It is appropriate that this year's Transgender Day of Visibility is also Holy Saturday in the Western Christian tradition. For Holy Saturday is easily passed over, sitting awkwardly as it does between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, between pain and joy, shame and liberation, death and new life. Yet those themes are central to the experiences and journeys of so many gender diverse people, and of course others. Indeed, reading and experiencing the Passiontide narrative and Paschal mysteries 'with transgender eyes' can shed positive new light on the Christian Gospel, as well as strengthening and deepening life for many of us. Like Holy Saturday, gender diverse people are easily regarded as awkward and passed over. However our own border crossing, interstitial, and boundary transforming existences are essential parts of the whole and powerful reminders that profound transformation typically appears in the threshold times, parts and people of our lives and world. This involves much, even deep, pain, but also tremendous hope and vitality...
Metaphorically, as an in-between time, Holy Saturday is also a good image for the situation of gender diverse people in Western society. Trials, abuses, forms of crucifixion, betrayals and deaths are still real for some. We particularly deeply grieve the horrors in many other lands. Shame, fear, guilt and ideas of sin and punishment still surround much discourse about us and within parts of us. We certainly bear the wounds of all of this and significant trauma and anxiety exists within the gender diverse community. This is so easily inflamed whenever crass words are written or spoken or unthinking actions taken. It is given extra power by the alarming backlash in Trump's America and in other right-wing quarters here and elsewhere. Increased visibility also has its limits as a tool of advance and it brings with it reaction. For those less privileged or well supported this can mean even more undesirable attention. However, if we are not yet out of the deathly tombs, we are also stirring with much welcome grace and power: with a renewed trust in life, faith in ourselves and one another, hope and joy, We still wait for genuine fulfilment of this, for equal acceptance and adequate medical and other supports, and for an end to (re)traumatising and the healing of our wounds. Yet, to recast a powerful Holy Saturday theme, there is a 'harrowing of hell' taking place. Transgender Day of Visibility is more than a mere symbolic part of this and it is an affirmation of what is to come.
For it may be unconventional to say, particularly for some Christian readers, but transgender people are living signs of hope and healing. Our increasing visibility proclaims a conquering of the powers of death, shame, guilt and alienation. Our embodiment is indeed, as Laverne Cox says, a revolutionary act, breaking open the tombs of denial and despair. For, in a small and wondrous way, each visible gender diverse person typically bears witness both to the bearing and transforming of suffering and to the reality of the promise of new life. Whether we look beautiful or ugly to others doesn't really matter. We are alive! - and with a fullness of life we and others like us have not known before. We breathe resurrection and we are not afraid. Why would we not want to celebrate and affirm, so that we and others may leave the tombs behind for ever?!
What does Transgender Day of Visibility mean? Just hear what our diverse and marvelous community is saying and being. This year our gender diverse siblings from Trans Sydney Pride are some of those who have especially touched my heart - see their short video for Trans Day of Visibility here . They speak of 'being who I am', being 'authentic', 'the person my soul has always told me since I was a tiny child' and to' know that I am loved and accepted', 'I love my life now'. and, crucially, 'that we can go forward to a place of harmony, justice and peace together'. There is much more to do in that journey. We will also still bear our own crosses and their wounds and will face fresh challenges. But that is a kind of paschal (Easter) mystery made real, don't you think?
The Revd Dr Jo Inkpin: