Trans Day of Remembrance Rally at CT State House Calls for Action
On Saturday evening, November 20th, Rev. Joshua Mason Pawelek commemorated the 12th International Transgender Day of Remembrance with many of his congregants at the State House in Hartford, CT. Rev. Pawelek and State Rep. Mike Lawlor, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, spoke in favor of a transgender civil rights bill that will be introduced in January.
The following are Rev. Pawelek’s remarks.
It is an honor to share my thoughts with you this evening. I wish to thank the organizers of this event for the invitation to speak. I want to thank all of you who came out this evening for this very important observance.
We come together, with heavy hearts, to enact a solemn ritual. We come together to bear witness to lives lost, to honor the victims of a horrific kind of violence. We come together to say the names of transgender people who were murdered not for anything they did, but simply for being who they are. We come together, we enact this ritual, we say their names because their stories are our stories. Their deaths are our deaths. Their lives are our lives. They are our people and they shall not leave this life unnoticed. They shall not pass beyond this world without the sound of their names on our tongues and our lips and on the tongues and lips of people all over the nation and the world who gather this evening for this same purpose.
It is good and right to say these names. In the act of naming we grieve for these lost lives. In the act of naming we pray for the victims and the perpetrators . . . and ourselves and our communities, our country, our world.
We come together for more, though. Not only our grief unites us. We also come together to assert the integrity of transgender lives. We come together to assert the dignity of transgender lives. We come together to assert: transgender lives matter. Our lives matter. Transgender lives are sacred. Our lives are sacred. We will be heard. Our dead will not be forgotten. And in making these assertions we fortify ourselves, we strengthen ourselves, we find the courage and resilience to continue in the struggle for transgender civil rights; we renew our commitment to that struggle; we sustain ourselves in that struggle. That is also why we gather this evening.
On October 13th, 2008 Connecticut Clergy for Marriage Equality held a prayer service across the street at First Presbyterian Church to celebrate the Connecticut Supreme Court’s decision to grant full marriage equality to gay and lesbian couples. At that time, as chair of CCME, I said we must not forget the transgender community. We must not forget our friends whose lives, whose jobs, whose homes, whose medical care, whose credit are constantly in jeopardy, constantly at risk because how they understand and express their gender is afforded no clear and indisputable protection under our state’s non-discrimination statutes. That was a promise and tonight we make good on that promise. We are changing the name of Connecticut Clergy for Marriage Equality to Connecticut Clergy for Full Equality, and we intend to bring every resource at our disposal to pass the transgender civil rights bill in the coming legislative session. This is the year my friends. This year we win.
Finally, I am a person of faith. I am a Unitarian Universalist minister. And as a person of faith and a minister, I am not here alone, not by any stretch of the imagination. I am not alone. You are not alone. We are not alone. There are many people of faith around the state and the nation who understand and support our cause. There are many clergy around the state and the nation who understand and support our cause. In Connecticut there are Metropolitan Community Church pastors, United Church of Christ pastors, Episcopal priests, Methodist pastors, Presbyterian pastors, Reform Jewish rabbis; Conservative Jewish rabbis; Unitarian Universalist pastors; even some Pentecostal pastors. And we are tired of religious proclamations of a God who frowns upon people who cross traditional gender lines, who refuse to conform to unrealistic and rigid notions of gender, who live outside the societal boxes. We are tired of religious proclamations of a God whose love seems contingent, precarious, sparing, elusive and small.
We are here to proclaim a God whose love is abundant, whose love is generous enough and big enough to embrace all people as they are and as they long to be—no exceptions. We are here to proclaim a God who, more than anything else, wants us to be who we are and who we long to be. We are here to proclaim a God who understands that when we live as who we are–when we are able to become the people we long to be—then our integrity shines through, then our gifts shine through, then our humanity shines through. Then we fulfill God’s dreams for us and for the world.
Friends, the struggle is long; the struggle is hard. So tonight, let us grieve. Tonight let us renew ourselves. Tonight let us know that our lives matter and that we are not alone.
The Rev. Joshua Mason Pawelek
Minister, Unitarian Universalist Society: East, Manchester
Chair, CT Clergy for Full Equality
Note: All Photos Courtesy Glenn Koetzner, Crazy Dog Photography, www.crazydogphotos.com