August 2, 2011 at 2:55 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Mass walk-out at trans woman’s funeral

Remarks by a pastor who presided over the July 27 funeral service for Lashai Mclean, a transgender woman who was shot to death in D.C. last month, prompted as many as 100 people in attendance to walk out of the church in protest, according to activists who were present.

“Basically, he said that God let her get killed so that people could get saved,” said D.C. gay activist and comedian Sampson McCormack, who attended the service. “And that came after somebody, I think it was a deacon, said when you live a certain lifestyle this is the consequence you have to pay.”

McCormack and D.C. resident Arriel Horton said they knew Mclean and were among more than 300 people attending her funeral service at Purity Baptist Church near Capitol Hill.

D.C. police said Mclean, 23, was shot near the corner of 61st and Dix Streets, N.E., in a case where investigators have yet to determine a motive and to identify a suspect. Transgender activists say they are concerned that Mclean may have been targeted due to her status as a transgender woman, even though police say they have no immediate evidence to classify the incident as a hate crime.

McCormack and Horton told the Blade that a sermon delivered by Rev. A.W. Montgomery Sr., pastor of Agape Missionary Baptist Church in Suitland, Md., who presided over the funeral service, offended many of those in attendance, including many of Mclean’s transgender friends.

The two also said friends of Mclean became angry when clergy and others speaking at the service referred to Mclean as “he.” McCormack said many in the audience responded by shouting the word “she.”

In a telephone interview on Wednesday, Montgomery disputed claims that his remarks at the service were disrespectful or disparaging toward Lashai Mclean or the transgender community.

“My perception of some things is strictly from the perception of the Bible,” he said. “Sin is sin is sin. I don’t care who you are. There’s no perfect person on this planet. Whether you’re the pope or the poorest person, all of us sin. So my remarks would never be disparaging at all. I preached the Gospel. I don’t think I was harsh.”

Montgomery said he’s deeply saddened over Mclean’s untimely death. He said one of his objectives in delivering the eulogy was to comfort the family.

“I have nothing to do with Myles’ life choices,” he said. “And I don’t have a problem with Lashai. That’s what she decided to do. I decided to be a preacher,” he said.

“I will say this. We all make choices, and some choices are good and some choices are bad. And there’s consequences for all our choices, good and bad, and I would never say that in a disparaging way.”

Rev. Robin Toogood, pastor of Purity Baptist Church, said his church agreed to host the service after the funeral home that made the funeral arrangements approached him. He said funeral home officials told him that Montgomery’s church in Suitland, to which Mclean’s family members had ties, was too small to accommodate the number of people expected to attend the service.

Toogood said he gave welcoming remarks at the service before turning over the service to Montgomery.

Horton, who said he was a friend of Mclean’s, said people began to leave the church while Montgomery delivered the eulogy.

“Where I was sitting, most people walked out before he finished,” he said.

“I was just kind of stunned,” said McCormack. “I was just sitting there listening and I and the other people were looking at each other and people in the back just started getting up and left. It was like a mass exit.”

D.C. transgender activists Earline Budd and Jeri Hughes, who knew Lashai Mclean through their work with the D.C. transgender services organization Transgender Health Empowerment, said they recognize how Montgomery’s remarks could have been offensive to those attending the service, especially Mclean’s friends.

But the two noted that Mclean’s family members, who were struggling over Mclean’s status as a transgender woman, organized the service and selected Pastor Montgomery to preside. Budd said some of Mclean’s family members are members of Montgomery’s church.

“The pastor seemed to be more conciliatory after some people started to leave,” said Budd.

Hughes said she thought most of the people who walked out did so because the service lasted a long time and many were becoming tired.

“I wasn’t particularly offended, even though I didn’t agree with him,” Hughes said of Montgomery. “He was talking about what preachers talk about – sin and all of that. He’s just being a preacher.”

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • Just to be clear: my criticism is directed at the pastor and deacon as described by Sampson, not at Lashai’s family. And I respectfully disagree with my friend Jeri Hughes. “Just being a preacher” does not excuse anti-gay or anti-trans bigotry. We have seen entirely too much of this at funerals. There are many LGBT-affirming congregations and clergy in the District. Here’s a list published by the Mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs:

    • Excellent response, especially the listing of affirming churches.

    • I might live in NC, but I attend a church that is more than welcoming towards LGBT communties. I agress with others here, there is NEVER a reason to bully, and spread hatred… no matter if it is to soothe the fragile ego’s of a grieving family. No one should ever be subjected to that kind of torture.

  • Some people aren’t satisfied with anything.

