being a border crosser
A great deal of my life has been spent as a border crosser, on so many levels A number of factors have no doubt given rise to this, including life contexts and personality. It is also however a key element in being both a priest and a transgender person. Much has been written about this from the point of view of priesthood. Whether lay or ordained, all Christians also share in the ministry of reconciliation (see 2 Corinthians 5.17-20 and elsewhere). Yet perhaps one of the under-recognised gifts of transgender people is the capacity many of us have to work across the borders of identity and difference. After all, we have to negotiate this more than most in our very selves. No wonder that, across the world's cultures, gender variant people have therefore always exercised sacred roles as priests, mediators, go-betweens, and other reconciling figures, in so many aspects of human existence. No wonder too that some like myself have been drawn into Christian priesthood and border crossing work as a means of finding life for ourselves and others, even when our own transgender identities have been outwardly submerged or suppressed. As transgender people become more visible and accepted as equal and positive contributors to human life, it will be lovely to see such ministries increasingly more explicitly affirmed, celebrated and nurtured. To be a border crosser, whatever your gender identity, is typically both an uncomfortable but wonderfully rewarding vocation. So if you are, or know, a border crosser, say a prayer and raise a glass of cheer and comfort! We are vital, for ourselves and for others. As Kathy Galloway put it, in a favourite poem of mine (entitled 'Cross-border peace talks'), it is a holy place to be:
There is a place
beyond the borders
where love grows,
and where peace is not the frozen silence
drifting across no man's land from two heavily defended
but the stumbling, stammering attempts of long-closed throats
to find words to bridge the distance;
neither is it a simple formula
that reduces everything to labels,
but an intricate and complex web of feeling and relationship
which spans a wider range than you'd ever thought possible.
That place is not to be found on the map
of government discussions
or political posturing.
It does not exist within the borders of
Catholic and Protestant,
Irish or British,
male or female,
old or young.
It lies beyond,
and is drawn with different points of reference.
To get to that place,
you have to go
(or be pushed out)
beyond the borders,
to where it is lonely, fearful, threatening,
Only after you have wandered for a long time
in the dark,
do you begin to bump into others,
and find you walk on common ground.
It is not an easy place to be,
this place beyond the borders.
It is where you learn that there is more pain in love than in hate,
more courage in forbearance than in vengeance,
more remembering needed in forgetting,
and always new borders to cross.
But it is a good place to be.
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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.