God and Gender, Justice and Joy
As followers of the Way of Jesus, we tend to share a few basic theological principles, high among them being the siblinghood of all people in God through Christ. Christ calls us to recognize and honor that all people are children of God, holy and beloved, and therefore are related to us personally. Gender is a component of every person’s identity, though it is personally understood and publically expressed in a wide variety of ways. As Christians, our faith calls us not to police one another’s gender expression or identity, but to honor one another’s struggles and stand in solidarity in the work for right-relationship, no matter the gender we claim or the one claimed by another.
That said, it cannot be denied that we live in a world where gender matters. One of the first questions asked of new parents is, “What is it?”, and the asker tends to be dissatisfied when the parents reply, “human”. Marches across the globe are organized to declare with force that gender is still a space of conflict and injustice, even in liberal democracies which espouse the equality of all. Money is raised and constituencies are mobilized around who will be granted access to public toilets, a fight which is coming to Washington State soon. Though we may see what used to be all-male spaces and positions of power being shared, we also realize that this is a relatively new phenomenon; not all of our culture’s heroes are male-presenting, but parity is still a ways off.
In some circles, this conversation focuses on a male/female binary that seeks equal pay and dignity for equal work. For others, the conversation is concerned with the sexualized violence that tends to target female-presenting folks in our communities and around the globe. Some concerns are institutional, such as the disparities around parental leave and hiring practices, while others are more personal, such as division of labor in the home and child-rearing responsibilities. No matter the specific issues or context, all of us must on some level respond to issues of gender, whether we are conscious of them or not. Some in our community can do this with relative ease, while for others negotiating gender is literally a matter of life or death.
As part of my organizing work with the (A)Rise in Power collective, I have been learning more about a community of people who have been profoundly affected by gender-based violence and discrimination: trans women of color (TWOC), especially black trans women. TWOC find themselves marginalized and oppressed by racism, gender-based violence, and transphobia, making them the highest risk population for hate crimes in America. They also find themselves on the margins of civil rights efforts formed around any one of their multiple identities, making even the biggest advances in equality work less consequential for TWOC in particular.
Our God is the God of all people, of all races and genders and expressions, and none of us is free until all of us are free. In order to fully participate in liberation work, we ourselves must become free, aware of and honest about the assumptions we have, as well as the fears and pain we carry as a result of gender policing done unto us. Therefore, I am convening a group of brave souls to develop a workshop that will help Admiral Church explore, understand, and stretch our definitions and experiences of gender. We will work with some of my UCC colleagues with expertise in the area of gender and sexuality education for churches, making this a social and spiritual learning experience. May God bless this work, and all of us, as we live into our weekly declaration, no matter who we are or where we are on life’s journey, we are in this together.
In Peace and with Love,