By Deacon Carolyn Woodall
November is, for me, a mixed month. Most of us look forward to Thanksgiving – time with families, friends, and to honor the sacrifice made by the turkey in the oven. But November is also a time for mourning. November 20th is the International Transgender Day of Remembrance. It is a day of remembrance and mourning for those transgender souls who were killed during the prior year because they were transgender. I will be leading a service on November 17th, and it will be my sixth year doing so. I started when I was at St. James, Sonora. After I transferred to St. Anne’s, Stockton, I was invited to continue this observance at St. James. It is a sad and sobering task, but necessary so that these people are remembered and lifted in prayer.
When I start to plan the lessons my mind immediately turns to the parable of the Good Samaritan. We all know the story. It is one Jesus told after being asked, “And who is my neighbor? “A man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho and was attacked by robbers, who stripped him of his clothes, beat him, and left him to die on the side of the road. A priest passed by, saw the man, and passed by on the other side of the road. So, too, did a Levite who was traveling on the road. A Samaritan, as he traveled, saw the man, bandaged his wounds, brought him to an inn, and cared for the man. He had to continue his journey, so he paid the innkeeper to care for this stranger until he returned.
It is a story of true love of one’s neighbor, compassion, and mercy. In the context of the Transgender Day of Remembrance it behooves us to consider who we might be in this story. We know who the victims are. This year it will be 325 transgender people who were killed between last October 1st and September 30th of this year. Most are known, some are not. Many more were not reported. Many of the murderers, like the robbers in the parable, are not known. The priest and the Levite are those who simply don’t care about these deaths, who don’t want to get involved, or even those who think the victims had it coming for crossing accepted gender boundaries. Although we can not care for these victims directly, we still need to be the Samaritan. We need to remember these souls, say their names, and pray for them.
The Samaritan did not know this man he found along the side of the road. He did not know if he was a Jew, a Gentile, a fellow Samaritan, or his station in life. He didn’t care about any of that. He saw a human being in need – a fellow child of God – and showed compassion. Likewise, we need to remember that all people are children of God, worthy of love and compassion.
There will be Transgender Day of Remembrance observances throughout the diocese, in churches, pride centers, colleges, wherever room may be found. Some will be religious services, some secular, some with elements of both. Some will be held on November 20th, and others close in time. I urge you to find an observance near you and attend, perhaps participate if possible. If there is none, then consider organizing a memorial service at your church. We can do nothing to bring these victims back to life, but we can offer them the love which comes from God.