The Christian Right’s Love Affair with Anti-Trans Feminists

Photo by Mr.TinDC via Flickr.

Photo by Mr.TinDC via Flickr.

 

Intersectionality /ˌintərˈsekSHənˈalitē/ noun the linking of different systems of power and oppression (e.g. racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, ableism, etc.), which can occur at different levels—individual, interpersonal, family, community, and institutional.

Since American professor Kimberlé Crenshaw first introduced the term in 1989, “intersectionality” has become 21st Century activism’s favorite buzzword. Nearly 30 years later, though, social justice organizers are still struggling to get it right; meanwhile, the Right is more than happy to exploit our yet-to-be-fully-realized aspirations, effectively taking advantage of internal conflicts and rifts to further advance an agenda that does deep, deep damage to all of us.

In this current political moment of heightened anti-trans targeting, when school boards and legislatures across the country are debating whether or not transgender people should be allowed access to public facilities, one wedge of particular note and intrigue is the Right’s assertion that the bathroom hysteria they’ve whipped up isn’t an anti-trans campaign, but rather a pro-woman one. As Joseph Backholm, executive director of the right-wing Family Policy Institute of Washington State, argues, the “transgender phenomenon” isn’t just an attack on women’s privacy, but a “war on womanhood” itself. And under the guise of feminism, they’re ready to go to battle, their patriarchal battle cry being, “Protect our girls!”

The Right is selectively highlighting and leveraging the scholarship of a fringe group of highly controversial academics collectively labeled “Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists” (TERFs).

Although there’s a strong and growing presence of trans-feminist thought and activism, the Right is selectively highlighting and leveraging the scholarship of a fringe group of highly controversial academics collectively labeled “Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists” (TERFs), a term coined in 2008 by cisgender women seeking to name a dangerous vein in the feminist movement and assert themselves as trans allies, distinct from their anti-trans counterparts.

Although most categorized as TERFs reject the label (as well as the term cisgender) and consider it to be insulting, they openly espouse their anti-trans notion that trans women “aren’t really women”—that real womanhood is exclusively determined on a natal, biological level. These arguments (key elements of what’s called “gender essentialism”) align themselves with and fuel the flames of right-wing transphobia. TERFs also maintain that trans men are simply women who are “traitors,” but like the Right, most of their venom is saved for trans women.

The current surge of anti-trans attacks cropping up in legislatures and school boards across the country has come as a shock to many LGB activists. Still basking in the glow of last year’s marriage equality victory, many failed to realize that the trickle-down justice strategy of mainstream gay rights organizations was inherently flawed. That 2015 was also a year in which more trans women were killed by acts of extreme violence in the U.S. than any year prior on record makes this painfully evident.

In response to laws like North Carolina’s HB 2 (described by Sarah Preston, acting executive director of the ACLU of North Carolina, as “the most extreme anti-LGBT bill in the nation”), activists quickly mobilized resistance against some of the most obvious targets—people like Gov. Pat McCrory and other Republican leaders responsible for hastily forcing the law through the state’s legislature. Others attempted to pull back the curtain, calling out the role of national right-wing organizations like the Alliance Defending Freedom, a massive and deep-pocketed network of conservative lawyers that has spent the last two decades manipulating and redefining religious freedom in order to advance their Christian Right agenda.

As noted above, however, the forces at play in this current anti-trans offensive are not exclusively right-wing operatives. TERF scholarship laid a cultural and intellectual foundation upon which the Right could build an argument that would appeal to both conservatives and certain sectors of the Left.

Comic strip by Barry Deutsch: leftycartoons.com.

Comic strip by Barry Deutsch: leftycartoons.com.

In June 2015, the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council (FRC) laid out a five-point plan for “responding to the transgender movement.” The right-wing group’s position paper was co-authored by Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow at FRC, and Dale O’Leary, a Catholic writer based in Avon Park, Florida. Sprigg has argued that transgender people suffer from “delusions” and he is a proponent of so-called “reparative therapy.” O’Leary depicts transgender people as “liars” and suggests that “sexual liberationists” are “targeting children” in order to expose them to “molesters and exhibitionists masquerading as sex educators.”

Ignoring trans-affirming positions from the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Psychiatric Society, the two dredged up obscure and outdated scientific theories in an attempt to pathologize transgender people (thereby justifying their persecution), and then outlined a strategy for advancing anti-trans public policy. Specifically, FRC argues against providing trans people with access to gender-affirming healthcare, life-saving gender transition procedures, legal recognition, protection from discrimination, and the right to serve in the military.

