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  • Transing Religion:Moving Beyond the Logic of the (Hetero)Norm of Binaries
  • Robyn Henderson-Espinoza (bio)

becoming, nonbinary, transgender

The overwhelming impulse to neatly categorize identities into recognizable classifications is reflective of Enlightenment ideology, which deploys the logic of binarism to produce the myth that gender acquiesces to the (hetero)norm. This particularized logic is devoid of a generous imagination; its fixity does not allow for becoming. By devoid of a generous imagination that does not create conditions for becoming, I mean the logic of the (hetero)norm that animates the gender binary impacts gender and thus results in a stable orientation to gender that is then concretized in only two expressions of what gender might be. A stable [End Page 88] orientation to gender evaporates the energetic flows of becoming that might otherwise create conditions of possibility for an ontology that is grounded in the motion of becoming. I propose transing religion as one approach to methodologically dismantle the logic of the norm that grounds the reproduction of binarisms and theologies of complementarity. What transing religion offers is a sustainable methodology to unhinge from the logic of the norm, most often exemplified in theologies and ethics of complementarity, whose telos is that of normative ideologies and institutions. The logic of the gender norm is thus deconstructed by committing to an ontology of becoming which is grounded in motion.

The modern gender binary has pernicious effects in a number of areas, including biblical interpretation. Biblical accounts seem to suggest a spectrum of gender and sexuality, but interpretation of such accounts, along with theological and ethical imaginations, siphon off the creativity of this vibrant range of gender and sexuality frameworks, forcing interpretation to conform to the logic of the (hetero)norm. The act of capitulating to the logic of the (hetero)norm as problem of interpretation is compounded by a gender binary operative in some languages. Accordingly, the logic of the norm restructures the possibility of multiplicity into a stable being that is fortified by a politics of singularity, gender as difference becoming is unable to flourish.

In addition, this Enlightenment binary ideology, whereby the "static" body is feminized and made subordinate to the masculinized mind or spirit, is isomorphic with the logics of Christian supremacy and heteropatriarchy. Heteropatriarchy, in turn, is made ambient in religious values and social practices rooted in gender and sex complementarity. Regimes of gender complementarity betray the insidious logic of separate but equal. What this actually entails is the foreclosure of divine creativity or ruach and the authorization of male supremacy, misogyny, and the (hetero)norm. It also reifies what we now experience as transphobia and transmisogyny, both of which are internalized and externalized and lead to manifold expressions of violence.

Legislative and policy systems of the state participate in and reify gender stability. In many respects, the fact that today's legislative bodies argue for an immutable gender and sex falls into a circular logic, one of extreme dominance, that polices gender and sex into recognizable categories that have constructed the logic of the (hetero)norm of binaries and that further fortify the social construction of sex and gender. The logic of the (hetero)norm is a particular technology that uses surveillance tactics, often materializing in places like the bathroom, hospitals, and TSA at airport security lines. Such state apparatuses surveil difference and demand difference to capitulate to the logic of the (hetero)norm. Enforcing (hetero)normativity not only furthers a particular ideology that is rooted in misogyny, toxic masculinity, and transphobia, but also models particular social practices (ethics) that reify a theological imagination that is [End Page 89] grounded in heteronormative supremacy and white male supremacy, both of which share a parasitic relationship in the burgeoning reality of empire and are death-bringing. Because whiteness perpetuates a particular telos of perfection and stability, the racialization of gender is often paired with dominant expressions of masculinity in order to solidify the Enlightenment ideology of the gender binary.

Transing Religion

It is no surprise, then, that the critique of today's theological imagination is one that seeks to dismantle the theology and ethics that solidifies and reifies such Enlightenment thinking whose impact is a concrete...


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pp. 88-92
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