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Guest post: #SacredOtherWise #ShelterInGrace

Guest post by Chaplain Mir Plemmons (#ShelterInGrace #SacredOtherWise)

My siblings in faith and grace,

We need your help reaching out to those who are suffering in isolation during this time.

Across our countries and around our world, people are sheltering in place–and many of those places lack grace for the realizations of one’s true identity. Clarity about one’s identity may come in the midst of such seasons when we have a lot of time to think.

It is in precisely a time like this that I, an intersex person who felt forced to pass female, realized that I could no longer–in honesty, integrity, self-understanding–do so. I was housebound for a month with a concussion. At 49, I discovered that I could no longer ignore that truth that I was presenting the wrong direction. Because I had already been a chaplain among the BLTGQUIAetc communities, I had grace for myself.

Today, there are teens and children shut in with families who tell them they are abominations, that God hates them. This is not a theoretical. I have been talking with one–trying to keep him from despair by affirming who he is and reminding him that he is not alone..

Today, there are teens and even adults shut in with their thoughts, wondering what and who they really are–with those same messages swirling around their heads: that they are abominations and that God hates them.

When they start searching online, we must make every effort to speak grace into their situations. We can be the #ShelterInGrace that they need during this time–as they learn their inner truths during this time of physical isolation.

PLEASE join us in creating videos affirming the sacredness of ALL of us.

Thank you!

Mir Plemmons

Here’s what we are asking…

1 – Keep it short, so people can browse easily. We want to make it easy to find a community of support online. This is not a sermon. This is a quick encouragement. Not more than 2 minutes. You can link to additional content in the description and/or comments.

2 – Cut to the chase. Make sure you get to your specific affirmation of gender transcendent people in the first 30 seconds.

3 – Be specific. We are especially looking to help people break out of the abusive Christian narratives about OtherWise-gendered folk–transgender, non-binary, intersex, two spirit, and more. Of course, other kinds of affirmations are also good to be putting into the world! [Not Christian? Please see this followup]

4 – Post on social media and tag your video with #ShelterInGrace and #SacredOtherWise. Additional tags might include #TransAndSacred, #IntersexAndSacred, #NonBinaryAndSacred, or other variations of specific affirmation. There are lots to choose from! #FaithfullyTrans, #FaithfullyIntersex, #NoBodyIsShameful, #YouAreNotAMistake, #YouAreLoved, #URLoved, #TransPhobiaIsASin, #TransAntagonismIsASin

5 – Let us know! We are creating a playlist (maybe more than one!) at OtherWise Christian on YouTube. If you need help getting your video onto YouTube, please contact otherwisechristian@gmail.com or contact us via social media.

The #ShelterInGrace video playlist is below and will be updated as new offerings come in! The first 6 offerings emerged organically from the OtherWise Christian 2: Stories of Resistance launch party.

OC2 Launch Festivities

Many thanks for the contributors who are making themselves available to discuss OtherWise Christian 2: Stories of Resistance.

There are a few more who are swamped with Real Life stuff–from grief to family concerns to pastoring. This is a strange time. The remainder may or may not chime in if they get a break in their schedule. Sending love to one and all.

That said, we have TWENTY-TWOTHREE contributors confirmed for EIGHT NINE sessions over THREE days (PLUS we have added a BONUS ROUND during HOLY WEEK!).

While not all of our contributors are transgender (“OtherWise” includes intersex, two spirit, and more), the Transgender Day of Visibility (#TDOV) lands right in the middle of our launch on Tuesday, March 31. Visibility is only part of the equation.

This TDOV, we are also proclaiming #YouAreNotAMistake, #NoBodyIsShameful, #NoBodyIsDisposable! We also encourage you to post, blog, tweet, and OtherWise lift up the #OtherWiseSacred hashtag (together with variations on #TransAndSacred, #IntersexAndSacred, etc)!

Click through to see recordings of our lively conversations among the author-contributors!

Continue reading “OC2 Launch Festivities”

OC2: Afterword by Mx Chris Paige

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!