But Sprigg and O’Leary didn’t come up with their anti-trans strategy all by themselves. Among the various sources upon which they drew in order to make their case against “transgenderism” was Janice Raymond, a lesbian scholar and infamous anti-trans activist.

Journalist Tina Vasquez documents that in 1980,

Raymond wrote a report for the Reagan administration called “Technology on the Social and Ethical Aspects of Transsexual Surgery,” which informed the official federal position on medical care for trans people. The paper’s conclusion reads, “The elimination of transsexualism is not best achieved by legislation prohibiting transsexual treatment and surgery, but rather by legislation that limits it and by other legislation that lessens the support given to sex-role stereotyping.”

Janice Raymond's 1979 book, The Transsexual Empire, has been considered extremely transphobic and even constituting hate-speech.

Janice Raymond’s 1979 book, The Transsexual Empire, has been considered extremely transphobic and even constituting hate-speech.

Another example of right-wing players building off of TERF scholarship features Dr. Paul McHugh, professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University. As a member of the American College of Pediatricians, a right-wing breakaway group that split from the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2002, McHugh co-authored a new position statement this past March that claims that respecting transgender children’s identities causes them harm and is akin to “child abuse.”

Among McHugh’s primary sources? Sheila Jeffreys, another lesbian scholar and anti-trans activist who, like Janice Raymond, is deemed a TERF by advocates for trans justice. Jeffreys recently retired after 24 years of teaching at the University of Melbourne but remains highly influential. She refers to gender-affirmation surgery (also known as gender-reassignment surgery) as a form of mutilation and describes the “practice of transgenderism” as harmful and a “human rights violation.”

While the Right lays siege to some of the most vulnerable members of the LGBTQ community (made especially vulnerable by historic and ongoing neglect and exclusion by the mainstream gay and lesbian movement), it’s TERFs who may actually be guilty of drafting their talking points, adding fuel to the fire of this dangerous anti-trans frenzy.

 

 

 

The Christian Right’s Favorite New Target: North Carolina Isn’t Alone

A slate of anti-LGBTQ laws and policies is sweeping across the country with transgender and gender-nonconforming people squarely in the crosshairs. While violence and oppression continue to wreak havoc on the lives and livelihoods of trans people, as of this writing at least 44 anti-trans bills have been proposed in 16 states this year, aimed at putting an already vulnerable community at even greater risk for harassment, abuse, ostracization, and discrimination.

But this attack isn’t restricted to the Bible Belt, nor is it limited to GOP-dominated cities and states. Trans people are being systematically targeted across the country as part of a nationally coordinated effort led by a coalition of Christian Right powerhouses – organizations that have been plotting this campaign since long before even the concept of a “post-marriage equality moment” existed.

Mickyel “Micky” Bradford, a regional organizer with the Transgender Law Center, protests HB2 outside of the governor's mansion. Image courtesy of Ryan Lavalley

Mickyel “Micky” Bradford, a regional organizer with the Transgender Law Center @ Southerners On New Ground (TLC@SONG), protests HB2 outside of the governor’s mansion. Image courtesy of Ryan Lavalley

Precariously situated at the end of the LGBT family, the “T” has often been neglected and/or forgotten by those on both the Right and the Left. Now, with the LGB portion of the queer umbrella experiencing increasing levels of legal acceptance, affirmation in the media, and economic access in the United States, the Right has cast their spotlight in the direction of those whom they’ve determined are still easily scapegoated; those who dare to continue resisting assimilation – trans and gender-nonconforming people.

Last week, North Carolina’s General Assembly approved a bill that was described by Sarah Preston, acting Executive Director of the ACLU of North Carolina, as “the most extreme anti-LGBT bill in the nation.” House Bill 2 (HB2) invalidates the recent expansion of nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ individuals in the City of Charlotte, and additionally prevents all municipalities in the state from adding any new protections for LGBTQ people.

HB2 was introduced and passed in the span of a single day during a special session called expressly for the purpose of eliminating Charlotte’s expanded nondiscrimination ordinance (costing taxpayers $42,000). The ordinance in question would have (among other things) granted the right to transgender individuals to use public facilities that correspond to the gender with which they identify. In other words, this straightforward civil rights measure would have allowed a trans man (or, more simply put, a man) to utilize a men’s bathroom, and a trans woman (a woman) to use bathrooms designated for women.

