By: Rev. Anna Golladay
I reside in Tennessee. My state offers some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. It is diverse and energetic, all guided by a deep commitment to the arts, music and culture. It is also one of the most dangerous places in the United States to be queer. Our state has passed legislation that criminalized trans youth, their parents, drag queens and limits the rights of humans to access life-sustaining healthcare. Quite honestly, it’s a mess. And it’s sinful.
Last month I was invited to stand before a group of queer humans, activist and community members who are against these harmful lies. They asked for me to offer my thoughts from a Christian perspective and bless the gathering. I wanted to share with you those words. I have sought some guidance from my friends at Enfleshed. They have a rich resource of liturgy, prayer and sacrament for queer folx on their website. I invite you visit and engage with their brilliance. Some of their liturgy is interspersed through my prayer.
Good evening friends. I come here tonight with a fire in my belly that is full of love for every one of you. I am in awe of who we are.
I’m also really pissed off. I’m full of rage for those who harm you and I’m sick and tired of politicians attempting to tell us who we are. We know exactly who we are and there’s not a single thing that the legislature can do to detract us from knowing our own personal truths.
No matter where we live, the color of our skin, who we love, or our gender identity, all we want is the freedom to be ourselves. Yet we see that the Supermajority in the TN State Legislature are people trying to punish kids and their parents for being themselves by not only banning gender affirming healthcare across the state but also considering it child abuse if parents pursue out of state care for their children. It’s not only abhorrent and immoral for the state to make parents criminals for seeking out what the medical community labels as standard of care for their children, but it is dangerous and deadly. Tennessee already has a suicide rate that is 30% higher than the national average and trans youth are at especially high risk of suicide. As a queer person, a Christian pastor, and frankly, just as a human, I am calling on governor Bill Lee to veto the hateful and life-threatening abuses against my LGBTQ+ community across Tennessee.
I recognize that for some of you, this stole instantly causes you to question me. I know that the brown, Jewish immigrant whom I have modeled my life after has been weaponized against many of you. Some of you have come to rediscover the God that I know – one who knitted you together ever so intricately and perfect. The God that rejoices in you loving who you love. Others of you have not. Some of you have walked fully away from every bit of connection that may have once existed to a Creator. I get it. And I’m sorry. I’m sorry that we screwed this up so badly. I’m sorry that we hurt you. Minimized you. Cast you aside. I also don’t blame you.
Even in spite of that, I offer you this blessing and prayer.
The Sacred embraces us in our multiplicity.
In our desires, our longings, our many practices of kinship and community.
Our love is declared holy – platonic and erotic, queer and collective.
As we each wish to know and be known – for who we’ve been, who we are, and who we are becoming, we honor the simple fact that identities change, flow, transition.
We delight in authentic self-expression, quickly shifting or slowly emerging strange or familiar.
We remember the incarnation is an eternally unfolding event.
We look and feel and listen all around us – indeed, God is here.
Let us not cower. Let us not turn on each other.
Let us protect one another, divesting from all white supremacy, misogyny, classism, ableism, ageism, and nonbinary erasure among us.
May we each examine – in what ways do we contribute to the struggles of our own trans siblings?
Let us bind our lives, our resources, our spirits together.
May we live into the truth that every loss of one is a loss to us all.
Let all who desire to be in solidarity come.
Let the memories of our queer ancestors sustain us.
Let us remember that all forces of dominance work against our thriving.
No appealing to structures of privilege can save us.
We will not be legislated out of existence.
We are truly ourselves when we tell the truth about our stories, our bodies, our communities.
We are truly ourselves when we fight for each other.
We are truly ourselves when we resist destructive policies, practices, theologies, and authorities.
In the days ahead.
In struggle. In joy. In death. In transition. In collective rising.
We are truly ourselves. This will always be so.