This photo was taken, earlier this year, from my bed of healing in a delightful unit in St Kilda (Melbourne). I had just had genital reconstruction surgery, thanks to the excellent skills of Andy Ives and his wonderful team at the nearby Masada Hospital, and I was in my first stages of recovery 'at home'. When the night's darkness began to lift, the new light of day brought this beautiful dawn. My eyes opened to the glorious gift of nature's renewal, and, with it, to the wonder of human participation in the joy of existence and work of re-creation. For across the sky, just above the treeline, floated a series of hot air balloons, beautiful expressions of fresh lightness and delight (you may just be able to spot two of them in the photo - as small circles to the left of the centre of the light, adjacent to the word alleluia). At the same time, the sunrise further gorgeously illuminated the cranes working on the building of the exciting development of the Victorian Pride Centre, visible a couple of streets away across the rooftops.
This experience was, as might be imagined, for me, a vision and harbinger of resurrection. It did not take away the struggles I was going through. The surgery itself was very successful, and there was not a subsequent shred of regret - so much the reverse, with deeper inner peace. Yet the days ahead also saw pain and discomfort, particularly with an awkward infection and a slow completion of healing due to sensitive skin (part of the joy of being a particular kind of natural redhead?!). The wider struggles of gender & sexually diverse people are also hardly over, despite such welcome living symbols of resurrection as the Pride Centre. Yet that dawn was not only a moment of special grace, but also a deep sign of hope and loving transformation, not simply for myself but for so much else about which I care. For resurrection, at least in this life and time space, is always betwixt and between...
It is too easy to be glib about resurrection. Cheap Easter joy, like cheap grace, is often widespread. Good Friday, and Holy Week, can also become simply a run-up to Easter Day. On the other hand, some are so obsessed by sin and death-dealing that they fail to witness to resurrection love as the heart of life-giving Christianity. The truth is that cross and resurrection are two facets of the same divine love and human experience. Resurrection is always bound up with the cross, and bears the marks of its wounds, even in its extraordinary joy, just as the cross stands in the ultimate light of the resurrection. We cannot simply jump from suffering to joy by our own exertion, though we are strengthened in our struggles by such glimpses. The Easter gift is a glimpse of the transcending, not simplistic erasing, of suffering and death. It offers however the ever-renewing possibility of hope beyond the darkest of circumstances.
Perhaps 2020 and the Covid-19 crisis has helped displace some of the more comfortable renderings of the Easter story, and calls us to a deeper receptivity to what truly transforms? Maybe too, something in transgender experience speaks of this mystery, its complexity and process of unfolding? Just by existing transgender people are powerful witnesses to the possibilities of new life beyond suffering and death, not least the death of the old self. Of course Christ's Resurrection is so, so much more: an infinite mystery. Yet, literally and metaphorically, transgender people embody (are bodies of) transformation, even in bearing the scars of their hurts and wounds. That is just part of their/our gift to the world. Whatever our own journeys, and experiences at this time, may we therefore all be touched by transforming joy this Easter and always.
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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.