Mycroft Masada is a trans and queer faith leader who moved to Gaithersburg, Maryland (Montgomery County near Washington DC) from their lifelong home of Boston in 2014. A TransFaith National Council member, TransEpiscopal Steering Committee member and former Congregation Am Tikva board member, Mycroft is particularly called to pursue LGBTQI+ and fat justice, and is an advocate, organizer, consultant, educator, trainer, writer and artist. They are married to Julia McCrossin, the massculine fatshion blogger, and with her they co-parent a dogter. Their central online home is MasadArts.blogspot.com.

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

AN ACT OF FAITH: Western Massachusetts Communities of Faith Speak Out for Transgender Rights

(Crossposted to ICTE’s blog.)


In January, the bill “An Act Relative to Gender-Based Discrimination and Hate Crimes” was re-filed in the Massachusetts House and Senate. It would finally add “gender identity or expression” to the state’s discrimination and hate crimes laws and give transgender and gender non-conforming people basic civil rights.


On January 21st, the Interfaith Coalition for Transgender Equality (ICTE) and Keshet held the event “AN ACT OF FAITH: Massachusetts Communities of Faith Speak Out for Transgender Equality” – officially beginning the faith-based campaign in support of the bill.


Tonight, Beit Ahavah (The Reform Synagogue of Greater Northampton), The Edwards Church (United Church of Christ), ICTE, Keshet and many co-sponsors held the event “AN ACT OF FAITH: Western Massachusetts Communities of Faith Speak Out for Transgender Rights” at The Edwards Church in Northampton.


Ten congregations, eleven organizations, fourteen speakers (half of them transgender) and a full house of attendees came together for an incredible service to celebrate transgender people and commit to working for transgender rights.


These are the first and second interfaith transgender events in Massachusetts history! I wish I could tell you everything that they mean to me as a transgender person and leader of faith. What they mean to everyone who attended and everyone else who was part of them. They are miraculous, powerful, wonderful, beautiful beyond description. They are truly transformative.


With their program, each attendee was given the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition’s (MTPC) information about the bill and how to support it, ICTE’s signed Declaration of Religious & Faith-Based Support for the bill, information about the Transgender Emergency Fund, a green commitment card with several actions for the bill and transgender social justice, and wildflower seeds.


The first part of the service was a Welcome. Rev. Dr. Peter Kakos (Pastor, Edwards Church) gave an Invocation, and Rabbi Riqi Kosovske (Rabbi of Beit Ahavah) a Welcome. Gunner Scott (Director, Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition) spoke about Testimony. Rev. Dr. Andrea Ayvazian (Pastor, Haydenville Congregational Church) sang Libby Roderick’s “How Could Anyone Ever Tell You”.


The second part was Tilling The Soil. I preached about the meaning of Transfaith -- to read my sermon (Google Document), click this sentence. Rabbi David Dunn Bauer (Rabbi of the Jewish Community of Amherst) spoke On Chaos And Order and co-led Holly Near’s song “We Are A Gentle Angry People”. My fellow ICTE Co-Chair, Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge (Priest, St. Luke’s & St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church; Founding Member, TransEpiscopal) spoke about Giving Voice To Remembrance – for his blog entry, including his speech, click here. Tynan Power (Regional Coordinator, Al-Fatiha), read from the Qur’an -- Surah al-Inshirah (The Expansion).


The third part was Planting Seeds. Minister Louis Mitchell (Deacon, South Congregational Church; Minister, Recovering The Promise Ministries) gave words and an original prayer. Jan Alicia Netter (President, Unitarian Society of Northampton & Florence) spoke about the Circle Of Caring and read Rev. Richard Gilbert’s poem. Rabbi Kosovske (Beit Ahavah) spoke of the Seeds Of Tradition.


The fourth part was Watering. Yohah Ralph, MDiv (Community Minister; Graduate, Episcopal Divinity School; In Care in the United Church of Christ; Member, First Churches Northampton) gave a Reflection On Faith. Arinna Weisman (Founding Teacher, Insight Mediation Center of Pioneer Valley) spoke and led us in Meditation & Movement.


