That’s the solar calendar. On the liturgical calendar, we’re already a week into the long, long stretch of ordinary time that runs from Trinity Sunday, this past Sunday, through November’s celebration of the Reign of Christ Sunday and the beginning of Advent on the last Sunday in November — November 27 this year. If it’s true that “when you’re green, you’re growing,” these months of ordinary time should be a stretch of growth for those of us tuned in to the rhythms of the church year.
On the academic calendar, the bass beat for the dances of seminarians, teachers, and mothers of school-age children, this is still the heat of summer in every way. It’s the brief, intense time for team sports and competitions, summer camp with its provisioning, packing, and packing-off-to, tending to gardens, getting in some afternoons at the county pool or some hours at the local library. For some it’s the time of packing, moving, re-organizing and re-structuring, taking a deep breath and taking the plunge into a new movement of the dance.
In the Women’s Center we notice all these rhythms, as each day brings us closer to the events of the Fall: Katie Geneva Cannon Lecture, September 18, and the Post-Lecture Events of Monday, September 19; the Louisville AIDS Walk the following week, Sunday, September 25; a series of lunch-hour talks with Louisville-area clergywomen, on the delights and demands of life in a religious profession; the Transgender Day of Remembrance, Sunday, November 20; 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence (November 25 – December 10), for which we are hoping to do something . . . active; and of course, more fundraising, in the form of the Evening with the Stars Benefit, and the now-becoming-traditional Fall Arts and Crafts Sale.
We recognize that the days, even though they still seem long, sunny and warm, are growing shorter daily. We appreciate their tremendous potential for reflection, deliberation, learning, and growth. And we know that they are limited, and for that reason, precious: the summer doesn’t last forever. Nor would we want it to. One day in August, we know from experience, we will notice that leaning towards the fall that is anticipation and desire for its new beginning. For now, though, we are trying to make hay while the sun of this long day is shining, and to cultivate what is green and growing now, so that it will be fruitful, and nourishing, in the days to come.Among the green and growing things we are cultivating this summer is our annual fund! You can help by making a contribution to the Women’s Center during our Summer Donation Days!
You can go to OUR ONLINE DONATION SITE, the LPTS Online Donation Site (designate your gift to the Women’s Center), or send your check payable to LPTS – WOMEN’S CENTER FUND to The Women’s Center at Louisville Seminary, 1044 Alta Vista Rd., Louisville, KY 40205.
We are so lucky to have a Women’s Center at LPTS!!!
Note that the Transgender Day of Remembrance will be observed through a number of events during the day Friday, November 20. See the Transgender Day of Remembrance Page for more details.
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
The Transgender Day of Remembrance is being observed on the Louisville Seminary campus today in two events: a panel discussion of “Transgender Experiences of Faith Communities,” 12:30-1:30, in Winn Center; and a Memorial Service that names and remembers transgender lives lost to violence during the past year, 7:00 p.m., in Caldwell Chapel. A reception follows, in Winn Center Lounge, during which the 2008 Butterfly Award for outstanding contributions to the local transgender community will be presented. [More on these events]
We observe the Transgender Day of Remembrance because we believe that every human life, made and given by God, is precious. Every human life deserves our recognition — recognition of our kindred humanity, our relationship, and our responsibility. No human life is disposable, no human life negligible — although the powers of the air* would have us believe otherwise. In naming and remembering individuals who have died — been killed — because of their gender presentation, we affirm our common humanity (. . . the communion of saints . . .), and our faith that death is not the final verdict (. . . the resurrection of the body . . .), but that a gracious God makes and gives life anew ( . . . and the life everlasting . . .).
* Eph. 2:2
The Peabody Award-winning film Soldier’s Girl will screen tonight, Wednesday, Nov. 19, at 6:30 p.m. (doors open 6:00 p.m.) in the Fellowship Hall of Caldwell Chapel. The film screening, with discussion afterwards, is one of the events associated with the observance of the Transgender Day of Remembrance at Louisville Seminary. (More information on the film is available in the Internet Movie Database entry on Soldier’s Girl)
The film dramatizes a true story, the events of which unfolded in nearby Fort Campbell. Its presentation of the relationship of an army private and a transgender civilian, and its tragic end, raises many issues about the complex relationships of gender identity, gender presentation, social roles and expectations, and what constitutes compassionate and ethical response to that complexity.
One of the principal characters in the story, Calpernia Addams, was propelled into transgender activism by the events. A brief tribute to Pfc. Barry Winchell is online at Unfinished Lives, an ongoing project of Rev. Stephen V. Sprinkle and Brite Divinity School.
I keep wondering just how much the many different configurations of body, gender, presentation and behavior (words from the Trans 101: Terms and Concepts workshop yesterday) that fit under the big umbrella of “transgender” are asked to fit there because of the rigidity of the binary gender packages of “male” and “female”, “men” and “women.” As presenter Beth Harrison-Prado noted at the outset, “transgender” is above all a word — albeit freighted with meaning in our culture — and a word required by people’s growing recognition that gender in real life, rather than in the movies, magazines, and the conventional popular cultural imagination, is complex and immensely variable.
In fact, while probably all of us have heard talk of “natural” gender imperatives, it is reasonably clear that there is a lot of energy devoted to enforcing, culturally, the results those imperatives are supposed to produce. I don’t know how many millions of marketing dollars have gone into convincing my daughter, for instance, that Hannah Montana is the paradigm girl, but I know it’s enough that it’s hard work for Mom to counteract.
This just illustrates, for me, the continuity between what we sometimes call “women’s issues” and our consideration of transgender issues, especially around the time of the Transgender Day of Remembrance. The cultural enforcement of gender “correctness” or “propriety” has taken its toll on women down through the ages, the kind of toll depending on what was considered “correct” or “proper” in the context. Women have been variously deprived of education and books, locked in corsets or in rooms, restricted to one or two lifelong occupations regardless of personal aptitude, . . . well, we could go on.
As we know, the enforcement of gender standards can take a violent and even deadly turn. Hence the Transgender Day of Remembrance. One day, let us hope, we will have faced the reality of gender complexity so honestly that no one will any longer feel the need to enforce a simplicity that is belied by the complexity that now travels under the banner of “transgender.”