Trans-Gendered: Theology, Ministry, and Communities of Faith by Justin Tanis is one of the two most influential books in transgender theology (the other being Omnigender). First published by Pilgrim Press in 2003, this book was originally Tanis’s D.Min dissertation. It was out of print for a time and was republished as Trans-Gender: Theology, Ministry, and Communities of Faith in 2018, now by Justin Sabia-Tanis under the umbrella of Wipf and Stock.
As I note in chapter 11 of OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation, a lot changed between 2003 and 2018. The word “transgendered” was in common usage until around 2006, but would now be considered by many to be “grammatically incorrect.” The adjustment to Tanis’s title reflects that change.
Trans-gendered was a critical publication in the “transgender spring.” While Virginia Mollenott offered the credibility of an established theologian and compiled scientific/medical information as well as theological concerns, Tanis offered a more comprehensive theological treatment, including biblical reflection, guidance for Christian communities, and specifically transgender insights into the theological task.
So formative is this work that I cite Tanis in 8 of my 25 chapters of OtherWise Christian! And I was only working through scripture. I didn’t even touch several of his other important chapters. Like OtherWise Christian, Tanis drew on previous authors and scholars where relevant. Tanis cites Victoria Kolakowski’s ground-breaking work from as early as 1997. His footnotes are what sent me looking for those early articles.
In addition to working through key biblical texts, Tanis spends a chapter exploring what it means to find an “authentic” self. He spends a couple of chapters talking in practical terms about transgender people and Christian faith communities. His final four chapters really dig into some juicy theological territory with a distinctively transgender constructive theological approach, touching on God, calling, body theology, and other themes.
For many years, this has been a “go to” starting point for transgender Christianity. it remains a unique and important work. I don’t know the back story on why Pilgrim Press let it go out of print, but Pilgrim Press seems more interested in working with non-trans authors these days–which is a big change from when Pilgrim first published this book and was at the forefront of the transgender spring.
MORE RESOURCES: Transgender and the (Christian) Bible
Compiled by Mx. Chris Paige on August 13, 2019.
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