Mycroft Masada is a queer trans faith leader who moved to the Washington DC area of Maryland’s Montgomery County from their lifelong home of Boston in 2014. Mycroft co-chairs the MoCo Pride Center, is a TransFaith National Council member, a TransEpiscopal Steering Committee member and former Congregation Am Tikva board member. Mycroft is particularly called to pursue justice at the intersections of LGBTQI+ and fat communities, and is an advocate, organizer, consultant, educator, trainer, writer and artist. They are partnered with Julia McCrossin, the massculine fatshion blogger, and with her co-parents a dogter. Their central online home is MasadArts.blogspot.com.

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving / National Day Of Mourning (#NDOM #NAHM)


Harlan Pruden:  "LGBT history usually only looks to the summer of 1969 as its beginning ... when in reality we, two-spirit people, had important parts of our communities for thousands of years."

I was privileged to attend one of Harlan's workshops at the 2012 Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference. One priceless moment was his comment on how in some Native cultures, the male warriors would dance for Two Spirit people like himself before battle. Striking a pose, he pointed out that although the US has been in many wars during his lifetime, he is still waiting for his dance.‪

Thanksgiving is also the National Day of Mourning (‪#‎NDOM), and November is Native American History Month (#NAHM)‬.

As we give thanks today, and every day, may we be mindful of the infinite gifts the First Nations have given and continue to give this nation -- and how much we have taken and continue to take from Native people. Even many of us in the social justice community have been remiss in this, even as we focus on particularly intersectional aspects like racial, climate and sex / gender / sexuality justice.

Today I am especially thankful that, despite my many failings as a partner in social justice, Indigenous communities have given me much. From my namesake Aunt June, a fellow Anglo who lived and worked on the Navajo reservation in Arizona for many years (and still lives in Nevada); to the United American Indians of New England (Massachusetts is my home state); to the Two Spirit community of TransFaith, and beyond.

Todah rabah, many thanks.

This is Transfaith’s main piece about remembering ‪#‎TwoSpirit‬ traditions this season, which links to our Indigenous website section and highlights a few pieces therein.  I'm a Community Engagement Adviser at TF.

I listened to Native America Calling’s February show about Transgender Native Americans in March, after hearing about it from Transfaith (where I’m a Community Engagement Adviser), and learned a lot. ‪

“Before assimilation, two-spirit people, including those who identify as transgender, played very important roles in tribal communities. Transgender people now face discrimination. According to a study by the National Center for Transgender Equality, over half of transgender people have attempted suicide.
In today’s show, we talk about the struggle to regain that historical acceptance and celebrate our Native people who call themselves transgender. We will also look at the roles of transgender people in their communities today. Guests: Ty Defoe (Oneida and Ojibw) – artist, social activist, musician and writer; tradition keeper Sydney Freeland (Navajo) – Director and writer of Drunktown's Finest; Robyn Silverfox (Navajo) – pre-med student. Break Music: Too Much To Feel (song), Klee Benally (artist), Respect Existence Or Expect Resistance (album).”

Kol hakavod and yasher koach to to those in body and spirit at National Day of Mourning 2015 (in Plymouth MA). I’m ashamed to say I’ve never been there in person, though I lived in Boston from birth until January 2014; I hope to remedy that one day. May they have a meaningful fast and feast, in whatever forms that takes for each.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Congregation Beit Tikvah's LGBTQ film festival

The flyer for tonight’s event, which also lives at
Scribd. 

Tonight was part one of a planned three-part LGBTQ  film festival by and at Congregation Beit Tikvah, and I was one the of the panelists.  The fest is free, including  refreshments, and is co-sponsored by Interfaith 
Fairness Coalition of Maryland, JQ Baltimore and The Faith Communities of Baltimore with PRIDE.  The 
other two nights are scheduled for December and 
February.

Nu, why is this night different from all other nights?  It isthe most trans-themed, with the films being the 
documentaries “Becoming Ayden” and “Devout”, and my fellow panelists being Tyler Vile, Beth Feigin 
Bugnaski, and Rabbi Gila Colman Ruskin; we were 
moderated by CBT’s Rabbi Larry Pinsker.

This was my first visit to and connection with CBT.  I  know their member William Palmer through his work asVice President of IFCMD, Rabbi Ruskin since meeting her at JQ Baltimore’s Pesach (Passover) seder last March, and I knew of Tyler; Beth and Gila are parents of queer young adults.  I had heard about both films but hadn’t seen either until after I accepted the invitation to be on the panel -- “Becoming Ayden” is not 
available for free, but I researched it otherwise; “Devout” I watched for free on YouTube today.

“Becoming Ayden” is actually very problematic – primary subject Ayden Scheim and his friends make the 
best of the bad situation (which unfortunately can’t be said of all of the subjects, including some of the other  trans ones), but the film is probably most useful as an example of how not to make films about trans people.  While it wasn’t a good choice for the festival, at least not without a lot of framing, it did trigger a discussion 
that badly needed to be had, especially about where Beit Tivkah is and is going, in terms of trans issues and a number of other things.  Interestingly, this is similar to what happened when the film was originally aired – 
as explained here by Ayden’s friend and fellow film subject Evan Smith, and tonight by Rabbi Pinsker, who moved here from Canada recently.  Too, things have improved greatly for Ayden over the decade since the 
film’s release.

