Afterword: Claiming Our Stories
From OtherWise Christian 2: Stories of Resistance, edited by Mx Chris Paige
By Mx Chris Paige
Stories are powerful—from the biblical testimony to our own. Yet, the world too often tells OtherWise-gendered people that our stories are unimportant, if not invalid, shameful, or inappropriate. Indeed, antagonistic Christians are quite accomplished at launching stories of their own that characterize us as deceitful, predatory, sick, or sinful. There seems to be something frightening about our truth. As Erin Swenson wrote in her reflection, there is a kind of “existential rage [from our] accusers.”
I once heard Elena Rose Vera preach a sermon at the Transgender Religious Leaders Summit in Berkeley, California and she would later allow us to reprint it in Transfaith’s Being Brave Together handbook. She eloquently makes the point that transgender people are inspiring and controversial because of our integrity. She argued that it is neither some kind of shapeshifting magic, nor long-suffering sacrifice that sets us apart. We are no more perfect or saintly, broken or depraved than any other demographic. However, our choice to pursue the truth, no matter what the cost may be, is a defining characteristic.
I believe in trans people. I believe in us because we have been honest, at least once, in a way few people on earth have been asked to be. I believe that is what makes us so frightening. That integrity is written all over us. …
Integrity is contagious, see. It is hard to look at the way we know the truth and not be tempted to look at your own truth, and that truth’s consequences. It is hard to pretend, with us in the room. It is hard to make excuses for your own lies and compromises and little self-betrayals. So, people try very hard to make us the liars. To make us the fakes. To push us out of the room so we don’t hold mirrors up.
It’s not that we’re special. It’s just that, every one of us, whatever we did before or since, we made a choice. We believed. We committed. We moved. With everything mobilized to erase us and keep us from truth-telling, we had the strength of spirit to choose truth anyway. (excerpted from “Holding On” by Elena Rose Vera)
Certainly, a similar argument could be made about people with intersex variations. Doctors (and some parents) push people with intersex variations into the shadows, inviting them to be ashamed of their God-given bodies. Yet, increasingly, intersex activists are breaking through their isolation to find one another and to tell their stories. This, too, is powerful resistance in a world that profits from misinformation and half-truths. This, too, is a model for how all of us might be more truthful and courageous in our own lives. Whether we are resisting religious antagonism, social marginalization, medical malpractice, or cultural expectations, claiming our deepest truths is always sacred work.
As we were approaching the finish line for OtherWise Christian 2: Stories of Resistance, I brainstormed with our authors about the #TransphobiaIsASin campaign. This campaign was started by J Mase III and Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi as a way to disrupt and heal from religious and spiritual-based violence and harm. The campaign is intentionally bold in terms of naming transphobia as “sin”—using that concept, so often weaponized against OtherWise-gendered people, to claim our liberation.
However, as I corresponded with our authors, some had reservations about deploying a term with as much baggage as “sin” carries. Meanwhile, our authors with intersex variations struggled with how they might work with the transgender-specific nature of the campaign. In the end, we came up with a friendly alternative that seemed to work for every one—and our #SacredOtherWise campaign was born.
So, we want to invite you to join us in claiming our stories by claiming your story, too! You can testify to your truth by sharing images and stories on social media using #TransAndSacred, #IntersexAndSacred, #NonBinaryAndSacred, or #TwoSpiritAndSacred. However, our goal is not to pressure anyone into disclosing truths that may put you at risk. Rather, we want to bless you with our collective testimony that truth-telling, story-sharing, testimony-making is sacred work. Whether you use these hashtags (or your own variation) or not, we encourage you to claim the power of your own story—whether you share that story in public, with friends/family, or simply in your own private journaling.
If nothing else, the Bible shows us that stories of struggle, resistance, and resilience are sacred and enduring, as they are passed down from generation to generation. So, whoever you are and wherever you are on your journey, I hope that you have been touched by something that has been shared in these pages. I hope that just maybe we have been able to pass along some nugget of hope or wisdom through our “stories of resistance.” Perhaps, as you close this book, you even will have gained some new understanding of and appreciation for what might be possible when OtherWise-gendered people of different shapes and sizes are embraced and celebrated.
So, in the words of Jesus, I invite you to go into the world and share that testimony, as well. “Truly, truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen…” (John 3:11a Berean Study Bible). May you receive our testimonies with compassion and grace. May you go and tell others what you have seen and what you have heard. May you celebrate and support the stories of resistance that may show up when “folk like us” appear in your own life.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
OtherWise Christian 2: Stories of Resistance will launch on March 31, 2020. Pre-orders are currently available on Amazon (ebook) and through the publisher. During the month of March, you can also get autographed copies of OtherWise Christian, Christian Faith and Gender Identity, and In Remembrance of Me, Bearing Witness to Transgender Tragedy at regular retail prices, with your pre-order of OtherWise Christian 2!
You can join in the excitement about “Stories of Resistance” by “claiming your story!” Use the #SacredOtherWise hash tags on social media: #TransAndSacred, #NonBinaryAndSacred, #IntersexAndSacred, #TwoSpiritAndSacred or your own variation.
We are also using #ClaimYourStory and #ClaimingOurStories to encourage celebration of our stories of faith and resistance.
You are especially encouraged to use these hashtags on #TransgenderDayOfVisibility / #TDOV on March 31, 2020!