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?...
Trans Awareness Month (this November) offers an opportunity to start turning back the tide of ignorance, deliberate lies and hate which has been engendered. As the postal survey comes to an end, here are a few suggestions of how cisgender Christians, with others, might respond more positively:
1. make meaningful apologies where required
There have been signs of some Christians recognising the need for deep repentance for the hurt, violence and oppression inflicted upon LGBTI+ people for so long. This has become even more vital in the face of recent provocations. Such moves are to be welcomed. Yet they must also be real and meaningful. Corporate apologies for example (such as those made by synods or church councils) will be rightly viewed with cynicism, as desperate and belated acts of PR, if they are not accompanied by genuine acts of restitution, commitment to change and solidarity. The Equal Voices Apology is a good model of how this can work - combining repentance with deeper relationship, resources and actions. It can be signed and promoted (and do consider Equal Voices membership too!) here. Imagine however how such a commitment can make a real difference to trans and gender diverse people if there are also additional direct and personal apologies for what might have been done in the past
2. affirm and support trans and gender diverse people
As with other often marginalised people, actual and direct affirmation and support makes such a profound difference. This can be done in all kinds of ways, but, mostly, simply by building loving relationships. For accepting and affirming people are not the same thing. We can all tell whether we are really wanted or only tolerated and whether our gifts are truly treasured and nurtured. Some churches have committed themselves to becoming truly Affirming or Inclusive churches - but there is room for so mnay more! Small things can also have a significant effect: whether that be by perhaps displaying trans and gender diverse flags on church property or on websites and in communications; mentioning trans and gender diverse people and our spiritual insights in talks, sermons and discussions; publicising information, resources and events; or being more inclusive in announcements and arrangements (such as avoiding stereotypes, inviting trans people into groups and activities which suit their actual gender, and changing unnecessary binary gender notices on many toilet doors).
3. learn more and raise awareness
Today there is really no excuse for ignorance in seeking genuine understanding of gender diversity. There are so many resources now available - some of which are highlighted in the trans spirit flourishing resources section - and they come in all kinds of formats, appropriate for all kinds of ages and types of people to learn and find out more. Why not use of one of these videos or other resources as a basis for raising awareness and education with others? If approached kindly, many trans and gender diverse people, may also be happy to talk and share in learning and growing together.
4. build partnerships
All minorities are rightly keen to voice and direct their own identity and way forward. However all , as minorities, need partners, especially where the odds are against them in terms of wider society's ignorance, fear and misunderstanding, numbers, and access to power and resources. It is wonderful to see active connections made by some individual Christians and particular churches (such as, in Brisbane, the MCC and Anglican churches in New Farm, the Cathedral and Holy Trinity Fortitude Valley who support (in word, deed, wallet and relationship) vital projects such as that of Open Doors Youth Service which works with LGBTI+ young people). There is so much more that could be done by others, with richly rewarding results for all.
5. act in solidarity
Being the kind of ally who is reflectively humble, supportive, a raiser of awareness, and a partner, is such a blessing! - but it still leaves a gap. Sometimes an ally really does need to be an 'accomplice' - more fully implicated in advocacy and actions which will make a real difference to trans and gender diverse people. This is part of the challenge today: to support the campaigns of trans and other gender diverse people, including initiatives such as Safe Schools and other key projects. Are Christians able to follow the praxis of Jesus and fully stand with, and in, the shoes of others, even when it may incur sharing in the disapproval, rejection and actual physical and other hurts they face? It is one of the most challenging but important tasks to which we are all called. See also Queer Theology's recent article - Is Your Church Working in Solidarity with Transgender People?
First, and finally, Christians and others have the opportunity to deepen and renew their prayer by more fully including trans and gender people and our challenges, gifts and joys. See here for some spiritual resources on this site. This November - with Trans Awareness Month - is a great place to start. Resources are already available, (check out these excellent ones for example), and more will be forthcoming shortly, for the Trans Day of Remembrance on 20 November (some events for which are being organised, as at Holy Trinity Fortitude Valley at 6 pm that day) and some prayers of which will and could be used in worship on Sunday 19 November (the MCC in Brisbane being one example at 7 pm that evening). That would also be a practical and deepening small step in both turning back the tide and renewing the raiinbow splendour of God's creation.
The Revd Dr Jo Inkpin: