ResonaTe

trans voice

Untitled -by Chiqui

there is a tale to be told, a force to be felt, almost

as CERTAINLY as life itself;

 

it is that of the giddy and the euphoric;

 

of the painful and heartwrenching;

 

of that which is PRESENT, or LOST, or

 

LONGED FOR, or the LACK THEREOF;

 

of the beauty and confusion, of ambivalent

emotions, and everything in between;

 

of that which PACIFIES and TERRIFIES;

 

it is the TALE of LOVE.

 

it is a FORCE that can HALT or spin

our worlds.

 

it is a tale passed on from age to age, a force

which cuts across all PERSONS, and BARRIERS;

 

a force we feel WILLINGLY, or reckon with

UNWITTINGLY;

 

it is a tale that, sometimes, I feel,

EXCLUDES me;

 

whose PRESENCE and HAPPY ENDING

elude me;

 

but whose promise unfailingly excites me!

 

and, as I breathe, I SEEK and PRAY for

thee!

 

come, oh LOVE, move me!

 

 

IN MEMORIAM -by Chiqui

to you the straners, who also are my friends,

we feel your PRESENCE. although we have not met.

we can sing you a sad tune,

but that we shall not do.

for your BEAUTY and STRENGTH

are best honored in LIGHT,

in JOY we proclaim your STRUGGLES,

your LIVES, and all of your FIGHTS.

 

your FRIENDS and STORYTELLERS

here today at least,

your lives may have been brief,

but LIVE it, you did your BEST.

 

today, hand in hand, we HONOR you.

we who are here today remain VISIBLE,

TOGETHER, STRONG.

we who remain PRESENT shall keep up

the FIGHT;

we shall re-write the STORY

until ALL of us are FREE.

to you, our friends who we cannot SEE<

with a song of FRIENDSHIP and GLEE,

we HONOR thee.

 

CELEBRARE -by Chiqui

 

and to YOU my FRIENDS, today here with me,

whose beauty i am blessed to see,

whose STRENGTH feeds me,

with this joyful song, ¡CELEBRATE THEE!

 

my STORY is yours, as yours is mine,

your joy, your pain,

your fight, your DREAMS,

with mine ENTWINE!

 

in the calm and through the chaos,

in silence and in song,

in unity and with love,

with hope and un-abashed pride;

with a heart that’s full,

a voice so loud.

LET’S REWRITE THE STORY

LET’S MAKE EVERYONE FREE!

 

hold my hand, be with me,

come, keep me company!

 

 

 

Dear Godde, what are Your preferred pronouns? -by Zakary Siler

Dear Godde,

            ….what are Your preferred pronouns?

You may first be noticing the spelling of ‘Godde.’[i] Then there is the question of what is meant by ‘preferred pronouns.’[ii] I invite you to join me in holy exploration –through a set of three questions that I have found to be sacred. I began asking Godde this question when I began asking myself the same –both only after asking others. These are the three most impacting questions of my life.

I have been very involved in the church since my earliest years and, for most of my life, used masculine language in describing Godde. As we consider the male-dominated ascriptions of Godde in liturgies, hymns, and anthems, we understand how the vacuum of non-gendered or multi-gendered language of the Divine may sound foreign to many ears. As we continue holy communication, our vocabulary introduces new words and phrases that may sound odd, otherwise, and beyond our understanding. This is how I felt when I started a transgender choir.

I have been asking everyone I meet for many months, upon introduction, what pronouns they use. I first began asking this question when I co-founded ResonaTe –Chicago’s Trans Choir in October 2015. I had heard of a trans choir that existed in Boston and through my volunteer work with transgender homeless youth in Chicago, began contemplating with my co-founder, starting an ensemble. When we first started meeting with members of the trans community to get a sense of what the needs were, it became clear that pronouns had an important role. I, like all of us when encountering something new, felt insecure dwelling in my own incompetence. Stephen Petrow of the Washington Post spoke to this in an article about gender identity: “My first reaction is: Wow, this is complicated. But really, it’s not. Language is about respect, and we should all do our best to recognize how people wish to be identified, whether it is using their preferred name or a pronoun spelled any which way.” [iii] For those of us who are trans or gender non-conforming, pronouns are a quotidian reminder of our identity. Many people in this world are able to walk down a street and not be called ‘sir’ or ‘mam’ when they do not identify as such. The process of asking someone what they use as pronouns instantly gives respect to the individual and allows them to name themself. Words matter.