  • Thanks for the LGBT-affirming congregations and clergy link, Rick. I’ll pass it on to our neighborhood listservs.

    What a sad, hypocritical spectacle. The visiting pastor and a deacon demonized both transgenders and the deceased whose funeral service they were officiating/ serving? That’s just stunning. I hope everyone takes note of how deep anti-trans prejudice runs– and what some will do, in the name of God, to promote it.

    I have no problem with those who chose to leave that service rather than be tacit participants in the open promotion of such bigotry. I think we’re all ennobled by such acts of conscience.

    • exactly Brian…I want to start a Christian Trans study group here in the Pasadena, CA area. You mentioned listserves….sounds like this is the best way to proceed…what is the web link for it?

      Thanx,,,,Dee…a Christian who professes and practices love to all…trans or not. I love this preacher because he is deserving….but I hate his message of hate….proof that religious transphobia is far from over. In fact, it is ironic that the trans female died because of trans hate, apparently, and this “pastor” is adding more fuel to the fires of trans hate…he needs to be “disbarred” from pastoring.

  • I find it particularly distressing (of) Ms. Hughes attitude to what happened at the funeral…this coming from someone who works as a Trans activist? What the pastors did was UN-conscionable,and it is exactly this type of vitriol-hatred being spread by these pastors that does lead to this kind of outcome!

  • If they’re out working the streets doesn’t that inherently carry a great deal of risk and potential for violence? Especially when the john discovers the real deal? Come on. Get real. If people want to trans and lead a productive, “normal” life in so doing, then that’s their business. When people want to trans and then lead a life of walking the streets then I have no pity for what becomes of them.

    • I dont think this article was intended to prompt a discussion about whether the victim was in some way responsible for her own death (which, by the way, is a ridiculous assertion.) The article is about the remarks made by church leaders, and the subsequent response of the attendees. kudos however, on finding a way to trump the judgmental remarks of the pastor, with your own brand of bigotry.

      • Jen, you’re naive and a loon. I’m simply stating fact. If you’re plying the streets, then you get what’s coming to you. Nuff said.

        • Laurelboy, If this young lady was on the street working within that economy it wasn’t because she had plenty of other options. Transpersons of color are more than twice as likely to be unemployed in the US. They are much more likely to have been denied familial support or societal safety net aid. They are 30 times more likely to be murdered than the average white male, not because they work the streets but because bigots such as yourself find justifications for dehumanizing and dismissing them.

        • did you ever stop to consider why she may or may not have been on the streets? The reality of trans people of color isnt all rainbows and ponies. A study recently released actually shows that tpoc are discriminated against much more often and finding jobs can be even harder – especially as a transwoman of color. Secondly, was it ever stated that she *took to the streets* anyway? But even if, how is that in any way related to the article?

        • No…laruelboy2…you have it completely wrong….the shoe u threw at Jen, surprise surprise fits you exactly? Why?…because what you just said is “plying the streets deserves one dying a violent death”. How about placing blame on the perp and not the victim?….then this shoe would not fit.

        • That’s really great laurelboy2, thanks for opening up the sanction to murder for everyone. I’m glad you’re such a comprehensive legal and ethical expert on who deserves to live and die. Just so everyone’s clear can you give us a complete bullet point list of activities people might perform that immediately and irrevocably mark them for death? I mean, we’d all hate to just sort of blunder into a ‘death spot’ in our daily lives. Forewarned is forearmed as they say.

          Oh, and you’re an idiot.

        • @laurelboy2, great name considering you find the time to browse a gay website and promote violence towards its community. I’m sure Michelle Bachman’s husband would love to hear your ideas.

        • Lmao, seriously? Where’s Jesus when you need him. He needs to come and help rebuild your glass house you keep throwing rocks out of.

    • After all, everyone chooses what job they take to get enough money to eat, right? Derp! Derp!

    • WTF. No one does that. That’s not how it works.

    • Where has anyone said that she was “working the streets” as you put it? Way to stereotype and blame the victim jerk.

    • The problem with your logic is that trans people have a lot going against them. This was my cycle for example. You get fired from your job because your trans (no job), then your family disowns you (no back up support or place to stay), some of your friends disown you so you know have to make new friends (no back up back up place to stay) , you can’t afford your rent so your work the streets, you can’t afford health care and it’s hard to get a job because your trans. It’s a cycle. It’s not like trans women wake up and decide I think I’m gonna work the street that’s a good career move. Society pushes them to that and for what, so they can feel better about themselves religiously. Jesus teaches to love all including the tax collectors and the prostitutes. It’s easy to love your close one’s it’s harder to love your enemies. Do not judge others for who they are. Were only people

    • Who the hell said she was “working the streets”?! For all you know, she could have worked at Walmart! Why would you automatically say she was s prositute just because she is transgender!? Hell, I’m a biologist. If I get shot in the streets does that make me a prostitute?