“Devout” is a much better film in many ways, and needs much less introduction, but it does have some of the typical faults of films and other works that are primarily about ‘homosexuality’ but include a trans story; too, 
the film gives little if any sense that bisexuality, queerness, etc. exist.  But for the most part it does what it 
says on its tin:  “Devout is a 37-minute documentary film that follows the lives of seven women in New York and New Jersey who are trying to reconcile their alternative sexuality with their commitment to Orthodox      Judaism. Their faith has always condemned homosexuality in the harshest terms. Find out how Chani, Pam,  Elissa, Hayley, Lina and "Miriam" have dealt with being "unacceptable" while still remaining devoted to their  strict faith and community.”

Tonight was definitely a long, strange schlep in at least a few ways, but I think it turned out to be worthwhile  for all involved in different ways; and I hope that CBT will continue the conversation and move forward.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

MoCo MD TDOR 2015 - Address by Marcia Simpson

Montgomery County MD Transgender Day Of Remembrance 2015 (#MCMDTDOR)
Address by Marcia Simpson

I would like to begin with a little history on tonight's event.

Transgender day of remembrance was started by Gwendolyn Ann Smith to honor the memory of Rita Hester, an African American transgender woman who was murdered in Allston, MA on November 28th 1998. Gwendolyn Smith was struck by the similarities between Rita Hesters murder, and the murder of another African American transgender woman, Chanelle Pickett, three years earlier, on November 19th 1995, in MA. and how no one she spoke with seemed to even remember Chanelle Pickett. The first vigil commemorated all the transgender people that were lost to violence that year, and began the important tradition that we continue here this evening, the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.

I need to also mention at this time, the fact that Chanelle Pickett had a twin sister, Gabrielle Pickett, also a Trans Woman of Color, who was also killed, in 2003.

Here we are in 2015, and despite increased transgender visibility in the national media, 22 trans women have been murdered this year in the United States.

Of those 22, 19 were trans women of color.

And in 2014 all but one of the trans women murdered, identified as black or Latina.

2015 had the highest homicide rate of transgender and gender non-conforming people in the US ever recorded by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Program.

And just 10 days ago, in Houston Texas, misinformation and transphobia were used to overturn non-discrimination laws there. Leaving LGBT citizens of the nations 4th largest city subject to legalized discrimination.

Our community is in crisis, and under siege.

Right here in Montgomery County, a young woman, Zella Ziona, a 21 year old trans woman of color, much loved by her family, friends, and this community, was taken from us. Killed in broad daylight, (10 miles from where I stand) for simply daring to exist. Her life stolen by hatred and ignorance. We honor Zella’s memory tonight, and the memory of all those lost to violence.  Violence towards trans people, particularly trans women of color, is a problem that must be confronted, now, by the LGBT community and its allies, politicians, religious leaders, and the American people.

We must hold leaders and politicians accountable for inaction on comprehensive national nondiscrimination legislation. we cannot afford to wait until it is comfortable, or politically advantageous to expand non-discrimination legislation to cover all Americans, it is the right thing to do, and we need it today. People are dying out here...

We, the people, have some serious questions that need to be answered. Who are we, and what values DO we hold dear? What kind legacy shall we leave behind for future generations? Do we as a nation intend to uphold the the idea, that all are people created equal, deserving of equal justice and civil rights? Or will we continue to treat some as more deserving of justice than others?

We are in a time of revolutionary change, a time when we must demand that those who stand for justice, refuse to remain silent, and stand with us. To demand change, a revolutionary change in the recognition of basic human rights, for everyone, everywhere, that must be led and understood by the those with the foresight to realize that Injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere. As articulated in the words of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We exist, and we refuse to be treated as second class citizens, by those who refuse to acknowledge the reality of our existence.

Being ourselves is not a lifestyle choice, anymore than the color of our eyes or the color of our skin are a lifestyle choice.

We cannot be silent, as many of us are forced to live in a constant state of fear. Fear of rejection, harassment, discrimination, violence, and the fear of death. Simply for having the audacity to be ourselves.

We must replace that fear with hope, counter ignorance with education, and counter hate with love and respect for one another. And when we see injustice, we must not remain silent, we must stand, united, to defeat it, wherever it may arise.

We need to put and end to a cycle of poverty and marginalization brought on by discrimination.  We need to improve educational environments for transgender students, by promoting equality, and diversity. School should be a sanctuary for students, to nurture their abilities and to foster a lifelong joy of learning.

We need to address unemployment, by calling on the federal government to pass comprehensive non-discrimination protections in employment that include both sexual orientation, and gender identity.

We must educate law enforcement through training, and foster interaction and cooperation with law enforcement, within our communities. We must urge states attorneys to fully and swiftly investigate all open homicide cases against transgender and gender non-conforming people.  We must expand our circle of friends and allies, to all those willing to listen.

