Scholars Talk Gender and Theology at Drew Colloquium

Two-day event is organized by students at Drew Theological School.

April 2018 – The human and the divine came together at this year’s Transdisciplinary Theological Colloquium at Drew Theological School.

The theme was “Trans: Human/Divine Bodies Beyond Boundaries.” Scholars examined trans in terms of transgender, living experiences and negotiating one’s identity—both individually and within society. Dr. Roberto Che Espinoza, a visiting scholar at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, delivered the keynote address.

The colloquium “was a formative experience in my own training,” said Espinoza, whose address was titled, “Pleats of Bodily Becoming.” “It was here I embraced being a transdisciplinary, multidisciplinary thinker.”

“Becoming” is a popular term in transgender studies, according to Espinoza. When people speak of “trans”—whether in terms of transgender or as a prefix—it evokes being in flux, or changing, a folding, a pleat, a middle point. It can also relate to theology, Espinoza explained, as the pleat could be the intersection of the human and divine and what’s possible in and out of this world.

Espinoza also talked about how bodies matter, noting that all forms of transgender are pleats of bodily becoming.

Drew Theological School students Reuven Pepper (“The Messianic Threshold”), Émile Wayne (“Queer Magic: Enchanted Naturalism, Kinarchy and the Web of Wyrd”) and Max Thornton (“Sacramental Transition: Borders, Bodies and the Parasitology of the Christ”) were among 10 students from seven schools who presented papers at the colloquium. Other papers examined TransLatinx activism and theology, Pakistani trans activism, theology and transgender identity and fat sex and theology. Also, there was a screening of the documentary Woman on Fire, which told the story of Brooke Guinan, New York City’s first openly transgender firefighter.

Espinoza described the colloquium as a “conversation that has been going on for about 18 years,” adding, “It’s special to be among friends.”

Espinoza also liked that this year’s two-day gathering was organized by students, specifically those in the Graduate Division of Religion at Drew Theological School. “It’s a significant shift,” Espinoza said. “It’s starting from the ground up, empowering students and creating new conditions for liberation to materialize.”

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