Categories
Holy Days LGBT/queer My poetry

poem: HRT on Good Friday

as the fluid fills the syringe
and i hover the needle over the tender skin
of my thigh

i think of you. and your thorny crown.
and the nails drilled into your feet, into
the bowed space between radius and ulna

   and i drive
   the needle
   in.

would that your skin
were my skin! that i could take
your
 pain into my bones, could somehow make
it mine, or at least share it!
– but you know

better than i could ever hope to know
that some things must be suffered all alone.

your Beloved could hold your hand until the men
shoved him away to lift you into the sky;

your mother could sob, and Magdalene shake her fist
at the pitiless soldier who stabbed your whip-riddled side 

but only you, only you
would die.

only you would scream Eli! Eli
lama sabachthani?


and all alone you would slip
into the cradle-void, the muffled womb
of Death –

to prove its grasp was weaker than your love;
to change the course of humankind for good.

the gasp i make when i push the plunger down
is pain with victory commingling
as i feel the fluid p u s h  
                                       i t s    w a y    i n t o
tissue and muscle –
flow in, and nestle, and

wait for the cells that somehow know
to carry it where it is meant to go.

deep in those cells, a sea-salt wind is blowing:
a sea-change rolls across those helix shores
uncoiling them and weaving them back together
a little different than they were before.

deep in the tomb, your body sprawls unmoving
and lovers keen outside it, unaware
of changes being made at levels deeper
than cells or DNA or the secrets there.

for often it is pain,
   be it bitter, be it sweet,
that brings about sea-change:
   pierced thigh, pierced side, pierced feet.


This poem was written by Avery Smith and belongs to them. Please do not publish it anywhere, or use it in a service, without permission from the author. Reach out to Avery at queerlychristian36@gmail.com for that permission, or just to chat!

About this poem: I believe this one mostly speaks for itself – I happened to have my every-other-weekly testosterone (self-)injection scheduled for Good Friday a couple years back, and wrote this poem after. I see so much similarity in the transitions (physical, spiritual, emotional, all) that trans and/or nonbinary people journey along and the kinds of transitions that God-becoming-human and God-dying-and-rising-again underwent. Here is to all my trans people of faith: we are beloved by God and experience special insight into divinity.

Categories
LGBT/queer My poetry

poem: my god they have cornered me

my god they have cornered me
like an animal
and like an animal i want to lash out
i want to sink my teeth into their flesh until they shout and
let. me. go.

but god

when my fist flies forward
to sink into their face
it hits yours instead.

they cornered me, made me a beast
who cannot tell friend from foe
and in my frenzy i struck you
just as you were reaching
for my hand to pull me up

oh, god

sit with me
in this fear, in this fury, in this pain
sit with me until it melts into tears
and i am ready to stand up
to walk out past their leers
their spit their stones

god
help me pull the nails
from my feet and wrists
and i shall use them
to build
a house for all of us
who are trampled into dust

with tender touch we pluck
the nails from each other’s flesh,
the knives from one another’s hearts

and we
will not
hurl them into the ones
who drove them into our skin

no. they will never
be weapons again.

do you see the flowers
blooming around the doorway?
do you hear the laughter
resounding in the halls?

i have repurposed the rope
they tried to hang me with
into a swing that children
take turns swinging on.


This poem was written by Avery Smith and belongs to them. This is a revised version of a poem included in their volume The Kin(g)dom in the Rubble. Please do not publish it anywhere, or use it in a service, without permission from the author. Reach out to Avery at queerlychristian36@gmail.com for that permission, or just to chat!

About this poem: This piece contemplates how the horrors done to us might be transformed into something life-giving — and in the meantime, God is with us. How do we fight back against our oppressors’ dehumanizing violence? How do we bear good fruit and thrive in a world that would see us quashed?

This poem was inspired by Psalm 73, where the psalmist begs to know why unjust oppressors thrive while the oppressed suffer. So overcome with pain and fear is this psalmist that they risk becoming the animal their oppressors try to dehumanize them into — but God raises them up from that fate. Here are verses 21-23, my translation:

Yes, my heart was warping into a bitter husk,
   my insides were all cut up.
I became brutish, I knew nothing anymore —
   I lashed out, a wild animal, against You.
Yet even so, I am unceasingly with You!
   You hold fast to my right hand!