Get to know someone different than you, outside of your social circle, talk to talk to them. An amazing thing happens when people take the time to get know each other, we often find that the things that separate us fall away. that we all have the same wants, needs, hopes and dreams, and that our differences are minuscule compared to our common humanity. we all want a safe place to live, a way to make an honest living, someone to love, and someone to love us back. In short: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Tonight, we stand united, to speak in honor of those who's voices were stolen from us. And we must continue to stand united as we go out into the world, we must every one of us, make a commitment to take action, to put and end to this devastating violence.

Thank you.

Montgomery County Maryland Transgender Day Of Remembrance 2015

The 5th annual (2015) Montgomery County MD Trans Day of Remembrance event was tonight, Saturday November 14th, at Rockville United Church, from seven to nine.  The event was free and open to the public, and included a service, an outdoor candlelight vigil with a reading of the names and cairn building, and a dinner reception.  Everything was optional, and there were spaces for attendees to be alone or connect with listener-companions.  If you attended, please fill out the event committee’s feedback survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/JXT8LK7.

More than 100 people attended, and we were incredibly privileged to host several of Zella Ziona’s family members, including one of her maternal aunts who spoke during the service -- Zella is a trans woman of color who was murdered in Gaithersburg in October (my partner’s hometown, where we live with our family); may her memory be a blessing (as we say in Judaism).

We also welcomed MD state Senator Jamie Raskin and his wife Sarah Bloom Raskin, Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger as well as officers from Takoma Park and elsewhere, and possibly other community leaders.  There was also at least one member of the media, a reporter from the Montgomery County Sentinel who took photos and did interviews, but we haven't found their work yet.

My partner Julia McCrossin and I were on the event committee for the second year in a row (she’s a native, I’m a Boston native who moved here last January).  Begun because of murders in my native Boston in 1998, #TDOR is an international observance, centered around November 20th, that honors the many trans people lost to violence and suicide, and inspires action towards trans-inclusive social justice.  The focus is on trans women of color, who experience some of the most extreme oppression, nationally and globally.  

Click here for the printed program, here for the photos of the church’s signage and more, here for the flyer, here for the press release, here for our Facebook event and here for our Twitter (#MCMDTDOR).

And here is a summary of the program (including post-printing changes), including a link to the text of the Address; the service was ASL interpreted.

  • Rev. Julia Jarvis began the service with a Tibetan singing bowl and silence
  • Nikki Ames sang Paul Simon’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, accompanied here and throughout by Clarice Snyder
  • Ezra Towne led a responsive reading of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Dirge Without Music 
  • RUC’s Rev. Scott Winnette and I gave a welcome 
  • My partner Julia McCrossin read what was listed as a Hopi prayer but is actually Mary Elizabeth Frye’s Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep, and lit a candle 
  • I spoke about the names and invited attendees to share any names they wished to
  • Rev. Julia Jarvis gave more Tibetan bowl song and silence 
  • Rev. Art Waidmann read Rabbis Sylvan Kamens and Jack Riemer’s At The Rising Of The Sun / We Remember Them  
  • Rev. Jill McCrory read these words by Audre Lorde:  “In becoming forcibly and essentially aware of my mortality, and of what I wished and wanted for my life, however short it might be, priorities and omissions became strongly etched in a merciless light, and what I most regretted were my silences. Of what had I ever been afraid? To question or to speak as I believed could have meant pain, or death. But we all hurt in so many different ways, all the time, and pain will either change or end. Death, on the other hand, is the final silence. And that might be coming quickly now, without regard for whether I had ever spoken what needed to be said, or had only betrayed myself into small silences, while I planned someday to speak, or waited for someone else’s words. “
  • One of Zella Ziona’s maternal aunts spoke, and did so with astounding grace -- Eli Sauerwalt was also scheduled to speak, but was home sick, refuah shlemah
  • Rev. Julia Jarvis invited donations to support Zella Ziona’s family, and as they were collected Nikki sang Jerry Herman’s I Am What I Am 
  • Marcia Simpson gave an excellent Address -- click here to read it 
  • I invited attendees to further prepare for the vigil
  • Karen Holmes read these words by Laverne Cox:  “We are not what other people say we are. We are who we know ourselves to be, and we are what we love.  And that's okay....  Each and every one of us has the capacity to be an oppressor.  I want to encourage each and every one of us to interrogate how we might be an oppressor and how we might be able to become liberators for ourselves and for each other.  
We had planned to use Enya’s version of How Can I Keep From Singing to process out of the sanctuary, but ran out of time to decide how.

As the service ended, I joined Rev. Miller Hoffman on an island in the church’s parking lot, where he read the names and I displayed them on a tablet while the attendees, holding battery-powered tealights, built the cairn with their stones on a rainbow-clothed table and then gathered around us in a half-circle.

After the names were read, we had a few moments of silence, then returned to the church to exchange our tealights for Japanese-style origami cranes (by Robin Allen), and begin the dinner reception of soups homemade by the hospitality subcommittee (chaired by Carol Edwards), breads donated by Nourish Now, desserts and drinks.

Thank you, everyone!!!  May you be inspired to work for trans-inclusive social justice here in MoCo and beyond in 2016.  We hope to gather with you next November if not before.