LGBT History Month: Gender Journey

As promised, here is this week’s blog post for LGBT History Month. Today we are looking at some of the (hi)stories of trans and gender non-conforming people through a journey in prayer. The stories used here can be found at: Action for Trans Health.

Let’s pray:

‘James Barry (1789-1865)

James was a military surgeon and a pioneer in caesarian sections. He performed what may have been the first ever caesarian in which both mother and child survived. He also worked to improve conditions in military and civilian hospitals in South Africa. He met Florence Nightingale through his work, but the pair did not get on. He began living as a man around 1809, just before beginning his medical training. It seems his colleagues were unaware that he was trans* until after his death.’

Healing God, we remember James Barry who, despite unimaginable barriers, improved healthcare for so many. As we remember him, we pray for all those who cannot disclose their trans identities for fear of discrimination, censure or violence. May your light shine so brightly in the darkness that we no longer need to hide.

‘Mary Mudge (1814-1889)

Mary was a very poor woman who lived in a small village in Devon. She never married and worked as a dairymaid. She died in a workhouse at the age of 85, and her trans status was only discovered after her death. The discovery was then widely reported in newspapers. Her story tells us that trans* people may be found in all walks of life, and that many trans* people live normal lives as members of their chosen gender. People such as these must often go unnoticed by their communities and by future historians.’

God who walked incognito amongst humanity, we remember Mary Mudge. As we remember her, we pray for all those who are invisible in today’s society, particularly those who are oppressed by poverty. May your recognition and care for all of humanity be seen and reflected amongst us.

‘The Rebecca Riots (1839-1843)46518756_1150811258430111_6865263725234880512_n

The Rebecca Riots were a series of riots in south- and mid-Wales, protesting unfair taxation imposed by the English government, and related poverty. Most participants in the riots dressed in women’s clothing, and although many donned such clothing only during the riots, there is evidence to suggest that some of the leaders lived as women more widely.’

God, turner of tables, we remember the Rebecca Riots. As we remember them, we pray for all those whose gender identity has been the catalyst for social change. May your radical activism inspire and embolden us to work together for the liberation of all people.

‘Stella Boulton and Fanny Park (tried in 1871)

Stella and Fanny were put on trial in Victorian London, accused of ‘conspiring and inciting persons to commit an unnatural offence’. This charge shows the contemporary attitude that trans* people were a dangerous threat to the morality of others. The prosecution was unable to prove that any offence had been committed, but Stella’s partner, Lord Arthur Clinton, killed himself during the trial. Stella had lived as a girl since early childhood, and Fanny began living as a woman after meeting Stella as a teenager. The pair worked as a theatrical double act.

Drag Ball Riot, Hulme (1880)

A police raid led by detective Jerome Caminada on what has been named by historians as a “drag ball” in Hulme, Manchester, resulted in a riot in 1880. The subsequent trial of the people involved was detailed in newspapers at the time and scandalised the Victorian middle classes.’

Just God, we remember Stella Boulton and Fanny Park. We also remember the riot in Hulme in 1880. As we remember them, we pray for all who have been affected by criminalisation, past and present. May your loving kindness and mercy overcome all injustice.

‘Michael Dillon/Sramanera Jivaka (1915-1962)

Michael/Sramanera was a doctor, author and the first trans* man in the UK to undergo phalloplasty (penis construction). His 1946 book, ‘Self: A Study in Endocrinology and Ethics’, made the case that trans* people should be offered medical transition rather than being treated for mental illness. He fled to India after his trans* status was discovered, where he converted to Buddhism, changed his name to Sramanera, and published on Buddhist practices for British children.

‘The body should be made to fit, approximately at any rate, to the mind.’ – Michael Dillion

Roberta Cowell (1918-2011)

Roberta was a racing driver who competed in the 1939 Grand Prix. She became a fighter pilot in the second world war, and was captured and became a German prisoner of war, suffering solitary confinement and starvation. She was liberated in 1945. 

Back in England, she suffered from PTSD and sought the help of a psychiatrist. With his support she began transition. She went on to become the first trans* woman in the UK to undergo vaginoplasty (vagina construction). Her surgeries were carried out both by the surgeon who operated on Dillon, and by Dillon himself. She was not allowed to compete in the Grand Prix again following her transition, but she remained an active part of UK motor racing.’

Creative God, we remember Michael Dillon/Stramanera Jivaka and Roberta Cowell. As we remember them we give thanks for all who share their stories to help others. We pray for all who are undergoing, or have undergone, medical treatment as part of their transition, and ask that our medical systems may be liberated to improve access to such treatments. We also pray for those who are barred from competing in sports events because of their gender identities. May your re-creative power enable human growth and progress.

