Transforming: The Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians, 2018

Another book that I like to recommend is Austen Hartke‘s 2018 Transforming: The Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians. Whereas OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation is unapologetic and mostly follows a trail of scripture references, Hartke’s book has a softer touch and wonderfully weaves in the personal faith experiences of several transgender Christians.

For allies who want or need to hear more about the struggles and experiences of transgender Christians, Hartke’s book is a great one-stop option that combines stories, with biblical and theological reflection.

In OtherWise Christian, I quote Hartke several times! His biggest contribution comes in chapter 5, but Hartke also shows up in chapters 6, 11, 13, 14, 15. For the most part, Hartke covers a lot of overlapping biblical material (compared to OtherWise Christian) and I appreciated specific comments enough that I wanted to include them as quotes.

In chapter 5 of OtherWise Christian, I pass along Hartke’s summary of Mark Yarhouse.  Yarhouse offers the integrity model, the disability model, and the diversity model as three Christian approaches to understanding transgender experience. Hartke goes into more detail than I did, but in long-form or short-form, that framework is really useful for understanding the different approaches you may experience in Christian culture — sin, sickness, or celebration.

  • In the “integrity” model, transgender people are perceived as sinful because they/we have strayed from our gender assignment (presumed to be given by God).
  • In the “disability” model, transgender people are perceived as broken. Transgender experience is considered a mental illness that is the result of “the Fall,” but transgender people are considered victims who must work to overcome a disability.
  • In the “diversity” model, transgender people are celebrated as a part of God’s good creation.

Hartke does a great job weaving discussions of biblical and theological material in with reflections from transgender Christians such as Nicole Garcia, M Barclay, Lynn Young, Lawrence Tanner. It’s a great way to get a both/and experience.

Comparing OtherWise Christian with Transforming, I think there are pros and cons to each approach. My unapologetic approach in OtherWise Christian may be an abrupt challenge for would-be allies who are not prepared for such a brazen approach. As I say in my preface, the book is written for people of transgender and OtherWise experience, not for allies.

Transforming does a better job of taking folk by the hand and leading them gently through transgender experience and theological perspectives. On the other hand, if the argument is about biblical text and interpretation (as is often the case in conservative settings), OtherWise Christian is organized to be a quick reference in such conversations.

In the end, we are better for having more options. I appreciate Hartke’s efforts and commend Transforming to you for your toolkit!

Unfortunately, there is no study guide for Transforming, but you could still read it with a group.

MORE RESOURCES: Transgender and the (Christian) Bible

ALSO Transgender Christian (auto)Biographies

ALSO Transgender Christian Oral Histories

Compiled by Mx. Chris Paige on August 6, 2019.

Note: This blog is intended to be an on-going work in progress. Please contact us if you have corrections or are able to contribute further context or reflections.

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