Students at United Methodist-affiliated Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC gathered Thursday for a special service to commemorate the lives of persons who identify as transgender.
The noontime “Transgender Day of Remembrance” service held November 19 at Wesley’s Oxnam chapel was sponsored by Of Sacred Worth, a student organization established to promote understanding of LGBTQ people in the church.
“The Transgender Day of Remembrance is more than just a memorial. It raises public awareness of hatred and violence against those in our transgender community, which often the media suppresses,” a speaker introduced. “It publicly mourns and honors the lives of those who might otherwise be forgotten, giving their silent lives new voices. It is an opportunity to meet hatred and indifference with love and respect. It offers us all an opportunity to stand together and say ‘no more.’”
During the time of communion, the approximately 40 participants were invited to light a candle “as a visible expression of prayer and memorial for those who have died”.
“Today, we remember our siblings lost at the hands of hatred, evil and violence because of their gender identity and expression,” read a student prayer leader. “Today we restore anew our commitment to protect, support and remember our transgender siblings.”
The scripture reading for the service came from Isaiah Chapter 56: “Preserve justice and do righteousness, for liberation is about to come and justice will be revealed. How blessed is the one who does this and the one that takes hold of it.” The reading continues with God’s promises to eunuchs, which LGBTQ activists conflate with persons who identify as transgender.
“God of transformations, set us free to change and grow,” read the prayer leader. “We rejoice in the lives of our transgender siblings: different, strong, dynamic and loved.”
During the communion liturgy, Wesley Professor and Episcopal Priest Sathianathan Clarke proclaimed: “It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, O Father and Mother, creator of all things old, new and in transition.”
“Even though we proclaim that Christ was sacrificed once for all, we seem to need and want victims of sacrifice,” Clarke lamented. “We ‘other’ people so that in some way they are dishonored and then we kill them so that in some way the logic of sacrifice will prevail.”
Clarke invited the congregation into a time of mourning the deaths of “those who wish to pursue the calling of sexuality that God has called them to” and to repent of “a refusal to accept difference, knowing that in the end, all difference is honored by God.”
Reciting the names of transgender persons lost to violence over the past year, Clarke named them “living beacons” of God’s “unending love here on earth.” During the administration of communion, a slideshow projected the images of persons who had died in the United States and Latin America, believed to have been killed for their transgender identity.
As the service concluded, participants prayed “God, we thank you that you have given us all a place to call home and that you have been with us on our journeys. Bring us even closer to you,” before departing in silence.