Despite the valiant resistance of organizers, activists, faith leaders, and families from across the state (and the fact that, to date, there have been no cases in which a trans person has committed assault in a bathroom), anti-trans fear mongering ruled the day, and within hours of passing both the House and Senate, HB2 was signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory, R, who previously stated that Charlotte’s nondiscrimination policy would “create major public safety issues by putting citizens in possible danger from deviant actions by individuals taking improper advantage of a bad policy.”

Gov. McCrory’s words speak to the effectiveness of the massive coalition of national players behind this devastating blow to LGBTQ people in the State of North Carolina. Over the last several years, right-wing opponents to social justice have steadily honed their anti-trans tactics and rhetoric, and now we’re seeing the effects of their well-resourced, diligent campaigning.

Today's anti-trans attacks echo the "save our children themes" from Anita Bryant in the 1970s.

Today’s anti-trans attacks echo the “save our children themes” from Anita Bryant in the 1970s.

Led by Christian Right powerhouses like the Alliance Defending Freedom, Focus on the Family, and Family Research Council, this coalition aims to scare communities into believing that women and girls are in grave danger as a result of comprehensive civil rights legislation by falsely painting transgender people as deviant, dangerous, and sick. (If this sounds eerily familiar, recall that less than 40 years ago, this exact same rhetoric was applied in anti-gay witch hunts such as Anita Bryant’s infamous “Save Our Children” campaign in 1977, which successfully repealed a county ordinance in Florida that prohibited discrimination against gay and lesbian citizens in employment, housing, and public accommodations.)

Indeed, McCrory’s comments echo both the historic vitriol of the Christian Right of yesteryear and the distorted, anti-trans language that Bryant’s contemporaries are currently propagating around the country. Notably, McCrory’s rhetoric matches that of a letter he received on March 2, 2016 from John Rustin, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council (NCFPC), reacting to the passage of Charlotte’s trans-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance, demanding that the General Assembly call a special session to overturn it and “preempt any other municipality or county in the state from enacting a similar ordinance,” spoon-feeding McCrory the talking points needed to make it all happen.

SEE ALSO: When Exemption is the Rule: The Religious Freedom Strategy of the Christian Right http://www.politicalresearch.org/2016/01/12/when-exemption-is-the-rule-the-religious-freedom-strategy-of-the-christian-right

SEE ALSO: When Exemption is the Rule: The Religious Freedom Strategy of the Christian Right http://www.politicalresearch.org/2016/01/12/when-exemption-is-the-rule-the-religious-freedom-strategy-of-the-christian-right

It’s important to know that NCFPC isn’t just some obscure, local, “family values” operation. NCFPC is an affiliate of Focus on the Family’s policy arm, CitizenLink, a multi-million dollar operation that oversees a national network of 39 state-based “family policy councils” collectively committed to restricting access to abortion and reproductive justice, resisting efforts toward LGBTQ equality, and redefining religious freedom into a dangerous tool of oppression. In addition to providing strategic direction for its affiliates, CitizenLink also contributes financially. According to the most recently available IRS form 990s from both organizations, CitizenLink contributed nearly $170,000 to NCFPC in 2013, which amounts to over one third of NCFPC’s operating budget that year.

What’s also at play here is major backlash against the Obama administration’s expansion of Title IX protections in April 2014. Under the new guidelines, Title IX prohibits discrimination in publicly funded schools not only on the basis of sex, but also on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, immigration status, and disability.

In a press release issued last Wednesday, ACLU-NC flagged this element of potential harm caused by HB2, noting that in addition to eliminating protections for LGBTQ people, the bill “jeopardizes the more than $4.5 billion in federal funding that North Carolina receives for secondary and post-secondary schools under Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination, including discrimination against transgender students.”

This isn’t new news to the U.S. Right.

According to a report from the Human Rights Campaign, within months of the 2014 change, dozens of religious colleges and universities had applied for and been granted a “religious exemption” from the law. While the exact nature of the relationship is unclear, at least four of the qualifying schools cc’d the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) on their exemption request letters.

