Theology of the Marginal Body

 

 

We have to endure the discordance between imagination and fact.
It is better to say, “I am suffering”, than to say, “This landscape is ugly”.
Simone Weil

 

 

 

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Presenting at US/WPATH 2017 (UCLA)

 

I am donating all royalties earned from this book to Stonewall Cymru.

Trans and Catholic? Is it possible?

In a word: no one is sure. Or are obstinately certain in a one-sided way.

And it’s profoundly upsetting.

Second monograph is entitled The Theology of the Marginal Body: The Catholic Church and the Diversity of Sex.

Frustrated and concerned at many misrepresentational depictions of  trans lives as bullet points for condemnation in religious reductionism — I instead adopt an account of ‘theology of the body’ as a dualistic phenomenology that must be expanded to account for human sexual embodiment as evidently more intricate than discredited political and medical models have presented. Bad science, bigoted slights, and blind denialism abound. And it is becoming fodder for both radical gender theory and neo sex-essentialism

Ie: everyone is a bio-anthropologist on Twitter.

Seeing “Catholic” and “transsexual” in a headline had given me years of panic that led to in-person unwelcomes. The discussion has been ugly, the pundits reckless, and the praetors of sanctioned media sometimes acting with intellectual dishonesty. Conservadox apologists, queer-lite LGBT-persona op-edders … basically a scrum of casual cis scrutiny, unscientific arguments, and hypocritical indifference. About women like me. Born male. Now female (as is the stipulation of every piece of internationally legal and valid documentation I have), through medicalized cross-sex treatment and therapy. The legitimacy and validity of transsexual embodiment and trans persons is undeniable

Whatʻs very desperately missing in all of this miasma of misinformation and doctrinal posturing? The voices of actual trans Catholics. While my own perspective will hardly be definitive, I forward an analysis that unpacks and objectively assess the contemporary biopolitical issues of sex and gender as political, ontological, and theo-anthropological uncertainties in the 21st century. Drawing upon scholarship from psychiatric medicine, gender politics, and the principles established in the theology of the body, I deconstruct the reductionistic shaming of trans people as spiritually incompetents in need of behaviour modification.

I write this not only as an academic exercise, but as a trans woman who is aiming for orthodoxy but sees the inevitably of being excommunicated from the Faith she loves. Having for several years now examined the misinformed, inflammatory, and unscientific rhetoric posing as dogma to condemn transsexuality as false consciousness or secular perversion, As I’ve waded through every one of the debates, left only to deal with this one issue:  the appropriation of trans believers as ad hoc evidence for competing cultural agendas, especially in the hot-button obsessions of elements in the Catholic Church.

At present, the ‘Theology of the Body’ in relation to transsexuality— which must be understood as distinct but coexisting  with “gender ideology”— has been abstracted into absurdity often coupled with transphobic bigotry. Rather than being a forum of Christian openness, insular cliques push identarian agendas from left and right . . . with trans folk as the convenient Bat-Signal for an “emergency” that we represent and symbolize.

“Gender Ideology” and “Correct Theology” have deliberately obfuscated politics and medicine and instigated confusion. For Catholics, this problematic conflation has resulted in a lot of roughly sketched theological assumptions: that transsexuals are, at best, deluded conundrums; or, more likely, heretical contradictions.

Therefore, The Theology of the Marginal Body critically evaluates St Pope John Paul II’s theological phenomenology by considering his corporeal theology with emergent cultural and catechetical issues about sexual difference and biopolitics. In particular, I critically examine the pastoral possibilities as well as ontological consequences for transsexuals who want to authentically live their Catholic Faith. The phenomenology of gender dysphoria is complex, but complexity deserves dialogue — not dismissal.  With audible dismay I address what has become an indifferent and intransigent denial of trans men and women in Catholicism. These are questions of humanity — of theo-anthropological rejections from real people’s inclusion at the banquet of Christ’s mercy.

The middle ground has turned into quicksand under the deluge of ill-formed opinions, from all directions. Who is the middle? The ones who are leaving the Church en masse, having priests and journalists self-declare themselves as experts on cross-sex medicine, psychiatric illness, and erratic theo-anthropologies. Presumption, dreadful scholarship, and ignorance have not helped; it’s just misinformation cut and pasted by casual commentators.

Can trans people not be valid members of the entire corpus of Christ? Can we be witnesses to the new evangelization? Is there a Catholic theology for our bodies? And so my central thesis thus arises: apologists for Catholic condemnations of trans medicine are suggesting that the Church is incapable of theorizing and implementing a contemporary, informed understanding of both sexual dimorphism as well as inevitable sexuated diversity as part of the human experience.

 

 

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