- Letter from the Editors
Feminist scholars of religion have long insisted on the power of language as well as the right of persons to determine the terms by which they wish to be identified. Although it can be difficult to keep pace with changing terminology and to honor the preferences of individual members of groups bearing collective labels, we at the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion insist that persons and institutions must be accountable for the identifications they employ. This is a particularly pressing issue for us given that a hallmark of feminist scholarship is the denunciation of stigmatizing speech and imagery. The JFSR editors apologize for a grave error that recurs throughout the previous issue (34.1, spring 2018). References to "trans women" and "trans men" were edited to read "trans-women" and "transmen." We recognize that for many readers this appellation is deeply insulting as it implies that such persons are not fully women or men but a separate category altogether. We are grateful to Cameron Partridge for drawing our attention to this oversight and for sharing with us Julia Serano's critique of such terminology:
Sometimes people have a tendency to dismiss or delegitimize trans women's and trans men's gender identities and lived experience by relegating us to our own unique categories that are separate from "woman" or "man." This strategy is often adopted by non-trans folks who wish to discuss trans people without ever bringing into question their own assumptions and beliefs about maleness and femaleness.... Sometimes attempts to third-sex or third-gender trans people are more subtle or subconscious than that, such as when people merge the phrase "trans woman" to make one word, "transwoman," or use the adjectives MTF and FTM as nouns (for example, "Julia Serano is an MTF"). I do not identify as a "male-to-female"—I identify as a woman. These attempts to relegate trans people to "third sex" categories not only disregard the profoundly felt gender identity of the transsexual in question, but also ignore the very real experiences that trans person has had being treated as a member of the sex they had transitioned to.1 [End Page 3]
Our use of the terms transwoman or transman read as qualifications of gender status, as if we wished to cast doubt on their identity. This was neither our intention nor indicative of our position. This usage is doubly disturbing as this issue marked an effort to take responsibility for a history of destructive transphobia on the part of feminist scholars of religion and to forge new connections between feminist, womanist, queer, and trans theories and methods in the study of religion. We vow to be vigilant in our efforts to check our complicity with the structures of domination, and we invite our authors and readers to continue to hold us accountable in this ongoing work. [End Page 4]
1. Julia Serano, Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity (Berkeley, CA: Seal, 2007), 29–30.