Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Right now, I look androgynous.

People don't know what to do with me. When I go to a grocery store or a restaurant, I sometimes get called "sir" and sometimes "ma'am." If I'm with a male friend, I tend to get read as male, whereas I seem more likely to get gendered female when I'm with women.

Often, I just confuse people. I notice it when the waiter takes our order, addressing each of my friends as "sir" or "ma'am," then getting to me and saying, "And for you...?"

Or there was the time when the Banana Republic fitting room attendant was telling each person in line, "Sir/Ma'am, your room is ready." On seeing me, he asked me my name - which obviously helped none, because he ended up just saying, "Max, your room is ready."

Or the time at Eucharist, when the presider had been saying to each communicant, "My sister, the body of Christ! My brother, the body of Christ!" When it came to me, there was a very long pause; and then, "Max, the body of Christ!"

At first it was fun, destabilizing people's neat little gender categories like that. I hadn't been so ambiguous since I was sixteen and beholden to a ghastly and neutralizing school uniform. I felt like a gender warrior, smashing the crap out of the stupid gender binary simply by existing.

I'm getting a little tired of it, though.

I don't want to spend my whole life thinking about gender every damn minute of every damn day. I don't want going out in public to be this big exhausting palaver of will-I-get-misgendered-today. If I could be certain that I would only ever get seen as male or neutral, I would be okay with it; but, in a world of binaries, visible androgyny carries the risk of being read as female.

(I've had more than enough of that for one lifetime.)

In a world where the vast majority of people didn't feel the need to instantaneously classify everyone they see as either M or F, perhaps I could be happily androgynous forever. But we do not live in that world, and I don't want to spend my life in the in-between space.

I'm a guy. I just want people to see me that way.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Transgender Jesus

“Jesus exists precisely to be a blank sheet onto which we can write, project and reinscribe our longings and fears. The narrative locations in which Christ comes to find himself are multiple. This does not undermine but rather expands his historic specificity. The ultimate palimpsest, Jesus gives up and gives over the authorship of his signification into the hands of others. A queer understanding of Jesus makes clear that colonial authority is to be resisted, since the latter elides multiplicities of stories. Rather, difference and diversity are written and overwritten here, the parchment becoming denser and darker as spiralling narratives feed off and subvert one another.”
Susannah Cornwall, Controversies in Queer Theology

I read this paragraph for class weeks ago, and I keep coming back to it. It gets me very stoked about the constructive theological possibilities of rewriting Jesus; but it also troubles me enormously.

I do believe very strongly in constantly refiguring Christ to reflect the face of the outcast, whoever that may be. This is basically the core of my theological praxis: to reinscribe the Christs who look like me, and to encounter others' reinscriptions of the Christs who look like them.

The part that bothers me is the “blank sheet.”

Is that all Jesus is? Is he nothing but a mirror, an empty page, the reflection of our own deepest needs and longings? Does he have no substance in himself?

I do not like what this implies about my God.

In researching a paper this past couple weeks, I have been surprised at the apparent lack of a sustained theological treatment of a transgender post-resurrection Christ. People have likened the hypostatic union of the incarnate Christ (fully God and fully human) to being transgender; it's been suggested that, if God encompasses all genders, then becoming incarnate as a male was for Jesus a kind of gender transition; Virginia Ramey Mollenkott most famously combined parthenogenesis with an intersex condition to propose a chromosomally-female, phenotypically-male Jesus, suggesting that intersex people and trans guys most closely resemble the historical Jesus – but nobody has done much work on this with the resurrected Jesus.

I'm thinking of something like Nancy Eiesland's Disabled God, where she explicitly claims the post-resurrection body of Christ as a disabled body and draws out some theological implications for the reconciliation of PwD with their own disabled bodies and with the body of Christ that is the church.

Without wanting to appropriate the Disabled God or imply a conflation of transness with disability, I don't see why we can't borrow this method for imaging a Trans Christ. If we can claim the post-resurrection body of Christ as a trans body, maybe we can draw out some theological implications for the reconciliation of trans people with our own trans bodies and with the body of Christ that is the church.

I think this has some enormously liberating possibilities. My own relationship with my body is so hopelessly conflicted and tangled up that I don't know where to start seeking reconciliation with it. I do know that there is more hope for that now than I ever had before.

I've only been living as a guy for a few months, and already I look back on my time as female like a kind of imprisonment. I do feel liberated, and I haven't even started making the big physical changes. I want there to be a theology of this. Justin Tanis' Trans-Gendered is the best I've found, but I'm trying to do more.

I'm trying to remake Jesus in my own image. Should I be?