Seeking Nominations for the Butterfly Award

Butterfly logo

Now seeking nominations for the Butterfly Award

The Women’s Center at LPTS will continue to seek nominations for the 2011 Butterfly Award through September 1, 2011.

The Butterfly Award is an annual award given to recognize an individual in the Louisville-Jefferson metropolitan area “for advocacy and activism in working for transgender concerns, specifically justice and equality.” A recipient of the award must be a resident of the Louisville-Jefferson metropolitan area, and active in transgender advocacy, activism, or both in concert with a community organization. The award is presented following the community observance of the Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20.

The Butterfly Award celebrates gifts and achievements that are often ignored by the larger community, and brings visibility and recognition to work on behalf of a community that is frequently marginalized in public discourse. Transgender persons struggle daily with a particularly complex set of issues that stem from cultural norms around gender, structures of privilege and power built on masculinity and femininity, and widespread ignorance and prejudice about transgender specifically.

Nominations should be made in writing, and should include: the nominee’s name and contact information, the nominator’s name and contact information, and a narrative description of the nominee’s work on behalf of the transgender community that merits consideration for the award. Nominations should be sent to: The Butterfly Award, c/o the Women’s Center at LPTS, 1044 Alta Vista Rd., Louisville, KY 40205.

Please feel free to contact the Women’s Center at (502) 894-2285 or Heather Thiessen, Director, at (502) 992-9376 for additional information.

Click here to help fill the Women's Center's cup.

The Women’s Center continues to accept with gratitude contributions to the Women’s Center made 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.

Thank you!

Gender Complexity

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.”

Transgender 101 Coming Tomorrow

one of the facts of life

Transgender: one of the facts of life

If you don’t know “intersex” from “cross-dressing,” or more importantly, what it could possibly have to do with preparing a Wednesday night Bible study, then the upcoming Transgender 101 workshop (Thursday, 12:30, Winn Center-McAtee A) is for you!

Beth Harrison-Prado, local transgender educator and activist, will lead attendees through a condensed introduction to basic tems, concepts, and facts about transgender. In the process, she will address some of the silence around transgender, dispel some of the myths (for example, that transgender is a fancy word for being gay or lesbian), and make more clear why knowing about transgender matters for someone preparing a Wednesday night Bible study, whether that person is or is not her/himself transgender.

But in case anyone needs some additional encouragement to attend this basic, informative presentation, here are a few advance reasons the content of the Transgender 101 workshop may be relevant to folks doing ministry (whether or not it’s the Wednesday night Bible study), whether or not they are themselves transgender:

  1. You may be the only person in a position to dispel a myth that surfaces in conversation — whether the Wednesday night Bible study or elsewhere — and will want to have the information to do it.
  2. Transfolk are always someone’s children, grandchildren, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, parents, . . . so are probably already members of your church family.
  3. You will probably want to know at least as much about transgender and transgender concerns as the other parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, children . . .
  4. Transfolk are children of God . . . so are definitely already members of that family.
  5. Transfolk are often people of faith, and for that reason may find their way to the door of a congregation you lead or belong to, if they haven’t already.
  6. Transgender is often silent; you may not get a second chance to let someone know you do want to be their neighbor and friend.

The presentation is brown-bag, but otherwise free and open to the public. Sponsors (More Light, Gender & Minstry Committee, and the Women’s Center) hope to see many colleagues there!

On Cats, Logic, and the Transgender Day of Remembrance

I have read that in the middle ages in Europe, people actually persecuted cats. [One source: The History of Human-Animal Interaction – The Medieval Period] There was, so I have also read, a religious argument for this cruelty: “cats are the only domestic animal not mentioned in the Bible.” And since cats weren’t mentioned in the Bible, this was taken as evidence that God didn’t care about them, that their lives were not blessed. From here, it was a short step to add fear and suspicion of cats to ideas that they were outside the boundaries of God’s real concern to produce conviction that persecution was permissible.

The argument depends on the logical fallacy of “negative proof.” That fallacy draws the conclusion that, if there is no proof for a particular position, then it counts as proof against the position.

People still use this reasoning, if we can call it that, in relation to human lives they find disturbing. Someone once explained to me, fully seriously, that the presence of the Song of Songs in the Bible proves that God disapproves of homosexual relationships. Because the Song of Songs is a text that extols heterosexual physical love. And there is no counterpart Song of Songs for non-heterosexual relationships. So.

“Negative proof” is the underlying structure of the popular anti-universal-marriage slogan “It was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”

“Negative proof” is also the underlying structure of some responses to transgender lives. The word transgender does not occur in the Bible. And that is enough evidence, for some, that transgender lives don’t count for God, don’t need to count for their neighbors, and don’t qualify for the same care and protection demanded by all other human lives.

Of course, there’s plenty of positive evidence in the Bible that God cares for every member of humankind — including “the eunuchs” (Is. 56:4) and “the barren” (Is. 54:1), sexual categories that provoke less political discussion these days than in 3rd Isaiah’s time. The God who notices when sparrows fall to earth and who numbers the hairs of our heads (Matt. 10:29-31) clearly sets a high value on all kinds of lives. The Bible has a lot to say about “the least.” The evidence there points in the direction of our obligation to take special care and give special protection to those lives, the lives of “the least,” that are most likely to be disregarded and trampled in the life of business-as-usual.

The LPTS observance of the Transgender Day of Remembrance on Thursday, November 20, is one way we align ourselves with that positive proof, and affirm that the Bible does, indeed, mention transgender lives — for instance, when it tells the people of God they shall “love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18).

Mourning for Nakhia Williams

Last week, Nakhia Williams, of the Louisville transgender community, died in the hospital, of wounds she received from a shooting on August 20. Wimminwise is currently seeking more information about the memorial fund being raised to assist Nakhia’s family with expenses.

(The local blog Transgriot commented on the community’s loss, and on local media coverage of the event, last week.)

Our hearts and prayers go out to Nakhia’s family, friends, and loved ones. We pray especially for an end to violence against difference.