MLK in Memphis

I was grateful to be involved in an observance at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center on January 19, 2023 in remembrance of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and his legacy for an interfaith audience. These were my comments invited on behalf of the LGBT+ community, where I highlighted the campaign in Memphis where MLK ultimately would be assassinated.

Good afternoon. As a long time transgender religious organizer, I love reading civil rights history. Not just the highlight reels, but the back stories. Not just the quotes you see on social media, but whole speeches. It’s such a rich legacy that still has so much to teach us about the work of love and justice 

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When the Rev Dr King was assassinated in 1968, he had been working in Memphis, Tennessee. If you check that history, you’ll find that it was a campaign that was about racial justice, yes. But it was also a campaign about economic justice–and at it’s core about the right to basic human dignity.

If you read or listen to his words in Memphis, all of his words, not just the highlight reel, You’ll find he was saying that even though some work is valued more than others, all work has dignity. On March 18th, 1968, he said, “Whenever you are engaged in work that serves humanity and is for the building of humanity, [that work] has dignity and [that work] has worth.” That’s a word I think we all deserve to hear.

Dr King literally said that the work of sanitation workers is as significant as that of a physician. He was saying that whatever our job may be, whatever our lives may look like, whatever pronouns we use, whoever we count as family, whatever neighborhood or country we may have been born in, whatever faith we may or may not have, we are all human. We are all worthy of respect. We all deserve to be treated with dignity.

And Dr King urged us to know our place–that is to claim our value as children of the universe. He encouraged us to invest the time and energy it takes to see one another, not just as cogs in a machine, but, to recognize that each and every one of us, is beloved and worthy of care. And so I invite you to lift your spirits with me, in the name of all that is good and right.

We pray that everyone who enters this campus will know that they are welcome , that they are beloved, and that they are worthy of care. We pray that everyone who works here , that everyone who provides care, from environmental services to our medical professionals, will be celebrated for the important service they provide toward the building of humanity. May we find the wisdom to seek healing for our own broken places at least as much as we do  for those we serve. As we remember the legacy of Dr King, may we find the strength to carry on his legacy and all those who labored with him. May even our hallway greetings be a kind of Prayer for the Beloved Community to be sustained in our midst.

Amen. Ashe. Blessed be.

Compiled by Mx Chris Paige on January 21, 2023 (follow on Facebook). Please be in touch with corrections and feedback. This blog is a work in progress!

TDOR and Black Transgender Women

As we approach Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) yet again, I will join the chorus once again about centering Black transgender women. So, in this post, I want to share some resources that shed light, specifically, on the lives of Black transgender women and why they are so frequently the victims of violence.

In other words, this isn’t about planning TDOR. This is about gaining understanding about the context for why TDOR is the way it is–that is, why it is important to center Black transgender women in a substantive and not performative way.

Continue reading “TDOR and Black Transgender Women”

If your organization is new to Transgender Day of Remembrance…

As I enter higher education again, I’m aware of how Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) is still a new thing in some communities. It’s a difficult “holiday” to observe appropriately. In fact, I went so far as to write an article on why you might NOT want to host a Transgender Day of Remembrance event (Transfaith, previously Believe Out Loud).

Continue reading “If your organization is new to Transgender Day of Remembrance…”

Mutual Aid (Part 2): Trust Black People

In Mutual Aid (Part 1): A Message of Love, I (a white person) started a conversation about mutual aid by reflecting on Enzi Tanner’s work in the Twin Cities. Today, I (a white person) want to write more broadly about mutual aid as a white member of transgender communities–while also acknowledging that most of what I know about this topic comes from listening to Black and Brown trans and queer organizers.

(Read The Race Game to understand why I’m talking so much about whiteness.)

Informal Mutual Aid 

In the conversation with my white suburban friend (mentioned yesterday), I, a white person, shared a little about what I have been doing based in pre-existing relationships that I have.

To my mind, it makes good sense to start by giving funds to Black folk who I (a white person) already know who may be struggling. We (especially white folks) don’t need to wait for someone asking for help. We (especially white folks) do not need to announce what we are doing on social media. We can just be generous and ask our friends to use the funds however they think it will be helpful. 

Continue reading “Mutual Aid (Part 2): Trust Black People”

Mutual Aid (Part 1): A Message of Love

The Twin Cities have seen a string of highly-publicized incidents of police violence against Black men prior to the recent George Floyd incident (2020), including with Jamar Clark in 2015 and Philando Castile in 2016. Black transgender man, Tony McDade, was shot dead by police in Tallahassee, FL a few days after George Floyd was killed. A recent assault against a transgender woman of color named Iyanna Dior in the Twin Cities shook that community further.