OC2: Introduction by Mx Chris Paige

Introduction
OtherWise Christian 2: Stories of Resistance
By Mx Chris Paige

Transgender men, transgender women, and non-binary people all have our own particular sets of challenges and risk factors as we navigate the world. In a Western worldview, these are three major categories of transgender experience. Meanwhile, people with intersex variations may or may not be transgender, may or may not be identified with the binary (male or female), may or may not use “intersex” as an identity. OtherWise-gendered people may be “straight,” same-gender-loving, asexual, bisexual/pansexual, or have some other way to name their interests. Some may be open and public about their gender history, while others may be nondisclosing or low-disclosure. This is just a small sample of some of the kinds of diversity that you may encounter among OtherWise-gendered people in the Western world, before we even touch on language and culture.

 This diversity of new vocabulary can be confusing and overwhelming to some as new shared understandings are being fashioned. Most of us have been raised in a culture that claimed that there are “two and only two, mutually exclusive genders, defined strictly and easily, based on biology at birth” (see Appendix A of this volume, as well as OtherWise Christian, chapter 2). For OtherWise-gendered folk, resisting that reductive gender ideology is not an intellectual question but, rather, a way of life in which we struggle to make our way through a world that tells us in so many ways that it would rather not be bothered with us at all. As you seek to understand our varied struggles, the language we use, and the way we conceptualize resistance, it is important to shift—away from simply trying to label and define us toward hearing our stories as testimonies of strength and resilience.

Imagine if you had been taught that “vanilla” and “chocolate” are the only kinds of ice cream that are possible. Would you be worried to learn about butter pecan and strawberry ice cream? Would you feel ill-prepared for Neapolitan, rocky road, or cotton-candy-flavored ice cream? How might you react to a soft serve cone dipped in chocolate, ice cream sandwiches, frozen yogurt, or gluten-free and nondairy vegan “ice cream”? With or without nuts? Whipped cream? And a cherry on top? 

The variations are endless, but this complexity need not be threatening. You do not have to be an expert on every ingredient or every kind of ice cream just to enjoy a midnight snack or to take a grandchild out for a treat. In fact, questions to determine if your favorite confection qualifies properly as “chocolate” or “vanilla” are probably not so welcome when you are eager to dig in.

Similarly, I invite you to give up on trying to put people into categories. Instead, I hope that you will try to enjoy the testimonies of the authors in this volume—as if they were the first sweet treat that you have had in years. Please don’t waste your time worrying. Savor the flavors. Notice the sensations. Just enjoy! 

In the opening chapters of OtherWise Christian 2, you will find testimonies of trans feminine, trans masculine, non-binary, and intersex encounters with the Holy, as well as their encounters with patriarchy, embodiment, and liberation. Several of these articles date as far back as 2001 and are some of the earliest published stories from transgender Christians (during what I call the “transgender spring”), though they have all been revised at least somewhat for re-publication here. These first offerings are intended to provide a very basic introduction to “vanilla.” You will have an opportunity to get a taste, but please know that there are many other delicious flavors to come!

In the remainder of this book, you will find yet more stories of resistance. We will not tarry with “transgender 101” definitions. There are plenty of other books, blogs, and webinars for that. You can go elsewhere to sort through arguments about whether OtherWise-gendered people actually exist. If you are worried about whether we should be treated as inherently sick or sinful, you might not be ready to hear the wisdom that we have to share. Yet, we are here, living our best lives. Truly, truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen (John 3:11a). 

There are a wide range of (auto)biographical and anecdotal stories about transgender and intersex people to be found in the world already. This volume is different insofar as it assembles offerings that will make explicit connections between lived OtherWise experience and Christian tradition—and sometimes other traditions as well. Authors have been invited to offer a theological perspective grounded in their own magnificent lives. I have to warn you that we are boundary-busting folk who do not much like being confined in orderly boxes. But, we offer our testimonies just the same, drawing on our own histories, our own struggles, and our own relationships with the Divine. Let those accept it who can (Matthew 19:12b).

