In the UK LGBT History month is observed in February. We are marking it at St Chrysostoms at LGBT Communion (held on the first Saturday at 5pm) in February by honouring Rev. Dr Pauli Murray, an Anglican Priest. A photo of her will be placed on a pillar in church throughout February. Fr Chris writes:
“My entire life’s quest has been for spiritual integration, and this quest has led me ultimately to Christ, in whom there is no East or West, no North or South, no Black or White, no Red or Yellow, no Jew or Gentile, no Islam or Buddhist, no Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, or Roman Catholic, no Male or Female. There is no Black Christ, no White Christ, no Red Christ – although these images may have transitory cultural value. There is only Christ, the Spirit of Love.” (Selected Sermons and Writing, 1977)
So wrote Pauli Murray, a renowned civil rights pioneer, feminist, author, lawyer and the first black woman ordained as an Episcopal priest. She was ordained as a priest in America in 1977 and celebrated her first Mass in the church where her grandmother had been baptised whilst being a slave.
In the 1930s and 40s, she fought against racial segregation in education and public transit. In the 1950s and 1960s, she challenged the Civil Rights Movement to recognize the leadership of women and the double discrimination that minority women face.
Pauli was arrested and jailed for refusing to sit in the back of a segregated bus in Virginia in 1938 — 15 years before Rosa Parks became a national symbol for resisting bus segregation.
In the late 1930s Pauli was also seeking psychological help and testosterone implants from doctors in an effort to “treat” her homosexuality by becoming more male. She was attracted to women and her longest relationships were with women, so she is justifiably considered a lesbian. But she also described herself as a man trapped in a woman’s body and took hormone treatments in her 20s and 30s, so she might called transgender today.
Pauli was wrote extensively to challenge race segregation in USA schools. She worked with Martin Luther King Jr on civil right matters, and was the first African American woman to receive a doctorate from Yale in 1965. She died on July 1, 1985 aged 74.
Liberating God, we thank you most heartily for the steadfast courage of your servant Pauli Murray, who fought long and well: Unshackle us from bonds of prejudice and fear so that we show forth your reconciling love and true freedom, which you revealed through your Son and Our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.