As I was asking others this question, I also started asking myself -a process which has allowed me to reclaim much of my life that I lived before family, church, and society set-up their boundaries of who I could be. Growing-up, I would encounter “boys don’t do that…” and “don’t you want to be a man?” As I grew deeper into self-inquiry, I became confident in my identity as being genderqueer.[iv] Asking myself the question of “who is my most essential, healthiest, genuine self?” This period of exploration has led me to feel more confident in my own identity and to help make room for others experiencing oppression.

Christianity is all about relationship. Jesus is found throughout the Gospels entering-into relationship –especially with the most unlikely of people for the culture of His times: the Woman at the Well, those with Hanen’s Disease, tax collectors, were all socially viewed with indignation. The relationship found within the Trinity, the relationship between our self and our neighbor, and the relationship between our self and Godde –the Way is about relations. Communication is essential as a function within relationship. It is an attempt at transferring information from one place to another. Language is important. This appears trivial as I type it now but I must tell you that as I write this, I hear “sticks and stones may…” I do not believe this teaching of my youth to be true. Words matter. We know this within ourselves. A process which began with asking others of what pronouns they use, that then extended into my own examination of self, has begun a pilgrimage from which I hope to never return. That of asking Godde of Their pronouns.

To name is to own. When we read of Godde’s creating in Genesis, we hear Godde immediately name each action and deem it ‘good’. We, each of us, do use this same process with children, sports teams, pets, race, religious denominations, nations, species, ad infinitum. When we care deeply about someone, we often give them nicknames. There is an obvious extension into our naming of Godde. To name is to own. How are we owning Godde in our hymns, our anthems, our liturgies? Which voices set that tone? What boundaries do we create for our “Godde who passes all understanding” when we read of Them as being solely male? When we visually present Godde as being white? When we aurally present Godde with only Patriachal verbiage (i.e. Lord, King, Almighty, Father)? When many of us see the word “God” our minds conjure a male deity. In attempt to offer ourselves a neutral non-binary image, the spelling (with the same pronunciation as “God”) “Godde” has been developed. The Divine reveals Themself in Their creation. We, each of us individual members that are humanity, that makeup the body of Christ, are a mirror of Godde. 

I believe that words matter because I know it to be true for myself, in my own life, within my own identity. My own process has been, and, Praise Godde, continues to be one more directed by questions than answers –questions that unfold new paths around constructs of sexism, racism, ageism, etc. Our sense of spiritual self is an amalgamation of our experiences of creation –those myriad contact points with the Divine’s mirror glowing toward us. Might we ask ourselves, our neighbors, and Godde; what are your preferred pronouns?

 

 

 

[i] The Christian Godde Project https://godde.wordpress.com/godde-the-divine-feminine/the-divine-feminine-trinity/

[ii] LGBT Resource Center, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee https://uwm.edu/lgbtrc/support/gender-pronouns/

[iii] Stephen Petrow, The Washington Post https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/gender-neutral-pronouns-when-they-doesnt-identify-as-either-male-or-female/2014/10/27/41965f5e-5ac0-11e4-b812-38518ae74c67_story.html

[iv] Spectrum Center, University of Michigan https://internationalspectrum.umich.edu/life/definitions

 

*This article was published in the July 2016 issue of Church Music Forward

Singing, it's a thing in my life -by Lee Hanten

Despite the fact that I write about my gender A LOT on this blog, I know I’ve also written about how restrictive I find it to be defined by my gender. I hate leading with the fact that I’m trans in conversation, I hate perpetually “coming out” to strangers because 1) It’s frankly none of their business and 2) It’s genuinely more important to me that you know Green Lantern is my favorite member of the Justice League than it is that you know anything about my gender identity (well, as long as you get my pronouns right). So, when I made the decision back in October of last year to join a group specifically BECAUSE I’m trans, it was kid of a big deal for me. I’ve never really been active part of the queer or trans community. It somehow always felt weird to seek out people that are ‘like me’ so to speak for the same reasons I hated when people made assumptions about me for my gender. Also, I don’t particularly like large groups so I never did the whole Pride Parade thing. The only thing I’ve ever sought out explicitly because I was trans was a therapist and Howard Brown Medical Center.