Later that year, ADF—one of the Christian Right’s most powerful legal institutions, and a longtime partner of Focus on the Family and CitizenLink—would take on an even more prominent and aggressive role in the anti-trans Title IX pushback. In December 2014, ADF sent emails to public school districts nationwide encouraging use of their model “Student Physical Privacy Policy,” which provides guidelines for how schools can supposedly “protect” [cisgender] students in areas such as bathrooms and locker rooms. In reality, the model policy effectively encodes trans-exclusionary guidelines and subjects transgender students to further scrutinization, shame, and interrogation when it comes to their privacy.

SEE ALSO: Alliance Defending Freedom: The Right-Wing Lawyers Fueling Transphobia in Schools. http://www.politicalresearch.org/2015/12/18/alliance-defending-freedom-the-right-wing-lawyers-fueling-transphobia-in-school/

SEE ALSO: Alliance Defending Freedom: The Right-Wing Lawyers Fueling Transphobia in Schools. http://www.politicalresearch.org/2015/12/18/alliance-defending-freedom-the-right-wing-lawyers-fueling-transphobia-in-school/

What’s playing out on the ground in places like North Carolina, Tennessee, South Dakota, Washington State, and in school boards across the country isn’t some sort of isolated, homegrown scheme, and it isn’t the result of trans and gender-nonconforming people seeking to harm or threaten women and girls. These anti-trans bills are part of a nationally-coordinated, proactive campaign that seeks to deploy dangerous transphobic myths and rhetoric in order to mobilize conservatives and preserve a gender essentialist status quo that ultimately harms us all.

To join in the chorus of social justice advocates speaking out against HB2, please consider signing this petition from our friends at ACLU Action, calling on Gov. McCrory to repeal the law.

 

From Phoenix to Geneva, Criminalizing Queer is More Than Just a Gay Thing

monica jones

Monica Jones illustration by Micah Bazant.

While anti-sodomy laws are very clearly designed for the purpose of criminalizing homosexuality, countless other legal restrictions result in significant ramifications for LGBTQ people, particularly transgender, gender-nonconforming, and intersex people. So-called “crimes against nature” and laws against “lewd behavior,” for example, have been frequently misused by law enforcement officials to profile and attack individuals who do not conform to societally determined gender stereotypes that govern “appropriate” masculine and feminine behavior and appearance.

In March, Monica Jones stood trial in Phoenix, Arizona after being arrested under one of these dangerously vague and overbroad laws—the city’s manifestation ordinance, which targets people suspected of “soliciting an act of prostitution.” In her own words, Monica Jones—a black, transgender woman—argues that she was arrested for “walking while trans,” a phrase born out of the constant profiling of transgender women as sex workers (and the resulting criminalization of them).

A 2005 Amnesty International report documented this disproportionate targeting by police, concluding that “subjective and prejudiced perceptions of transgender women as sex workers often play a significant role in officers’ decisions to stop and arrest transgender women.” This trend is further advanced by programs like Project ROSE, a “prostitution diversion” program jointly developed by 15 partner organizations, including the Phoenix Police Department, Arizona State University School of Social Work, and Catholic Charities.

As explained in a February 2014 article by Molly Crabapple featured in Vice, “Project ROSE is a Phoenix city program that arrests sex workers in the name of saving them. In five two-day stings, more than 100 police officers targeted alleged sex workers on the street and online.  They brought them in handcuffs to the Bethany Bible Church. There, the sex workers were forced to meet with prosecutors, detectives, and representatives of Project ROSE, who offered a diversion program to those who qualified. Those who did not may face months or years in jail.”

What makes Project ROSE unique from other diversion programs designed to offer education, rehab, or community service opportunities in place of incarceration, is that Project ROSE is preemptive – it profiles and arrests suspected sex workers and then forces them into faith-based programs without due process or a conviction. Of course, if a participant doesn’t qualify (as was the case for Monica Jones) or refuses to participate in the program, they’re transferred directly into the criminal punishment system. Jones, who had actively campaigned against Project ROSE as a member of the Phoenix chapter of the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP), a social justice network dedicated to the rights of sex workers, believes that she was especially targeted due to her activism.

