Transgender Oppression (Cissexism) and Conservative Religion

In my recent editorial, Pope Francis Erects and Fortifies Walls, I critiqued the symbolic and literal walls the Catholic Church has and continues to construct and reinforce in terms of religious dogma and policy against full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans* people in the Church if they either cannot or will not submit to its dictums. Though I was not particularly surprised by the negative, often venomous, reactions coming from Church apologists justifying dogmatic positions on same-sex sexuality and marriage for same-sex couples, I was left rather breathless at what can only be considered as ignorant and insensitive at best on topic of trans* identities and expressions.

A Zeb Norris asserted: "...Seems like the author [Warren J. Blumenfeld] is trans-political; deeply confused about their political identity. Keep trying to think...it does get better."

Though I find it apparent that this respondent is confused about trans* people, in fact, the vast majority of trans* people know precisely who they are. On the other hand, many cisgender people who reside in our cissexist, cissupremist, and cisnormative nation still have much to learn and truly understand about the vast spectrum of trans* identities and expressions.

In addition to Norris, someone calling themselves Ra Ha (actually name?) denies or is completely at a loss to comprehend the realities of trans* people: "Oh please. Comparing being transgender to living or dying is not appropriate. We aren't talking about 'and then I was depressed, and then people teased me, and then I was discriminated against'. We are talking about being able to live or die -- choosing to be transgender is moot if you are worried about being kidnapped or killed."

Well Ra Ha, first, your words "choosing to be" is highly problematic, and second, members of the trans* community often suffer the consequences of other truth tellers of the past. Nearly every two days, a person is killed somewhere in the world for expressing gender nonconformity. The vast majority of murders are of trans* women of color.

The Vatican hierarchy recently fenced off Alex Salinas, a 21-year-old transman from Cadiz, Spain, by informing him that it had denied his request to become the godparent of his nephew because being transgender is incongruent with Catholic teaching. According to the Church's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, its doctrine-enforcing agency:

Transgender status "reveals in a public way an attitude opposite to the moral imperative of solving the problem of sexual identity according to the truth of one's own sexuality. Therefore it is evident that this person does not possess the requirement of leading a life according to the faith and in the position of godfather and is therefore unable to be admitted to the position of godfather or godmother."

Well, the same Catholic Church, at another time, murdered Joan of Arc, the teenager who helped defeat the English in her native France and became one of the greatest war heroes in French history. In spite of this, she was tried by the Catholic Church on the charge of heresy in rejecting Church authority in preference for direct inspiration from God, and most importantly, by donning men's clothing. The Church burned Joan at the stake.

When religious leaders preach their damaging interpretations of their sacred texts on issues of same-sex relationships or identities and gender non-conformity within and outside their respective houses of worship, they must be held accountable and responsible for aiding and abetting those who target and harass, bully, physically assault, and murder people perceived as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or trans*. In addition, they must be held accountable as accomplices in the suicides of those who are the targets of these abusive actions, and who grow up in a religious denomination and larger society that teaches them to deny, to hide, and to hate themselves.

History is replete with groups and individuals facing colossal odds for simply expressing their truth, and for that, they were often forced to pay the ultimate price. Governments and powerful individuals have devised ways of silencing opposition for the purpose of maintaining and extending its control and domination. They commit genocide upon the true human liberators, the profits, the visionaries who advocate for a just and free world. These visionaries, who were persecuted in their own time, have achieved not only exoneration, but more importantly, have become venerated as the visionaries they truly are.

Trans* people have exposed the truth regarding this fabrication we call "gender roles" as a social construction, one which our society ascribes to each of us as it assigns us a sex at birth. With the label "female" assigned at birth, society forces us to follow its "feminine script," and with "male" assigned at birth, we are handed our "masculine" script to act out. As scripts are given to actors in a play, gender role scripts also were written long before any of us entered the stage of life. In fact, they have little connection with our natures, beliefs, interests, and values.

Murderers of trans* people react in extreme and fanatical ways at the direction of the larger coercive societal battalions bent on destroying all signs of gender transgression in young and old alike in the maintenance of cisnormativity. Most of us function as conscious or unconscious co-directors in this drama each time we enforce cisgender conformity onto others, and each time we relinquish our critical consciousness by failing to rewrite or destroy cisnormativity in ways that operate integrally for us. Those who bully in society and filtered into the schools often fulfill the social "function" of establishing and reinforcing socially constructed cisnormativity.

I am proud of and thankful to the trans* community for courageously calling into question this social myth of cisnormativity. Trans* people have opened the boxes for all of us to ultimately obliterate the cisgender status quo of binary oppositions by demonstrating in visible ways, the options upon an enormous gender continuum, one that does not depend upon a sex assigned to us, a sex that is imposed and forced upon us by others. The trans* community has shown us the essential fluidity of gender.

Trans* visionaries, who are persecuted in their own time, will one day be perceived as the visionary truth tellers they definitely are. Until that day, the harassment, the marginalization, the fear, the violence, the religious dogma, and the murders must end. It is up to us all to work toward this on a daily basis.

Some of the Many Trans* People Murdered:

Alejandra Leos, Aniya Parker, Ashley (Michelle) Sherman, Betty Skinner, Gizzy Fowler, Jennifer Laude, Kandy Hall, Brittany-Nicole Kidd-Stergis, Jessie Hernandez, Lamia Beard, Rosa Riibut, Taja De Jesus, Michelle Vash Payne, Deshawnda Sanchez, Yaz'min Shancez, Elizalber Oliveria de Mesquita, Paloma, Rayka Tomaz, Prince Joe, Toni Gretchen, Luana, Cristal, Thifani, Joice, Sarita, Juju, Raísa, Tatty, Rafaela, Alex Medeiros, Paulete, Camila Veronezi, Lu, Kitana, Sarita do Sopão, Andressa Pinheiro, Rose Maria, Vitória, Marciana, Nicole, Giovana Souza Silva, Mileide, Valquíria, Marcia Moraes, Paola, André Luiz Borges Rocha, Kellen Santorine, Mackelly Castro, Lele, Dennysi Brandão, Alisson Henrique da Silva, Karen Alanis, Cris, Bruna Lakiss, Gélia Borghi, Sara, Aguinaldo Clãudio Colombelli, Flávia, Maicon, Letícia, Raquel, Adriana, Papi Edwards, Penny Proud, Bri Golec, Kristina Gomez Reinwald, Sumaya Dalmar, Keyshia Blige, Vanessa Santillan, Mya Hall, London Chanel, Mercedes Williamson, Jasmine Collins, Ashton O'Hara, India Clarke, K.C. Haggard, Zoraida Reyes, Çağla Joker, Gypsie Gül, Jacqui Cowdrey, Gaivota dos Santos, Mahadevi, Marcela Duque, Mary Jo Añonuevo, Sevda Basar, Mayang Prasetyo, Mia Henderson, Tiffany Edwards, Gwen Araujo, Michelle (Yasmin) Vash Payne, Ty Underwood, Sherman Edwards, Shade Schuler, Amber Monroe, Kandis Capri, Elisha Walker, Tamara Dominguez, Kiesha Jenkins, Marcela Chocobar, Diana Sacayan, Zella Ziona