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 meanspirited rhetoric and sadly 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 with 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 were 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. The number of transgender women killed in 2015 exceeded those killed in 2014. And, most recently, Demarkis Stansberry, a transgender man, was murdered in Louisiana.
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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 makes 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 toward the creation of the “Beloved Community.” The Beloved Community 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 and sisterhood. 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 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 value to our quest to make room at the table of humanity for everybody.
The Rev. Terence K. Leathers lives in Apex.