By Rev. Jeanelle N. Ablola
This Advent morning I woke up to the news of the indictment of the suspected murderer of Jennifer Laude. This Advent morning I woke up to the news of The Blackout Collective leading a lockdown occupation of the Oakland Police Department, just a few miles from my home. The struggle for justice to arrive has been embodied by thousands this year.
The preparation of making the paths ready for Christ is being paved and smoothed by the thousands of feet that have come to march and the way made wider by the raised fists that continue to knock on the heavens. Hearts and bodies radiating something like “O come, O come Emmanuel…” to the Christian mind.
During Advent, we anticipate the arrival of Emmanuel, of God with us. We anticipate and prepare for that moment when the lines blur between the divine and human, between heaven and earth. We anticipate that moment when God breaks into human history by being birthed into a human body. In waiting for this moment’s arrival, I also cannot help but grieve the damage that has been done recently to the bodies of Others.
On October 11, 2014, Jennifer Laude, a 26-year-old Filipino transgender woman, was found dead in Olongapo, in a hotel bathroom, strangled to death with her head in the toilet bowl, her neck broken.
The autopsy showed that she died of “asphyxia by drowning.” She was last seen alive, checking into a hotel with PFC Joseph Scott Pemberton, US Marine. Laude expressed to a friend her concern of Pemberton finding out about her transgender identity. With his arm, Pemberton choked Laude from behind and, after she stopped moving, he dragged her body to the bathroom where he repeatedly plunged her head into the toilet bowl until she was dead.