Preface to Transgender Good News|
This book responds to three basic questions about transgender experience and expression. What is true? What is going on? What really matters? I have tried not merely to answer these questions, but to pay attention to the framing of the questions. After wrestling with transgender questions as an important part of my own life, and after applying the disciplines I have learned as a scientist and a theologian, I believe more than ever that getting the questions right is more important than defending answers.
There are several different ways to read this book and I have tried to provide enough cross-references between chapters to support different reading approaches. Iíve developed the book in this way with the intention that it will serve diverse reading audiences with an interest in transgender concerns.
For readers working out their personal transgender journeys, a focus on the introductory chapter; a review of Chapter 5, the stories chapter; a review of Chapter 6, my summary and contribution to theory; and then primary attention to Chapter 8, concerning transgender issues, and the first section of the Appendix, may fill your need.
For general and sympathetic readers, perhaps those who love a transgender person, you might begin by reading Chapters 1 and 5 and then picking and choosing topics of interest from Chapters 8 and 9. I also welcome hostile general readers to this book. All the elements of this book are necessarily under development, and this is a good time for lively interchange. I urge hostile readers not to skip Chapters 2, 3, and 4 because you may find that careful attention to the framing of the debates will resolve some concerns before any interchanges.
For readers interested in only the religious aspects of transgender experience and expression, your focused interest may be met by reading the introductory chapter and Chapter 5; then focusing on Chapter 9, where I work with five different approaches to Christian theology; then reviewing the appendix, where I draw out a few implications for local congregations.
For readers who want to understand the causes of transgender experience and expression, I recommend reading at least Chapters 1-7. Chapters 2-4 contain the reviews of relevant physiological, psychological, and sociological scientific contributions. The synthetic integration of these scientific contributions in Chapters 2-4 provides my best posing of the question, What is true? Chapter 7 offers a critique of the clinical professions. The relevant psychological research is reviewed in Chapter 3, and Chapter 7 considers the destructive application of clinical misunderstandings that has been so influential in shaping professional and commonplace views on transgender experience and expression.
I hope that those in the helping professions will read at least chapters 1-8. Thankfully, an increasing number of professional helpers have begun to move beyond medical model concepts. This book offers a lot that can help such professionals to a better grounding of their own practice and encourages a collective effort to free transgender people from clinical oppression, just as gay and lesbian people were freed by the psychiatric declaration that homosexuality is not a disease.
Since language about transgender experience and expression is difficult, and since several key terms are used differently by both transgender and straight writers, readers may want to refer to the glossary provided at the back of the book to understand word usage in this book.
Although this book has been written with diverse reading populations in mind, it was also written to be read straight through. It is important to get a sense of what is true and what is going on before taking up the question, What really matters? I hope that this book will be good news for people who disagree with me in one or many ways. I look forward to all well-meant criticism and conversation. Iíve tried to be clear that I believe that most of the truth about transgender experience and expression is still to be uncovered. Iíve tried to be clear that there are many kinds of transgender people and that there is a lack of consensus among transgender people on numerous concerns. As the first book of this scope by a transgender Christian, it lacks the benefit of serious dialogue for sharpening many concerns. So I encourage readers to bring along skepticism as well as curiosity. If we can get the questions right, the next book in this line can be stronger.
For those readers who are aware of being on a spiritual quest that involves transgender concerns, I send you my special welcome and best wishes.