    • Do you have sympathy for “normals” prostitutes who get murdered? Just curious. Because IMO, it’s pretty sad that someone would revoke all sympathy just because they’re doing something to make money that is risky… Should people stop having sympathy for police officers that get killed? Their jobs are inherently risky, they know what they’re getting into and they made that choice anyhow. Why sympathize with them if they get murdered?


      Many trans people, especially transwomen, are forced to turn to prostitution. Discrimination against them runs high in the workforce, so it can be difficult for them to find a “real” job. Surgery and HRT is very expensive, especially since insurance doesn’t tend to even cover HRT, and prostitution becomes a quicker way to make money. If health insurance treated transsexuality as a medical condition (since it is) and not as a “cosmetic choice”, and if trans people had more protection in the workforce against discrimination, then maybe more trans people wouldn’t turn to prostitution.

      Being trans myself, I know how hard it is. People just don’t want to hire “a freak”. And prostitute or not, this poor woman deserves sympathy as well as justice. No one deserves to die like that.

      • …so true…reminds me of when I asked Kaiser to do an orchiectomy….after 40 years of living, I was surprised to find out that I had been born with jewelry in place….my testicles were “cosmetic” all along….

    • There is NOTHING in this article to suggest this woman was “working the streets.” “Transsexual” does not equal “prostitution.” The funeral service was completely inappropriate. The death was a tragedy. A life has been taken. NOBODY asks to be murdered.

    • Your are assuming she was a working girl… Are you serious??? The unimaginable stereotypical propaganda that is spread about LGBTQ people is ridiculous and you just fed right into it!! A human being lost their life in a very violent way. No matter the life choices that is extremely sad!! I wish his family strength, courage, and wisdom through this time. And I wish you some real intelligence and some compassion for human life!

    • It is most unfortunate that many transitioning individuals have to deal with a plethora of hostilities on a daily basis and simultaneously, have little family support to sustain them. Prostitution has been a resource, albeit not the best choice, for many women, transgendered as well as biological. In a kinder, gentler world where transgendered women would not have to deal with discrimination, perhaps prostitution would be a less viable alternative.

    • The point I think your missing here is that funerals are for the living, not the dead. One should save one’s personal judgement when doing something like this because no one mourning a friend or family member really wants to go there just to hear the pastors judgement of the person’s life. And frankly I won’t bother getting into exactly what she was doing that night as I do not know, and I highly doubt you do either. Let me put it this way, I doubt anyone at your grandmother’s funeral did this, “…and lo, she was a good woman, except her incessant greed and need for more shoes and clothes. And pay for her sinful greed she did with her death…” All sins are equal no? Would this be any less ok?

    • Yeah, the nerve of them– expecting to be treated like real people when they’re so icky and different than other folks! And after all those nice “normal” employers have rejected them in favour of hiring “normal” employees instead of the icky trans folks, they should be grateful for those nice “normal” johns who don’t beat them to death!

      Now, go look up the word “privilege.” As in, “laurelboy2 has the privilege of not being rejected by most potential employers based on gender identity.”

    • If the unemployment rate of transgenders was lower than 78% they probably wouldn’t have made that choice, would you approve of begging as an alternative?

  • Here’s hoping people walk out of his church en masse, and take their money with them.

  • I am not at all religious but was pleasantly surprised at a roman catholic funeral of a trans friend of mine who died from HIV AIDS when the priest began by saying something like ” I dont want anyone passing judgement or pointing fingers on this young person , as in the eyes of the church you are all sinners and no one is without sin , so look to yourselves before passing judgement or comment on this life , and may this soul be in paradise / heaven ” .
    It was extremely comforting for his family , it being a roman catholic church and a morning funeral half the church was filled with congregation there for holy communion , I was most impressed with the humanity and common sense expressed by that particular priest .

  • Here’s a quaint little tradition that I’m thinking we should adopt for these occasions:

  • Lashai Mclean was a person! She deserved respect and to be Honored at her own funeral. This is not the time to preach about so-called sin, or place blame on the Victim. Talk about the person, talk about HER life. Do not insult, condemn or try to “save” (in the preachers mind). Honor her, celebrate her as a person and also grieve the injustice that was done to her.

