My earliest recollections of Communion–or the Lord’s Supper, as we most often called it in Baptist life–was the ritual beginning with the words, “On the night that Jesus was betrayed. . . .” Not on the night he was arrested, or the last night with his disciples, but the night he was betrayed. And the one who betrayed him stayed for dinner.
Yesterday and today have been filled with news stories and accounts from friends in North Carolina about the betrayal perpetrated by the state legislature who passed House Bill 2 (HB2) with the express purpose of invalidating anti-discrimination laws passed at the municipal level. The flash point was an LGBT-supportive ordinance in Charlotte that gave people the right to go to the bathroom. Yes, you heard me correctly. And they did it in a called special session, and passed the legislation in a day. Their actions were deliberate and damaging.
As a straight, white, Christian male, I have no first hand experience with knowing what’s it’s like to be on the receiving end of discrimination and prejudice. I have learned from listening to friends who have had, and continue to have, those experiences. What I have learned from listening is being on the receiving end of the verbiage and the violence is dehumanizing. One of my friends is Kyle, who is a pastoral intern at Pilgrim UCC in Durham, where Ginger was pastor. He wrote an open letter to Governor Pat McCrory, and I asked if I could share it here. Listen, please.
An Open Letter to Governor Pat McCrory
I am a twenty-one year old honors student at North Carolina State University and a ministerial intern at Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Durham. I am looking forward to a career in the ministry as I feel my life experiences have led me to feel called into continuously striving to care for those on the peripherals of society as Jesus commanded of his followers. I feel so strongly drawn to this work because I know what it feels like to be the outcast and the HB2 is a perfect example of why.
You see, I am also transgender. I was raised as a girl in a Southern Baptist household, but never stopped fighting for myself. I put myself at risk of being utterly cut off from my family, being thrown out on the streets, or any number of the consequences that comes from when a transgender child comes out to their parents. A child doesn’t take these incredible risks if it wasn’t more of a risk to stay silent. To stay silent and to continue to live a life based on what is expected of us instead of who God intentionally crafted us to be can be utterly suffocating. Within the small yet significant transgender community, 41 percent of us have attempted suicide in our lifetimes, and that is the direct result of the constant rhetoric that transgender people either do not truly exist or that we just don’t deserve the same rights and protections as other human beings.
I am here to tell you, Governor, that transgender people do exist and that we are people just like everyone else. To deny the right of the people of North Carolina to use PUBLIC facilities is atrocious. Growing up, I never used public restrooms, but the result of that was me not using the restroom for 8-10 hours a day. That’s not healthy, it leaves one open to all sorts of infections. HB2 is therefore introducing a health concern into a portion of the population on top of the violence that will come as legal protections are stripped from transgender people. As much anxiety as this bill gives me as a trans man, I know that my trans sisters will only feel it 10x worse. Your comment about men in women’s bathroom directly speaks to that. Yet a simple search of “transgender violence” and the results are overwhelmingly hate crimes against transgender people as opposed to transgender people in any way presenting a real threat to anyone, including women in restrooms. We just want to use the bathroom. I’m even not sure why the government is so concerned with my right to use the bathroom anyway. I promise you that if I am going into the men’s room, which are usually pretty disgusting, its just because I REALLY have to pee. You’d think more serious issues like unemployment might have caught your attention too much to concern yourself with such trivial matters as to which room I use a stall in to relieve myself.
I may be different than you, but my life has no less value. My experience as a transgender individual has given me a unique perspective on life and has opened my eyes and heart in ways I could have never imagined. There are many things my experience has taught me that I would be happy to share with you over a face-to-face meeting so that you might see the humanity within being transgender. I am transgender, I am a citizen of this country, a resident of this state, and most importantly I am a human being. I deserve my rights. The transgender community deserves our rights, and this is entire letter hasn’t even begun to cover the other discriminatory measures based on sexual orientation or race that this bill has pushed through.
Governor McCrory, when you were sworn into office, your job became to represent the people of North Carolina. Yet the resounding response to this bill is #wearenotthis. Your job was to protect and serve the people of North Carolina, and yet this bill has alienated significant portions of the population. In conclusion, Governor, the one thing I am asking of you is to actually do the job you were elected for. Let’s overturn HB2 and get you and the legislators to work on something more important like unemployment or our school systems. Thanks.
The first time I met Kyle, he preached at our church and told his story. He and Ginger did a masterful job of weaving his story in with scripture, and breaking it into chapters, if you will, so we had some space to let his story soak in, since hearing firsthand from a trans person was new for many of us. Kyle gave his testimony of life and faith with grace and compassion. And then Ginger read from Galatians 3:
You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
As Jesus washed their feet on the night he was betrayed, he called them to love one another. As he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane moments before his arrest, he prayed for their unity, because he knew their fear could be abated by their togetherness, their courage fostered by their committed community.
On this night when our siblings in Christ have been betrayed, let us have the courage and compassion to listen to the voices of those who long for the day when they can be fully themselves without fear or reprisals or rejection; let us be the answer to Jesus’s prayer.
What a powerful and courageous stand Kyle has made. Thank you for sharing his story and reminding us of our call to be the community of Christ for the world.
Kyle’s letter and his life give us insight to a kind of faith and courage most of us have never experienced. We must be the light that gives hope and strength to fight this fear and ignorance. Thank you for yet another timely and inspiring message Milton. #WeAreNotThis!
Courageous words, indeed!
Christ in us, the hope of glory. Christ in me, you, Kyle, Raymond…in all of us. You are a brave follower of Jesus and I am proud to read your blogs.