Budyeri Gamaruwa – greetings in Gadigal. I acknowledge elders, past and present, and all First Nations people here. For before these steps on which we stand existed, this was Aboriginal land. It is, and always will be, Aboriginal land. For true identity, love and self-determination are not ceded by the oppressions of others. That is at the heart of our simple act of solidarity today.
My name is Josephine McDonnell Inkpin. I am a transgender woman and a queer person of faith. including being Minister here at Pitt Street Uniting Church. So I thank you all for coming this morning. For gender diverse people and queer people of faith are very vulnerable right now. We are not surprised by current attacks. In fact, we trans people have been warning about them for ages, but typically our concerns have given little priority -– just as our calls not to issue a visa to an UK rabble-rouser could have helped avoid Nazis on the streets of Melbourne and feeding right wing forces across the country. Similarly, we queer Christians have called for our voices to be heard properly but, with notable exceptions, many key Christian leaders and some queer people have given little priority to our concerns – just as our calls to help us address the now visible Christian Right in Sydney could have helped avoid the violence on Sydney streets. This - must – change: both for the sake of trans people and queer people of faith and for us all. For an attack on any of us is an attack on all of us. Our attackers think that trans people and queer Christians are easy and weak targets. Well, we are so not weak in spirit, but we are not as strong we could be if we had greater voice and empowerment. This simple solidarity photograph is therefore a declaration of that intent...
These steps, and its building behind, are truly powerful. Make no mistake about that. That is why they were attacked. For this church is such a significant symbol of queer faith. Indeed, it has been a fully affirming space for LGBTIQA+ people not for one decade, not for two, not for three, but for four decades – and it has the only transgender priest or Minister in a mainstream Church in the whole of this city and state. So the attack here represents an attack on the entire queer faith community, and on trans leadership. For Pitt Street Uniting Church stands at Sydney's queer religious heart, and we will not be cowed. For weeks, even before Sydney WorldPride began, church members, with other queer Christians, were being harassed by Christian Lives Matter and their fellow travelers. When that did not work, they poured grey paint on our rainbow steps. Yet people here did not blink. Since Dorothy McRae-McMahon’s time, this church has experienced such aggression for standing for human dignity of all kinds. So we painted over the grey with fresh rainbow colours. Then they came with tools and ripped up the membrane. So people here laid down not one but two rainbows down the steps – doubling in love and determination. Then they came and, after several earlier attempts, finally ripped down our Rainbow Christians Together banner. But we have another one. For like my wonderful but hard-pressed trans siblings, this church and queer people of faith, will never be crushed. That inexhaustible spirit is what we honour today.
On this eve of the Trans Day of Visibility, I could say much more, – about how trans people are so utterly brilliant and beautiful – but, seriously, if you haven’t noticed that, then you are really not paying attention! And I could repeat, once again, that queer liberation will never be achieved until queer people of faith are genuinely empowered – because, until we are, the queer community is fighting its religious foes with one hand tied behind its back – but you only have to walk into this church to see the vibrancy of what we offer, not least in the multi-faith Queer Faces of Faith exhibition. So all I really want to say is thankyou. Thankyou for standing with us today and thankyou for all we are going to do – aren’t we? - to end the violence threatening us all.
by the Revd Dr Josephine Inkpin, 30 March 2023
Jo Inkpin is an Anglican priest serving as Minister of Pitt St Uniting Church in Sydney, a trans woman, theologian & justice activist. These are some of my reflections on life, spirit, and the search for peace, justice & sustainable creation.