These incidents (and others) have led to a number of national movements: to support Black lives, to address police violence, and to acknowledge the particular burden on Black transgender people. Last week, Transfaith posted a statement, Hearing Our Kin: George Floyd, Tony McDade, and our Black Transgender Siblings, which was a follow up to Hearing Our Kin: Trayvon Martin and Our Black and Brown Transgender Siblings, which was written in 2013.

This week, I (a white person) am writing inspired by the work of one of our former board members, who has been a part of Black transgender organizing in the Twin Cities for many years. Enzi Tanner is a Black transgender Jew, who is currently involved in a mutual aid project focused on supporting Black transgender people in his area. He is also one of the voices quoted in our 2013 article.

Continue reading “Mutual Aid (Part 1): A Message of Love”

Putting Away Childish Things (White Fear and Growing Up)

(Read The Race Game to understand why I’m talking so much about whiteness.)

After I (a white person) published “Grown-Ass White Folk” earlier this week, it occurred to me (a white person) that fear is another developmental angle that has something to do with well-meaning white folk “growing up.” My proposition was that we, well-meaning white folk, are often immature in how we respond to white supremacist events in society.

Meanwhile, events in Minneapolis have escalated alongside white reactivity–both from the police state and from arm chair critics. So let’s think about white fear as a developmental issue.

Continue reading “Putting Away Childish Things (White Fear and Growing Up)”

The Race Game (2020)

Grown-Ass White Folk need to be able to talk about whiteness. Full stop.

I (a white person) proposed “The Race Game” [source: Thandeka’s Learning to Be White: Money, Race, and God in America, 1999] to a (majority but not exclusively white) planning committee for an event in 2003. My proposal was dismissed as naive and too radical.

However, I (a white person) remain convinced that “The Race Game,” as uncomfortable as it may be, is an essential step in beginning to deal with white supremacy. To me, it seems like a baby step on the path to becoming “Grown Ass White Folk.”

We (especially, but not exclusively white people) must make the invisible visible, so we (white folk) can better grapple with what we find within our (white) selves when we do.

Continue reading “The Race Game (2020)”

Grown-Ass White Folk

Alternate title: Growing Up — Well-Meaning White Folk and the American Dream

As I write this, we are in another cycle of processing white people behaving horribly. This time it is a white woman in NYC Central Park invoking police violence and actual police violence in Minneapolis. But it could be a Black man jogging, a Black woman studying, the police in Indianapolis, or any other city. These incidents are no longer going unnoticed, under-reported–at least not in some social media networks.

However, it is not just acts of violence against Black folk, Indigenous folk, and other People of Color that show us where we are as a white supremacist society trying to become the ideal that Black civil rights leaders, in particular, have been pushing us towards.

White folk responding to incidents of anti-Black violence also shed a light on our so-called progress.

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Christendom, White Bullshit, and the Power of Colonial Imagination, 2019

Appendix C of OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation is titled “Christendom, White Bullshit, and the Power of Colonial Imagination.” This topic didn’t flow directly into the themes of OtherWise Christian in terms of dealing with gender–which is why the content is relegated to an appendix. However, these themes are critical adjacent issues in terms of talking about colonization, empire, white supremacy, and Christian supremacy–which is why I included them.

The content for Appendix C references (and quotes) the opening panel of the “Christianity and White Supremacy: Heresy and Hope” conference (#XWS19) at Princeton University. The opening panel (“The Tradition is a Problem“) and the closing panel (“The Tradition is an Answer“) were recorded and are still available from Princeton University’s media resource. Continue reading “Christendom, White Bullshit, and the Power of Colonial Imagination, 2019”

White Bullshit

This concept is relegated to Appendix C in OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation, but on a day like this it feels important to highlight “white bullshit.”

As I write this blog post, we are still processing assassinations in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. The assassins were, no doubt, white. The assassins were men. The assassins were well-armed. The El Paso assassin had a written manifesto and details out of Dayton are still forthcoming.

The connections between these assaults on innocent civilians and white nationalism/toxic masculinity in our highest government offices is self-evident. Yet, the conversations about mental illness, and childhood influences have already begun.

Continue reading “White Bullshit”