We have work to do. Oh, how I wish we didn’t. Oh, how I wish we already lived in a world where the rigid rules of gender didn’t apply, didn’t matter so much, weren’t enforced with the murderous brutality we bear witness to this evening. Oh, how I wish we already lived in a world free of that soul-crushing gender binary, free of that spirit killing either/or, free of that put-us-in-a-box-from–birth question, “is it a boy or a girl?” Oh, how I wish we already lived in a world where human beings could simply be who they are—who they are in their hearts, in their minds, in their souls—without fear of reprisal, without having to watch their step, without having to wonder, am I safe? without having to face rejection and bullying, without having to lose their families, their churches, their schools, their neighborhoods. Oh, how I wish we already lived in a world where each of us could live simply as the person we feel most comfortable being, our inner lives completely consistent with our outer lives, our beautiful, precious, sacred selves out, out, out, out, out. Oh, how I wish we already lived in a world where transgender people felt fully at home, safe, welcomed, accepted … everywhere. Oh, how I wish.
We don’t live in that world yet, which is why we hold this night sacred; which is why we take this time to remember, to grieve lives lost. It is so important that we not let these lives-cut-short go unnoticed, un-mourned, un-named. It is so important that we not let these deaths remain invisible, that we not let the world be comfortable with people murdered because of their gender identity. These dead are our dead. They are ours and we are theirs. We will remember them.
We don’t live in that world yet, but we would also be remiss if we did not celebrate our progress here in Connecticut and in the nation. We would be remiss if we did not remind ourselves that we won marriage equality here in Connecticut, that we won transgender civil rights here in Connecticut. And we would be remiss if we did not acknowledge that walls are coming down here and around the country; barriers are coming down here and around the country; hearts and minds are changing hear and around the country; policies and laws are changing hear and around the country. Why? Not for some abstract ‘change is inevitable’ kind of reason. No. We’re seeing change because people like you—people like us—know this is a matter of life and death and we’ve been working our butts off for change: advocating, lobbying, marching, rallying, protesting, testifying, collaborating, confronting, singing, praying, preaching, worshiping, dancing, reporting, organizing, and on and on and on because we know the lives of transgender people and their families matter. Change isn’t just happening. We’re making it happen.
We don’t live in that world yet, and thus we have work to do. I wish we didn’t, but we do. And the work isn’t always clear. We don’t always know what we have to do to usher in that world where transgender people feel fully at home, safe, welcomed, accepted. The way isn’t always clear, especially when we don’t have a big legislative campaign to organize our energies. But that can’t be an excuse—not when lives are at stake.
So, how do we get there? First, we must believe that world is possible. I believe it. Do you believe it? If you don’t, just look around at the people in this room. Look around at this beloved community. Hold onto this image because that world we wish for looks and feels something like this. Hold onto it, take it with you when you leave.
Second, find a way to help others believe this world we long for is possible. Find a way to share this vision. Share your experience here tonight. Share what you know human diversity, about crossing arbitrary lines, about gender as a continuum—not a binary. Whether you’re a trans person or a trans ally, share yourself, your true self, the self you feel called to be, the self inside that wants so badly to match the self outside. Share whenever and wherever you can. That’s how we change a culture. Keep sharing, one person at a time. One family at a time. One school at a time. One workplace at a time. One neighborhood at a time. One church at a time. Your sharing is part of a larger drum-beat, a larger message, a larger movement for change, a larger movement to bring about that world we wish for.
And finally, be ready. We don’t know what issues, what crises, what opportunities will arise, but we know they will come. We know it because they always do when lives are at stake. So be ready. When you are called—and you will be called—we are always called in the midst of violence, hatred, oppression and injustice to work for change, to stand on the side of love and nonviolence and social justice. You will be called. And when the call comes, find your nerve, summon your courage, remember those who have died, remember this night, and do what needs to be done. In those moments when we respond to the call, friends, we stop wishing for that world, and we work for it. May we do the work.
Amen and Blessed be.