In my studies I have been reading the Gospels. The question, “But who do you say that I am?” This is one of the pivotal questions that Jesus asks of his followers in the Gospels. For Christians Peter’s response that Jesus is the messiah is an important part of the Gospel stories. The interesting thing is that the disciples are not supposed to tell anyone. When passage, found in Matthew, Mark and Luke, came up in a class recently it got me thinking to what the question can mean.
“Who do you say that I am?” In my own experience this is a question that we often ask of ourselves as a hypothetical when dealing with other people. ”Who do they think or say that I am?” Often this shapes who we are. Read the rest of this entry »
One of the more interesting aspects of living in an urban area close to the downtown core is that there are a lot of people around from a range of social, economic and cultural backgrounds. Part of this diversity are those who have been marginalized by society. People who are living on the streets, people who may be prostitutes, addicted to various substances or drugs. In short people that are ignored by the rest of society. So how do we react to them when we see them? How do we react when they come through the doors of the church on a Sunday morning?
When it comes to the person on the street who is panhandling, possibly drunk or on drugs, most people walking by pretend that they do not exist. They are invisible. Others will react in more obvious ways such as crossing to the other side of the street, pointedly looking away. Sometimes even making derogatory comments about the person to those they are walking with or even directly to the person. Most people will avoid eye contact and when asked for change many won’t even acknowledge the request. The reaction when someone who appears to be ‘undesirable’ walks through the door of a church can be even worse.
Today I found myself reflecting on the idea of mind, body and spirit / soul being interconnected and what that has meant for me. Prior to my transition my mind, body and spirit were not in balance and were not well. From childhood I had problems with anger and depression. There was also an underlying sense that there was something not right with my body, but I could not identify what. As I reached my mid-thirties I hit an all time low with depression. At that point I did not care much for my body’s appearance and while I was paying some attention to my spiritual life it was very much secondary as far as my overall life was concerned. When I eventually realized what my problem was I was able to start working towards gaining a balance and health in mind, body and soul.
When reading or listening to people how often do we read or hear what we expect to read or hear? A good example of this has happened in many churches that use the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL). The reading for the first Sunday in Lent has the passage, “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor;” (Deuteronomy 26:5) It is not uncommon for the reader to say, “A wandering Armenian” instead of Aramean. There have been many other instances in and out of church where words were misspoken or misread. Sometimes they are quite amusing, such as reading “sexual imortality” instead of “sexual immorality”. Sometimes they can change the whole meaning of the discussion.
Why is it that we do this? I have done it, and will, most likely, do it again. This evening as I was browsing through an online journal database as part of my research for essays I found that I was misreading a couple of the titles. The reason? Fatigue. My eyes were getting tired and not focusing on the letters correctly. Other times it may be a transposition of letters or numbers that is involuntary. Where it gets more tricky is when it is because we do not want to read something or say something the way it is written, or meant to be said.
This then leads to the question of why we are not wanting to read what is written or say what is right. In these instances it is important to take the step back and ask ourselves this question. Equally, or perhaps even more importantly we then have to answerthe question honestly even if we don’t like the answer we get. How will you deal with the next wandering Armenian Aramean you encounter?
One thing that has struck me today is how my faith has changed during my transition. I am not a ‘Cradle Anglican’, I came to it later in childhood and into my teen years. Even then it wasn’t until I was eighteen that my faith had reached a point where I wanted to be baptised. It was also around that age when I first felt a call to ordained ministry.
When I had my epiphany and realization that I am a woman, not a man as I had been trying to pretend to be for most of my life, my world got turned upside down and inside out. There has been a lot of pain, laughter and frustration.
One entity with whom I was particularly frustrated at times is God. Being trans and transitioning is not easy. At times it felt like I was truly alone. Somehow through all of the challenges of transition my faith survived, indeed it has grown. I have also had a number of subsequent smaller epiphanies about how I am called to move forward in life.
I know that the path forward will be full of challenges, frustrations, wanting to bang my head against a wall and sometimes wanting to beat people with a clue-by-four. Even knowing the challenges and frustration the way forward feels right. I know that continuing down this path I will be, to paraphrase Joseph Campbell, following my bliss. Doing what I am called to be doing,.
