Reflection at Trans Day of Remembrance 2018

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Good afternoon. I am Pastor Leo Bancroft, from the Flame, a healing community of faith for LGBTQ and ally folks here in Portland. As a transgender man, I am grateful for all of you gathered here, and those who organized this event, and I am humbled to have the opportunity to share today.

On Friday, non-binary trans actor, speaker and author Jeffrey Marsh tweeted “I’m wearing a skirt today and some random on the street was just like “you gotta come to Jesus ok?” and I said “how do you know I’m not Jesus?” They were stunned into silence”

And they are right. I love this tweet on so many levels.

It also seems appropriate for today, as we reflect on the loss of trans folks this year to violence and suicide. We may be looking for God in the midst of these tragedies, or some solace in our grief.  Jeffrey’s words remind me of my faith tradition. The face of our neighbor is the face of Jesus.  God is present in each one of us.  This can be helpful to remember in times of suffering and loss.  God is present with and suffers with those who are in pain. God has a particular care for those cast aside by society.  And God does not leave the side of those who are dying, but embraces them with arms of love and acceptance.

Jeffrey Marsh’s tweet also reminds me that our joyful self-expression and authentic lives are divine.  God is there too.  As we grieve those lost too soon, we remember that they were beloved, and worthy of love.  The world does not shine as brilliantly without them with us.  We also remember that each of us here too is beloved and worthy of love.

At the Flame, we have a tagline, “You have a place here.”

Trans folks – please know that you are beautifully and wonderfully made, Woven in the image of the divine.  You are named, and seen, and known, and loved.

On the day my name change was legal in 2014, I drove out to the beach and met a group of friends.  We had a campfire and gazed at the stars, telling stories of our favorite memories of friendship.  At one point, one my friends and I walked away from the fire, towards the waves lapping on the shore, and he pointed out the constellations, including the constellation for Leo, my name.

Isaiah 40 tells us that God created the stars and names each one. Seeing the Leo constellation on the night the courts recognized my name, I felt named by God too. Named and seen and known and loved. God calls me by my new name.

To those we have lost this year, and in years past …

We lift up your names with candles and song, we remember you in our communities, and in our churches…

We write your names in the stars and on our hearts.  God knows each one and calls them by their authentic chosen names.

To those who still struggle to be seen or exist or be safe…

To those who grieve or are at risk….

We thank you for the gift of your existence, of your beautiful divine self.

We claim with confidence and defiance that God weeps with us, and embraces us, and those we have lost, in compassionate and merciful arms.

God writes in the stars and in the sunset, on the shoreline, in the twirl of a skirt, or an unexpected purple flower, in the turning of a leaf, the hug of a friend, or a confident stride, that you are God’s beloved child, and you are holy.

(this meditation was given at the Transgender Day of Remembrance Interfaith Vigil, on Sunday November 18, 2018.  It was also recorded at KBOO