Recently one of my pastors wanted to do a series about bodies and how we live in them as Christians. As part of this she put out a call on Facebook: did we know any books by Queer theologians, particularly from voices in traditionally marginalized communities (trans, POC, female, and others)? As one of the only out trans people in our congregation I thought "This is perfect for me," but as I sat down to reply, I couldn't think of anyone.
It's not that writing about transgender Christians doesn’t exist, but what is out there doesn’t tell my story in the way I need.
Most books by and about transgender Christians, what few there are, can be summarized as, "I am transgender and loved by God." Now, this is a powerful idea. Being loved as we are is something we don't hear enough, we can't hear enough, and some of us never hear at all.
But sometimes, I think it's okay to want more. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, and if we as transgender people are part of the one body, then what does our part of that body do?
Finding the answer for us, and ideally written by by us, can be difficult. Since I'm someone who has spent a lot of time doing just this, I thought I should create a list of how and where to find resources. Here's what I've come up with so far:
1) Look for snippets
There are whole libraries, scores of them, dedicated to Christianity for cis people, yet it can be difficult to find a single book by, for, and about transgender people.
But, there are websites, blogs, articles, and essays about trans Christians and Trans Christianity. I've personally learned more about my faith from an article on transtheology.org, than I have from entire books about ”General Christianity.”
2) See yourself in the text
Though the Bible doesn't mention trans people specifically, we can still see ourselves there. My Renaming Ceremonies linked my process to Abram and Sarai becoming Abraham and Sarah and the renamings of Peter and Paul. My baptism spoke about the Ethiopian Eunuch and the queering of sex roles.
It’s not solely a modern idea. Ancient rabbis spoke of Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, being changed by God in the womb from male to female. In fact, a whole collection of these trans, queer, and intersex stories from the Jewish tradition can be found on transtorah.org.
3) See the text in each other
All of us need guides in our identities. We have saints and we have prophets on the faith side, and we have Possibility Models (h/t to Laverne Cox) on the trans side. The two aren’t so different. Just as Martin Luther said everyone is both sinner and saint, and as James Cone saw scripture in the music and poetry of his community, I know I hear prophecy in the works of Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, Miss Major, and the other, mostly POC, foremothers, without whom we wouldn't have our movement.
Their speeches are sermons if ever there were.
4) Listen to and Learn from Others
Just as my cis pastor wanted to know about trans perspectives on theology, I think it is good to read broadly. Now, it’s important to know our privileges, I am white, educated, able-bodied, middle class, and more. You may be all or some of these things as well. Or different things. In finding ourself, we cannot exploit the suffering of our siblings in faith, Trans is not the new [blank], and a lot of these siblings have been fighting a lot longer than me, or have a lot less recognition than transgender people do.
Though you can’t know another’s pain through your own, sometimes the ways we are hurt may rhyme with the hurt of others. I suggest reading Intersex Theology and the Bible: Troubling Bodies in Church, Text, and Society. It does a good job of synthesizing Liberation, Queer, and Disability Theologies. It is also frank about the pain trans folks sometimes inflict upon our intersex siblings.
There is so little out there about us—we must share what we have. This can take a lot of different forms. We can share physical resources (books can be pricy), so if you have a book and you can get it out to your trans siblings, particularly the recently out, please do. We can also share digital resources. If you are in an open and affirming congregation, or you have an Internet presence, or maybe you just know someone who would benefit from online resources, then spread the good news!
Also, share your own story. When I was first figuring out my identity, it would have been huge to have someone say, “Hey, I know what's it’s like.” Even now, the more stories of other trans Christians I find, the better. Our people are beautiful and our lives are beautiful, so let's celebrate them together.
6) Keep Looking
The first book I found about transgender Christianity was Crossing Over. I was in an LGBT Studies class and we were supposed to do a report on “Our particular experience of Queerness.” When I looked for a book to report on, it was literally the only one I found.
I look every once in awhile, including just as I started to write this, and sometimes I find resources I hadn't seen before. One of these, Trans-Gendered: Theology, Ministry, and Communities of Faith, which existed while I was in that class, but I somehow missed, I’m reading now.
Every day we write, rediscover, and share more and more of our stories. As we talk in community, discover our voices, and help new people to come out, or at least get closer. Our stories grow more into a robust and mature field of trans Christian scholarship. I hope this list will help you explore it. And as you do your exploring remember, we trans Christians are out here creating and writing and sharing more each and every day.
Believe Out Loud Blogs
- 10 Transgender Christians Share Their Journey Stories
- 10 Transgender Christians Share Their Journey Stories—Part II
- All Believe Out Loud blogs by trans or gender nonconforming writers
Websites & Organizations
- Omnigender: A Trans-Religious Approach By Virginia Ramey Mollenkott
- Transgender Journeys by Virginia Ramey Mollenkott and Vanessa Sheridan
- Crossing Over: Liberating the Transgendered Christian by Vanessa Sheridan
- Trans-Gendered: Theology, Ministry, and Communities of Faith by Justin Edward Tanis
Trans Faith Leaders & Theologians
- M Barclay
- delfin bautista
- Nicole Garcia
- Austen Hartke
- Alex Kapitan
- Father Shannon T.L. Kearns
- Alex Patchin McNeill
- Rev. Louis Mitchell
- Stephanie Mott
- Rev. Asher O'Callaghan
- Chris Paige
- Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge
- Rev. Lawrence Richardson
- Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer
- Leslie Rouser
- Lisa Salazar
- Rev. Mykal Slack
- Rev. Kim Sorrells
- Vivian Taylor
- Rev. David Weekley
- Lynn Young
What other organizations, resources, and people should be on this list? Leave your suggestions in the comments!
Photo by flickr user Korz 19