Today marks the beginning of the season of Lent. The most common expression of Lent that I encounter is that people give something up for Lent. Theoretically what is given up is something that they like or care about. If all one is doing is giving something up, but not reflecting on what one is giving up, or using the money saved to contribute to a charity it is possible that they are not getting the full benefit of giving something up. This also only represents one or two parts of Lenten discipline. The Book of Alternative Services, also referred to as the BAS (The BAS is the prayer book used in most Anglican churches in Canada and available at http://www.anglican.ca/resources/liturgicaltextsonline/ electronically) in the Ash Wednesday service includes the following:
I invite you therefore, in the name of the Lord,
to observe a holy Lent
by self-examination, penitence, prayer,
fasting, and almsgiving,
and by reading and meditating on the word of God.
In my last post I discussed what it means to be invisible, to not be seen. Today I’m going to look at what it means to be visible in a wider context. I am approaching this from my own perspective and experiences to date. I have mentioned in this blog that I am back in school, but I haven’t really discussed what I’m studying or what my long term journey is moving towards. My studies and my long term journey directly relate to my being visible, not stealth and being open about who I am. Being visible means, for me, being visible in two contexts that are often seen as being mutually exclusive. I am a queer person, a woman who is also trans and lesbian studying theology and in a process of discernment towards ordained ministry.
In Canada and many other places in the world Christmas is a time when we are constantly told that we should be cheerful and celebrate Christmas with friends and family. Stores play cheesy Christmas music starting in November. For many Christmas is anything but cheerful.
For those who have lost loved ones to accidents, illness, age or violence Christmas is a time of sorrow. A time that would have been spent with lost loved ones.
For those who have been rejected by their families and friends because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual or for other reasons Christmas becomes painful and depressing. They can’t go home, they can’t spend the time with their loved ones. They are alone.
As someone who has been fortunate not to lose most of my family I think of those who have lost family, friends, jobs, homes and sometimes their life savings. They are in my thoughts and prayers.
With the Labour Day weekend a new year begins. School starts again, people are back from vacation and things get busy. At church the choir starts back up, various programmes get started again and life gets busy and back up to full speed. In Ontario this year we have our provincial election.
This weekend I started riding bicycle again. One of the challenges cyclists face is dealing with cars and other motorized vehicles. My ride to church involves a left turn, at a light, to a major road followed by crossing from the left lane of traffic to the right lane and then at the end of that road get past the right turn lane to be in one of the two left turn lanes. Fun stuff.
Growing up in Toronto I was used to riding on Toronto streets. Having left Toronto in 2001 for the suburbs and then on to Kingston I hadn’t done a lot of riding since the early 1990s and hadn’t been on a bicycle at all in about 4 or 5 years.
Three years ago I began my transition. A large part of that process is shedding old mannerisms, learning new ones, changing how one speaks and the vocal range. Becomming confident in one’s new gender. [Yes 'new' is an awkward term here but in this context I am referring to one's outward presentation.]
Confidence. Easier said than done, especially if one does not ‘pass’ very well in the new outward gender. Confidence, something that wasn’t always present prior to transition, despite what I may have presented on the outside. How does this tie into my starting cycling again?
My overall confidence level is fairly high. I refuse to be intimidated by those who have issues with who I am. I was not intimidated when an abuser threatened to ‘out’ me to a company I work with prior to my coming out to them. The same confidence applies to cycling on busy roads. I will not be intimidated by other vehicles on the road. Cautious? Yes, they are heavy and can cause serious injury or even death if one hits a bicycle. I follow the rules of the road and expect them to do the same. I will not let fear and intimidation keep me from being myself, or from riding a bicycle on public roads.
As I said in chat last night, “I’m here, I’m not going away, get over it.” I am going to live my life, people who have problems may ask questions, I’m happy to help educate. If your problem with transgender / transsexual / LGBT etc. are such that you can’t adapt, all I ask is that you treat me with respect. We do not have to be friends.