I am very grateful to be invited by the Revd Canon Dr Garry Deverell to speak at a vigil celebrating the kinship of trans people in Christ’s church on International Trans Day of Visibility.
This land is God’s land, and God’s Spirit dwells here. I acknowledge the Elders of the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nations, and that sovereignty was never ceded.
I turn fifty this year. One of the benefits of being this old is having lived through some history. One of the detriments, however, is having to watch the bad parts of that history again raise their ugly heads. Sadly, history does repeat, and I recognise the current anti-trans rhetoric.
I first came out as ‘not entirely heterosexual’ (bisexual) at a national Uniting Church meeting in 1997. At the time I was a Sunday School teacher in my local congregation, and I immediately checked with the parents to see if they were still okay with me teaching their children, since LGB people were then often portrayed as dangerous to children, because we were either going to abuse them or recruit them. (It was the Church of All Nations – they were fine.) During the 1990s and early 2000s I had people ask me why we wanted to allow openly LGB people into ministry, when we were simultaneously putting rules in place to prevent the sexual abuse of children by church leaders. For such people homosexuality and bisexuality were inseparable from paedophilia.
Lesbians and bisexual women were also seen as predatory and dangerous to have in women’s changing rooms. I see someone like Martina Navratilova now being the patron of the anti-trans Lesbian Project and wonder why she can’t remember ‘the locker room effect’ of the 1990s, when studies of sports teams found that cisgender lesbian athletes were shunned by other team members in single-sex spaces.
When I hear transphobes talk about trans+ people as ‘groomers,’ and some women expressing their fear of having trans women in women’s only spaces, I remember that people used to say exactly the same things about cisgender lesbian and bisexual women. I suspect that such people have only now pivoted to attacking trans+ people because they have lost the battle against social acceptance of LGB people, and so pure self-interest should lead cisgender LGB people to stand with trans+, non-binary and gender-diverse people. If groups like Binary, which used to be the anti-marriage equality ‘Marriage Alliance,’ succeed in forcing trans+ people back into the closet they will not stop there.
Both because of my own history and because I know our enemies will be coming for people like me next, I stand with trans+ people.
I hope that I would stand with trans+ people even if I were 100% heterosexual, even if my own sexuality had never been attacked and I had no personal experience of the homophobia of the 1990s and 2000s. As the fabulous writer, editor, human rights graduate student and ‘Pirate King of the Moon,’ Jay Ediden says: ‘Fight for trans rights not because you might be next, but because we are already human beings who deserve basic safety, dignity, and self-determination.’ I was so proud that the Moderator of the Uniting Church’s Synod of Victoria and Tasmania said in a statement, ‘The Uniting Church stands against ideologies of hate. It is distressing to hear there was a rally of anti-trans activists, including neo-Nazis, in Melbourne on March 18. Ideologies driven by supposed superiority and hatred of others are abhorrent. All of our trans members and friends warrant support and love, within and beyond the church.’
Sadly, Christianity has often promoted ideologies driven by supposed superiority and hatred. It has absolutely never gone well. Churches have had to apologise for being involved in slavery and settler colonialism and Nazism and apartheid. Christianity only truly follows Jesus when everyone is both welcomed and able to welcome others, and when Christians both are the oppressed and those who stand on the side of the oppressed. We can be bitterly grateful that the Melbourne Nazis have made the right side of this conflict so clear. Obviously, Christians always need to be on the side that Nazis are not.
And we can hold onto hope. It may be a cliché to quote Martin Luther King Jr, but I also find it a comfort: ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’ Those who hate us have already lost so many battles. They are only attacking trans+ people now because they lost the fight against marriage equality. They are our enemies in the biblical sense, they persecute us, and so we must love them, and pray for them, and ensure that they lose this latest conflict, too. Because we know that a world of justice and peace is better for everyone, including those who fight against it, and history tells us that injustice and hatred can be overcome. So, let us keep working towards that, together.
Thank you – that is excellent