  • “He was talking about what preachers talk about – sin and all of that. He’s just being a preacher.” I’ve attended many funerals in my life. At no time has “sin” been a topic during a eulogy or sermon during one. Heck, my grandfather was one of the meanest, hurtful, adulterers ever, and none of that was mentioned.

  • Do you have ANY IDEA at all how hard it is for some transgender people to find a job in which they are not being discriminated against? Any idea at all? my guess is NONE.

    • Easy answer. DO NOT BECOME A TRANS.

      • Do not become Black either. That’s just as much of a choice.

        I’m probably wasting my time trying to educate – but never mind, I have to try.

        I’ll quote the abstract from Sexual Hormones and the Brain: An Essential Alliance for Sexual Identity and Sexual Orientation Garcia-Falgueras A, Swaab DF Endocr Dev. 2010;17:22-35

        The fetal brain develops during the intrauterine period in the male direction through a direct action of testosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hormone surge. In this way, our gender identity (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and sexual orientation are programmed or organized into our brain structures when we are still in the womb. However, since sexual differentiation of the genitals takes place in the first two months of pregnancy and sexual differentiation of the brain starts in the second half of pregnancy, these two processes can be influenced independently, which may result in extreme cases in trans-sexuality. This also means that in the event of ambiguous sex at birth, the degree of masculinization of the genitals may not reflect the degree of masculinization of the brain. There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender identity or sexual orientation.

        Some people are born with female neuro-anatomy, but superficially look male. Some are Intersex, and may have other “lady bits” inside, apart from the brain, but still look male.

        • Exactly as yu say Zoe!!….gender assignment occurs while in the womb, despite genitalia. Gender is assigned by nature….and cannot be changed by nurture….as doctors used to do with fatal cosequences at times due to mutilation of infants…

      • Don’t become an idiot.

        I hope Zoe’s post made you rethink your rather ignorant life view, though I doubt it; I just hope you realize that it’s people who hold sentiments like yours that end up getting people killed. The idea that you can “become a trans” or “not become a trans” is completely false. It is something one is born with, end of story.

      • And if you don’t like homophobia, don’t become gay?

        Maybe we should start naming and blaming the people that give trans folks a hard time instead. Care to share your name first?

  • A funeral service is not the time to make any comments about life choices, not that all of his comments were about choices anyway. Most were just accepting who she is. This s exactly why organized religion has and never will have any part in my life.

  • As a clergy person myself, I think it is despicable that someone would accept the task of presiding at a person’s funeral – a known transgender person – and then use that occasion to criticize what is not even a “choice” but an embracing of who she really was! This is a time to emphasize God’s amazing love and acceptance and extravagant welcome to each child of God! Shame on that pastor! How sad for the family and friends to be left with such a cruel judgement. Please encourage people to find out who the accepting and educated and loving clergy are in the area and then request one of those clergy for funerals. This story made me want to cry. What a way to treat a grieving family and friends.\

  • if you want tolerance, you have to exhibit it yourself. the family has a right to grieve in their own way, with a preacher of their own choice. the girls who attended respected that, earline respected that, i respected that. this was a serv…ice for a friend, not an opportunity for a political statement. show some tolerance and understanding. nothing that happened was about me, and certainly, it wasn’t about you. tolerance. love one another. “be the change you want to see in the world.” gandhi

  • If a sin is a sin then I ask all preachers/pastors/priests to call out adulterers, abusers, liars, thieves and the rest of the sinners when they die, at their funerals, in front of their family and friends. No doubt these pastors/preachers/priests have a list of offenses a mile long, too. Compassion was one of Jesus’ most noble qualities, and religion does a great job of making people forget that.

  • and just FYI, the mass exit was initiated by a desire to smoke and talk to one another….no one was horrified by what the ministers had to say. just tired of hearing it. he was the fifth preacher who spoke. of course, i do know that because i was there. don’t believe everything you read in the paper. the perspective of two individuals makes it true for them, not for everyone. and i am not an activist, or at least i don’t consider myself one. just a human being, just a woman. i hate injustice, i despise intolerance. i fight it. i don’t need any labels for that, do i? i am a human being.

    • “don’t believe everything you read in the paper”

      Uhhh…The paper contains what you’re saying as well.

    • We cannot say why ppl exited the service. A funeral service is not the time to discuss the choices one made in life. The service is t celebrate the life of Lashai Mclean the beuatiful young woman whose life was cut short by someone with hate and disdain for one transgender woman. I happen to be transgener and I am very aware that this could happen to me whether I walking the streets at 4:30 am or 4:00 pm.

  • Dude…a funeral is no time to preach. It’s also not about him, it’s about Lashai Mclean and the people who loved her. This guy needs to get over his ego.

