Transgender Remembrance

Singing the Faith Plus editor, Laurence Wareing, introduces Transgender Remembrance Day (20 November, 2017) and resources to help mark it.

Hate crime is growing in Britain. The official statistics for 2016/17 (England and Wales) record a 29 per cent increase on the previous year across all categories of hate crime. In large part, the rise is attributed to a growing willingness to report such crimes. But not all. Events such as the European Referendum and terrorist attacks on Westminster Bridge and in Manchester are cited as presenting contributing factors.

Race hate crimes are by far the largest category (78 percent). However, the highest percentage increases were in Disability hate crimes (53 per cent) and Transgender hate crimes (a 45 per cent increase, from 858 to 1,234).

To say that Transgender hate crime constitutes “only” two per cent of the overall total misses the point. The numbers are shocking both in themselves and as also as one indicator of a society’s overall health.

Six years ago, on the Sunday nearest to 20 November, I attended a worship service in which we remembered those who had been killed during the previous year as a result of anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. I was shocked and moved by what I heard. Name after name was read out – individuals from all over the world, many of them from south American countries – and we listened in deepening silence.

We know that so often it is minority groups in society that bear the greater weight of prejudice and our intolerance towards those “not like us”. I had not understood the degree of hatred experienced by many transgender communities worldwide. And once again I was made to reflect hard on my Christian commitment to equality and diversity, inspired by the grace-filled life and teachings of Jesus.

Rita Hester, whose murder inspired the first Transgender Remembrance Day

Transgender Day of Remembrance is held in November to honour Rita Hester, whose murder on 28 November 1998 inspired a candlelight vigil in San Francisco in 1999. Each year since, a list of those killed during the previous 12 months is compiled and their lives recalled on this day.

Although not every person represented during the Day of Remembrance is self-identified as transgender (as a transsexual, crossdresser, or otherwise gender-variant), each was a victim of violence based on bias against transgender people.

Resources for transgender Remembrance

Though there are a number of websites that provide helpful information around Transgender Remembrance, it is not easy to find resources for use in worship.

Last year (2016):

The 2013 publication Bold I Approach, produced by the Methodist LGBT organisation Outcome, includes a prayer for use on Transgender Remembrance Day by Jan Goddard. The volume includes other resources appropriate for the occasion.

On Singing the Faith Plus, we have published a hymn, We come today to celebrate, by the Revd Stephanie Jenner, written for the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Eucharist at the 2013 Greenbelt Festival. Though Transgender Remembrance is often a quiet and reflective occasion, Stephanie’s words – sung to the tune “Amazing Grace” – may lend to the occasion a helpful note of Christian hopefulness. Also published here is Gary Hopkins’ When our views are varied.

The International Transgender Day of Remembrance website offers an introduction to the day and maintains an up to date list of those who will be remembered each year. It also lists where remembrance events will take place including in the UK (usually upated near the time). See also the Metropolitan Community Churches website, which includes other helpful links and a simple running order for an act of remembrance.

For more information about the Methodist Church in Britain’s policies on equality and diversity, contact Jennifer Crook, the Connexional Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Adviser. Also read the Methodist Church’s theological underpinning for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.

Categories: Special Sundays and weeks, Worship Resources.

3 Responses to Transgender Remembrance

  1. Donna newby says:

    Why do you have a section on transgender people remembrance – why is this necessary?
    I ask people because their isn’t a remembrance section for all other people who could also be remembered – why was it deemed appropriate for transgender people who may well be, in most part, people who are unwell in a way that makes them feel they are the wrong sex. This can come about through demon involvement; so instead of remembering them and focusing on them as people who perhaps cannot be changed as if it is a natural thought to feel you are someone you are not; shouldn’t we be reaching out to these people in pray and deliverance, as necessary to support and understand the situation, and do something about them, because I am convinced that through God’s love and a relationship with God and Emerson in the scriptures, these distressing thoughts will no longer be a problem for the people.

    • Editor says:

      Hi Donna – thanks for being in touch. I can’t comment on your views about transgender folk. As to why there are materials relating to Transgender Remembrance on the site, this is one remembrance service amongst many that we highlight at different times on StF+, including the forthcoming Disbility Sunday, the annual November remembrance services, and other services that don’t carry the term “Remembrance” with them e.g. Mothering Sunday, Racial Justice Sunday. We vary which Sundays/occasions we highlight from year to year but hope to cover all these events and others at different times.

    • Ian Worsfold says:

      Dear Donna,

      I would suggest that some of your views are precisely why this is necessary. There are many minority groups around the world who are misunderstood and about whom the Church needs educating – transgender people are among these groups.

      There are many and complex reasons why people identify themselves as Transgender and I am only beginning to learn about this myself, but it is *important* to educate myself. It would be very helpful if those of us who do not identify in this way could draw alongside, understand, befriend those who do so that the prejudice begins to fade.

      It is too easy to dismiss things that we don’t understand, and I would advise caution before any of us does this in relation to Transgender people.

      I hope this is helpful – and also thank you Laurence for drawing this – and many other opportunities for remembrance – to our attention.

      Ian Worsfold

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