remarkable summer

It’s been a remarkable summer.

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At the Print Center, things have been in their usual state of flux. Something new is happening. Some new plan is emerging but it changes practically every day. Every day I show up for work and my badge keeps working. Each day I make copies, produce posters, build brochures, create cards and manufacture books. Some days I work 8am to 4:30pm and some day I work 11am to 730pm. I am well compensated for that work and I live with the uncertainly of what the future will be. All I know is that whatever that future is, it includes me. For that I thank God.

At church I’ve done my best to sit in for our rector as she has been on sabbatical. I admit that I’ve enjoyed being the principle preacher and presider during this summer.Once again I’ve seen my greatest gift come shining forth. It have been a delight to see God’s people being built up in the faith and to have the joy of being a vessel for that work.

A series of funerals has challenged me to rise to new heights of liturgical ministry. God has energized the preaching gift the Spirit has given me to bring the Gospel of Christ into people’s lives in new ways. Once again I stand in wonder of God’s grace and bow in reverence before God’s wisdom. I look forward to our rector’s return and to continued service with her and with the people of Ascension, Seattle.

At home is where the greatest changes have taken place this summer. To begin with we moved the day after Memorial Day weekend. We now live in SeaTac. We have gone from a two bedroom first floor apartment to a three bedroom house. That alone was a big change but then our household expanded. My grand-nephew has come to stay with us at least into December. We are now three generations in one house. My grand-nephew will start school this week. I find myself living with a 6-year-old for the first time since I was but a child over 45 years ago. This pleases me.

As this summer comes to an end, change is coming again on all fronts.

Work: the boos is doing a lot of traveling and I’ll be holding the fort for many days–overtime is coming.

Church: Our rector returns and I step more fully into my new role as Priest Associate.

Home: The grand-nephew starts school. That will be a new things for me–a child in school. Wow.

Come change. Teach me new things.

gray day in seatac

It was a grey, breezy and cool day up here on the hill. We live in the McMicken Heights neighborhood of SeaTac and it really is a heights. From our neighborhood you can look north and see the spires of downtown Seattle. Looking west and south you see the Cascades and Mt Rainier. Peering northwest on a clear day you can glimpse Mt Baker. However my favorite vista from our neighborhood is west. Looking that way you see the planes coming and going from SeaTac International Airport. And beyond that the Olympic Mountains and the oranges and reds that decorate the sky as the sun sets behind them.

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The Olympics have always been my favorite. It pleases me to glimpse their peaks from my living room window. They have always spoken to me of home, not Cleveland, but a home that is out there, yet to be tasted, waiting for me. My brain knows that beyond the Olympics is the Pacific and I know that Asia lies on the other side. However the Olympics speak to me of the sea from which Aslan comes, the western sea that the elves cross and the River Jordan which I must one day cross to be home for all eternity. I like living in the shadow of the Olympics because they remind to number my days so that I might apply my heart to wisdom.

The geography of the place is powerful. I’ve lived in this region now for 24 years, over half of my life. In that time I’ve become familiar with the terrain, the vistas, the weather, the sky, the waters, the trees, the smells, the sounds, the light, the rain, the clouds, the long summer days and the long winter nights. On a day like this when the wind seethes in the trees and the clouds hurry by, I can hear summer whisper its first goodbyes. Change. Always change.

my new skill

I certainly had an exciting moment today. I added an item to my list of employable skills. I can now add pallet jack operator to my resume. This is not exactly what I had in mind when I thought of adding tools to my professional toolbox. Oh well. Such is life.

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Howard’s birthday

Today the love of my life would have been 63 years old. He was taken from me much too soon (IMHO). I still miss him more than I can express.

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Picture of a frame that I found in Howard’s belongings and the photo I put into it

I thought that I would miss him less as time went by but that has not happened. I’ve gotten used to his absence but my heart still longs for him. I still desire his touch. I find myself watching “The Cost of Gender” just to see his image and hear his voice. I love him deeply to this day and I cherish the time we had together.

I admit that I have doubts about me as the years go by. As a 57 year old black trans woman, I doubt if I’ll ever get the chance to experience love in that way again. I wonder if Howard will turn out to be the first and last love of my life. If that is the case then I will not cry over that. I’ve had the chance to experience true love. How can I feel sorry for myself, when I’ve had that joy?