In a historic roundtable in the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion (Spring 2018), Dr. Max Strassfeld, asks this question: “In what ways might we expand our analyses of prayer and ritual if we took the lives and resiliencies of trans women of color as religion?” (page 51). Strassfeld’s question was offered in an academic context, but, in this volume, I invite you to open yourself in that way. Indeed, what if we look to OtherWise-gendered people to teach us about practices that nurture survival and sustainability? What if we trust OtherWise-gendered people to tell us something about what is most sacred? What might we learn about what makes life worth living? 

Instead of working to stuff transgender experience into pre-existing categories of religious or Christian experience, I invite you to open your heart to listen to what OtherWise-gendered folk might have to teach you about the Divine, about holy laughter, about our most intimate relationships, and about fighting back against the principalities and powers of this world that bring death and despair. Listen for the rhythms that resonate between authors. Attend to both the themes that connect with your own life experiences, as well as those that differ. There are suggested scriptures and reflection questions at the end of each offering to assist you in processing and integrating what you have read.

Of course, no one collection can ever be definitive. There will always be yet more stories to be shared from God’s gender-full goodness among us. Indeed, I am aware of some important gaps in this effort. Yet, I hope that this volume will give you a taste that will help you better to appreciate what is possible among God’s people. I am grateful for the diverse array of folk who have trusted me enough to edit and publish their insights here. I pray that you will be blessed by their testimonies just as I have been.

Please check out otherwisechristian.com where you will find additional content related to the OtherWise Christian series, including news about other projects by these authors, more resources, as well as opportunities for further conversation.

Mx Chris Paige

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!

OC2: The Rev Victoria Kolakowski (retired)


“[B]alancing an understanding of both our similarities and our differences is the key to creating a modern spirituality that can enrich us all.”

The Rev Victoria Kolakowski (retired) in
“Foreword” and “Wrestling Like Jacob”
OtherWise Christian 2: Stories of Resistance


OtherWise Christian 2 v. 3

I had lunch with Vicky while I was in the Bay area, really just hoping to catch up and maybe squeeze a Foreword out of her. As she disclosed in that Foreword, she stepped back from her religious vocation when she became a judge. So, I was pleasantly surprised that she was also willing and able to write a chapter for the book. While there is a passing mention of her role as a judge, the article focuses on Jacob’s wrestling (and her own).

Vicky’s chapter, “Wrestling Like Jacob,” will appear in OtherWise Christian 2: Stories of Resistance (March 2020) from OtherWise Engaged Publishing.

Pre-order now! Or sign up to get updates!

The Reverend Victoria S. Kolakowski received her M.Div. from the Pacific School of Religion in 1998. She was the first person to have a transgender positive article published in an academic religious journal in 1997. She was ordained in the Metropolitan Community Church as the first person to start and complete the ordination process as an openly transgender person. She served as clergy at several churches, and on the board of the California Council of Churches. She retired from ministry when she became a judge in Alameda County, California, in 2011.

Join us in celebrating the #SacredOtherWise! Claim your own story during March 2020! Possible hashtags include:

#TransAndSacred
#IntersexAndSacred
#NonBinaryAndSacred
#TwoSpiritAndSacred
or your own version of #SacredOtherWise

These are also great hashtags to add when you are talking about #TransgenderDayOfVisibility / #TDOV!! March 31, 2020 is our official launch day!

We are also using #ClaimYourStory and #ClaimingOurStories to encourage celebration of our stories of faith and resistance.

#ClaimingOurStories
#ClaimYourStory
#YouAreLoved
#YouAreNotAMistake
#SacredOtherWise

OC2: Minister KimiFloyd


To be two-spirit is to bring two halves back together, to heal division in myself, and then help end the oppression of my people. … I am rejecting centuries of language and violence that tried to deny my existence…

Minister KimiFloyd in
“Balance”
OtherWise Christian 2: Stories of Resistance

Continue reading “OC2: Minister KimiFloyd”