The fifth and last part was a Closing. Rabbi Justin David (Rabbi of Congregation B’nai Israel) gave a Call To Action. Jennifer Levi (Director, GLAD Transgender Rights Project) spoke of our Next Steps. Rev. Kakos and Rabbi Kosovske gathered all the speakers to give the Benediction.


(I hope to soon link to more of the speakers’ words.)


We speakers processed down the aisle and formed a receiving line behind the pews for the attendees. During that time and the reception that followed, I met many of my fellow speakers for the first time, and was gifted with several people’s responses to my sermon and the rest of the service. How much more so with personal stories about their lives from each of the transpeople, loved ones and other allies I spoke with.


A transman about to come out and begin his transition, who shares my fascination with mixed gender identity and expression. A transman who was partly sustained in high school by looking at my photograph in The Shared Heart (a book, exhibit and curriculum of GLBT youth portraits and essays – I’m the only transperson) every day. A transwoman who came out when she was eight, and went to a GLBT high school. A transwoman who shares my love of creating and wearing jewelry – and possible need for Jewelry Anonymous! A transwoman whose circus work taught her how to unite groups of people through the spirituality of their bodies and the rest of the natural world. A transwoman who like me comes from an interfaith family and has felt unwelcome, but sees and hopes for change. A transman who shares my interest in how faiths can learn from each other’s greatest teachers, including Jesus.


I am so blessed, grateful and proud to be part of tonight’s service, and the work which led to and will follow from it! Massachusetts has always been my beloved home (I was born and have always lived here). I’ve always felt closer to the Western part of the state than most greater Bostonians, yet I haven’t had nearly enough interaction with that community. This evening and its process was a rare and precious window and door into the amazing transgender and allied community of Western Massachusetts. What a privilege to witness such a thing, never mind be so welcomed and included! Hinei ma tov, how good it is to see the parts of my state uniting for transgender social justice and becoming more (of a) whole in the process.


Transpeople and our loved ones have been and are hurt, in faith communities and the rest of the world. We and our allies have much work and a long journey ahead of us, towards our inclusion in communities of faith and social justice. Tonight’s service acknowledged all of that, and yet was also so healing and hopeful. Tonight is part of a movement that will transform this state and country and beyond.


For the flyer (PDF), click here.

For the program (PDF), click here for the outside and here for the inside.

For the Facebook page, click here.

For my photos (Picasa Web album), click here.

The event was also photographed and filmed.

For the Edge Boston article, "Bay State religious groups back transgender rights bill" (by Joe Siegel, New England Editor), click here. For more press coverage, you’ll soon be able to click here.


Thank you to the event committee – Rev. Andrea Ayvazian, Rev. Eric Fistler (Minister of Christian Education, Edwards Church), Orly Jacobovits (Senior Organizer & Community Educator, Keshet), Rabbi Riqi Kosovske, Jennifer Levi, Jan Alicia Nettler, Tynan Power, Gunner Scott, Marcus Simon (Office Manager, Beit Ahavah), Marsha & Bill Zimmer (latter is President of Beit Ahavah).


I must especially kvell (be proud) about Marcus because he’s also a “TWiG”, a member of Keshet’s Transgender Working Group. And I must especially thank Tynan because he coordinated press coverage, and his family photographed, filmed, and co-led a song. Also, special thanks to Cameron for schlepping Orly and I from and to Boston.


Thank you to our cosponsors, speakers, volunteers, attendees and everyone else who was part of this event!


Mycroft Masada Holmes

Chair, Keshet Transgender Working Group (TWiG)

Co-Chair, Interfaith Coalition for Transgender Equality (ICTE)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Transgender Equality Lobby Day – Massachusetts

“‘Cause I'm bound by love

And I'm thinking of what could be

Where there's a will there's a way…”


Gran Bel Fisher

Bound By Love

(2006)


Today was the Massachusetts’ Transgender Political Coalition’s Transgender Equality Lobby Day at the Massachusetts Statehouse. Three hundred of us, transgender people and allies, gathered to urge our legislators to support the bill An Act Relative To Discrimination and Hate Crimes. This bill would finally give transgender people and all citizens basic civil rights by outlawing discrimination (in housing, credit, employment, public accommodations and public education) and hate crimes based on gender identity and expression.