I was recently at the memorial service for a member of the congregation where I serve as priest and a poem was printed in the service bulletin. It reminded me of Howard and this is how it ran:

Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Nothing has happened.

Everything remains exactly as it was.
I am I, and you are you,
and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.

Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it.

Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was.
There is absolute and unbroken continuity.
What is this death but a negligible accident?

Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval,
somewhere very near,
just round the corner.

All is well.
Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!

by Henry Scott-Holland

Happy Birthday, my beloved Howard. I raise a glass to you tonight, filled with a nice French wine. I pour out a half and I drink a half. We share it, as we shared that last day. Do you remember how we parted? Of course you do. We kissed.

 

interview and aftermath

Last week I was interviewed as part of a grant-funded research project. The subject of the project is transgender clergy and their experience. The interviewer said that there is a body of work out there of trans clergy talking about theology (as one would expect). However the interviewer was more interested in documenting the stories of trans clergy and was surprised to find so few sources (primary and secondary). Thus the interviewer is collecting oral histories.

At first I too was surprised at the lack of sources about the lives of trans clergy. But when I stopped to think about it, it seemed only right. The culture has experienced a surge in transgender visibility but trans clergy are not at the head of that surge. We are not being interviewed on popular TV shows. We are not appearing on the covers of magazines. The popular media is completely uninterested in us.

After the interview was over I began to think about how I feel about transgender visibility. I’m pleased to see that visibility growing. I’m pleased to see activists that are trans and are pushing trans issues forward. I’m pleased to see a younger generation of leaders coming out of the trans community.

I’ve heard the complaint from my younger peers that we older trans folk resist new voices but that’s not where I am. I want to do what I can to encourage those voices and to encourage new leaders. I hear (and kinda understand) the criticism of my generation. I’m aware that us baby-boomers have a tendency to stay on the stage longer than we should.

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And there is a big part of me wants to get off the stage. That part wants to take the final bows and exit stage left. That part of me wants to retire from public life, stop writing, cease public speaking, leave off being a banner bearer and just live quietly and unobtrusively with my family. But there’s another part of me that knows is not time to leave the stage. Rather it is time to move upstage to make room for and support other players to be downstage.

It’s not time to completely leave the stage because the culture needs to see transgender folk in all of our diversity. The culture needs to see trans folk who are in the church and changing the church. The culture needs to see black trans women with gray hair. The culture needs to see trans folk like me, even as it hears new voices and sees new faces.

anniversary

The anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood came and went quietly a couple of weeks ago.

Yes, this transgender priest was ordained on the Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord.
Has it already been seven years since that warm August day in 2009? Hard to believe but yes. So much has happened in these seven years. They have been full of twists and turns, dark days and bright shining moments, failures and triumphs.

The Saturday before last I was in the Magnolia Seafair Parade. Afterwards as I was walking around the event I was stopped by a shockingly large number of people. Those encounters seemed to sum up the last seven years.

Members of The Church of the Ascension, where I serve as Associate Priest, were there and greeted me.

A couple of people who I’d never seen in my life stopped me to comment on the hat I was wearing at the parade. One person said, “You must be one fun priest.”

Another person wanted to thank me for the way I conducted a funeral service earlier in the summer.

One young person approached me and said, “You were at my school talking about trans issues. Thanks for doing that.”

Another person shyly asked, “Are you the woman who was in ‘The Cost of Gender?'” When I said yes, she smiled broadly and said, “That video was so cool. I’m so glad a religious person was in it.”

Another person, “You were a guest preacher at my church. I’ll never forget the angel wings and the sword.”

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It was an amazing set of encounters that led me to muse about the last seven years. And yet if you asked me for the most remarkable moment o my ordained life, it would be an easy answer.

In 2012 I was a priest in the deputation of the Diocese of Olympia to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. Before the convention that year were a pair of resolutions to change the Constitution and Canons of the church to include transgender folk in the every level of church leadership. I got the chance to stand on the floor and address the convention twice on the question. I got to introduce myself as a priest and make an impassioned plea for trans-inclusion in my church. The convention overwhelmingly passed both resolutions. If I am remembered for only one thing may it be for that. At any rate, looking at these first seven years, it’s not been the road I expected but, wow, has it has been an E ticket ride.

Sola Deo Gloria!