I've spent some of the night crying. For yesterday a beautiful trans man who has just come out thanked me for 'showing that I wouldn't lose God when I transitioned.' Part of me is so grateful, as sharing that truth is one of the reasons I remain, and rejoice to be, a priest. Part of me however is cut, beyond the heart, to the depths of my soul. Indeed I'm somewhat distraught, and, justifiably, not a little angry. For I've been where my friend has been traveling and it hurts. It really hurts. It is like journeying in the depths of hell. Some of us never make it through and our cries of pain continue to echo. My friend's words voice this so often hidden reality. For how dare anyone, any faith, any spiritual group, plant the thought that some of us can be cut off from the love of God, simply for being who we are created to be. Only slowly is the depth of this appalling spiritual abuse beginning to be revealed. It must not be allowed to continue. May our tears help swell the rivers of compassion and set us all free...
(This post was written for the Queer Theology Synchroblog 2018 - check out others' posts here)
As I have frequently affirmed. I profoundly agree with John O'Donohue that:
once we see God as an artist, everything changes
Each of us is an artist of our days; the greater our integrity and awareness, the more original and creative our time will become
(in To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings).
I also continue to hold that, at its best, the church (in the words of the great Catholic Modernist Fr.George Tyrrell) is an 'art school of divine-majesty'. In other words, as a human being, I am both a creative force myself (in the image of God the great creative) and a product of arts of living, belonging and believing which have brought me forth and shape me afresh. In particular, as a trans woman in 'transition', I am an unique art-work. So what kind of 'art-work' am I?...
As I complete another full year of my own life, and in the wake of the celebrations of the nativity of Jesus, I have been pondering what it means to be born, spiritually speaking. For birth, like life itself, is easily taken for granted. Actually it is a great mystery, in the best sense of that word. Like gender, it is not simple or straightforward, as many assume. Rather, it is a continuing revelation and developmental process. Indeed I am currently very struck by how my baby grandchild is changing every moment, in response to every encounter and their growing awareness of self. It feels like they are being born afresh, in new ways, every second. Their 'birth' was clearly not finished at their literal entry into this life. Nor is it ever complete for any of us, at least in this life. Rather, each of us, as Bob Dylan once wrote in a notable lyric, is either 'busy being born or busy dying'. Perhaps this is also part of what transgender people have to share with the world in our own (re)birthing?...
How will we respond, in this trans awareness month, to the backlash gender diverse people have been facing? In Australia the postal survey has been particularly difficult for trans and gender diverse people. We have suffered all that the LGBTI+ community as a whole has endured, as our lives, bodies and mental health have been put on the line. In addition however, we have experienced a powerful, determined and unprecedented coordinated attack on our very existence and identities, with very little scope for response. For, frequently ignoring the actual postal survey question altogether, the 'no' campaign has spent so much of its time and money on whipping up fear through attacks on us and associated 'issues' like the vital initiatives of Safe Schools. Understandably the 'yes' campaign has been reluctant to be drawn into this, preferring to stick to its clear strategy of addressing the substantive marriage issues. This has left many trans and gender diverse people, not only in a war zone with other LGBTI+ people, but feeling quite defenceless at times. For many of us have been strengthened and immensely grateful for the support of our lesbian, gay and bi sisters and brothers, and many allies. Yet general awareness has been set back in many quarters and momentum gained by those who oppose us. So how will we move forward again together?...
In her song 'The Mind fought the Mystery' singer-songwriter and trans woman Namoli Brenett relates the mystery of faith as something which takes us deeper than our minds ever can. Reflecting on some of the great biblical stories, including the Resurrection of Jesus, she reminds us how true life is indeed much more than we often imagine: full of surprise and the overcoming of seeming impossibility. For 'the mind fought the mystery: the mystery won'. When I first heard this song about two years ago, it went straight to my heart and soul. The theme summed up my own journey. In my life I had done a huge amount of fighting the mystery of my gender identity with my mind. Practically speaking, I told myself, it was impossible to be and live into what and who I am. How wrong I was. For losing the fight was actually winning my soul. Defeat was victory. As Jesus said, what is the point of gaining the whole world if we lose our souls. In losing our lives we actually gain true life. I am so happy no longer to be a combatant against the Spirit in that way. It is simply too exhausting. soulless, and life-denying..
I wonder how widespread this fighting the Mystery with Mind is. Perhaps, on a wider scale, this is what is happening today in our churches and world. As, for example, the battle over gender becomes more intense, the powers of the Mind are working harder than ever to suppress the Mystery. No wonder there is stress and strife. Denial of deep-down truth is destructive on all sides. When we human beings try to control or safeguard our lives and world with religion, or with ideas we derive or underpin with religion, it does not ever really work. The Mystery that is God has this wonderful tendency to break through. It may not be today, or even next year. In some cases longed-for transformation may never seem to come. Yet it will. Human minds and structures cannot resist divine mystery for ever. Soul-making is irresistible.
The Revd Dr Jo Inkpin: