International Transgender Day of Visibility (also called TDOV, Transgender Day of Visibility) is an annual event occurring on March 31 dedicated to celebrating transgender people and raising awareness of discrimination faced by transgender people worldwide, as well as a celebration of their contributions to society. The day was founded by transgender activist Rachel Crandall of Michigan in 2009 as a reaction to the lack of LGBT recognition of transgender people, citing the frustration that the only well-known transgender-centered day was the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which mourned the murders of transgender people, but did not acknowledge and celebrate living members of the transgender community. The first International Transgender Day of Visibility was held on March 31, 2009. It has since been spearheaded by the U.S.-based youth advocacy organization Trans Student Educational Resources. -from Wikipedia
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Ringing the Bell
Blessed Are the Queer by HP Rivers
Blessed are the wanderers,
Blessed are the worshipers,
Praying from closets,
Pulpits, pews, and hardship.
Blessed are the lovers of leaving –
Leaving family and familiarity,
Where love is not being served.
Blessed are those who stay.
Blessed are those
Who hunger and thirst for justice –
For they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the queer
Disciples of Truth,
Living, breathing, sacred
"We light the chalice as a reminder that together we are a beacon in the desert. May its light lead the way to love, acceptance and justice as we strive for personal and societal transformation."
Opening Hymn: I Am Her by Shea Diamond (See video below)
Joys and Sorrows
Speaker – Joanne Culver
Pastoral Hymn: Meditation on Breathing by Sarah Dan Jones (See video below)
Offering and Invitations
The Offering this month is shared with the Southern Nevada Adaptive Sports Foundation/Las Vegas Wheelchair Basketball Foundation (LINK).
"With gratitude for the abundance in our own lives, we give for the life of this congregation and the benefit of the larger community."
Speaker – Sophia Hart
I was asked to speak for trans day of visibility about a week before any of the news from Texas. For those uninformed, Child Protective Services have started being sent to investigate the parents of transgender children on the grounds that parents supporting their child's transition is tantamount to child abuse. This has left me with the question,"what is needed right now for trans day of visibility?" On one hand Trans Day of Visibility was created as a day for us to share our lives, our loves, and our joys as individuals and as a community. On the other hand I worry that I'd be missing the forest for the trees by not trying to address the anti trans violence happening in our own country. This political wave is clearly trying to erase us from society, and once I found that word, "erase," everything came into focus.
We need visibility more than ever, because for the last several years we have been hidden behind a malicious media milieu speaking over us and slandering our community. We have been facing a political wave that has tried hard and fast to pull us into the riptide. As of now, a record shattering 132 pieces of anti trans bills are currently being debated at the state level across our country, and a majority of these bills are directly targeting transgender children. Many of these bills would persecute the child's parents and caretakers, in essence making it illegal for people to support us. These kinds of bills are being debated in: Alaska, Arizona, Washington, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, and New Hampshire (freedomforallamericans.org). That's over half the country. This is why we need visibility, because on a national scale our personhood has been scribbled over with the inflammatory question of whether or not we have the right to exist.
This isn't the first time that people have tried to eliminate us though, and this goal will always fail because as long as people exist, transgender people will always exist. We aren't some kind malignant pathogen, but rather a natural part of the diversity of human experiences. Even Jesus spoke up for the Eunuchs. Over time the words used to describe us have varied across time and different cultures. Though the words change, what is constant is the need for a life authentic to ourselves.
Despite the terrifying political landscape we find ourselves in, we have found ourselves here because of long and strong strides from our community that we deserve to feel proud of. Time and time again our community and the predecessors to it have fought and struggled to carve out parts of the world for us to exist in. In these spaces we have created beautiful gardens with plants otherwise called weeds. To some our success is scary. They view our gardens as a threat to theirs, as if life were a zero sum game. To us these gardens have provided shade, restitution, and beauty found nowhere else.
For me transitioning has been life saving. The ability to have come out as transgender 3 years and begin to be seen for who I am after 20 years of hiding and stewing in shame is the greatest joy of my life. For the first time I have begun to actively live. Before beginning my transition I felt no ownership over my life nor my body. I remember in middle school staying up into all hours of the night watching people's transition timelines on youtube. I would wish that could be transgender because transgender women were the people who got to become women. I had only ever seen transition talked about as a medical process, so I thought that since I hadn't been diagnosed by a doctor I couldn't be transgenser. That experience is why we need visibility, because people need to know that there are answers for that empty feeling that far too many of us grow up with.
The evidence is clear, when supported our mental health makes huge strides, and when denied access to care and the ability to openly live as ourselves our chances of self harm and attempting suicide sky rocket. I want us to have the joy and freedom that authenticity can afford. To survive these trying times we will need to stand together, support each other, and prepare for both the best and worst as the winds of change whirl around us. And for the cisgender people listening, those who aren't trans, I urge you to lend a hand to our continued survival.