At 9:30, I gathered outside the Statehouse with Keshet – including our Transgender Working Group (TWiG), other members of the Jewish community, and the Interfaith Coalition for Transgender Equality. After several weeks of news and work, how exciting to arrive and begin! Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha’olam, shehechianu ve'kiemanu ve'hegianu lazman ha'zeh. Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the world, who has kept us in life, sustained us, and brought us to this moment.


We all walked together through security and to the foot of the Grand Staircase. It was wonderful to see the standing room only crowd – how much more so to realize how few of them I recognized! It was so good to connect and reconnect with those I knew, and meet many of those I didn’t. And people continued to arrive all day. Hinei ma tov umanayim, shevet achim / achyot gam yachad. Behold how good and pleasant it is for brothers and sisters [and siblings] to sit and dwell together.


Gunner Scott, Executive Director of MTPC , spoke and MCed several fine speakers; includingtransgender people, their loved ones, legislators and other politicians, and others. One of my favorite moments was Representative Byron Rushing’s speech / sermon. He told us we weren't, couldn’t be, gathered to gain our civil rights -- life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness -- because we were born with and have always had them. We were gathered to remind our state of its failure to guarantee those rights and demand justice. I though of the early 1990s, when I first became a GLBT leader, met Rep. Rushing and heard him preach this -- during the GLBT safe schools movement, when we were working to pass the bill that added “sexual orientation” to Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 76, Section 5: “No person shall be excluded from or discriminated against in admission to a public school of any town, or in obtaining the advantages, privileges and courses of study of such public school on account of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation.” Perhaps most moving was the presence of Kenneth and Marcia Garber – their son CJ was a transman who lost his life in January, at age twenty; Ken spoke and received the only standing ovation.


ICTE had the honor of organizing today’s clergy speakers – Rev. Cameron Partridge (St. Luke's and St. Margaret's Episcopal Church), Rabbi Stephanie Kolin (Temple Israel, Boston), and Rev. Will Green (St. Nicholas United Methodist Church, Hull). They spoke so passionately and beautifully – how wonderful it was to witness leaders of my own faiths and those of my colleagues preaching not only transgender equality but the inclusion and welcome of transpeople in faith communities. How much more wonderful to be able to think: This priest is my co-chair, this rabbi and pastor are our colleagues…I am so proud and blessed. To put it Yiddishly, I was kvelling! Cameron co-chairs ICTE with me, and has written a lovely blog post about today.


There was also a showing of the excellent ten-minute video MTPC created with GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project and MassEquality -- “Everyone Matters : Dignity & Safety For Transgender People”.


After the rally program, many attendees checked in at MTPC’s well-organized and stocked information table and went to prescheduled visits with their legislators – asking them to support the bill or thanking them for doing so. My fellow Keshetites and I delivered MTPC's thank-you cards to our supportive legislators and spoke with their aides and other staff, and were photographed by Ethan Halainen, Keshet’s Communications Assistant.


It was one of those days I didn’t want to end, and needed to see the end of. After most people had left, I returned to the almost empty rally site and talked with some of those who returned from their legislator visits. Even after MTPC left between two and three, I sat and talked with Joan Stratton (National Association of Social Workers) and Denise Leclair (Executive Director, International Foundation for Gender Education). Sometime after four, I had the gentlemanly pleasure of escorting the ladies out and to their next destinations.


This is one of the days when I think, over and over: I love my job. I love my work. I love my calling. I love my people, my community, my organizations and my colleagues.


How miraculous that there was a similar Lobby Day in Connecticut today, a House Judiciary Committee hearing about their hate crime definition in Rhode Island tonight, and a second vote on a similar bill in New Hampshire tomorrow. Also, Iowa legalized same-sex marriage on Friday and Vermont this morning.


And how wonderful that today is Birkat Hachama (Blessing of the Sun, the day every twenty-eight years when the sun returns to its position during Creation), that Pesach (Passover) begins tomorrow, and that it’s Holy Week (the Christian week that includes Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter).


Thank you to MTPC and its allies for creating this Day! Thanks to the Keshet staff for all their work, including creating Jewish-themed trans equality stickers for us to wear and hand out to attendees. Thanks to former ICTE member and webmistress Robyn Robbins for designing the logo for ICTE’s nametags and stickers.