Categories
Catholic vibes LGBT/queer My poetry

poem to Our Lady of the Wayside: the queer little not-girl revisits their childhood church.

these pews were once my home
but their backs are to me now.

“you changed. too much you changed” they accuse
without speaking to me
and they gawk
without meeting my eyes.

in the windows your robes
and your son’s
are far too gilt
to be yours,

your skin too white,
too smooth. hairless.
callous-less. Mary, where
are the dirt and sweat
of the rugged roads
your blistered feet trudged out?

what are these false eyes
pale as standing water
where brown eyes deep as rich earth
dark as the secret grove
should be?

those glass eyes stare off
into something too distant to be
the Kin(g)dom of
a skin-swaddled God
a beggar’s flaking palms
a cast-off seed.

but
Maria della Strada,

in your corner you see —
you se
e — me!

their backs are to you, too.

Mary, Mother
of the long and potholed road
no one bothers to patch

Mary, Mother
of refugees and castoffs

of crumbling wayside shrines
that only bruised knees discover

let me sit with you as you nurse
God’s hungry, toothless mouth

and i will gather wildflowers
to crown your unwashed hair.


This poem was written by Avery Smith and belongs to them. Please do not publish it anywhere, or use it in a service, without permission from the author. Reach out to Avery at queerlychristian36@gmail.com for that permission, or just to chat!

About this poem:

“Maria Della Strada” is the Italian form of Our Lady of the Wayside, and a statue of her can be found in my childhood church. Maria Della Strada is a patron of the Ignatians, and Our Lady of the Wayside is a patron of travelers, but I also imagine her as a patron of those left behind on the wayside by churches tied to power.
She is Mary who knew what it was to be an outcast and to embrace impropriety in order to follow after God’s call for her; she is Mary who protects those shoved to the margins and who inspires us to build our sanctuaries there.

I wrote the following about this poem on my instagram back in September 2019:

I wrote this poem a couple Sundays ago after going to Mass for the first time in a long time. I started out in a pew but felt like everyone was staring at me to the point that I could feel panic beginning to clutch at my lungs, restricting my breath — so i awkwardly went and sat in a back corner with a statue of Mary for the entirety of the service.

Ever since my first inkling I might be queer quite some years ago, Mother Mary has felt like a comforting protector — whenever I talk to her about it, I feel nothing but love and acceptance from her, and her desire for me to embrace how God had made me and use my queerness to honor her Son. I was grateful to have her in my corner (literally, ha) that Sunday when I felt too anxious to be seen.

Even so, when I went to Mass again this past Sunday and managed to, ya know, sit in a pew like a normal person, I realized my feeling of being gawked at and cold-shouldered was probably more my anxious imagination than reality. Trauma at being rejected by some Christian groups has led to my brain, body, and spirit developing a cynical shield — better not to trust anyone so I can’t be hurt again. Better to hide myself and shield myself, to assume the worst from the start, than risk opening myself up to community only to receive hatred instead.

The cynicism that had me thinking “no one’s going to join me in this pew, to dirty themselves by sitting by this queer who dares enter the house of God,” was quickly exposed as false by a family with young children sliding into my pew. “Oh…they’re not scared I’ll be a Bad Influence on their kids? Huh. …And… no one is staring?? Sure people are glancing at me but that’s normal; the hostile glares I could have sworn I saw last week just aren’t there.” I was able to relax, just a little bit, to calm my fight-or-flight adrenaline-rush enough to feel like I was truly worshiping God with my fellows in the pews, instead of worshiping God in spite of them like the week before.

…The thing I need cishet Christians to understand is this:

It is so. hard. to enter a non-affirming church (or honestly even an affirming one) as a queer person — especially as a visibly queer and trans person. There is so much trauma and fear built up in my psyche that I can’t help but assume the worst of everyone there. I’m glad I went back to Mass a second week to continue to work through that anxiety — because while it’s certainly not unfounded, I know that God calls me to a sort of vulnerability and trust and openness that is so difficult to achieve when you’re dealing with trauma and marginalization!!

When you have been wounded before by fellow members of the Body of Christ, by people who claim “all are welcome” but then turn on you when you show them who you really are….how do you heal enough to be vulnerable again? How do you know which ones you can trust and which ones will attack?

LGBT/queer Christians: How do we be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves,” balancing trust with rationality, vulnerability with self-protection? What do you do to prepare yourself to enter a Christian space?

