Dear Toowoomba... It's ok to be me
My years in Toowoomba were both full of wonderful things and also wrestling with the need to come out publicly in my authentic gender. So it has been good to reflect again on this as I responded recently to the invitation to share in the Make Visible project developed by artist Shannon Novak with the support of QAGOMA. This aims to grow support for the LGBTQI+ community in Queensland, Australia by making visible challenges and triumphs for this community. One of the satellite sites and partners is USQ at Toowoomba, who asked me to write a short letter, headed 'Dear Toowoomba'. They also invited me to be a part of the Launch of the project 'Its' ok to be me' at USQ and to share in a panel on ways forward. I hope my contribution may be part of contributing to the further maturing of a city with so many fine features and people, but still with a little more work to do in fully celebrating and empowering all its people. It has also reminded me of the many people (and a wonderful dog!) I miss in Toowoomba and its achievements and potential...
It was a delight to meet with local Muslims today to affirm our shared concern for one another, our city and peace in the world. A number of people spoke well, not least Dr Shahab Abdullah the spokesman for the local Iraqi Muslim community. Tea and cake then helped seal the deal. What a contrast with the over-reaction of some, including those who closed three local military museums this week, thus, to my mind, exacerbating community anxiety rather than alleviating it. Even the police present seemed a bit embarrassed about currently having to wear firearms as part of the security reaction to recent events. Whether that is alarmist or not, it certainly does not reassure those of us who tend to feel less secure in the presence of weaponry rather than with it. More positively, it was a joy to speak with five Indonesian Muslim women who are in their last week of five in Toowoomba. They spoke with wonderful pleasure of their experience here, not least the excited interest they had conjured up in visiting a local school yesterday. Once again the benefits of 'table fellowship' shone through: last week in the Buddhist monastery, Sunday in St Luke's, today among USQ Muslims. Such is an important path to peace. As another Christian pointed out to me last week, in a much more conservative Christian setting, Jesus was much more a guest than a host. Should more be willing to step out of their comfort zones and risk vulnerability, there would similarly be much more joy and solidarity to quell our own anxieties and transform the world's genuine fears. Anyone for another cup of tea?
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.