Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Rose By Any Other Name

Vicky Mitchell
This past weekend I was a parish delegate to the Diocese of Los Angeles annual convention where one of the matters taken up was a Resolution on the subject of Same Sex Marriage. The resolution which was passed by an overwhelming majority of the convention voters, instructs our Diocesan delegates to the Episcopal Church’s national General Convention next summer to take a "hard line" and putting into immediate action the National Church’s long-talked about and debated programs to enable full inclusion of same sex partners in the Sacramental Rites of the National Church and all of its provinces and dioceses. For LGBT folks this is a huge issue of validation, and one I supported with my vote, and which I truly believe is the Will of God as I have prayerfully discerned it to be.

While happy for my LGB friends, I did not meet any other Trans* people there at the Convention, and I am pretty sure that I was the only Trans* delegate / attendee there. I was openly and happily wearing a Trans* Pride button, which was acknowledged by some folks I knew in the LGBT ministry program whom I had met the year before, and whom I had been with in the West Hollywood "TGLB" Pride Parade and Festival last June. I saw no other person there with any symbol of Trans* alliance.

The night before the vote on the resolution took place, I had gone to a reception for the LGBT ministry people off the convention site, and felt right at home with a wonderful group of people, of which, perhaps half were wearing clerical collars. With the exception of one single person there, me, it was about 25% each, Lesbian clergy couples, Lesbian lay couples, Gay clergy couples, and lay Gay couples, there were a few there whose partners were not at the party, but partnered they were. Strong loving relations were obviously a quality that was valued as part of their Christian lives in private and public.

Marriage is and will continue to be a strong symbol of validation for the LGB members of the Church, and will equip them in ministries that will benefit the whole of Christianity be the couple clergy or laity.
Marriage has been the key point in full acceptance of the GLB members and its time is coming close if other Diocese’s follow the lead of Los Angeles. Transgender people though have another item that will stand for full inclusion in its own way, and that is the recognition of our names.

It is hard for non-Trans* people to understand the full significance of a name as Transgender people feel it. As a Trans* activist, I am part of several groups dealing with Transgender issues, and can point to one single event in a Transgender person’s life that is more significant than surgeries or even Hormone Therapy, and that is changing our “trial names” which are of the gender we do not feel part of to our more True names. On the internet forums I am part of as a contributor, anyone who posts a notice that they have legally changed their names are met with an outpouring of posts of congratulation and well wishing. On a website where I am a moderator and senior member, the most persistent question in one form or another is how to pick a name, and then approach local authorities to make that the person’s new legal name. Changes to Birth Certificates that also reflect the preferred gender and name are also a major issue for a Gender Dysphoria subject.
The why of this phenomena is pretty easy for a Trans* person to understand, but is a problem for the non-Trans* folk. Gender Dysphoria was previously known as Gender Identity Dysphoria and even before that as Gender Identity Disorder. The outdated term does give the clue to the name issue. A name is an integral part of a person’s identity and thus a name that reflects the person’s inner identity is the beginning of a transformed life with an identity that feels TRUE to the person.

My legal name change took place in July 2012 and while the court appearance was anticlimactic, it was nice to let my priest know that it had happened, and since I held a parish office that needed to be on a diocesan record officially, I know it was changed that way. It was not a big deal supposedly, especially since the General Convention had voted full acceptance of Gender Variant people in all offices of the church a few weeks before, I am OK with that, but there is something missing from the matter of fact flow of paperwork. This name change thing is huge for Trans* people, and there needs to be a way to celebrate it as fully as our initial Baptism is celebrated, and as our Confirmation is celebrated.

I am looking at two documents from 41 years ago, one is my Baptismal Certificate attested by my now deceased rector in another parish than the one I am now at, and a certificate of Confirmation, signed by a bishop now also dead. Both took place when I was 25 years old, a few months apart, and both have what I call my “Trial Name” on them. I have given away that name to become the person who now lives and serves in the church I attend, and in the wider Church as well.

There seems to be a solution to that wish to celebrate my name change and I am now working with my priest on requesting a renewal of my Confirmation and Baptismal Covenants and vows when my Bishop comes for a parish visit in January 2015. I am going to be asking for a tiny change in reciting that I was first Baptized and Confirmed as but renew and continue in my current lay ministry and membership in my True name and identity before the Bishop who represents the Whole Church and not just my tiny part of a parish. This will truly be a sign of acceptance of me as a Trans*woman.

My desire to be part of the Church is not limited to my being a Trans* person, and my future involvement will be the normal cares and joys of our experience in following the steps of Jesus, and seeking to be “Instruments Of His Peace”. I know I was not allowed to end my own life 7 years ago, and have felt the presence and caring of God and Christ at all parts of my acceptance and transition. A friend has suggested that we Trans*people have been placed in our congregations as a challenge for others to explore the diversity of God’s Creation, and to give others a taste of what it means to “do it to the least (in numbers) of My children”.

Vicky Mitchell, a member of the Church of the Transfiguration, in Arcadia, California
Reprinted with permission from Facebook

1 comment:

Vicky Mitchell said...

The date for my Re-affirmation of continuing Christian Service has been delayed until June 7, 2015 but is still looking like it will go forward.