Cishet Christians: what work can you do to help make LGBTQA folks feel truly safe and welcome in your faith spaces?

Categories
LGBT/queer My poetry

poem: valley of dry bones

men who claimed to know the Word of God
and where it lay took me to stand above
a valley of dry bones.

they taunted me: here is no life
for you! you may as well
curl yourself among them, and return
to dust.

and so i did. 

the bones murmured beneath me, shifted
to make room – they did not pierce
my skin as i’d presumed.

i took one fragment, then another that
seemed not-to-sharp,
and held them close to my heart,

and listened to their clinking lullaby
waiting to die.
but i did not. 

instead a Breath whirled round
me and trans-
formed

those dead dry bones into
full flesh and blood – muscle and sinew
and skin, and chests that moved
atop their resurrected hearts and lungs!

i thrilled to see
these dead dry bones become
a throng of those they claimed
did not belong…

the Breath that animated
all those forms
did not pass over me –

my flesh grew warm
as eerie but invigorating song
stripped me down to my bones
and built me up again –
renewed, trans-
formed. 

i strode up to those men
who could not see
the breath of God in me
and said:

you worship
piles of dry bones

i worship the God
of ever-reinvented life! 

you shoved your book at me
and claimed the word it held for me
was Condemnation – well,
i took that book and read it
through and through

with God’s breath warming the ink
and i found

Life 
for me.

and – if you could just
embrace it too –

for you.


This poem was written by Avery Smith and belongs to them. This is an updated version of a poem that appears in their published volume The Kin(g)dom in the Rubble. Please do not publish it anywhere, or use it in a service, without permission from the author. Reach out to Avery at queerlychristian36@gmail.com for that permission, or just to chat!

About this poem:

Ezekiel 37’s valley of dry bones has long been near and dear to my queer heart. It was the lectionary reading a couple weeks ago, and Austen Hartke did a live study of it on his YouTube channel, which brought the passage back into the forefront of my mind.

Scripture is presented to many of us as dead dry bones, lifeless pages set in stone — but that belies the Breath of God rifling through those pages, and expanding our own lungs… 

In this time of epidemic, when we face a virus that can steal our very breath, i cherish more than ever that unquellable Breath of God.

The poem in these images first appeared in my collection of poetry, The Kin-dom in the Rubble. But i’ve revised it here — and added a few extra lines at the end, to remind me that while God’s Breath IS for me and NO ONE can steal it from my lungs — it’s for those who hurt me, too.

Categories
LGBT/queer My poetry

poem for Holy Thursday: Jesus, you knew isolation too

Jesus
you knew
isolation too.

not of closing walls and stale air
but of a horizon unreachable
beyond stretching dunes.

you who were so sensitive to touch
you’d notice a woman’s fingers barely brush
the hem of your cloak

went untouched
for forty days
forty nights.

after that
did cradling the feet of your closest friends
washing clean the sweat and sand
etched into the sole’s every callus
feel almost too intimate to bear?

gazing up into their questioning eyes
after no one but devils and dust to talk to for so long
did you have to stop and catch your breath?

Jesus,
did your beloved’s fingers brushing your palm
as you passed him broken bread
set your skin on fire
with an anguished sort of pleasure?

was his head resting warm in your lap
after the meal, the wine, the storytelling
heavier than the whole world
leaning on your back?

and after the wine-warm room
after isolation revisited
in a tear-soaked garden
where best friends slept oblivious
i wonder

were even the press of trembling lips
the hands that bound your wrists
the shoves of soldiers eager to get home for the night –
even these, were even these cherished
after weeks without the warmth of others’ skin?

…….

Jesus
you knew
isolation too –

know better than any
the devils that come to keep one company
when wandering alone from room to room
or over wasteland sands…

so come. teach us
to make an upper room
of any room we’re trapped in.

cook us a meal out of our distress
and break it like bread with us.
nourish our bone-deep loneliness
into a yearning deep enough to drink

so that when this is over, we never again
shirk the feet that await our washing
shun the hands outstretched for bread to share
shake off the cross a stranger needs help bearing –

and Jesus, as we wait out isolation
in temporary helplessness and fear
remind us there are some who dwell
always, always here.


This poem was written by Avery Smith and belongs to them. Please do not publish it anywhere, or use it in a service, without permission from the author. Reach out to Avery at queerlychristian36@gmail.com for that permission, or just to chat!

