The Transgender Day of Remembrance event I’ve blogged about recently was last night. It was a moving event which about 20 people including the local mayor attended. There were poems (one of which was written by a member of the local trans community), a reflection, a prayer and we all read out together the names of those we know about who have died as a result of transphobic violence over the last year. At the end of the event Labi Siffre’s Something Inside So Strong was played.
It was an emotional event and whilst the reading of the names was extremely moving it was the prayer, (which is the second one down on this link and which Karl amended for a secular, mainly non-Jewish audience) and song which hit me. As I sat at the back of the room I could see around me a number of trans people whose stories I knew something of, as well as people who I didn’t know. I could also see the local police woman who is in charge of dealing with hate crime locally. Finally I had in my mind a couple of people who couldn’t be there for various reasons, whose stories and struggles again I knew something of. Listening to the song I knew the reality of the lyrics, these people do really have something inside so strong which enables them to carry on in the face of prejudice and injustice.
This event then was not just an act of remembrance it was also an act of solidarity and in a strange way also a celebration of hope.
After everybody had left and we had cleared away Karl and I walked out of the small hall hired for the event and into the main church reception, the lovely guy on reception gave us the news. “They’ve said no to women bishops.” (Making an Ass of Myself has posted the figures and his reaction, he clearly makes the point that the majority of the church is in favour.) I managed to hold it vaguely together and not burst into floods until I got outside the building, but it hurt. Karl commented that he was surprised by the force of my reaction seeing as I didn’t even believe in bishops. The thing is though this isn’t about bishops entirely, it’s much wider, it’s about women in the church and how they are viewed. It’s about the continuation of struggles over a century old, it’s also about whether in reality there is any way in which closer ecumenical ties can happen, it’s about having a barrier to credible mission and witness removed and so I could go on.
For me it’s also about knowing that whilst it’s a problem for some who provision was being made for it’s something which the majority of ordinary CofE attenders are not opposed to – something yesterday’s figures have confirmed. Whenever this issue is discussed I think back to a conversation I had with my grandma about 10 years ago. My grandma was a dyed in the wool Book of Common Prayer, 8 o’clock communion type who in many ways typified a certain type of rural church attender. She was a woman who had strong views about what women could and couldn’t do. She was of the opinion that women most definitely should not be serving on the front line or going to sea with the navy, they were not designed to be refuse collectors and there were various other things they shouldn’t be doing but she could see no reason why they could not be bishops. In fact she commented one of the local clergy, who was amongst the first ordained as a women priest, would make a very good bishop.
Where do we go from here? None of us know and it will be interesting to see what happens later this morning. All I would say is that this is clearly now about what provision is provided for those who cannot accept women bishops rather than the idea of women bishops. The debate yesterday afternoon was mainly focused around this and I know that over the last couple of years it is what both sides have been arguing about. I hope and pray a solution is found and that the fear expressed in some of the speeches yesterday can be overcome.
I think this is where I go in a circle and to those who are reconsidering their future in the CofE after this vote, and various Facebook status’s I have read are indicative that some are doing just this, I would go back to the TDOR event and the Labi Siffre song. In the face of opposition it is important to hold on to that thing inside which is so strong and which has kept you there thus far. I’d also point you towards this post from Artsy Honker which contains much wisdom.
This morning, just as I stood last night (and continue to stand) with my transgender friends, so I stand in solidarity with my sisters (and brothers) in the CofE who are continuing their struggle for justice and the ability to be all that they truly are and were designed to be. Just as TDOR was in a strange way a celebration of hope after the emotional numbness of yesterday I now see the vote as a strange celebration of hope….the majority voted yes, the will of synod and the wider church is clearly yes and one day it will happen because there is something inside so strong.