synod and ELCA, and the Director for Digital Ministries of the Virginia Synod. She lives in southwest Virginia with her husband, Nick, and their dog, Luna. Colleen loves thoughtfully curated playlists and listening to, watching, and reading stories.