About this poem:

My prayer for Maundy Thursday, 2020, in the midst of pandemic: come, Jesus, teach us to make an upper room of any room we’re trapped in.

Categories
Affirmation of Faith LGBT/queer Liturgy

Affirmation of faith in a Queer God

[One:]

To try to define the Divine
in human words is a fool’s errand –
but luckily for us, God delights in making the foolish wise.

Emboldened thus, let us unite our many voices
to confess what little we know of this queer God:

[All:]

We believe in the Triune God, incomprehensible
and yet invested in revealing Themself to us,
in helping us understand and truly know Them
in every place and time, among all peoples –
but especially those the world dismisses
as broken, worthless, foolish. 

We believe that the God who conceived of the cosmos,
brooded over its rolling waters like a mother hen
and then exclaimed over Her newly-birthed worlds,
“Good! very Good!”

is the same God who came to a small and subjugated people
and made them Her own.
We marvel that this God to whom belongs all power and glory
has a soft spot for the world’s outsiders and outcasts –
for She Herself is the ultimate stranger.

We believe that in the Person of Jesus Christ,
that same God – despite being beyond human constructs
like class and ethnicity and gender –
entered an impoverished household, entered a Jewish Palestinian body,
became one with that same oppressed and colonized people
with whom Xe had for so long persevered in relationship,
and was assigned male at birth.

But Jesus of Nazareth defied the gender roles assigned to him:
instead of settling down with a wife,
Jesus consorted with strange women, exalted eunuchs,
reached out to Samaritans and Syrophoenicians,
and traipsed across the region with a motley crew
of the very kinds of folk no respectable man would even greet.

A parable in himself, he shared queer stories
of a world turned on its head, where the last are first
and the powerful must relinquish their power –

And, in the ultimate display of solidarity
with all those whom the powerful persecute across the ages, 
Jesus was executed by Empire on a cross, dying between
two other “common criminals.”

But this was not the end of his story, nor ours:
this ultimate breaker of human binaries –
between Creator and creature, man and woman, have and have-not –
demolished the divide between death and life for good.
Jesus rose, lifting all of us with him, from death and into heaven –

but even so, Divinity dwells among us still,
for we believe in the Holy Spirit, the very Breath in our lungs,
the Breeze that comforts us, the Wind that stirs us to action
and sweeps us up into the revolution that is
God’s impossible incoming Kin(g)dom.


I wrote this affirmation for a More Light Sunday service, which is celebrated by the PC(USA) every October on the Sunday nearest to National Coming Out Day.

For more on God as the ultimate stranger, check out Joy Ladin’s book The Soul of the Stranger: Reading God and Torah from a Transgender Perspective.

The image of God as a bird brooding over the waters of Creation comes straight from Genesis 1:2. See footnote 11 of Genesis 1 on this website for details about the Hebrew verb used to describe “the Spirit of God ‘moving’ over the waters” in this verse.

For more on Jesus as the divine assigned male at birth and living a gender nonconforming life, check out the section “Assigned Male at Incarnation: An Intersex and Transgender Jesus” on my webpage here.

Categories
Holy Days LGBT/queer Liturgy My poetry Reflections for worship services

A queer reflection on the Agony in the Garden – Holy Thursday / Maundy Thursday

Tonight we follow Jesus to the Garden of Gethsemane. 

As we kneel with him in the dark, see his hands clenched in prayer,
the blood on his brow, in his tears,
as we hear the cry wrench out of him, “Take this cup away from me!” 

…we hear also the cry of so many of our siblings.

“I cannot bear this part of myself, O God. Why are you calling me to this? Why did you make me to be this way, when all it has done for me is cause loved ones to abandon me? Take this cup away. Please take this cup away.”

Let us not be like the disciples who slept,
ignorant of Jesus’s agony.

Let us not be like them when they fled the scene
leaving him to the ones who chained him and dragged him away.

O God, set our hearts on fire with a fierce compassion for your oppressed children, so that we cannot sleep when they cry out. 

We go to them. We stay awake with them. We. stay.

We remember the one who broke bread and called it his body,
who knelt to wash our feet.
We remember the one who commanded us to love in such a way –
to serve and be served.

