(The following text is Margeaux's Transgender Day of Remembrance speech. For those unfamiliar with TDOR, it is an annual event observed worldwide which honors our transgender brothers and sisters who have fallen victims to capital hate crimes. The speech was delivered by proxy.)
Transgender Day of Remembrance November 19, 2005
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you all for being here. Your presence here and whatever reasons that have brought you here, brings hope and compassion to this special gathering--the gender community. This is a special community that has its share of suffering and misunderstanding--yet it is our pain and marginalization that have strengthened our bonds of support for each other as we begin our lives again in new brotherhoods and sisterhoods.
Maybe you have a significant other, family member, or friend who is transgender. Perhaps you are a brother or sister in the LGBTIQ community who has also shared a difficult journey. Perhaps you are a Spiritual or political ally guided by your conscience to seek a better world based upon compassion and justice. Possibly, you may be uncertain of your motivation for being here. For whatever reason, on behalf of the Indiana Transgender Rights Advocacy Alliance (INTRAA) and Central Christian Church in hosting this event--I welcome you here and thank you.
I wish I could be here in person, meet you, and join with you this afternoon. Although my heart is here with this gathering, and my prayers with you at this very moment, I will be, instead, beginning the second week of my life, as a woman. I will be recovering in Hawaii with my daughter--we will likely embrace and grieve together the changes my life brings to the relationship.
My life began and ended two years ago this month. Although I knew I always wanted to be female, I knew that I shouldn't want that. I repressed it. I thought it was a fantasy, like a lot of fantasies we don't act out. I experienced an increasing sadness and desperation and a profound loss of direction in my life. November 2003, at the beginning of the holiday seasons, I began a vision quest to look deep within myself to find my direction. I withdrew to a quiet place, closed my eyes, and listened to my soul.... then I heard it--there was a cry coming from deep within me. The cry was pleading. I could hear a little girl inside me crying to come out. I knew, at that moment, she was me and she needed me. I knew, I was her. I told her she was beautiful....I told her I loved her....I told her I would protect her....and I told her I would never make her hide in dark places again.
My story is not so uncommon from many others. I, like so many others, have suffered loss of family, friends, and employment. We know the pain of calling home and being hung up on. We know the pain that comes from hearing from family, "it would be better if you were dead." We know families beat their transgender children to try to make them like other children. We know families who abandon their transgender children to the street--were homelessness, drug addiction, the sex trades, and HIV/AIDS pose further threats. We ALL know depression. We have all wrestled with suicide ourselves, and many of us have lost transgender friends to suicide.
And yet, the transgender life is not all pain. There is joy in living in the light of one's true self. There are new friendships that are stronger than any foxhole or ordeal could forge. There is a spiritual awakening...transitioning the spectrum from male to female...female to male. I was filled with wonder in the way God created us...I know both sexes are God's image...and that what is masculine and feminine, male and female, come from one source which is God. I developed a profound sense of gratitude and wonder of being allowed the rare privilege of experiencing life as male and female. I did the only thing I could do. I would not accept my life as a curse, cross, punishment, or even thorn. I chose to receive my transgender life as a gift from God. My transition, was to become a sacred journey and one I choose to share with the faith community of Central Christian. I knew my life now depended upon teams--my surgical team, my psychotherapeutic team, my medical and endocrinological team, my electrologist, speech therapist, and so on. It occurred to me that what I needed most was a spiritual team. Four members from this congregation, in addition to my minister, Linda McCrae, have journeyed with me, prayed with me, and studied gender 101 together to better understand what this means. Last month, I was blessed by this congregation and presented with a beautiful prayer-knotted shawl that reminds me that I am wrapped in love.
We transgender people need the support our faith communities, churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques can provide. We need our own spiritual teams. We need to pray for these things...wait for these things...ask for these things...and help to create these things. We transgender people need God and a relationship with God that is unique to us. For me, the image of God as the potter and myself as the clay is especially poignant. The fact that I choose to sculpt metal and throw clay for most of my life probably reveals more of my psycho-spiritual life than I can ever know. I do know two things about throwing pots that cannot be learned in books--the first is that the clay must be centered on the wheel before it can be worked into anything. Uncentered clay cannot make anything on the wheel until it is centered. The potter cannot tell by looking if the clay is centered. Clay is centered by hand, and confirmed only by the feel of spinning clay held between two hands. The potter also knows the limits of the clay--when clay has been worked too much, is too wet, too thin, or pulled too far, the piece will collapse. The potter knows how to work the clay within these limits. We, transgender clay that we are, first cry out to our creator that we are uncentered and pray for God's help in centering our lives. We pray to our creator that we become the earthen vessels we were meant to be. And, if we the clay, collapse on the potter's wheel as an unformed, wet useless piece of clay....God will scrape us from the wheel, let us dry slowly to regain strength, knead us again to ready us for the wheel, then remake us.
