Transgender Liberation: Beyond Pink or Blue, 1998

Today was the (first) transgender visibility march. Seems like a great day to pull out a classic!

Leslie Feinberg is one of three OtherWise prophets that I honor around the edges of OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation. Leslie Feinberg was talking about gender-benders and intersex folk long before most people were educated about those topics (recognizing that we still have a long way to go, even today).

Transgender Liberation: Beyond Pink or Blue is Feinberg’s 1998 book. It is a collection of speeches, with a few individual profiles of transgender people woven in. It’s a great resource for thinking about how things were back in 1997 or 1998, during the “transgender spring.” While Feinberg is not writing from a Christian point of view, ze push on all of the edges of what organized back then.

What makes Feinberg especially prophetic is that zir writing is still timely today. The politicians are different, but the issues are very much the same. Feinberg coined the term “Transgender Liberation” and did important work connecting the dots with other kinds of liberation, making the case that broad based solidarity is important for our survival.

Our lives are proof that sex and gender are much more complex than a delivery room doctor’s glance at genitals can determine, more variegated than pink or blue birth caps. (page 5)

And if you do not identify as transgender or transsexual or intersexual, your life is diminished by our oppression as well. … So the defense of each individual’s right to control their own body, and to explore the path of self-expression, enhances your own freedom to discover more about yourself and your potentialities. (page 6)

To me, gender is the poetry each of us makes out of the language we are taught. (page 10)

We… don’t have to explain why we are the way we are. We have to explain who we are. How we see ourselves. (page 29)

The real burning question is: How did we ever find the courage? From what underground spring did we draw our pride? How did each of us make our way in life, without a single familiar star in the night sky to guide us, to this room where we have at last found others like ourselves? … I think we have the whole world to give back to each other. (page 34)

The way in which people express themselves is a very important part of who they are. It is not possible to force all people to live outside of femininity and masculinity. Only androgynous people live comfortably in that gender space. There’s no social compulsion strong enough to force anyone else to dwell there. Trans people are an example of the futility of this strategy. (page 53)

What is the bedrock on which all of our diverse trans populations can build solidarity? The commitment to be the best fighters against each other’s oppression. … Unity depends on respect for diversity, no matter what tools of language are ultimately used. (page 60)

I live proudly in a body of my own design. I defend my right to be complex. (page 70)

I recently put that question to Puerto Rican drag queen Sylvia Rivera–a combatant at Stonewall: “Were you fighting against police brutality? Were you fighting racism? Or for your right to be gay? Did you fight because so few of the queens could produce the military draft cards government agents demanded that night? Or because so many of you were homeless and hungry and embattled on the streets?”

Sylvia replied with quiet dignity, “We were fighting for our lives.” (pages 96-97)

What unites us is not a common sexuality or experience or identities or self-expressions. It’s that we are up against a common enemy. (page 102)

That’s why we must ask everyone who puts forward theory: Which side are you on? … History is recorded from the point of view of the hunter or the hunted. … So the question we must demand of historians is: Which side are you on? (pages 115, 119)

So perhaps the greatest contribution that any of us can make who excavate history, and who develop and clarify theory, is to ensure that our history and theory is relevant and accessible to all those who are ready and willing to take action. (page 124)

Leslie Feinberg also has a 1992 pamphlet, titled Transgender Liberation: A Movement Whose Time Has Come, which is available as a free PDF from Workers World. Pieces of this pamphlet would make their way into Feinberg’s equally important Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman (1997).

Feinberg writes with a strong class analysis born of their involvement in Marxist and communist organizing. The 1992 pamphlet actually has a very nuanced assessment of the role of Christian tradition in gender oppression (incl. transgender as well as women’s rights).

Feinberg’s classic Stone Butch Blues is also available for free as a PDF (or at-cost through Lulu) at Feinberg’s website.

Compiled by Mx. Chris Paige on September 26, 2019.

Note: This blog is intended to be an on-going work in progress. Please contact us if you have additions, corrections, or concerns.

Queer Theology

Queer Theology launched a big giveaway today, which gives me a great excuse to blog about them more generally.

First things first. The giveaway includes a signed copy of OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation (signed by the author), as well as Transforming (signed by the author), Trans-Gendered (signed by the author), Walking Toward Resurrection (digital), as well as 5 other queer Christian books. This mega-pack also includes stickers, t-shirts, and a one-year subscription to the Sanctuary Collective including online courses, their monthly digital magazine Spit & Spirit, and an archive of past webinars.

Yeesh. I need to take a nap now! That’s a lot. Total value $304 (which seems low to me, especially given the priceless autographs, but ok…). They just want your email address so they can send you loving and supportive perspectives on LGBTQ Christianity. Seems like a win-win to me.

The giveaway ends October 10. Now, more about Queer Theology:

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The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible’s Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love by John Shelby Spong, 2005

Bishop John Spong is a well-known representative voice for Christian liberalism. In The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible’s Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love, he provides an encyclopedic review of problematic ways the Christian Bible has been used as a weapon on a variety of “issues.”

I included The Sins of Scripture in Appendix B of OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation. If you are someone who is unsure why people have hard feelings about the Bible, then this is a pretty good primer.

Continue reading “The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible’s Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love by John Shelby Spong, 2005”

Transgender Religious History

Even our most prominent transgender religious history is often obscured by our culture’s (and the LGBT movement’s) overwhelming emphasis on the politics of sexual orientation. Yet transgender religious folk have been making history for quite some time.

There are so many ways the world organizes to erase us–to pretend that we don’t exist, to forget about us. Remembering our histories is one small, but important way that we can claim our identities and our agency as sacred. We can honor our own elders and ancestors. We can celebrate all of the times that we have come through, somehow, when away was made out of no way.

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Pilgrim Press and the Transgender Spring

Pilgrim Press, affiliated with the United Church of Christ, played a remarkable role in the time period that I call the “transgender spring” (1996-2006). These five books were an unprecedented and unparalleled contribution to the emergent conversation about transgender experience:

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I Know What Heaven Looks Like: A Modern Day Coming of Age Story, 2018

As I write this, The Rev Lawrence Tanner Richardson’s I Know What Heaven Looks Like: A Modern Day Coming of Age Story (2018) is on sale at Amazon for $0.99 through Labor Day (2019).

In his dedication, Richardson writes, “I wrote this book for several reasons and several people, most especially me.” Indeed, trans folk finding our voices is powerful. This book is an origin story for Rev Richardson.

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Walking Towards Resurrection: A Transgender Passion Narrative, 2015

I actually wrote chapter 25 of OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation as a riff off of Walking Towards Resurrection: A Transgender Passion Narrative (2015). Fr Shay’s e-book is probably the first, unapologetic works of transgender theology that I became aware of. That was ground-breaking and important for all of us to experience.

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Trans Expressions: The Many Faces of My FTM Journey, 2019

I’ve listed Trans Expressions: The Many Faces of My FTM Journey (2019) by the Rev Mykal Shannon as an (auto) biography, but that may be a bit misleading.

This small book (74 pages, double spaced) is part poetic reflection and part invitation to think differently. It is more of an experiential moment with someone than a story in the way that we usually think of biographical writing.

That said, it gives you a feeling, a sense of what Mykal Shannon is about, including his vulnerability and commitments. It is all heart. Here is an excerpt:

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Transgender Christian (auto)Biographies

I just created a list of books about transgender and the Christian Bible, but we also need stories! This list looks at transgender (auto) biographical books that are explicitly Christian. I probably missed some others, so please contact me with additions!

I plan to review and provide notes on these books, as I am able. Please be in touch if you can provide me with a review copy!

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