Today’s post is from guest contributor Elliott Barnhill (he/they). Elliott is a student at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, where his studies focus on the queer and trans themes to be found in historical Christian theology, spirituality, and devotional art. They are a practicing Catholic and are passionate about the resonances between Catholic history and LGBTQ liberation movements. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
November, for Catholics, is known as the month in which our prayers focus on the dead. We start with All Saints Day on November 1st, when we remember the dead who pray for us. On All Souls Day on November 2nd, we remember all those who have passed. November is the best month in which to acknowledge and engage with the departed.
November 20th also happens to be when many members of the LGBTQ community observe Transgender Day of Remembrance. Trans Day of Remembrance was declared in 1999, and is a day in which we recognize, remember, and mourn those members of the trans community that have been lost to violence during the past year. The day may be non-religious, but its purpose and observance is very familiar to many LGBTQ Catholics.
As LGBTQ persons, we know the political and personal importance of recognizing people we lost due to anti-trans violence. It’s necessary to name the members of our community who have died because anti-trans ideology is pervasive in our society. By remembering our dead, we can harness the anger and fear that comes with remembering the cause of their deaths. We can honor the memory of these people, mostly BIPOC women and transfeminine people, by fighting against the bigotry that caused their violent deaths. We also know how easy it is for some to dehumanize trans people, trans women especially. On Trans Day of Remembrance, we affirm the dignity, humanity, and preciousness of those lives we have lost—and we vow to not let their lives be forgotten.
As Catholics, we know the spiritual importance of honoring the departed. We know that we need to remember and honor those people we have lost, so that we can remain ourselves, and remain human. Remembering the dead is one of those Catholic practices that nourishes our spiritual health. We even venerate the dead as we honor those saints whom we believe are watching over us in Heaven. Catholics also value the spiritual and personal importance of praying for anyone from our human family who has died. People continue to matter to us after their deaths and praying for them has value for our present lives. Praying for the dead reminds us that death is not the end of one’s existence, but a new beginning into everlasting life.
As Catholics, prayers for those who have passed helps us renew our commitment to uphold the human dignity of every person, especially those persons who are marginalized by society. Jesus came to minister to those on the margins, and as followers of His path we are called to love and protect those who are marginalized.
As LGBTQ Catholics, we recognize the vital importance of Trans Day of Remembrance, especially at this moment in history, when officials at all levels of government–federal, state, and local–constantly propose more anti-trans laws.
While Trans Day of Remembrance is a call to honor the dead, it is also a call to action—in recent years, it has also been referred to as Trans Day of Resilience, to highlight that transgender people and their allies need to confront the toxic and harmful narratives that permeate our culture. It’s also a day to tell the world that we’re going to do everything we can to prevent future deaths of our trans siblings. It is a day in which we affirm the value of trans futures, and promise to ourselves, each other, and those we have lost that we will always remember that trans lives are precious and sacred.
On this Trans Day of Remembrance, we pray for an end to anti-trans violence, and we take action to make our world safe for God’s transgender children.
—Elliott Barnhill, November 20, 2023