Today is Transgender Day of Visibility. Somehow this did not make it onto my calendar. Opps. Do I feel sheepish.
What’s my excuse? I could say that I didn’t have suficent emotional bandwith to mark the day fittingly. After all it is the birthday of my mom (the first sine her death) and it’s Tuesday of Holy Week so I’ve been thinking about priesthood and vows and chrism and baptism.
As good as that sounds, it’s not a good excuse. No excuse. I just missed it. Even if I had known I don’t know what I would have done to mark the day. I sit here at my computer at 6:30pm on the west coast, knowing it is far too late for me to do anything to mark the day now. I feel that I have let my community down.
This is not a new sensation for me. Over the past year or so I’ve been feeling more and more that I’ve not done enough for justice when it comes to the trans community. I’m so proud of what others of my trans sisters and brothers are doing. Mostly it is my younger peeps that I admire. They are pushing and agitating for change. They are such incredible folk. They are carrying the banner and I’m feeling a bit guilty that I’m not.
However by what I would call divine providence, something did happen today that marks it, even though I didn’t plan it. One of my peers asked me to speak at a Transgender Day of Remembrance event. I was delighted to accept the invitation, my second invitation for that weekend.
Maybe I’m not the best activist. OK maybe I’m not an activist at all. However I’m am doing my part. It’s a small part. Others have a bigger part to play and so be it. However one thing you can be sure of: TDOV will be on my calendar for 2016.
Today is your birthday. I keep wanting to pick up the phone and call you but… Your birthday always falls either in late Lent or during Holy Week as this year. Because of my chosen vocation I almost never got to me with you on your birthday. I do regret that.
At the same time I’m remembering one year when Marie and I conspired to pull off a surprise visit. It was so great to walk into the house that day and greet you on your birthday. I break into a huge smile just thinking about that occasion.
This year your birthday falls on Tuesday of Holy Week and I find myself at St Mark’s Cathedral. It’s the Chrism service and includes the renewal of ordination vow for those of us who are clergy. In fact I’m writing this letter from the nave of St Mark’s, while facing your pillar.
You didn’t know you had a pillar? Well there are four pillars in the nave of St Mark’s, two by the altar and two among the pews. The two up front have always symbolized you and dad. His is near the pulpit. Yours in the one that has the flowers at its base.
You are a pillar in my life. It took me a long time to understand that. However I’m thankful that I came to that knowledge and got tell you how special you are. I carry not just your DNA but your wisdom and you love and your passion.
I miss you so much. Today I’m wearing the only necklace I have. It’s one of yours. I love it because the stones are smooth but each is distinct, beautiful and not uniformed. You can’t see through them but they gleam. They are so you.
Happy Birthday, mom. God grant you many years (an eternity of them).
I miss the days when I could write and be uncensored. There was a time when I could say just about anything I wanted to say. There would be consequences only to me. This is not so now. It has not been the case for years. Nowadays what I say has consequences not just for me but for many others.
A big part of this is linked directly to ordination as a priest. It was the Rev. Janet Campbell who first made me aware of how ordination “narrows” a person. Later it was the Rt. Rev. Nedi Rivera who expanded on that idea in a way that really hit home.
The white collar that I wear opens doors for me. There is no doubt about that. However it also closes doors. My promise to “be guided by the pastoral direction of your bishop” and by “those who have authority over me and my work” limits me. As a lay person I took no such promises. As a priest I vowed (twice) to “conform to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church.”
In view of these promises I choose my words more carefully. In an age where the things we say live forever (because of the Internet), so many religious leaders are caught putting their foot in their mouth. I have no desire to join the feet feast that plays out before me almost daily.
On the other hand, the bishop told me at my ordination that “it will be your task to proclaim by word and deed the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to fashion your life in accordance to its precepts.” This is certainly a call to speak, even if the words are not popular and to live in a way that others may see as foolish or counter-cultural. I have also vowed to do that.
I’m thinking about all of this tonight because tomorrow (Tuesday of Holy Week) I will be at St Mark’s Cathedral–the congregation where I first experienced the Episcopal Church and the place where I discovered baptismal ministry as a lay-person. I will be there for the Chrism Mass and the renewal of ordination vows. It is fitting that I renew my vows there since it was the place where I first took my Episcopal vows of ordination.
It is also the place where I first encountered the Chrism Liturgy. It was Holy Week of 2001 (I think). I was at this service. When the time for the renewal of ordination vows came, I found myself standing. But then I remembered that I was former clergy. In tears I turned and walked out the of the cathedral. I was at the rear of the nave and so my departure was discreet. However one person saw it and came to ask it I were alright. It was the Rev. Herb Anderson. I told him why I was crying and he grieved with me. I pray that I will never forget that kindness.
All of this comes with me, as I prepare to step into my cathedral tomorrow.