All of this is happening under the guise of anti-trafficking efforts – an arena that is increasingly dominated by conservative Christian groups (that also stand against LGBTQ people, abortion, and comprehensive sex-ed programs). While they purport to be nobly fighting the exploitation of children and poor, defenseless women, the work of these groups inevitably plays out in yet another surreptitious attack on LGBTQ people—especially transgender women of color—cisgender women, and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

In January, Global Action for Trans* Equality and the American Jewish World Service released a comprehensive report—The State of Trans* and Intersex Organizing: A case for increased support for growing but under-funded movements for human rights. In it, the authors offer an overview of common human rights violations perpetrated against trans* and intersex people, including discrimination in education and the workplace, violence (ranging from verbal and sexual abuse to murder and suicide), lack of legal status or recognition resulting in a myriad of challenges and limitations (or extreme requirements to obtain accurate identity documents such as sterilization, surgery, a mental health diagnosis, or even psychiatric hospitalization), lack of access to quality healthcare, and discrimination in gender-segregated services and institutions such as public restrooms, homeless shelters, and prisons. Additionally, intersex people are often confronted with further layers of invisibility, ostracization, medicalization, and infanticide.

These violations and barriers extend far beyond the anti-homosexuality laws that garner the bulk of the (already limited) attention paid to international LGBTQ human rights issues, which tend to focus exclusively on the plight of gay, cisgender men. Meanwhile, transgender, gender-nonconforming, and intersex people continue to suffer untold harm, resulting from societal stigma that’s quietly codified into law.

But locally and globally, activists continue to fight for their rights. On the same day that Jones was standing trial in Arizona, advocates working with her traveled to Geneva for the UN Human Rights Council’s review of the U.S. government’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a document adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1966 and ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1992. The ICCPR requires that rights be recognized regardless of race, sex, religion, national origin, and other factors (unfortunately, not including sexual orientation or gender identity). Opponents of these human rights advocates, however, were also there in force, including Sharon Slater, co-founder and president of Family Watch International (FWI).

FWI is based in Gilbert, Arizona (just outside Phoenix). While maintaining a relatively low profile in Arizona, Slater is well known in international “family advocacy” circles, and has established significant influence at the UN, especially amongst delegates and diplomats representing “underdeveloped” countries. By asserting that the West is imposing its corrupt, “anti-family” values on the rest of the world, and that those in the “developing world” are the last brave holdouts against the “homosexual agenda,” she gains favor with those who find themselves struggling under the weight of a global economy that’s designed to exploit and indebt, trying to assert some semblance of true independence and autonomy despite being financially colonized and internationally demeaned.

In 2011, Slater brought these neocolonial tactics to her own backyard, hosting 26 UN delegates from 23 different countries at a policy forum in Phoenix designed to train diplomats in how to “better protect and promote the family and family values at the UN.” FWI, of course, has an extremely limited definition of what and who constitutes a family, and her campaigning amongst international decision makers has far-reaching effects on the rights and protections granted to anyone who dares fall outside the boundaries of her restrictive vision of man/woman procreative marriage.

What happens at the UN can seem far removed from what’s happening in Small Town, AZ, but there are distinct correlations. When international policy fails to extend the protection of human rights to include sexual orientation and gender identity, the persecution and imprisonment of LGBTQ people remains unchecked, and people like Monica Jones are left with no formal recourse to protest violations of their rights. Sharon Slater understands the power of global politics, and is effectively using her influence to ensure that LGBTQ people remain oppressed and unprotected.

In Phoenix, Jones is fortunate to have a tremendous support team, advocating with and for her, but in other parts of the world, organized and resourced resistance can be hard to come by. Those of us with access and the ability to provide support, affect change, and interrupt the onslaught of attacks on LGBTQ people and sexual and reproductive health and rights – both locally and globally – must step up, because standing with Monica Jones means standing with countless more, united in the dream and vision of collective liberation.

UPDATE: On January 26, 2015, Monica Jones’ conviction was overturned. The higher court ruled that the initial judge erred when he upheld the city code as constitutional, and when he denied a jury trial. The full ruling is available here, via the ACLU.
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Religious Right At Crossroads On Transgender Issues?

Dr. Heath Adam Ackley Photo courtest of APU student paper "The Clause"

Dr. Heath Adam Ackley
Photo courtest of APU student paper “Clause”

Last week, Azusa Pacific University (APU) announced it is parting ways with Dr. Heath Adam Ackleya faculty member of 15 years and one-time chair of the school’s theology and philosophy department—because of his identity as a transgender man. APU’s statement, issued jointly with Dr. Ackley, followed a controversy set off in mid-September, when Ackley informed a supervisor of his gender transition and plans to make “Heath Adam Ackley” his legal name. 