In Nevada this means keeping an eye open and actively opposing any bills that would seek to make discrimination against us the word of law. It can also mean helping support our community by supporting or creating affordable housing for all LGBTQIA+ people, or on a more interpersonal level asking the transgender people in your life how you can help support them. But if nothing else, I hope that you leave today curious and wanting to learn more about who we are and what our experience is like.
There are many resources out there and if you would like recommendations then I have many suggestions. Some notable books that I would recommend reading are: Transgender History by Susan Striker, Trans Like Me by CN Lester, Amateur by Thomas Page McBee, The Riddle of Gender by Deborah Rudacille, Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, or finally the 2nd edition of My Gender Workbook by Kate Bornestein. Any of these books are great for people new to or well versed in this conversation. If you're not much of a reader there many resources created by transgender people across the internet.
Currently we stand at a fork in the road. As a society we have the opportunity to choose to embrace the diversity amongst ourselves and build a better, freer, and more beautiful life for us all. We can also choose to adorn the straight jackets and shackles of social control that seek to restrict the expression and being of all individuals. Today, tomorrow, and every day after we have the wonderful opportunity to choose to support each other and build a better world. One of many ways we can do our part in that is by helping protect the rights and livelihoods of transgender people.
Speaker – Margaret Johnston
Hi, as I said at the beginning of service, my name is Margaret and my pronoun is they.
I’ve spent a quarter century being mistaken for a woman. I can easily forgive people for the mistake because I didn’t figure out this wasn’t the case til a few years ago. And even in that time it is often not a realistic option to correct people. But let me be clear: I’m agender, I’m queer, I’m nonbinary.
I didn’t come to that realization on my own, I needed to hear the experiences and thoughts of others, and I had to hear them many times over many years. I’m highlighting a few of those stories now, the books I’m showing are also available to peruse after the end of the service.
The first is “The Out Side” a comic anthology featuring 18 different trans and nonbinary artists, and it’s all autobiographical. These are their real stories as they choose to tell them. I love it because it has many perspectives, many views of gender exploration, many emotions about breaking away from cisgendered assumptions. The trans experience is not a monolith and this is a stunning example of the diversity of the community.
I want to share the artist who got me to buy this book: Lake Fama, a comic and animation artist. I found out about their art several years ago but I was also intrigued by them as a person. I followed them on social media and got to come along for the ride as they experimented with different names, and when they got married, and their excitement with each new animation project. The page they contribute to this anthology centers on their slow and steady realization and their very slow process of acceptance. It has been such a joy to see my own experience reflected so honestly and kindly by someone more articulate than myself.
It’s a good book, you should come take a look.
The second book I’m here to share is “Alia terra” a collection of fairy tales adapted from Romanian folklore, specifically considered through a queer lens and with a focus on genders outside the binary. It’s written by Ava Kelly, a nonbinary author from Romania. They take influence from their Romanian heritage and carve out this space for the stories they wish they’d heard as a child trying to understand the world and their culture and themself. It’s illustrated by Matthew Spencer a trans man from Michigan, he hand inked and watercolored all the art put into this book. It’s really a treasure, it’s beautiful and queer all the way down to the bedrock.
The final thing I want to mention is also the one closest to my heart, the band The Doubleclicks. The Doubleclicks, started by siblings Laser and Aubry, released their first album in 2012. I first heard their music in high school when I dearly needed their messages that I could be a nerd just as I was. That my gender didn’t disqualify me from my interests. That those interests that I enjoyed quietly and alone, could be a wonderful source of community and socialization.
Laser is the lead singer and primary songwriter for The Doubleclicks. During my master’s program – when I was hundreds of miles away from my parents, living on my own for the first time, in a city I didn’t know – Laser came out as nonbinary and I had a crisis. Here was this person I looked up to, who wrote songs I deeply related to, who I had been paying attention to for years. A person I already had made space for in my life, *that person* was nonbinary. Suddenly it was real, it was a real option for real people and not just a fantasy that you trick yourself into by being online too long. The song “I’m Winning”, which we heard as the prelude for the service, was part of the first album the Doubleclicks released after Laser came out. When I heard it, I cried. The double feeling – on one hand hearing Laser express their own joy of discovery, on the other hand allowing myself simply to imagine being like that – it was overwhelming and freeing. I cried for the joy of possibility, for the despair of so much time lost, for the relief that someone else felt like this. And that’s not a very cisgendered reaction.
I want to end now with one more connection to my favorite band. Our final song of the service is also performed by The Doubleclicks, and the words are written by the hilarious and also nonbinary Stevani, the genius behind Sunday Comes Afterward. Pronouns are a great way of showing respect and care, but it can be difficult to get it right for a variety of reasons. So, we need to practice. Our closing song will hopefully be of service in that regard. I know it was for me.
Benediction – “Freeing” – Excerpt from Elliot Page interview with Oprah (See video below)
Extinguish the Chalice
And now, join with me...
"We release that which was called with love and gratitude and we extinguish the flame, but not our commitment to being a beacon in the desert. This burns brightly until we gather again."
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