A couple of weeks ago I took the stage in front of a group of college students. Granted, they’re not my first audience, mostly because they’re a generation already steeped in justice and in a knowledge of privilege. This is the language they speak, the fight they raise fists toward, the beat of their marching feet.
The night was casual, informal at best.
Old enough to be their mother, I felt out of place – not smart enough for their utterly brilliant selves, not cool enough with my hipster mom bangs.
Isn’t it funny how the old lies still creep up and crawl under our skin when we least expect it?
But when it was time to take the stage, the young leader’s introduction of me jolted me awake – a new kind of something rumbling around in my tummy because of the words she spoke to the crowd.
“I have someone I want you to meet. She’s a wife. She’s a mother. And most of all…” And she took a deep pause, inhaling her thoughts of me upward and outward in a single breath. “She’s a daughter of the King.”
Oh, y’all, I just looked at her, eyes wide, head tilted to the side – the entirety of my credibility reduced who I am as a relational being.
Of course, I immediately wondered if this was how the group normally introduces guest speakers, with the words spoken over everyone who takes the stage known purely by way of relationship to others. Be that the case, there wasn’t anything wrong with the way she introduced me to the crowd – after all, I am a wife, a mother and a child of God.
If I was born with a penis, would she have still introduced me by my role as husband, a father and (deep pause…) a son of the King?
Or would she have listed my credentials, including my former and current vocational roles, the book I’d just written and was hoping to sell a few copies of later that night, my educational credentials, and anything else that would have given me professional credibility with the group of students that night?
As the above commentary fought for space in my mind, I walked toward the front of the room and proceeded to go to town on the intersection of my story and their story, on my book and on how Jesus honored the particularities of personhood, maybe even providing a reason or two why their director had asked me to speak to them that night.
I didn’t care so much about my credentials as much as I cared about leveling the playing field.
I didn’t care so much about proving my worth as much as I cared about the way we honor and speak about one another, regardless of gender.
I didn’t care so much about how she introduced me, as long as this introduction really, truly remained standard for every speaker – regardless of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, race and culture – that took the stage.
But having been a professional speaker in the Christian world for for nearly twenty years now, I also didn’t doubt that this probably wouldn’t have happened to one of my brothers of the same faith tradition.
After all, it’s not the first time it’s happened, and I doubt it’ll be the last time it happens to me (or to other women) too.
But Church, we can do better. We can learn to color outside the lines, one introduction at a time. After all, words matter …and the words we use to introduce both our brothers and sisters matter deeply.
So, what do you think? Have you ever had a similar experience? Tell us a story!