Easter: Celebrating Visibility for True Identities of Jesus and Trans Folks

Today’s reflection is by Bondings 2.0 contributor Michael Sennett.

Today’s liturgical readings for the Mass for Easter Day can be found here.

Mary Magdalene’s Easter morning journey is a radical witness to visibility. Shaken by the sight of an open, empty tomb, Mary is awash in a wave of panic. She sprints back to find the other disciples and reveals that Jesus is gone from the tomb where they expected him to be. 

The Resurrected Jesus’ identity becomes visible to Mary Magdalene. (Mosaic, Resurrection Chapel, Washington National Cathedral)

While Peter and the beloved disciple return home, Mary remains, trembling at the bare tomb, consumed by the darkness of early morning and grief. She mistakes the risen Christ for a gardener, until he calls out her name. Instantly consoled, Mary experiences the joy of the resurrected Jesus. She goes forth once again, now delivering the good news of the Lord conquering death, proclaiming his visibility as the Son of God. 

Following Mary Magdalene, we draw near the tomb today to celebrate with awe not only Easter Sunday, but also the Transgender Day of Visibility, and the final day of Women’s History Month.

Visibility is a double-edged sword for transgender and nonbinary people. Positively, it provides awareness of our struggles and triumphs, as well as the simple fact that we exist. Sharing our journeys  strengthens community and inspires a renewed understanding of gender. 

However, visibility can also attract transphobia and violence. Precious lives have been taken from the world because they dared to live authentically. Trans and nonbinary Catholics are subjected to the added pain of being told we’re not worthy of God’s love and we face rejection from worship communities. 

Visibility is fluid; sometimes a situation or environment is not safe for trans or nonbinary folks to live our truth openly. Navigating the invisibility forced upon us by the world, I take comfort in knowing we are visible to God, who holds us in Her unconditionally loving embrace.

Jesus grapples with visibility too. Mark’s gospel, which  we are hearing at Sunday liturgies this year, relies on the Messianic Secret. As Mark tells the stories of Jesus teaching, preaching, and performing miracles, we learn that our Savior urges his followers not to reveal his truth. 

But Christ’s holiness is visible to Mary Magdalene, a faithful disciple. She sees and accepts him for who he is, including his relationship to and with queerness. Unmarried in his 30s, he certainly did not adhere to typical relationship standards of the time. Christ’s welcome of the “other,” especially those cast out by society, caused scandal. He challenged injustice, literally and figuratively flipping tables. Jesus’ life, teachings, and methods were queer in response to the status quo. Mary Magdalene observed his queer divinity and opened her heart to him.

When Jesus does declare his truth, his visibility comes at the cost of his life. Unlike many disciples who fled, Mary was steadfast in her witness to Jesus’s visibility, through his life, passion, and death. And now here she is to be a witness to the risen Christ. 

Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene first, a testament to her own visibility as a woman in an oppressively patriarchal society. Beloved, she is the Apostle to the Apostles, proof that women are, and always have been, called to leadership in the Church, right beside Jesus Christ, our risen Lord. 

Just as Jesus recognized Mary’s visibility, he sees us. We who are trans, who sometimes have to hide, are visible to him as our whole selves, our transgender identities purposely created by God’s hands.

Visibility goes beyond trans characters in media and is deeper than diversity trainings. True visibility is the recognition of the souls and bodies of transgender people. It is looking at them not as sinful as a result of our gender, and not as mistakes, but as seen to be wonderful creations of God. Our existence and lives are intentional.

Easter is a season of joy and hope for me as a Catholic trans man. It’s the joy that Jesus, who loves us so intensely, died for us and is risen, illuminating our truth from darkness. My hope is for our Church to notice the light of Jesus shining on marginalized communities, inviting all Catholics  to recognize and celebrate their visibility and defeat the darkness of invisibility that fuels  injustice. Then we can truly acclaim Christ is risen! Alleluia, Alleluia!

Happy Easter, Trans Day of Visibility, and Women’s History Month!

Michael Sennett, March 31, 2024


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