Guest Post! TRANSforming Book Study

Posted on May 10th, 2021 by

Book coverToday we welcome guest blogger and Library Intern Amber Wolfinger (’21), who highlights a recent book study.

This spring, the Chaplain’s office sponsored a book study of Austen Hartke’s Transforming: The Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians. The book study discussions were led by Maggie Falenschek (Chaplain’s Office) and Aaron Geringer (Counseling Center), who invited the entire campus to join them virtually once a month in learning more about transgender identity and Christianity. Participants had the opportunity to hear directly from Hartke and ask him questions in the final meeting of the semester.

Author Austen Hartke wrote Transforming after the positive response to his YouTube series Transgender and Christian, which “seeks to understand, interpret, and share parts of the Bible that relate to gender identity and the lives of transgender individuals.” Learn more about Hartke and his activities at his website. Transforming introduces transgender issues and language, provides the stories of biblical characters and real-life transgender Christians, and considers new interpretations of Biblical passages concerning gender, all in order to imagine a Christianity that is more inclusive and affirming.

Of the book, Aaron Geringer reflects:

“Having the chance to understand more of the intersections of gender identity and faith has been compelling. Much of my experiences of the church prior to my mid 20s were not inclusive of transgender or gender non-conforming identities. Reading this book helped demonstrate to me how inclusion of diverse identities and theological perspectives in the church can help enrich everyone’s spiritual perspectives. For example, several sections of this book focused on the ideas of being authentic towards yourself and authentic with others as a way to be more God-like. When we are able to be deeply honest, open, and affirming of ourselves, it allows us to be more honest, open, and affirming with other people–therefore enriching our ability to deepen and strengthen the wellbeing of the self and the community.

Transgender and gender-nonconforming Christians are acutely aware of these intrapersonal and interpersonal dynamics; they go through their own process of understanding and embracing themselves so others can understand and embrace them as well. Those of us who are cisgender go through these developmental processes as well, although in phenomenologicallly different ways. Through sharing the wisdom of diverse theological perspectives with the rest of the faith community, we learn ways of being better. Better towards ourselves and better towards others.”

Other responses to Transforming and the book study discussions include:

“Reading this book and engaging in conversations with Gusties helped me to articulate how much of a gift trans Christians are to the Church.”

“I loved the discussions about eunuchs and other biblical characters who do not fit into the mold of the gender binary. Why aren’t we talking about this more?”

“My favorite chapter was ‘Even Jesus Had a Body.’ My Christian upbringing often said we needed to control our bodies and instead focus on the spirit, but here Hartke affirms that bodies are also worthy, sacred, and frequently experience change.”

“I enjoyed discussing the book with the others and having important conversations about how our churches do or do not include and/or affirm trans Christians and other excluded groups. We all benefit when trans Christians are included in the church.”

Transforming: The Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians is available at the library: General Collection BR115.T76 H37 2018. Looking for more? Here are just a few of the many related titles in the library:

 

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