androgyny, nonbinary, religious studies, transgender, transmisogyny
I respond with gratitude to Max Strassfeld's essay, which lays critical, unprecedented groundwork for "transing" religious studies. Strassfeld unpacks and refuses the neoliberal logic that would render trans bodies and "religion" as mutually incompatible and shows how the bodies of transwomen in particular are made to bear the impossible burden of that supposed incompatibility. In a crucial concluding paragraph, Strassfeld states,
If we accept the underlying assumption that religion and trans bodies are in some way mutually incompatible, we inherit a deeply impoverished discipline and collude with the same logics that govern the regulation of trans bodies; the creation of publics as white, able-bodied, and sex-segregated spaces; and cosmologies that write trans people out of existence. We collude with the logics of transmisogyny that render trans women monsters, or jokes, and always something less than human.(52–53)
I appreciate Strassfeld's refusal to look away from how strands of feminism—particularly those articulated by Janice Raymond and Mary Daly—have contributed to the dehumanization of transwomen. In a historical moment when attacks against trans people in general, transwomen more particularly, and transwomen of color most of all, are proliferating from both "obliquely and explicitly" (41) conservative Christian contexts, it may be tempting to overlook or downplay this specifically feminist anti-trans strand. But as Strassfeld has [End Page 68] convincingly shown, we ignore the shared logics of trans exclusionary public accommodation legislation and this form of feminist transmisogyny at our peril.1
In this response, I seek to build upon Strassfeld's essay to illumine an additional way in which Daly's and Raymond's work has contributed to broadly anti-trans and specifically transmisogynistic conditions, attending to the construction and critique of "androgyny" in their overlapping work.2 Put simply, their anti-androgyny arguments extended their anti-trans critique, functioning as a barely veiled form of transmisogyny. I consider this pattern important to highlight for at least three reasons. First, since the categories of "androgyny" and "the androgyne" historically have been significant for religious studies, the project of "transing religious studies," as Strassfeld describes it, should critically examine how this term has functioned. What roles might the uses and interpretations of "androgyny" and the "androgyne" have played in what Strassfeld calls the cisgendering of religious studies? Needless to say, my brief discussion can only begin to address this question. Second, because ideas (particularly ethics) of androgyny have been critiqued extensively in feminisms of the late 1970s and 1980s and into the 1990s—even as these critiques have underscored the term's androcentrism and false sense of gender neutrality—I want to invite consideration of how Raymond's and Daly's particular critiques have amplified anti-trans bias in the field. My final reason emerges from my lived experience as an openly trans, male, and genderqueer identified priest who has since the 2000s and 2010s been pastorally present to trans and nonbinary people in a variety of settings, some explicitly religious and/or spiritual and others strongly secular.3 From this lived vantage point, I have observed profound, ongoing spiritual/psychic harm caused by Daly and Raymond's anti-trans and transmisogynistic ideas, harm to trans and nonbinary people as well as to the reputation of feminism writ large within trans communities.4 Indeed, just as trans [End Page 69] and religion have in far too many ways become contravened, including within trans communities, so too have the terms trans and feminist—nothwithstanding the inspiring work of feminist, queer, and openly trans authors such as Susan Stryker and Sandy Stone.5 As a term that has served via Daly and Raymond's work to "cisgender" religious studies, this construction of androgyny has played an important and unrecognized role in driving a wedge between "trans" and "religion" as well as between "trans" and "feminism."
In the second section of the essay, Strassfeld draws upon Daly to "explore the transmisogyny at the heart of some strands of feminist theology," and to show how the strand of feminism represented by Daly and her student Raymond has rendered "transwomen's bodies the stand-in for patriarchal religion" (45). Both Raymond...