It is 12:11am on Sunday March 29th. It is officially Palm Sunday/The Sunday of the Passion. Holy Week has begun. There is only one preacher whose voice I do NOT want to hear: me. Unfortunately I have to hear my voice three times this week. Today I extent an invitation, after the reading of the Passion, for folk to view a mural created by our children of the Passion narrative. Wednesday I have the homily at our contemplative Eucharist. Friday I have the homily after the Passion narrative.
I can tell that I am old now because I don’t delight in preaching during this week. I have had my chance. I have preached 16 years of Holy Week services. In all of those attempts I have judged my preaching efforts to be insufficient. Also at this point in my life I have no desire to preach during this week.
Once upon a time this was not the case. I once looked forward to being the featured preacher during Holy Week. I wanted to speak. I had things to say that I thought were valuable and even beautiful. However now I look back over 16 years of Holy Week preaching and I cherish what I delivered at the Easter Vigil at St Mark’s in 2014. Not one word of what I said was my own. It was all from St John Chrysostom. It was the best thing I’d ever said during Holy Week.
However there are people whose voices I want to hear this Holy Week. I want to hear what my rector has to say, and I will hear that. At the same time there are a slew of voices that I’d love to hear: Alfredo Feregrino, Irene Tenabe, Shelley Fayette, Sarah Monroe, Bishop Rivera and others. A great gift to me would be to hear you.
I’m watching one of my favorite Star Trek episodes: City on the Edge of Tomorrow. I just learned that it was written by Harlan Ellison. He is a favorite writer of mine. He was also a favorite of my late husband husband.
This was one of the most complex episodes of Star Trek. It raised troublesome question about peace and war. I recall being struck by this episode because i saw it in the midst of the Civil Rights movement and the Anti-War movement.
It happened again last night: another episode of binge eating. I am subject to bouts of binge eating. Unlike many eating disorders mine did not start early in life. As a child living in my parents’ house I ate what they provided. No issues of binging while growing up.
After high school I went straight to college. As a student (undergrad, seminary, postgrad) I always lived on campus. Room and board were part of the deal of living on campus, so I ate the food that was provided. With the exception of my last year, the only jobs I had were work study jobs so I didn’t have money to spend on food. No issues of binge eating at school.
After I left seminary and entered the “real world” of adulthood, food became a problem. Now I was in charge of all the decisions to be made about food. I fell into many bad habits and that’s when I began to binge eat. Oddly enough I didn’t consider my behavior to be binge eating in those days. In fact I didn’t know the term “binge eating” and I never thought of my eating as anything other than normal overeating. If you would have said to me then that I had an eating disorder, I would have said, “No. Eating disorders are things that young skinny white women have and I am none of those things (ignorance? Yes; and at the time I was in denial around my gender issues too).”
It was only after I started at Weight Watchers that I began to understand there is a big difference between over eating and binge eating. It was in Weight Watchers that I first heard the phrase “binge eating” and heard stories of people who had eating episodes like me. It was then that I realized what I was up against. In the days before Weight Watchers I was binging at least twice a week. Getting on top of my normal eating has not been hard. Dealing with binge eating has been hard.
For the last year and a bit my binge eating has returned with a vengeance. For about 10 months it was completely out of control. Since then it is only slightly out of control. I have lost ground but I’m committed to strengthening my recovery from binge eating. This work will call for a baptismal covenant approach. An approach that says: “I will, with God’s help.” These words call me to humility, trust, mindfulness, accountability and hope. This just happens to be the way I want to live my entire life.
Holy Week looms before me. Last year I had the worst Holy Week in my memory. I suspect that Holy Week of 1999 was sadder but I don’t actually remember that week. However I clearly remember Holy Week of 2014. Between Palm Sunday and the Easter Vigil I learned that I had been passed over for, not one, not two, but three positions I was up for in my chosen profession.
On top of this I was dealing with the sudden death of my husband and the impending death of my mother. That Easter morning I intended to go to St Mark’s for the Easter Sunday worship experience. I never got there. Instead I drove right past the exit for the cathedral and went north. I found myself in Brier and at the site of my husband’s grave. There I poured out my sadness, my despair and my anger. After a ton of tears, I pronounced that I was ready to accept that I was at the end of my profession. I told him that I was ready to give up my vocational goals and to accept whatever grim future was ahead for me.
That Easter season did not hold pleasant thing for me. Both of my parents would die, within three weeks of each other. Oh, last year this was a grim time.
This Holy Week approaches and finds me in a very different space. I could not have possibly imagined a year ago the place where I find myself today: “the barren rejoice and the childless finds herself surrounded by children.” In my old age I have come to know, in some small way, the joy of children. God has planted them in my heart and I can do nothing but love them. Whatever gifts of creativity I have I want to bring to them so that they also rejoice in the love of God in Christ. As this Holy Week comes I see that once again I am in the Paschal Mystery. With Christ I have died and risen and by God’s grace I have come again to a place of ministry.