Let Us Remember (Sermon for Transgender Remembrance Day)

Tonight we gather for the eighth time here in central Ohio to remember an incident

    that happened so long ago . . .
    in a place far away –
    the brutal murder of Rita Hester, one of our own.

What happened to Rita prompted a lot of complacent people to get off their duffs and address something that we were all way to uncomfortable with. . .

    the exploitation and murder of our transgender brothers and sisters.

If this is your first time here, welcome. We are here to remember, cry and embrace those who have been hid behind the closet door way too long.

Rita was a big woman (6’2” and 230 pounds) – not someone who projected an air of vulnerability. She was comfortable in her skin and had been ‘Rita’ for over ten years, a fully integrated transgender person. Everyone knew her as Rita —- in fact, most of her friends and acquaintances (straight and LGBT) had never heard her male birth name.

Sometime around 6 pm, on the 28th of November 1998 someone brutally stabbed Rita in her apartment in a Boston suburb. So brutally, that she was in cardiac arrest and died before arriving at the hospital. But that is only half the story. . .

Society had a problem what anything that doesn’t seem ‘normal’ to them. . .

But in light of recent events hitting the news, I really wonder what ‘normal’ is.

Here we are, trying to live our lives the best we can . . . be we lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning or straight. We tickle cooing babies, sometimes wake up cranky, . . . carry out the garbage, . . . put gas in our cars, pay the bills, . . . do grocery shopping.

We’re just poor schleps trying to build a life where we can find happiness and love and meaning.

Just like every other person living in our complex, . . . on our block, . . . in our city.

But we are different — by the twist of a couple genes, we have been dealt a different card — one that isn’t in the “standard” deck. One that makes us unique, . . and special . . and,

    unfortunately, viewed as ‘abnormal’ by society.

We are that round peg they are trying to put in a square hole.

But you know what, I kind of like being a round peg in a square hole —– square holes have sharp edges. . . they are inflexible. . . squares can only exist with other squares. . . But round is nice. Round is smooth and soft and can fit anywhere. We can fit in with squares, and triangles, and even other strange shapes. We fill in the spaces that would otherwise be empty, . . . and cold. . . and . . . lonely.

We bring love to the world. We don’t return hatred for hatred, but give love.

Just recently, when the Episcopal Church’s General Convention was held in Columbus, the national Integrity organization held a service at Trinity on Capital Square. It was the largest gathering of GLBT clergy and lay persons this city has ever seen. As part of my ministry toward ordination in the Episcopal Church, I put the service together. We had over a hundred GLBT clergy vested – and let me tell you, there is nothing more colorful than the boys all dressed up. We crammed the church, had people sitting on the stairs to the basement, sitting on the front steps. Just because they wanted to be a part of a huge ‘love’ service. Bishop Gene Robinson looked out over pews when he started to preach and said, looking out over about 1200 people:

    “This is what heaven looks like”.

And he WAS RIGHT!!!!

And this gathering tonight is what Heaven looks like too.

I had fellow diaconal students who attended the service and even a rector’s wife say to be me that they had never felt so much love in a service before.

Well, duh!!!!!

In the face of discrimination and rejection, we still know that we are God’s children and we are loved.

And we love..

And we share that love.

Just because someone is ill-informed . . . or prejudiced . . . or just plain stupid . . . that doesn’t mean we don’t love them anyway.

Our love, . . . and compassion, . . . and acceptance are things that we give. To those who need it,

to those who want it,

and even to those who don’t want it!

We have been on the wrong end of the whooping stick — we know how it feels — and we are not going to turn around and use it on someone else!

But that doesn’t mean we sit and take the abuse. It is our responsibility . . . and duty . . . to work for acceptance.

One person at a time,

each and every day.

I had an official of a church come to me and want to ask questions about what it was like being a lesbian. It seems that he thought he had never had ‘one of those’ in his congregation.

Get a grip! We are everywhere!

Even though it can be really hard, we need to shine our lights on the world and let them know that we are like them. . . .

And we have a lot of offer, if given the chance.

That is the challenge I make tonight —— each one of us get out of our own closet —- and show the world our beauty.

To quote a wise old man,

    “It is hard to hate someone that you have broken bread
    Let’s get baking . . . . and breaking that bread!

So tonight we gather, . . .
to remember, . . .
to cry a little, . . .
to hold each other . . .

and remember those 352 transgender Children of God who have died brutally at the hands of others since Rita.

Let us remember these people.

Cry for those who we have lost, . . .
and their families,. . . .
and our society.

Then let us go out from there to honor their lives and their deaths
By loving that society. . .
By spreading that love to every person we meet. . . .

Every day of our lives!
Delivered at Transgender Remembrance Day, 19 November 2006

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