‘Trans* People banned from Marrying (1967)

In the case of Talbot (otherwise Poyntz) Vs. Talbot, Judge Ormerod ruled that trans* people were not permitted to marry under British law.

‘Marriage is a relationship which depends on sex, not on gender.’ – Judge Benjamin Ormerod

Jan Morris (born 1926 – age 88)

Jan is a Welsh historian, author and travel writer. In 1953 she was part of the first British team to successfully climb Mount Everest. She transitioned in the 1960s and chose to undergo surgery abroad, as doing it in the UK would have meant the government forced her to divorce her wife. They were ultimately forced to divorce anyway, but remained together and entered a civil partnership in 2008. She accepted a CBE in 1999, but says she did it only to be polite and that she remains a Welsh nationalist republican. In 2008 The Times named her one of the 15 greatest writers since the war.’

Mourning God, we remember and mourn with you that gender has so often been reduced to sex and that, as a result, trans people have been unable to marry, and still are in many places. As we remember, we pray for all who love trans people and all who work to liberate our love. May the spirit that you breathed into ha’adam, the androgynous human, move amongst lovers today.

‘The Self Help Association for Transexuals (formed 1980)

SHAFT was formed in 1980, as a mutual aid organisation through which trans* people could collect and share useful information.’

God our Advocate, we remember and give thanks for SHAFT. As we remember, we pray for all organisations and individuals that work together to help and support trans people. In particular, we pray that the media would stop impeding advocacy work by labelling it as ‘activism’. May your advocacy be shared amongst humanity, that we might speak up for those who have no voice or whose voice has been silenced.

‘Legal Rights for Trans* People (2002-today)

It was not until 2002 that the UK government stated that ‘transexualism is not a mental illness’. It was not until 2005 that trans* people in the UK were able to change their legal gender. There still exists complex and time-consuming bureaucracy that trans* people must navigate in order to achieve this. Cuts made to the NHS and other public services under the current government have meant that waiting lists for trans* people to get life-saving medical treatments are now measured in years rather than months.’

Life-giving God, we give thanks for the life that has been breathed into our community. As we give thanks, though, we remember that there is still a long road ahead. We are sorry that sometimes we assume that justice already exists, and neglect those who are still fighting for their rights. We are sorry that sometimes we are simply too tired to fight. May your forgiving and liberating love and grace stir amongst us and encourage us to try again.

Amen.

If you would like to use the prayer without the interspersed facts, here it is:

Healing God, we remember James Barry who, despite unimaginable barriers, improved healthcare for so many. As we remember him, we pray for all those who cannot disclose their trans identities for fear of discrimination, censure or violence. May your light shine so brightly in the darkness that we no longer need to hide.

God who walked incognito amongst humanity, we remember Mary Mudge. As we remember her, we pray for all those who are invisible in today’s society, particularly those who are oppressed by poverty. May your recognition and care for all of humanity be seen and reflected amongst us.

God, turner of tables, we remember the Rebecca Riots. As we remember them, we pray for all those whose gender identity has been the catalyst for social change. May your radical activism inspire and embolden us to work together for the liberation of all people.

Just God, we remember Stella Boulton and Fanny Park. We also remember the riot in Hulme in 1880. As we remember them, we pray for all who have been affected by criminalisation, past and present. May your loving kindness and mercy overcome all injustice.

Creative God, we remember Michael Dillon/Stramanera Jivaka and Roberta Cowell. As we remember them we give thanks for all who share their stories to help others. We pray for all who are undergoing, or have undergone, medical treatment as part of their transition, and ask that our medical systems may be liberated to improve access to such treatments. We also pray for those who are barred from competing in sports events because of their gender identities. May your re-creative power enable human growth and progress.

Mourning God, we remember and mourn with you that gender has so often been reduced to sex and that, as a result, trans people have been unable to marry, and still are in many places. As we remember, we pray for all who love trans people and all who work to liberate our love. May the spirit that you breathed into ha’adam, the androgynous human, move amongst lovers today.

God our Advocate, we remember and give thanks for SHAFT. As we remember, we pray for all organisations and individuals that work together to help and support trans people. In particular, we pray that the media would stop impeding advocacy work by labelling it as ‘activism’. May your advocacy be shared amongst humanity, that we might speak up for those who have no voice or whose voice has been silenced.

Life-giving God, we give thanks for the life that has been breathed into our community. As we give thanks, though, we remember that there is still a long road ahead. We are sorry that sometimes we assume that justice already exists, and neglect those who are still fighting for their rights. We are sorry that sometimes we are simply too tired to fight. May your forgiving and liberating love and grace stir amongst us and encourage us to try again.

Amen.

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