According to Ackley, the evangelical university responded by asking him to leave immediately, and refusing insurance coverage for hormones and other transition-related care. After negotiations for Ackley to teach through the end of the semester failed, and what APU described as “confidential” and “thoughtful conversations” to “treat all parties with dignity and respect while upholding the values of the university,” APU and Ackley claimed in their statement to have “reached…mutual agreement” that it would be better for him to “pursue professional endeavors elsewhere.” 

In addition to raising the issue of employment discrimination against transgender people, Dr. Ackley’s ordeal points to the pivotal moment the Religious Right has arrived at with respect to its theology and messaging on transgender issues. Responses from APU and Christian media reflected conservative Christians’ general opposition to transgender rights, and continued conflation of gender identity with sexual orientation (per APU’s statement, their disagreement was over “human sexuality”). Even so, the range of responses showed that the Religious Right’s theology specific to transgender issues remains rudimentary and in flux, in ways transgender communities and supporters may be able to productively leverage. 

Christian media coverage of Dr. Ackley’s story included actively hostile commentary from the usual suspects. Life News and WORLD Magazine insisted on referring to him by his former name and as “she/her.” Life News and the Christian Post both implied that Ackley’s gender identity is a mental illness, stressing the inclusion of “gender dysphoria” in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic And Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders V [or DSM-V]. Christian Post also pointedly noted that one of Ackley’s student supporters at APU is an “outspoken lesbian.” 

But other responses were less overtly inflammatory. APU carefully avoided any use of gendered pronouns in both of its public statements, and referred to him as “Dr. Ackley,” rather than by his previous name. In comments to APU’s student newspaper, Dr. Scott Daniels (Dean of APU’s School of Theology) stated that, despite “strong convictions regarding gender identity in the evangelical community,” the church’s stance on transgender issues is “still in question,” even for those like him who are clergy in “fairly conservative denomination[s].” Daniels continued: “in the right context Adam [Dr. Ackley] could serve as an important voice in helping bring some clarity into that conversation, helping the church have that conversation in ways that are maybe more robust and thoughtful.” 

Flagship evangelical publication Christianity Today (CT) covered the story through an excerpt of a Religious News Service article by former CT editor Sarah Pulliam Bailey, published with an editor’s note highlighting the magazine’s “past stories involving transgender issues.” They also pointed readers to a Washington Post op-ed by Dr. Russell Moore, President of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and a rebuttal from another evangelical writer, Jonathan Merritt, both predating Ackley’s conflict with APU. 

CT, Moore, and Merritt all make a case similar to Dean Daniels’ call for “more robust and thoughtful” evangelical engagement on transgender issues, but differ on whether the “transgender question” is an open or settled one. For Merritt, evangelicals “haven’t considered all the theological, ethical, and scientific intricacies of this issue. Perhaps we are afraid that what we discover will stretch the bounds of our thinking.” Russell Moore and Christianity Today, on the other hand, are firm in their religious transphobia. Moore argues that “[conservative Christians] believe we can no more surgically alter our gospel than we can surgically alter our gender,“ while CT’s Executive Editor Andy Crouch insists that “matter matters” and rejects what he calls the “LGBTQIA coalition[’s]…a conviction that human beings are not created male and female in any essential or important way.” Rather than openness to stretching theological boundaries, Moore and CT call for a “strong theological grounding” and “winsome pastoral footing” for religious transphobia – better articulated and more strategic messaging against transgender people and communities. 

These responses show conservative evangelicalism to be at a crossroads moment with respect to transgender issues. Ackley’s coming out highlighted a lack of theology specific to transgender identities: APU’s code of conduct explicitly condemns homosexuality, but on gender says only that “Humans were created as gendered beings.” Religious Right leaders are beginning to articulate a need to address gender identity as an issue distinct from (but still related to) sexual orientation. Comments like Daniels’s and Merritt’s and surprising support (recently contradicted) for transgender people from Pat Robertson suggest that the outcome of this increased attention to transgender communities may not be monolithic rejection. 

It may be that these rifts can be heightened to drive wedges between groups that might otherwise be allied against transgender communities. The “work-in-progress” nature of transgender-specific theology offers a rare opportunity to anticipate Religious Right organizing and messaging on this issue, and perhaps even build bridges with conservative Christians who may be more open to a conversation about transgender rights.