All God's Children

Yesterday afternoon, Jan and I attended what was for us a somewhat unusual gathering. We attended the Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremony remembering the 91 people who were killed by anti-transgender violence in the past year. Many more are pushed to suicide each year, seeing no hope for acceptance by the larger community. This is something that is somewhat new to us, but in the past few years, we have become aware of friends and even relatives who are wrestling with gender identity issues.

At the event, we heard some heartbreaking stories of people who have experienced physical assaults, tremendous social stigma, and frequent thoughts of suicide as a result of their struggle over their gender identity. Some have initiated and/or completed medical treatments to change their physical characteristics to better fit with their deep conviction that their identity is better expressed either with the gender other than that with which they were identified at birth, or with a “non-binary” gender identity – something that may combine aspects of both male and female characteristics. Some of these people look strange to most of us more “conventional” middle-class suburbanites. This is something that was not part of the world I grew up in, so I was not entirely comfortable in this setting.

However, later that evening, I was telling a friend about my experience of the afternoon, and he surprised me with an important observation. He asked me which group of people in Denver on this Sunday afternoon was Jesus more likely to join for dinner. He said, “He probably wouldn’t come to my house!” Jesus was regularly criticized for associating with outcasts and sinners of all kinds. I had to agree with Eric. He probably wouldn’t come to my house either. And given the love that was evident within the community that was present, I would have to say that Jesus was present with this group.

Who are the outcasts in our community today? The transgendered community sure strikes me as a group that qualifies today, along with the homeless, the addicted and non-English speakers, among others. While they are not the only ones who are turned away by their families and community as being unacceptably other, they struck me as people who are especially isolated. They are forming a community who cares for each other, but expressed great need for love and care from the larger community.

I don’t know how I will relate to the transgendered community in the future, but I do know that they are people who have as much claim on God’s love as I do. I pray that I will be one who will show them love and acceptance, both as they come into my life directly, and as I encounter them on the receiving end of hate and isolation.

Lord, teach us how to love even those with whom we feel uncomfortable, knowing that they too are your children and the focus of your great love. Amen

David Erickson-Pearson

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