Not Christian? Not Clergy? More on #OtherWiseSacred #ShelterInGrace

There is plenty of OtherWise-gendered-antagonism to go around. As we built the #ShelterInGrace campaign yesterday, we grappled with how specific to make it. We decided to gently emphasize the context of OtherWise-antagonistic Christian narratives, because we wanted to emphasize counter-moves that are specific. This raised two very important questions!

  • What if you are not Christian and/or not Christian clergy?
  • What about speaking into the hearts of folk who are isolated among Jewish antagonism or Muslim antagonism or even general cultural antagonism?

What if you are not Christian and/or not Christian clergy?

If you feel that you can speak helpful liberation and grace into the hearts of folk who are struggling with anti-trans, anti-intersex, binary-enforcing Christian narratives, then we welcome your participation!

One of the ways we break out from oppressive Christian narratives is to experience other ways of being. I know many Christian clergy (OtherWise-gendered or not) who have experienced liberation by visiting, joining, or sojourning amongst those who profess a different spiritual, philosophical, or energetic path. OtherWise Christian 2: Stories of Resistance includes three Jews as well as encounters with Wiccan and Buddhist traditions. The next book from OtherWise Engaged Publishing will actually focus on similar themes–and there is another in the works!

If you are not Christian clergy, you are still encouraged to participate! Each one of us has an important testimony. Full stop. #ClaimingOurStories is also part of what we are encouraging with OtherWise Christian 2 and #SacredOtherWise efforts. Anyone who has grappled with an antagonistic Christian narrative can #ClaimYourStory and speak from your truth.

What about speaking into the hearts of folk who are isolated among Jewish antagonism or Muslim antagonism or even more general cultural antagonism?

We decided that it would be useful to start with messaging that specifically speaks into the ways that Christian antagonism dominates so many (Christian and non-Christian, both). We also recognize that the #ShelterInGrace frame draws on language that is generally considered Christian (though “grace” is also used in a more generic way sometimes).

That said, we are closely connected to the multi-faith, multi-racial, multi-gender efforts of Transfaith, and OtherWise Engaged Publishing is not exclusively Christian. We are currently exploring ways to build on the #ShelterInGrace idea in other ways–perhaps with parallel #SacredOtherWise campaigns. If you are interested in being a part of launching such alternatives, please be in touch!

Watch the #ShelterInGrace playlist.

Make your own contribution (instructions are on this post).

Let us know what you are thinking!

Please share whatever good news you have to share about liberation in whatever ways you can!

Compiled by Mx Chris Paige on April 9, 2020.

OC2 Launch Festivities

Many thanks for the contributors who are making themselves available to discuss OtherWise Christian 2: Stories of Resistance.

There are a few more who are swamped with Real Life stuff–from grief to family concerns to pastoring. This is a strange time. The remainder may or may not chime in if they get a break in their schedule. Sending love to one and all.

That said, we have TWENTY-TWOTHREE contributors confirmed for EIGHT NINE sessions over THREE days (PLUS we have added a BONUS ROUND during HOLY WEEK!).

While not all of our contributors are transgender (“OtherWise” includes intersex, two spirit, and more), the Transgender Day of Visibility (#TDOV) lands right in the middle of our launch on Tuesday, March 31. Visibility is only part of the equation.

This TDOV, we are also proclaiming #YouAreNotAMistake, #NoBodyIsShameful, #NoBodyIsDisposable! We also encourage you to post, blog, tweet, and OtherWise lift up the #OtherWiseSacred hashtag (together with variations on #TransAndSacred, #IntersexAndSacred, etc)!

Click through to see recordings of our lively conversations among the author-contributors!

Continue reading “OC2 Launch Festivities”

OC2: Afterword by Mx Chris Paige

Afterword: Claiming Our Stories

From OtherWise Christian 2: Stories of Resistance, edited by Mx Chris Paige

By Mx Chris Paige

Stories are powerful—from the biblical testimony to our own. Yet, the world too often tells OtherWise-gendered people that our stories are unimportant, if not invalid, shameful, or inappropriate. Indeed, antagonistic Christians are quite accomplished at launching stories of their own that characterize us as deceitful, predatory, sick, or sinful. There seems to be something frightening about our truth. As Erin Swenson wrote in her reflection, there is a kind of “existential rage [from our] accusers.”

