Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giving Thanks & Remembering the Lost

Stephanie Battagliano
On Sunday, November 18th, the Church of Redeemer, an Integrity Proud Parish Partner in Morristown, N.J. (Diocese of Newark) observed the Transgender Day of Remembrance at its 10:30 Eucharist service.  Stephanie Battagliano, a trans activist and longtime member of the congregation, gave a powerful sermon sharing her own journey from the "purgatory" of secretly living in gender conflict, through transition and coming out to her family and friends, and realization of a calling to speak out on behalf of other trans persons.  Stephanie transitioned while remaining at her corporate job, and being a parent to her son Andrew, who was a preteen at the time. Andrew gave his own witness at Redeemer several years ago, and parishioners still talk about it. Today Stephanie is on the board of the LGBT Center in New York as well as the Transgender Legal Defense Fund, and -- along with her partner Mari — works with GLAAD on transition issues in the workplace.

Stephanie drew strength from her faith and expressed gratitude for how much the community at Redeemer helped her not just survive, but thrive, during her transformation into the person she regards as her "true self."  She contrasted this with the isolation, poverty and violence that is reality for many trans people around the world, and charged the assembly to do everything in its power to reach out to the trans community and others that society regards as "different" to offer the sense of hope and worth that made such a difference in her life. 

The service continued with the reading of the names of the documented deaths of trans people that had occurred since last year's observance, along with the often grisly details of their deaths.  As each name was read, a member of the congregation extinguished a candle on the altar.  A startling number of the cases occurred in Brazil, which is described as the LGBT murder capital of the world, but some of the locations were distressingly familiar: Miami, Baltimore, Chicago.

Integrity continues to raise awareness of the need for trans inclusion in our churches.  The film Voices of Witness: Out of the Box, which we distributed to all the bishops and deputies before this summer's General Convention, features transgender clergy telling their own stories. It is available on YouTube and DVD, and we commend its use for parish forums and other settings for education and discussion.  Stephanie and other speakers are available to speak with congregations and groups; please contact us for details.

Stephanie Battagliano at Transgender Day of Remembrance

No comments: