I’m deeply troubled by some of the anti-trans and anti-queer commentary that has been taking place on the blog Feminism and Religion in recent months. I’ll never forget when the project first began—talking with the founders about its original purpose: to bring the “F” word back into the mainstream religious discourse and more importantly, to be a place where scholars, young and old, senior or junior, could write, collaborate and eventually converse with across cyberspace.
However, in recent months, I’ve found myself being more of a watchdog rather than a frequent commentator on issues pertaining to feminist religious discourse. I’ve found myself reading comments about issues I may not frankly identify or agree with just to make sure that the cisgendering or anti-trans narratives do not become symbolic of what this blog is now rather than what was supposed to be at the beginning.
When I sat down to write my very first post I was scared. I was terrified that feminists from all communities would see me only as I appeared and not for whom I actually was. I was afraid that all I had worked for throughout my life would be moot with the first bad comment on one of my posts. While all of those fears were real and valid they quickly faded away as I was embraced by this community and many others for my passion rather than my gender; my life’s work rather than my privilege; and more importantly, the personal mission to make the world a safer and better place for women and girls everywhere.
To speak ones truth is oftentimes a difficult and nearly impossible act. However, to live one’s truth, on a day-to-day basis, is an aspect of life that has become so foreign to individuals who have become so comfortable in their own skin that I fear the activist and social justice roots that we all claim to hail from have fallen at the wayside and been replaced by complacency and reductionism.
Caitlyn Jenner’s story is one that many individuals, often not highlighted on this blog, know all too well. Caitlyn Jenner’s story and personal experiences are valid and for members of the feminist community to refer to her as not “feminist” or merely as a man “masquerading” as a woman while still utilizing his privilege from being biologically born as a man is troubling and the root of the problem facing many trans individuals today when they’re negotiating coming out as their true selves.
Trans individuals face a cadre of other horrible social, physical and mental statistics that oftentimes lead them to be more likely to self-harm. However, as feminists, isn’t it our job to make sure that all groups have access to the same freedoms rather than working towards denying it for certain groups while trolling the comments sections of posts?
Shakespeare said: “To thine own self be true” and for those of us who identify with the Golden Rule, if we no longer treat others as we would like to treat ourselves, then we really have failed as feminists; and if the comments on recent blogs are any indication, we still have a long way to go before all voices can feel welcomed not only on FAR but also in the world at-large.
John Erickson is a Ph.D. Candidate in American Religious History at Claremont Graduate University. He holds a MA in Women’s Studies in Religion; an MA in Applied Women’s Studies; and a BA in Women’s Literature and Women’s Studies. He is a Permanent Contributor to the blog Feminism and Religion, a Non-Fiction Reviewer for Lambda Literary, the leader in LGBT reviews, author interviews, opinions and news since 1989 and the Co-Chair of the Queer Studies in Religion section of the American Academy of Religion's Western Region, the only regional section of the American Academy of Religion that is dedicated to the exploration of queer studies in religion and other relevant fields in the nation and the President of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh's LGBTQA+ Alumni Association. When he is not working on his dissertation, he can be found at West Hollywood City Hall where he is the Community Events Technician and works on policies and special events relating to women, gender, sexuality, and human rights issues that are sponsored or co-sponsored by the City of West Hollywood. He is the author of the blog From Wisconsin, with Love and can be followed on Twitter @JErickson85