I once heard Elena Rose Vera preach a sermon at the Transgender Religious Leaders Summit in Berkeley, California and she would later allow us to reprint it in Transfaith’s Being Brave Together handbook. She eloquently makes the point that transgender people are inspiring and controversial because of our integrity. She argued that it is neither some kind of shapeshifting magic, nor long-suffering sacrifice that sets us apart. We are no more perfect or saintly, broken or depraved than any other demographic. However, our choice to pursue the truth, no matter what the cost may be, is a defining characteristic.

I believe in trans people. I believe in us because we have been honest, at least once, in a way few people on earth have been asked to be. I believe that is what makes us so frightening. That integrity is written all over us. …

Integrity is contagious, see. It is hard to look at the way we know the truth and not be tempted to look at your own truth, and that truth’s consequences. It is hard to pretend, with us in the room. It is hard to make excuses for your own lies and compromises and little self-betrayals. So, people try very hard to make us the liars. To make us the fakes. To push us out of the room so we don’t hold mirrors up.

It’s not that we’re special. It’s just that, every one of us, whatever we did before or since, we made a choice. We believed. We committed. We moved. With everything mobilized to erase us and keep us from truth-telling, we had the strength of spirit to choose truth anyway. (excerpted from “Holding On” by Elena Rose Vera)

Certainly, a similar argument could be made about people with intersex variations. Doctors (and some parents) push people with intersex variations into the shadows, inviting them to be ashamed of their God-given bodies. Yet, increasingly, intersex activists are breaking through their isolation to find one another and to tell their stories. This, too, is powerful resistance in a world that profits from misinformation and half-truths. This, too, is a model for how all of us might be more truthful and courageous in our own lives. Whether we are resisting religious antagonism, social marginalization, medical malpractice, or cultural expectations, claiming our deepest truths is always sacred work.

As we were approaching the finish line for OtherWise Christian 2: Stories of Resistance, I brainstormed with our authors about the #TransphobiaIsASin campaign. This campaign was started by J Mase III and Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi as a way to disrupt and heal from religious and spiritual-based violence and harm. The campaign is intentionally bold in terms of naming transphobia as “sin”—using that concept, so often weaponized against OtherWise-gendered people, to claim our liberation.

However, as I corresponded with our authors, some had reservations about deploying a term with as much baggage as “sin” carries. Meanwhile, our authors with intersex variations struggled with how they might work with the transgender-specific nature of the campaign. In the end, we came up with a friendly alternative that seemed to work for every one—and our #SacredOtherWise campaign was born. 

So, we want to invite you to join us in claiming our stories by claiming your story, too! You can testify to your truth by sharing images and stories on social media using #TransAndSacred, #IntersexAndSacred, #NonBinaryAndSacred, or #TwoSpiritAndSacred. However, our goal is not to pressure anyone into disclosing truths that may put you at risk. Rather, we want to bless you with our collective testimony that truth-telling, story-sharing, testimony-making is sacred work. Whether you use these hashtags (or your own variation) or not, we encourage you to claim the power of your own story—whether you share that story in public, with friends/family, or simply in your own private journaling.

If nothing else, the Bible shows us that stories of struggle, resistance, and resilience are sacred and enduring, as they are passed down from generation to generation. So, whoever you are and wherever you are on your journey, I hope that you have been touched by something that has been shared in these pages. I hope that just maybe we have been able to pass along some nugget of hope or wisdom through our “stories of resistance.” Perhaps, as you close this book, you even will have gained some new understanding of and appreciation for what might be possible when OtherWise-gendered people of different shapes and sizes are embraced and celebrated.

So, in the words of Jesus, I invite you to go into the world and share that testimony, as well. “Truly, truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen…” (John 3:11a Berean Study Bible). May you receive our testimonies with compassion and grace. May you go and tell others what you have seen and what you have heard. May you celebrate and support the stories of resistance that may show up when “folk like us” appear in your own life.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

OtherWise Christian 2: Stories of Resistance will launch on March 31, 2020. Pre-orders are currently available on Amazon (ebook) and through the publisher. During the month of March, you can also get autographed copies of OtherWise Christian, Christian Faith and Gender Identity, and In Remembrance of Me, Bearing Witness to Transgender Tragedy at regular retail prices, with your pre-order of OtherWise Christian 2!

You can join in the excitement about “Stories of Resistance” by “claiming your story!” Use the #SacredOtherWise hash tags on social media: #TransAndSacred, #NonBinaryAndSacred, #IntersexAndSacred, #TwoSpiritAndSacred or your own variation.

We are also using #ClaimYourStory and #ClaimingOurStories to encourage celebration of our stories of faith and resistance.

You are especially encouraged to use these hashtags on #TransgenderDayOfVisibility / #TDOV on March 31, 2020!

OC2: Introduction by Mx Chris Paige

Introduction
OtherWise Christian 2: Stories of Resistance
By Mx Chris Paige

Transgender men, transgender women, and non-binary people all have our own particular sets of challenges and risk factors as we navigate the world. In a Western worldview, these are three major categories of transgender experience. Meanwhile, people with intersex variations may or may not be transgender, may or may not be identified with the binary (male or female), may or may not use “intersex” as an identity. OtherWise-gendered people may be “straight,” same-gender-loving, asexual, bisexual/pansexual, or have some other way to name their interests. Some may be open and public about their gender history, while others may be nondisclosing or low-disclosure. This is just a small sample of some of the kinds of diversity that you may encounter among OtherWise-gendered people in the Western world, before we even touch on language and culture.

 This diversity of new vocabulary can be confusing and overwhelming to some as new shared understandings are being fashioned. Most of us have been raised in a culture that claimed that there are “two and only two, mutually exclusive genders, defined strictly and easily, based on biology at birth” (see Appendix A of this volume, as well as OtherWise Christian, chapter 2). For OtherWise-gendered folk, resisting that reductive gender ideology is not an intellectual question but, rather, a way of life in which we struggle to make our way through a world that tells us in so many ways that it would rather not be bothered with us at all. As you seek to understand our varied struggles, the language we use, and the way we conceptualize resistance, it is important to shift—away from simply trying to label and define us toward hearing our stories as testimonies of strength and resilience.

Imagine if you had been taught that “vanilla” and “chocolate” are the only kinds of ice cream that are possible. Would you be worried to learn about butter pecan and strawberry ice cream? Would you feel ill-prepared for Neapolitan, rocky road, or cotton-candy-flavored ice cream? How might you react to a soft serve cone dipped in chocolate, ice cream sandwiches, frozen yogurt, or gluten-free and nondairy vegan “ice cream”? With or without nuts? Whipped cream? And a cherry on top? 

The variations are endless, but this complexity need not be threatening. You do not have to be an expert on every ingredient or every kind of ice cream just to enjoy a midnight snack or to take a grandchild out for a treat. In fact, questions to determine if your favorite confection qualifies properly as “chocolate” or “vanilla” are probably not so welcome when you are eager to dig in.

Similarly, I invite you to give up on trying to put people into categories. Instead, I hope that you will try to enjoy the testimonies of the authors in this volume—as if they were the first sweet treat that you have had in years. Please don’t waste your time worrying. Savor the flavors. Notice the sensations. Just enjoy! 

In the opening chapters of OtherWise Christian 2, you will find testimonies of trans feminine, trans masculine, non-binary, and intersex encounters with the Holy, as well as their encounters with patriarchy, embodiment, and liberation. Several of these articles date as far back as 2001 and are some of the earliest published stories from transgender Christians (during what I call the “transgender spring”), though they have all been revised at least somewhat for re-publication here. These first offerings are intended to provide a very basic introduction to “vanilla.” You will have an opportunity to get a taste, but please know that there are many other delicious flavors to come!

In the remainder of this book, you will find yet more stories of resistance. We will not tarry with “transgender 101” definitions. There are plenty of other books, blogs, and webinars for that. You can go elsewhere to sort through arguments about whether OtherWise-gendered people actually exist. If you are worried about whether we should be treated as inherently sick or sinful, you might not be ready to hear the wisdom that we have to share. Yet, we are here, living our best lives. Truly, truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen (John 3:11a). 

There are a wide range of (auto)biographical and anecdotal stories about transgender and intersex people to be found in the world already. This volume is different insofar as it assembles offerings that will make explicit connections between lived OtherWise experience and Christian tradition—and sometimes other traditions as well. Authors have been invited to offer a theological perspective grounded in their own magnificent lives. I have to warn you that we are boundary-busting folk who do not much like being confined in orderly boxes. But, we offer our testimonies just the same, drawing on our own histories, our own struggles, and our own relationships with the Divine. Let those accept it who can (Matthew 19:12b).

In a historic roundtable in the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion (Spring 2018), Dr. Max Strassfeld, asks this question: “In what ways might we expand our analyses of prayer and ritual if we took the lives and resiliencies of trans women of color as religion?” (page 51). Strassfeld’s question was offered in an academic context, but, in this volume, I invite you to open yourself in that way. Indeed, what if we look to OtherWise-gendered people to teach us about practices that nurture survival and sustainability? What if we trust OtherWise-gendered people to tell us something about what is most sacred? What might we learn about what makes life worth living? 

Instead of working to stuff transgender experience into pre-existing categories of religious or Christian experience, I invite you to open your heart to listen to what OtherWise-gendered folk might have to teach you about the Divine, about holy laughter, about our most intimate relationships, and about fighting back against the principalities and powers of this world that bring death and despair. Listen for the rhythms that resonate between authors. Attend to both the themes that connect with your own life experiences, as well as those that differ. There are suggested scriptures and reflection questions at the end of each offering to assist you in processing and integrating what you have read.

Of course, no one collection can ever be definitive. There will always be yet more stories to be shared from God’s gender-full goodness among us. Indeed, I am aware of some important gaps in this effort. Yet, I hope that this volume will give you a taste that will help you better to appreciate what is possible among God’s people. I am grateful for the diverse array of folk who have trusted me enough to edit and publish their insights here. I pray that you will be blessed by their testimonies just as I have been.

Please check out otherwisechristian.com where you will find additional content related to the OtherWise Christian series, including news about other projects by these authors, more resources, as well as opportunities for further conversation.

Mx Chris Paige

OtherWise Christian 2: Stories of Resistance will launch on March 31, 2020. Pre-orders are currently available on Amazon (ebook) and through the publisher. During the month of March, you can also get autographed copies of OtherWise Christian, Christian Faith and Gender Identity, and In Remembrance of Me, Bearing Witness to Transgender Tragedy at regular retail prices, with your pre-order of OtherWise Christian 2!

You can join in the excitement about “Stories of Resistance” by “claiming your story!” Use the #SacredOtherWise hash tags on social media: #TransAndSacred, #NonBinaryAndSacred, #IntersexAndSacred, #TwoSpiritAndSacred or your own variation.

We are also using #ClaimYourStory and #ClaimingOurStories to encourage celebration of our stories of faith and resistance.

You are especially encouraged to use these hashtags on #TransgenderDayOfVisibility / #TDOV on March 31, 2020!

OC2: What is “OtherWise-gendered”?

I began formally using the term “OtherWise-gendered” in OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation (now available in hard cover!). However, framing an anthology around the term “OtherWise” is a different play. Rather than take up space up front unpacking the term, I created an Appendix that talked about it. It is excerpted here:

Appendix A

By Mx Chris Paige

Excerpt from OtherWise Christian 2: Stories of Resistance, edited by Mx Chris Paige

Continue reading “OC2: What is “OtherWise-gendered”?”

OC2: Preface by Mx Chris Paige

Preface
OtherWise Christian 2: Stories of Resistance
By Mx Chris Paige

In OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation, I focused primarily on digging into scripture, from Genesis to Galatians. Yet, for Christians to understand and appreciate OtherWise-gendered people will require more than just an affirming understanding of the biblical text, it also will require more than survey questionnaires and textbooks with terms and definitions. To really understand OtherWise-gendered folk will require experience in authentic relationship with diverse OtherWise-gendered people who are making our way in the world. 

Too often, when an (openly) transgender person walks through the door of a church, they become a de facto one-person transgender education task force. This can be problematic for both the individual and the congregation. First and foremost, the individual may have come bearing burdens, not seeking to teach! Meanwhile, if you have met one person of transgender experience, you have met only one person of transgender experience. You are likely to learn about that one person’s bias and experience, but you may miss out on the gender-full testimonies that would come from more diverse perspectives.

Meanwhile, the challenges facing people with intersex variations are similar, yet compounded by additional layers of stigma, shame, invisibility, and misinformation. I have long believed that endosex (that is, not intersex) transgender folk need to do a better job of working in solidarity with our intersex siblings. I am proud and grateful that five openly intersex people are included in this volume speaking from their own experience. Yet, we can (and will) do more. In fact, plans are already in motion (see Appendix A).

OtherWise Christian 2: Stories of Resistance endeavors to introduce you, briefly, to a range of OtherWise-gendered people. Drawing on relationships from my time with The Other Side magazine and with Transfaith, I reached out to friends and colleagues. I asked them to write about their lived experience and to connect that experience to scripture. There were a few cases where I asked for something more specific based on pre-existing sermons, publications, or personal sharing, but generally not. I read in awe as each story emerged, unique in its focus but with deep connections among them.

There is something profoundly intimate about editing someone’s spiritual reflection. I have found editing this anthology to be truly sacred work. It has been an honor and a privilege in every sense of those words to shepherd this project. I do not take it for granted that this many folk, both brilliant and bruised, have trusted me with their words, despite differences in race, gender, sexuality, class, and religious perspective. Some are long-time friends, some are newer colleagues, and some are relationships that emerged directly out of this project.

Being actively in touch with about a dozen of these authors at any given time was also sobering. What you will not see generally reflected in this text are the details of hospitalizations and funerals, job losses and financial strains, mental health challenges and medication changes, school deadlines and family obligations, cross-country moves and international travel that occurred even just in the months that I was working to compile these reflections. Please understand that every one of these people is navigating serious real-life challenges, while making themselves vulnerable, not just to me, but to all of us through these chapters.

There are a million very good reasons why any one of them might have chosen not to take this risk with me or with us. There are a million more things that could have gone wrong as we worked through such sensitive topics and representations. Indeed, several authors dropped out because they could not make the time in their schedule for various reasons. So, I specifically want to honor and acknowledge the strength and courage of these authors. Their trust and commitment are the foundation upon which this anthology has grown.

I will continue blogging at otherwisechristian.com with news and links about other projects these authors are involved in, from churches to non-profits to consulting, from podcasts to blogs to other books. I hope you will join in their efforts, as well as considering the variety of other books from OtherWise Engaged Publishing.

Mx Chris Paige
March 2020

OtherWise Christian 2: Stories of Resistance will launch on March 31, 2020. Pre-orders are currently available on Amazon (ebook) and through the publisher. During the month of March, you can also get autographed copies of OtherWise Christian, Christian Faith and Gender Identity, and In Remembrance of Me, Bearing Witness to Transgender Tragedy at regular retail prices, with your pre-order of OtherWise Christian 2!

You can join in the excitement about “Stories of Resistance” by “claiming your story!” Use the #SacredOtherWise hash tags on social media: #TransAndSacred, #NonBinaryAndSacred, #IntersexAndSacred, #TwoSpiritAndSacred or your own variation.

We are also using #ClaimYourStory and #ClaimingOurStories to encourage celebration of our stories of faith and resistance.

You are especially encouraged to use these hashtags on #TransgenderDayOfVisibility / #TDOV on March 31, 2020!

OtherWise Christian cover images

I knew that I wanted a picture of bread and a chalice in the wild for OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation. I actually drove all over New Jersey and into Pennsylvania before I found the final, perfect set up for the cover image.

The word “OtherWise” was actually given to me by the ancestors when we opened up a sacred site at Columcille. You see, they had a men’s sacred site and a women’s sacred site, but there was no place designated for the rest of us! The sacred OtherWise site remains off the map on the boundary at a cross-roads in a place of fire… but that is another story for another day.

Continue reading “OtherWise Christian cover images”

OC2: Foreword by Victoria Kolakowski

Much gratitude to the Rev Victoria Kolakowski (retired) for providing the Foreword to OtherWise Christian 2: Stories of Resistance with such a significant historical perspective!

Foreword
By Victoria Kolakowski

The book you are reading is long overdue. I know, because I have waited sooooo long for it—decades, in fact. Please bear with me as I introduce myself, for context.

I spent most of my teens and twenties trying to reconcile my firm belief in God and my firm belief that I was really a woman inside, notwithstanding what my body and the rest of the world told me. It was a difficult journey, made more so by the lack of information about transgender issues available to the general public.

Continue reading “OC2: Foreword by Victoria Kolakowski”

OC2: Table of Contents

Table of Contents
OtherWise Christian 2: Stories of Resistance
Edited by Mx Chris Paige

Foreword by the Rev Victoria Kolakowski (retired)
Preface by Mx Chris Paige
Introduction by Mx Chris Paige

Continue reading “OC2: Table of Contents”