It took me 50 years of knowing that I was different before I could even know I was transgendered. It took me 6 months later to learn that my transgender journey would lead to Gender Reassignment Surgery --a decision which I approached God. "Will you, Lord, love me, accept me, and receive me, if I become the only being I can become.............a woman? Will you..........? Will you..........? Will you, Lord?"
Then I heard the voice of God calling to me, "my child......my child.....my child. I loved you as a man, I will love you as a woman. Go now, with my love."
You see, our real liberation comes from our inner work. Our redemption will not come from the City-County Council, the State House, Capitol Hill, or even the Supreme Court. Our redemption comes not from defeating SJR-7 or passing the Human Rights Ordinance. Our real redemption will not be legislated or adjudicated. Our real redemption comes from knowing who we are and whose we are. Our dignity comes from knowing we bear a holy image, a holy transformation, and the sustaining love of God.
I want to shift gears a couple of times here before I wrap this up. Several times, I am sheepishly approached by people who, not wanting to offend me, begin to confess their lack of knowledge about all things transgender and their desire to learn more but don't know how or what to ask. First of all, I'm touched by the care and sensitivity I find in others who approach me in this way. Secondly, I tell them I will respond to and honor any question asked in sincerity. Thirdly, I confess there is a lot I don't know myself...and I find myself becoming like a child in finding a lot of this out. I have long talks with others....is bigenderism different from transgenderism? Does Cross Dressing transgenderism lead to transexualism? What are the reasons behind the decision of Gender Reassignment Surgery and is it really a choice? What are the real differences between stone butches, male identified women, and transmen? I don't know. There are other questions I can ask. Can a transman still dance if he takes testosterone? (He can.) I had to know strong transmen are---I had to know in the only way I could know...and by the way, I don't think it's inappropriate to arm wrestle in public. I wondered myself, if I could still play a challenging game of chess after a year on estrogen. The answer--yes I can, but the boys won't play with me anymore!
We do have a lot to learn from each other and how we are differently gendered. Perhaps we should be more curious and open about gender. I know that I am considered by others to be gender-variant. In order to achieve gender congruence one of the things I do is spend hundreds of hours, and thousands of dollars going to an electrologist to remove facial and body hair in order to appear feminine. The thing is, I must stand behind a very long line of women who want to remove facial and body hair to also appear feminine. Suddenly it seems to me that body modification is not very different for natal women and transwomen, we all seem to be terribly constrained by some very rigid gender norms. So I wonder...what makes a woman womanly? Or feel womanly? Or know she's womanly? Or have the confidence in knowing she is womanly? Is it something she has attained? Is it something she could lose? Or is it by denying something within herself? And what about her masculine energies? Where are they? What happened to the tomboy who climbed trees and ran faster than the boys? Where did that energetic fearless child go when she was taught to be a young lady? I pray she would not be put away in a dark place, crying to be let out.
My question for the non-trans persons who are capable of self reflection:
For women, how do your masculine energies dwell within you? Do they add a fuller dimension to your being and further empower you? Or do they threaten you?
For men: how do your feminine energies dwell within you? Do they add depth, compassion, and a stronger connection to the universe for you? Or do they threaten you?
The answer to this, I propose, is one I learned as a New Warrior (now known as the Mankind Project). One of the things, I learned there, as a man, was the importance of honoring the feminine--obviously we are to honor the feminine in our significant others, daughters, mothers, sisters--and yes, even as it dwells within. Likewise, sisters, honor the masculine in the men in our lives, and honor the masculine, even when it dwells within.
Let us leave here today with a fuller sense of wonder and amazement--in discovering the rich tapestry of God's people. Let us leave with a wholeness in knowing that all our gendered energies are holy and honorable. Let us leave here with the courage to stand with our transgender brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, friends and lovers. Let us leave here empowered with love, sustained in hope, knowing the transforming power of God works first in and through us. Let us now honor our dead by honoring ourselves in God's image.