  • I am a christian. But I don’t give a Rats behind what other people do. That is between them and God. And what that Preacher man said was so wrong. HE ruined her funeral. And even if her parents were struggling with her status, they shouldn’t have allowed these things to be said. That is your child. You are to love them no matter what!! God is the ONLY one who should pass judgment on ANYONE!!! It is not our place. And seeing as how she already passed anyway, nothing should have even been said about it. UGH!!!!!

  • If only the media cared this much about how public officials talked about trans people (who have said far worse than that preacher). Or how the laws and policies of this city allow for these kinds of murders to be common place. But I suppose that doesn’t make as good a news story as (re)framing black preachers as all inherently transphobic/homophobic regardless of the fact that his statements are precisely the kind that come from most officials in this city.

    Why aren’t we seeing stories about how Prostitution Free Zones profile trans women of color and force women into dangerous areas or how the criminalization of sex work keeps women from getting better jobs (an only option for many young folks who don’t have a formal education or access to the formal economy)? Why aren’t we seeing stories about how trans women of color are all assumed to be sex workers or how this particular journalist chose to portray the deceased as a sex worker when there was zero evidence to support this assumption? Why aren’t we seeing stories demanding that something be done NOW to keep the most abused and forgotten of our communities safe?

    The real injustice here is not how a conservative preacher disrespected a woman already so disrespected but our communal complacency with a system that will just keep killing these young people. Until we actually do something about the bigger issue, we can continue looking forward to these annual murders.

  • They should have stood up and thrown their buybulls at the self righteous idiot. Why do people allow jackasses like this to preside over their funerals?

  • Here’s the irony. The Church the Pastor was from is named “Agape Missionary Baptist Church” – The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used the Greek term “agape” to describe a universal love that “discovers the neighbor in every man it meets.”

  • Killed in the name of bigotry.
    Grave shat upon in the name of bigotry.

    These Christians are terrible human beings.

  • What wonderful examples of Jesus’ love these cretins are! I’m really, really disappointed that Lashai’s family and friends didn’t commence to whippin’ some butt instead of walking out. I’m not one to get physical with things but every once in a great while, a good foot in the posterior end is exactly what the doctor ordered.

  • I am a pastor and I am gay. My church accepts all people and lovingly ordains both straight and gay clergy. I think what this pastor did in this service was shameful and not at all appropriate. This was a time to show comfort and the unconditional love of God for all.

  • Here we are in 2011…a “person of the cloth” who purports to show others the journey that leads to the gates of heaven, privileged to preside over the passing of a child of God…privileged to bring consolation to the family and euologize a life and praise the goodness within the child. Rather, he chose to represent God by being un-Godly…he brought forth pain to the family, passed judgement on that child of God, in essence said loud and clear “he” got what “he” deserved…”may that be a warning to the rest of u abominable trans persons”…utter disregard for the femaleness of the victim and for the biology behind gender identity that begins in the womb,,,despite genitalia.

    Lets test this judgment by a fallible “person of God”. Beyond my comprehension and understanding, way too often children die at the hands of their “parents” as discussed by Nancy Grace. I suppose this “man of God” would euologize them by saying “they deserved to die because they chose the wrong parents”. These non-Christian Christian pastors are whom I refer to as “hypcorites of the cloth”.

    I suppose if he were to go to a non-Christian country on a mission…and was standing on a street corner preaching and he fell victim to religious hate, another pastor might then say “He chose the Christian lifestyle and so this is the consequence” Huh….Reverend Montgomery, you would do better working at Del Taco than misrepresenting God’s work….

    I still am trying to comprehend how a pastor could preside over the final farewell of a trans person (such as I), in the presence of family already grieving over this most violent of deaths, and present a frictional, adversarial “sermon” that was so overtly condemning that no lines inbetween need have been read. If I had been there, (hindsight) I would have considered convening the attendees outside then done everything in my power to send that “preacher” back to the worship center of ill repute so he could crawl back into the hole he came out of. He chose to overlook the fact that as an imperfect creature, he was not even remotely close to passing judgement on anyone for any reason. He overstepped his duty by far and chose to “console by vitriol”. I mean we already face imminent danger in life, and now imminent hate in death? His deed is nothing short of abominable….I am going to let him know as u all should..

  • its a shame that a religeon that professes to preach love seems to be so full of hate and incite hate towards minority groups,
    why are christians so full of hate and devoid of common sense??????

  • so I guess if an innocent person gets killed it was their own fault and I’ve never seen nor heard of people leaving a funeral because the service was too long.

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