The Transgender Day of Remembrance Memorial Service last night was beautiful, moving, and inspiring. Thanks go to the entire planning team (Debra Crawford, Beth Harrison Prado, Jenny Howard, Erin Long, Debra Mumford) as well as to Chapel Ministers Josh Robinson and Bree Harmon for designing and bringing together a beautiful service; to Christine for her moving words about the purpose of the Transgender Day of Remembrance, to musicians Harry Pickens and Carol Kraemer for music that spoke deeply to the spirit and mood of the occasion, and to featured speaker Beth Harrison Prado for her moving, enlightening, and inspiring words.
Thanks, also, to the 40 or so souls who braved the unseasonable cold and even flurries of snow to attend the service.
Special thanks go, as well, to the community members who shared their personal experiences and views with the seminary community at the panel discussion earlier in the day, on transgender experiences of faith communities. Thank you, Holly, Emma, Kayla, and Taylor, and thank you, Tina, for organizing the presentation! It helped put the significance of the memorial service in perspective — the perspective of a community whose members all too often find the doors of chapels and churches closed, and arms crossed in disapproval rather than open wide in welcome.
For those who missed the festive reception in Winn Center following the memorial, the recipient of the 2008 Butterfly Award was this year’s memorial service speaker, and long-time transgender activist, Beth Harrison Prado.
There was more — much more — in yesterday’s events, discussions, conversations, and words than I can include here at this moment. But here is one of the words that struck me with particular clarity: “prism.”
Beth, in her address last night, used the phrase “the prism that is me.” It was in the context of pointing out that all of us are more — much more — than the convenient label (transgender, gay, lesbian, straight, black, white, working class, middle aged, . . . ) that focuses someone’s attention on some single facet of our whole being at some particular moment. Those labels name important things, about our experiences; those labels relate us to an overarching structure in some important way; but each of those things is only part, a fragment, of all that we are.
If we would live into all that we are, if we would speak the truth of our larger selves with our whole lives, . . .
Indeed. Theodor Adorno said philosophy is the prism in which the unquenchable color of life is caught, the unquenchable color that comes from the realm of real possibilities, as yet unrealized. But with all due respect to Adorno, I think Beth is more accurate: not philosophy, but philosophers, are the prism. Philosophers — lovers of wisdom, but more truly, seekers of wisdom, seekers of the wisdom of love* — each one of us, in the end — are the prism that allows us to catch a glimpse of the brilliant possibilities of the world we still work for, dream for, and hope for.
* from Luce Irigaray, The Wisdom of Love