It has been a week or so since the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). It was a surreal moment – not really because it was bizarre but due to the beauty and serenity of the service.
We drew the words used for the service from Susan Gilchrist’s wonderful post on the Corrymeela website . We used the 2017 version but we adapted it to help with the expected congregation. We had spoken with some people from the LGBTQIA community: some of which were Christians whilst others were distinctly ill at ease with Christianity. Hence we re-wrote the prayers so that many could participate. This might be critiqued by some but we felt that it allowed more to attend and acknowledge the travesty highlighted by the day of remembrance.
At the start of the service we acknowledged that some may not resonate or relate with God, as the Church saw God; nevertheless, we invited people to see hope in the prayers, hope for a future when there was no more hate and we could respect everyone as they were truly and wonderfully made.
The music was chosen by another member of the community. We used Ilona Tripp’s “Nobody Can Tell Me” and Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” as these respectively seemed to articulate the issues faced by transgender individuals and gave hope that we may all know that we are loved for who we are.
What I saw was people acknowledging humanity’s failure to see people for who they truly are. As they saw the 369 names, the country were they were killed and the nature of that death, we all felt the enormity, the scale, of the problem. As we saw “No name” or nature of death “Not Reported” it struck even deeper home. We added one name, of a person known to a few of us who had died in late September 2018 but whose name had not been received by the authorities who compile the list each year. We all lit tea-light candles for those we knew.
Every one was invited to say one of the 7 ‘rainbow’ prayers and then to light one of the candles, whose colour matched their prayer.
The vast majority of those attending were of no faith. Did it matter?
I believe Christ was there for each and every one of those attending, and stands with each person who was killed. I believe I saw the church opening up and welcoming in people who were reticent, possibly afraid of entering the church but maybe now saw something different themselves. I so hope so.
We offered a gift at the end of the service, a quite provocative gift in some respects…to atheists: a cross.
“I offer you an object. Yes it is a cross but one I hope you’ll agree is one that fits together with every other cross. They are all of different colours, perhaps that represents our sexual orientations, our gender identities, us as humanity: and we all fit together. I invite you to take one away knowing that we are all valued, loved for who we truly are and we, together, are as one.“
One commented afterwards: “I’m really glad I came along and it clearly meant a lot to the other people who were there. It was good to be somewhere that was truly welcoming to all.” Another added that they “don’t do God, but I believe in love and today I went to a Church service the first time in 60 years. Why? Because I care very deeply in everyone’s right to be who they are or need to be“. This is a call to the Church.