One of the most marginalized, hated, ignored, and yet wonderful, powerful, and vibrant group of people within our society are Black Trans people, in particular, Black Trans women. Despite their gift of Blackness and the authenticity of trans identity, Black trans people often live in a reality that does not champion their existence nor defend their personhood. To be queer in some places is hard enough. To be queer and be a person of color brings an added level of scrutiny; thus, to be Black and queer and trans is a triple blessing that can bring as much joy as it can sorrow.
Each year, our community of LGBTQIA folks and allies come together on November 20th for Trans Day of Remembrance. For many years, without fail, I was the main pastor in Pittsburgh who led this community in anything spiritual on this deeply emotional day. Often, we not only remembered and spoke the names of victims from around the nation and the world, but some years it was our own friends, and lovers, and relatives, and siblings when the trauma hit too close to home. I know what it was like to try to stand in a place that both holds the grief and pain of the community while I try to find a message of hope and solidarity. I must admit, sometimes I did not make it.
I can only imagine what the friends, comrades, followers and disciples of Jesus felt that Friday morning as they watched the murder of their loved one. I can imagine it was a pain that was both loud and piercing while silent and deadly all at the same time. An execution so powerful that it literally takes all the air out of a place and can only leave a hollow shell of a broken heart and defeated spirit. Our very savior was a victim of a violent death because of living in his authentic truth. Jesus knew what it was like to meet the fate of execution all because he dared to live.
The good thing in this is that as people of faith, we know that the story doesn’t end on Friday. Jesus’ murder always stands in the shadow of his resurrection and for that reason, we have hope. But I know there are so many individuals who face the execution and murder of loved ones based on who they are and how they show up in the world, who find it difficult and triggering on deaths’ Remembrance Day…Good Friday. And as a pastor, I am annually reminded of this dichotomy and struggle that is ever present in our queer community. My prayer is always:
Divine God help me to help your people to make sense out of chaos and find peace in the midst of disorder.
After about fifteen years of being an out queer person of faith, what I can settle in my spirit is what is uplifted by the downtrodden soul of Psalm 22. It’s the hope that says, yes, there is ugliness in this world, and yes, it often finds itself even on our own doorsteps. But we are assured in knowing that God is alive and well and shall always bring vindication to those in despair. We are uplifted by the Psalm writer who reminds us that those who suffer do not suffer in vain. We have faith in the One who is the God of the oppressed, that the evils of bigotry, transphobia, homophobia, patriarchy, and ignorance shall be brought down and put asunder.
God has never left us even when the world has forsaken us. And it is our duty as people of faith to continue to do the work and will of Jesus in being advocates and breech menders for the most oppressed, marginalized, and disbarred in our society. For this is the will of the Lord and this is the underlying message of Good Friday.
Darkness is shamefully inevitable. However, we are connected to a tangible and unwavering God who shall never forget our struggle, ignore our tears, and disregard our sacred existence.
Rev. Shanea D. Leonard, B.A., M.Div. is a faith leader, teacher, consultant, community activist, and justice warrior. They currently serve the church as the Associate for Gender & Racial Justice for PC (USA). Having been ordained for over twelve years, Shanea has been serving communities and congregations in various capacities for over fifteen years. Rev. Leonard has done extensive work within urban areas to eradicate systemic oppression in the areas of race, gender, sexual orientation, and socio-economic despair. Shanea believes that God has given them a burden for people whom others have disregarded, oppressed, forgotten, or simply don’t even see. They believe that it is a mandate for every believer to DO justice, LOVE mercy, & WALK humbly with your God.