Let us go now into a world full of cries,
all anxiously awaiting a day that seems far off, a dawn past all suffering
when we will rise transformed,
when relationships will be reconciled
and all will know God’s love. 

In the meantime – this time of anxious waiting – we leave no one alone in their agony. We cry out with them.
We stay awake with them.
We stay.

Categories
Holy Days LGBT/queer Liturgy My poetry Reflections for worship services

A queer prayer for foot washing – Maundy Thursday / Holy Thursday

Jesus,

I do not know if I could let you, my God,
my Savior, to whom I owe all things
kneel below me
and take into your warm brown hands
my feet, dirty and cold.

I also do not know if I could take
the feet of my betrayers, my deniers –

those who declare my identity a falsehood or a phase,
those who sentence me to suffering by their hate,
those who wield you against me,
those who do not yet know all that I am, but when they do
might cease to associate themselves with me –

I don’t know if I could take their feet
in my hands, 
kneel before them in a pose of the same lowliness
they often make me feel

and wash their feet
just as you did for your friends, who would very soon abandon you.

Must I let you serve me?

And must I serve them?


…And if I do these things, will I really grow closer
to you?

to them?

Oh! You who stripped off Divinity
and took on the frail finitude of flesh…for me!
teach me this humility.

Give me the courage to ask them
if they will even let me wash their feet
and whether, maybe, they might wash mine too.

Intimacy like this is a fearful thing.

But if it truly leads to fuller life
and if you are with me,

I will take the bowl of water,
the washing rag,
and I will sit with bare feet
and I will kneel with warm hands.

Categories
Confession and Pardon LGBT/queer Liturgy Weddings

Confession and Pardon for a queer wedding

CALL TO CONFESSION

God desires that all Creation might be one, 
that love be central to human life; 
and that all beings might dwell together in right relationship. 

Trusting in God’s mercy, let us come to God and acknowledge
all that separates us from love’s source, all that wounds creation.
Let us pray:


PRAYER OF CONFESSION

Creator, you fashioned us with care and called us Good. 
Yet we point fingers at one another,
calling each other broken, evil, wrong.

Liberator, you freed us from the captivity of our own limitations and fears, teaching us your Truth, 
yet we continue to subject one another to yokes of falsehood, cruelty, and shame.  

Mischievous Spirit, you flow wherever you will, breathing fresh life into long-dead things and blowing down the walls we build – 
yet we lean into death and division, tearing your Creation apart.
We construct national borders and gender and race
to hold all that is different from us at arm’s length.

Forgive us. Nourish and invigorate us. 
Empower us to love bigger, seek deeper –
teach us how to join you in healing the world where we can.


ASSURING OF PARDON

Hear God’s words of grace for us, for you: 
“And I, once I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

This is the new thing God has done and is doing: 
She has freed us from suffering and injustice
so that we might live into the goodness we were made to inhabit. 

Let this truth liberate you and bring you peace: you are forgiven. 
Let us share the peace of Jesus with one another – especially with those strangers who today become our family. 

(passing of the peace)

Friends new and old, we have been freed from sin and suffering –
and freed for joy and love. 

It is one iteration of that God-given love
that brings us together today:

The love uniting [name] and [name].


This is the liturgy I wrote for the wedding between me and Leah. Some of the sins I bring to this confession are ones inflicted particularly against LGBTQA+ persons. God calls us to a world of joy and justice, where such hatred is no more, so that we all might live and serve together.

Categories
Call to worship LGBT/queer Liturgy Multifaith Weddings

A call to worship that welcomes non-Christian participants

The Being worshipped in this space
is vaster than walls can contain or religions can claim.

All true loves have this Being as their source,
and so the love we celebrate today
transcends gender and bloodlines and state borders.

Here we are united
in all our diversity:

welcome, you with faith and you with doubts,
you from the North and you from the South,
welcome with all your joys and pains, fears and hopes.

We invite you to join us in praising the One
who fashioned human beings to experience all sorts of love.

Here in this space,
Love grafts us together.


This is the call to worship that I wrote for my wedding back in May 2019. Because many of the attendees were not Christian, I wanted to explicitly welcome them into worship too.

The language of this call to worship is rather specific to the context (for instance, the reference to North and South is because most of my relatives hail from the Northern portion of the United States, while most of my wife’s hail from the South; plus all the “love” stuff is clearly because it was for a queer wedding), so feel free to edit this piece to suit your own context.