Transgender, Sexual, and Celibate: Danica’s Story

Guest post! Guest post!

Danica is a journalist, a mobile yoga studio owner and a metal rocker (and she and Elizabeth have known each other since they were ten years old!). She is also a transgender woman who distanced herself from the Catholic Church—the faith of her upbringing—in order to live out her identity in a healthy and positive way. At WIT’s request, she graciously agreed to write the following reflection as a window into her life story, especially her relationship with sexuality and with celibacy at different points in her transition.

This reflection also serves as a companion piece to a recent Washington Post article which describes the choices of many LGBT Christians to live a celibate lifestyle as a way of reconciling their sexualities with their Christian identity.

WIT is thrilled to have Danica tell her story.

Continue reading

Teaching and Gender Note: I Do Not ‘Mother’ My Students

I’ll be teaching a year-long introductory college class on Catholicism again for 2014-2015. As I prepare to teach this class again, I’ve been thinking not only about the requisite alterations I need to make to the syllabus, but also about what teaching even is and what it means to me.

Here’s why.

I am recalling a memory I filed away at some point, and it has to do with women, the practice of teaching in a university context, and how we place those two things together.

One early September a couple years ago, I was at a departmental party, and I ended up having a conversation with another female graduate student in theology who was preparing to teach for her first time. We had never met before, so our exchange gravitated toward our most obvious common tie: starting a new semester and being relatively new university instructors (though I had taught once before). Continue reading

On Gender, Authority, and Gloss: A Story from College

Unsure what to write about this month, I asked around for blog post topics people might like to see me explore. Somebody suggested that I write about things that high schoolers should know before arriving at college, so I’ll run with that. Except that it’ll just be about college, it’ll involve the axis of gender, and it’ll be a story from my own life.

My first semester of college, I elected to take an advanced writing course. The course topic was “power” (so “anything”), and it involved reading social theory and watching movies (read Weber and watch Fight Club and make them go together!), discussing the art of rhetoric and the structure of good argumentation, and then writing, rewriting, workshopping papers with the entire class, crying, laughing, rewriting, rewriting, rewriting. Continue reading

Rowan Williams, Teresa of Avila, and An Easter Spirituality

Easter is upon us, and I’ve been thinking about this passage from Romans:

We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies (8:22-23).

With Easter, Christians celebrate Christ’s triumph over death. The Son has been murdered, and the Father has responded by giving him new life. And specifically within that, his broken body has been resurrected and glorified (with scars still remaining), which signals a promise to us about the irrevocable goodness and ultimate glorification of our own bodies (also scarred, perhaps), and of creation as a whole. The groaning of our bodies reaches out toward an eschatological promise.

And the Easter implication of all this is that Christians are called to come together, as Christ’s corporate body, witnessing to him and living as a sacrament of divine love for each other and for the world. It is an embodiment that is social, tactile, joyful. Speaking about how we understand all this today, I know many Christians who, in preparation for this occasion, have been partaking of Lenten acts of purification and ascetic seriousness in order to refocus their attention, their bodies, on God and the celebration of the Triduum.

Given that Easter is saturated with various overlapping meanings, I always have difficulty speaking well about it (and this problem has only been compounded by the PhD in theology!). So I’m going to explore its significance and what it calls us to indirectly, by describing something else, and then perhaps we’ll get there.

Continue reading

Teaching Note: On Confronting Violence Against Women in the Christian Tradition

When I teach theology to undergraduates, I make sure to spend some time on Augustine, typically his Confessions. I don’t think this is a necessary practice for all theology instructors, but I personally find Augustine to be a useful entry point for broader, complex theological and hermeneutical questions.

Specifically, I have noticed that studying Augustine is like holding up a mirror to ourselves. More specifically, how we as contemporary readers weigh in on Augustine’s views of women is greatly telling about our views of women. Continue reading

Selfishness, Selflessness, and the Work-Life Balance in Academia

You haven’t the faintest conception of what I went through with your dear Robert. The ingratitude! It was I who made a man of him! Sacrificed my whole life to him! And what was my reward? Absolute, utter selfishness.

C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

Rachel: Maybe Joey’s right. Maybe all good deeds are selfish.
Phoebe: I will find a selfless good deed. ‘Cause I just gave birth to three children and I will not let them be raised in a world where Joey is right.

Friends, “The One Where Phoebe Hates PBS” (1998)

Over a weekend earlier this month, I had a text conversation with my brother about the feelings of guilt I was having about not doing more work. I had gotten up in the morning and paid our bills, got together all our tax information to send to the accountant, finally packed up the holiday decorations, and did some cleaning. By mid-afternoon, I was sitting in front of my computer playing games online because I was worn out and lost all motivation to work. When I told my brother what I was doing, he said that I had earned the break. My response? “I still feel guilty about it. There’s so much I could be doing!”

One of the things that I struggle with in graduate school is finding the work-life balance that allows me to be content with the amount of work that I put in and still take time for myself that allows me the space to recharge. I don’t have the answers yet, unfortunately. But I hope that this reflection on gender, Christian selflessness, and work-life balance will raise some ideas in others about how to balance work and life in academia and hopefully start a conversation about things we can do to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Continue reading

Are Sports Sexist?

Last week Dallas Mavericks owner and billionaire Mark Cuban invited Brittney Griner, the 6’9’’ women’s college basketball sports revolutionary, to try out for a spot on his NBA team this summer.  Cuban’s comments electrified the brittney-griner_02sports world.  Some fans tweeted their excitement about Griner’s ability to shatter the gender barrier and be the first woman to ever play in the NBA.  But most insisted adamantly that no woman, not even the greatest of all time, could ever hang with the grown men of the NBA.  The ESPN show Sportscenter even devoted an entire several minute long segment to reciting over and over again the many reasons why Griner just could not cut it.  Staged as a debate, the segment played as a men’s chorus.  The gentleman doth protest too much, methinks.

Interrupting this spectacle of gender difference, sports journalist Jemele Hill refutes this debate’s entire premise.  She explains: “what I don’t like about Cuban’s comments [to Griner] is that they perpetuate the dangerous idea that great female athletes need to validate themselves by competing against men.”

Hill’s argument is unexpected.  In the sports world, one pays a woman a supreme compliment by telling her “she plays like a man.”  Indeed, men’s athletic superiority over women operates as one of our society’s most self-evident truths.  The objective and inherent superiority of men’s sports to women’s seems to us equally self-evident.  Men’s sports earn more money, draw more fans, and elicit more media attention than their female counterparts as a result not of sexism but the facts of life.

And in some ways, this is true.  On average, the most elite male athletes do in fact jump higher, run faster, and exert more physical power than their elite female equivalents.

But even if we grant that male basketball players display more skill than female ones, does this alone explain why we consider men’s basketball so much more important? For example, we do not as a rule love musicians in proportion to their skill.  Madonna sells out stadiums while symphony orchestras play in cozy theaters.  Perhaps we value skill more highly in competitive endeavors like sports.  But even then, we do not always love in proportion to skill.  In certain parts of the country, for example, the local high school football team is loved as deeply and rooted for as fiercely as its big time college or pro equivalent—even though they are slower, weaker, and much less skilled.

Continue reading