The “Beloved Community” Includes Transgender People

by Rev . Dr. Terence K. Leathers

There is a disturbing trend rapidly moving across this nation at an unparalleled and fevered pitch. It is based on hatred, soaked in prejudice and clothed in intolerance.

At rallies and other political gatherings, people are encouraged to act on their fears and ignorance regarding others who are different. Certainly, the current political climate fuels the spewing of mean-spirited rhetoric, and sadly, even physical attacks as we engage in what is intended to be a democratic process.

As a straight African American minister and pastor, I am concerned by what I consider a crisis.

When did we become so uncomfortable and even hostile to difference? I’m sure that many in the straight community are unaware of and some perhaps unconcerned about the plight of those considered different and non-conformist, those whose sexuality and gender identity or expression isn’t what we’re used to or even acknowledge.

While many of us are living our daily lives and expressing our sexuality, at least 22 transgender women were killed in this place we call land of the free and home of the brave. Globally, Transgender Europe’s (TGEU) Trans Murder Monitoring project reports 77 murders of trans and gender diverse people in the first 70 days of 2016—that’s one trans person murdered every 21 hours.

Certainly, those of us of color, specifically African Americans, should understand the pain of prejudice and the devastation of discrimination. Our proud and beautiful ancestors were lynched, drowned, burned and murdered because of their color. It is a fact that color, sexuality and gender aren’t the same; however, each make up our identity and sense of self.

And no one should be harmed, hated, or murdered for being who they are.

I believe, like Dr. Martin Luther King, we must work towards the creation of the “Beloved Community.” The Beloved Community, as I understand, is based on an awareness that in order for there to be peace and harmony, racism and all forms of prejudice and discrimination must be replaced by the spirit of brotherhood, sisterhood, and community.

Whatever our beliefs, we cannot sit or stand by and allow these horrific killings to go unnoticed or unaddressed.

We must articulate in one voice the need for a non-gender biased, non-racially biased justice system that protects the rights and dignity of everyone. Additionally, we must have a justice system that closely examines these attacks and when appropriate deem them hate crimes. At the same time, the church must not be silent.

Our faith communities must not be silent as specifically transgender persons of color are murdered in our streets.

We must press our pastors and church leaders to make available this sacred space called the church for frank, honest and informed discussions about sex and sexuality and gender. We must not hide behind certain scriptures without seeking to understand the historical context, the audience it addresses and its implicit valued to our quest to make room at the table of humanity for everybody.

We must know no harm.

Photo via flickr user Elvert Barnes