Singing the Faith Plus editor, Laurence Wareing, introduces Transgender Remembrance Day (20 November, 2017) and resources to help mark it.
Hate crime is growing in Britain. The official statistics for 2016/17 (England and Wales) record a 29 per cent increase on the previous year across all categories of hate crime. In large part, the rise is attributed to a growing willingness to report such crimes. But not all. Events such as the European Referendum and terrorist attacks on Westminster Bridge and in Manchester are cited as presenting contributing factors.
Race hate crimes are by far the largest category (78 percent). However, the highest percentage increases were in Disability hate crimes (53 per cent) and Transgender hate crimes (a 45 per cent increase, from 858 to 1,234).
To say that Transgender hate crime constitutes "only" two per cent of the overall total misses the point. The numbers are shocking both in themselves and as also as one indicator of a society's overall health.
Six years ago, on the Sunday nearest to 20 November, I attended a worship service in which we remembered those who had been killed during the previous year as a result of anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. I was shocked and moved by what I heard. Name after name was read out – individuals from all over the world, many of them from south American countries – and we listened in deepening silence.
We know that so often it is minority groups in society that bear the greater weight of prejudice and our intolerance towards those "not like us". I had not understood the degree of hatred experienced by many transgender communities worldwide. And once again I was made to reflect hard on my Christian commitment to equality and diversity, inspired by the grace-filled life and teachings of Jesus.
Rita Hester, whose murder inspired the first Transgender Remembrance Day
Transgender Day of Remembrance is held in November to honour Rita Hester, whose murder on 28 November 1998 inspired a candlelight vigil in San Francisco in 1999. Each year since, a list of those killed during the previous 12 months is compiled and their lives recalled on this day.
Although not every person represented during the Day of Remembrance is self-identified as transgender (as a transsexual, crossdresser, or otherwise gender-variant), each was a victim of violence based on bias against transgender people.
Resources for transgender Remembrance
Though there are a number of websites that provide helpful information around Transgender Remembrance, it is not easy to find resources for use in worship.
Last year (2016):
- the Corrymeela Community in Northern Ireland published a liturgy for use at Transgender Remembrance events
- Cara Heafy re-told Psalm 139
The 2013 publication Bold I Approach, produced by the Methodist LGBT organisation Outcome, includes a prayer for use on Transgender Remembrance Day by Jan Goddard. The volume includes other resources appropriate for the occasion.
On Singing the Faith Plus, we have published a hymn, We come today to celebrate, by the Revd Stephanie Jenner, written for the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Eucharist at the 2013 Greenbelt Festival. Though Transgender Remembrance is often a quiet and reflective occasion, Stephanie’s words – sung to the tune “Amazing Grace” – may lend to the occasion a helpful note of Christian hopefulness. Also published here is Gary Hopkins’ When our views are varied.
The International Transgender Day of Remembrance website offers an introduction to the day and maintains an up to date list of those who will be remembered each year. It also lists where remembrance events will take place including in the UK (usually upated near the time). See also the Metropolitan Community Churches website, which includes other helpful links and a simple running order for an act of remembrance.
For more information about the Methodist Church in Britain’s policies on equality and diversity, contact Jennifer Crook, the Connexional Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Adviser. Also read the Methodist Church's theological underpinning for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.