Anyway, many months ago a friend posted a link on Facebook (meant for someone else, but I’m a lurker so I found it) about a choir for trans voices. The last time I sang in a choir was seventh grade, but I grew up singing in the car, and the shower, and while riding my bike, and even in a terrible attempt at a punk band once in high school. So, I was intrigued. I’d been on testosterone for about a year and had been struggling to find my new singing voice. I had all kinds of new low notes in my range, but there was also a space where my singing voice used to be that simply didn’t produce sound anymore. The idea of a choir sounded terrifying. It also sounded like it could be really fun. So, I showed up that first night of practice. I had only been back in Chicago for a couple months and was looking forward to meeting some new people, especially people that wouldn’t make fun of my shaky singing voice.

Every Tuesday night since, I’ve spent my evenings with some of the most interesting and compassionate people I’ve ever met. We sing disco. We sing madrigals. Sometimes we sing trashy pop music at karaoke. It’s been great. Since moving back to Chicago I’ve gone through some heavy periods of depression, like not leaving my house for days- feeling somewhere between sorry for myself and downright inoperable, but every week choir has managed to motivate me to shower and leave the house for at least a few hours. Since starting, I’ve been a little happier. My voice has gotten stronger. I’ve learned how to expand and control my range better. I still have moments where a note was supposed to come out and my vocal chords betray me, but I don’t feel scared to sing in front of people. I don’t feel like I have to apologize for my voice. And more than anything, I feel like I have friends.

In Remembrance -by Lee Hanten

The Transgender Day of Remembrance is next week, and I found myself pondering what that day could mean (at least for me) in the wake of yesterday’s election.

The trans community does a lot of remembering. We remember childhoods spent answering to the wrong name. We remember the excitement of twirling in our favorite green velvet dress. We remember the euphoria of seeing our silhouette in a binder for the first time. We remember the loss of a past self. Some of us remember life before the internet- before Tumblr- before you could log on and meet strangers just like you sharing their stories of what it was to live outside the margins of the gender binary, and seeing just a glimmer of hope in that. We remember how different our bodies felt before hormones. We remember what life was like before the great gender upheaval- and how much better life can be now. We remember the looks of confusion- concern- or outright disgust from friends and relatives when we announced our new, better, future selves. We remember the names that bigots threw at us when we were at our lowest. We remember headlines of strangers like us that didn’t get to see their next birthday. We remember our friends. We remember our trailblazers that have fought for legislation to allow us to exist proudly and legally. We remember to live our lives loving every moment that we get, because too many of them are cut short.

I remember to get out of bed every day, grateful that the sun rose up, and knowing the sun will set again. I remember to put my pants on one leg at a time (although I hear that putting them on two at a time isn’t so hard). I remember that despite the fact that my life is good, not everyone’s is. I remember that it is my job, my obligation, my duty to make sure that one day this isn’t fact anymore.

Today, I remember that I am an American. I remember waiting in line at my polling place to cast a ballot for the future. I remember the dread of watching election results roll in. I remember the taste of bourbon on my tongue, attempting to wash out the vitriol leftover from this election cycle. I remember wanting to cry. I remember hoping that everything would be alright.

Mostly, I remember how much our community has already overcome- and I refuse to let this sentient glass of Tang pretending to be president be the reason I stop remembering. I refuse to let this idiot be my undoing. We’ve done a lot of figuring things out in the past, let’s remember how to do it again.

info@resonatevoice.org