Transgendered

In chapter 11 of OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation, I use “transgendered” as an example of the way the meanings of words can change over time.

When I started exploring my gender identity in 1998, we were saying “transgendered” (among other things), but somewhere around 2006 “best practices” evolved and that particular word went out of style.

I reference some reflections by Julia Serano on related topics. She gives meaningful treatments on a number of fronts, which I recommend:

In particular, I reference that first article and the dynamics around “word-sabotage” and “word-elimination” campaigns that Serano brings up.

I agree with Serano that dismissing another person’s word choice out of hand is problematic, even as I respect efforts to develop coherent “best practices.”

My treatment in OtherWise Christian is necessarily abbreviated because these nuances are only relevant insofar as I am wrestling with the nature of language used for gender diversity over time (e.g. eunuchs). Serano’s book Outspoken includes much of this materal and may be worth your time if these topics around modern language intrigue you.

The bottom line is that word meanings change over time. A word that is perfectly acceptable at one point may be anathema at another. This is true even before we get to dynamics like colonization that may demonize certain aspects of a culture as a way of discrediting the opposition.

Understanding these historical shifts are important when we look at contributions from the “transgender spring” and books like Omnigender or Trans-Gendered, which use language that was appropriate at the time, but which might be dismissed out of hand today.

As I was pulling together yesterday’s post and this (unedited) interview footage with Kate Bornstein and Leslie Feinberg from an In the Life episode (1996), which touches on the development of language and the role of the internet in transgender organizing.

Compiled by Mx. Chris Paige on September 25, 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.

The Transgender Spring, 1996-2006

I call the period from 1996-2006 the “transgender spring,” that is, the first decade of transgender Christian publishing. While not intended to be a detailed history, I do want to highlight a bit about what it meant to be writing about transgender concerns in that period. Every sighting of a transgender Christian was precious through those years. Continue reading “The Transgender Spring, 1996-2006”

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:

Continue reading “Pilgrim Press and the Transgender Spring”

Call Me Malcolm, 2005

“Call Me Malcolm” is 90-minute feature-length documentary following a twenty-five year-old seminary student as he explores faith, love, and gender identity. It was developed by the United Church of Christ, Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Concerns and released in 2005.

There are two study guides to accompany the film. At this point the entire film is available on YouTube, making it a super-accessible resource for personal reflection or group study.

Continue reading “Call Me Malcolm, 2005”

Trans-Gendered: Theology, Ministry, and Communities of Faith, 2003 and 2018

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. Continue reading “Trans-Gendered: Theology, Ministry, and Communities of Faith, 2003 and 2018”

Omnigender: A Trans-religious Approach, 2001 and 2007

Virginia Mollenkott’s Omnigender: A Trans-religious Approach was the first book on transgender spirituality/theology by a mainstream press. Pilgrim Press (associated with the United Church of Christ) published Omnigender in May 2001.

The Other Side‘s May/June 2001 cluster of articles on transgender concerns was published almost simultaneously. Vanessa Sheridan’s Crossing Over was published a few months later in October 2001 by Pilgrim Press.

Previous relevant books included two self-published books by Vanessa Sheridan (The Cross and the Crossdresser and Cross Purposes) and the Fall 1996 issue of Open Hands. However, none of the earlier publications was widely available to the general public.

Continue reading “Omnigender: A Trans-religious Approach, 2001 and 2007”

Classical Jewish Gender, 2006

In OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation, I mention Jewish traditions around gender, highlighting 6 different genders. The topic of gender in Jewish tradition deserves a book of its own and is beyond my personal expertise.

However, Rabbi Elliot Kukla is widely credited for bringing these traditions to light and related resources can be found on the TransTorah website:

Continue reading “Classical Jewish Gender, 2006”

Open Hands, Fall 1996 issue

The Open Hands, Fall 1996 issue marks the beginning of what I calling the “transgender spring“–a season of blossoming interest in transgender faith experience.

This issue was truly a landmark for expanding the conversation around transgender experience. The one and only outside, faith-based resource cited was The Cross and the Crossdresser by Vanessa S. [sic]. It was not an oversight. Faith-based conversations about transgender experience were almost non-existent in 1996 outside of deeply hidden networks of transgender people (at the time, “TG/TS” for “transgendered and transexual”).

Continue reading “Open Hands, Fall 1996 issue”