Those of us who have reduced Pope Francis’ recent encyclical–‘On Care of Our Common Home’–to a holy call to recycle may want to reconsider. The man advocates a rethinking of our relationship to all of creation, including our own gender and bodies.
‘Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential part of any genuine human ecology. Also, valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way, we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment.’ (155)
An artist in Palm Springs who runs Living Waters there, Brian Barlow encountered a confused young man with merciful regard for his true gender home. Who knew that a green commitment is well-expressed in tending to another’s gender clarity? Pope Francis would be proud of the following:
““Wow, what just walked up?” That was my weak response to a man God loves who stationed himself outside my art gallery in Palm Springs. He was dressed in women’s pajamas complete with a lace satin black top and a polka dot skirt accented by pink flip-flops; I watched as he rifled through his backpack which seemed to hold all his earthly belongings. He pulled out a wet-wipe and started to clean himself, beginning with his face from which he carefully wiped dirt and sweat then moved downward to clean his arms and finally his feet.
I recalled that I had a travel kit at the gallery for the times like that morning when I arrived early to start painting. I also remembered that I had a set of extra men’s clothes, including shoes at the gallery, as well as soap and water and towels. In a small way I could offer this broken homeless soul a small gift to show that he is noticed and not forgotten. In spite of his evident gender confusion, I could offer him a new set of clothes that testify to God’s design for him–a design intended for this child of God to walk uprightly in his male humanity.
I approached this gentle soul who, as I offered him the items, looked me straight in the eyes and asked, “Why are you doing this?” That is often the question I am asked when I reach out to the gender broken in this desert ‘city of refuge.’ It’s a pregnant question that means: “What is this going to cost me? Another piece of my dignity?”
I paused for a brief moment and said the first thing that came to mind, “We are a ministry that offers hope to our community through the arts. I thought you could use these things. I thought to myself, “Wow that was canned!” Sigh…Then a peace came over me and I offered to pray for him. He accepted. I asked for protection and blessed him with a firm hand on his shoulder on which he rested his hand.
I watched him walk away and there was no mistaking his gender. He was a man!
Perhaps you might ask, so what?! ‘Good for you, you dressed up a homeless transgender person to look the part of a male. Big deal!’
My response, YES! YES! It is a BIG DEAL! Calling out the true self of every person we encounter matters! God has intentionally designed each gender as either male or female. That is the truth, and truth sets us free.
Fractured by life, assaulted by abuse and isolation, broken humanity needs to be reminded of the Father’s original design. Our confirmation testifies powerfully that there is hope for what went wrong. It answers a significant question: “Was I created for more, or is this it?” Jesus offered living water to the woman at the well who lived with an unquenched thirst for more. The good news: we can offer a drink of living water for a person evidently thirsting for life’s most basic requirements, which include cleansing and clothing one’s gendered humanity.”