(RNS) — In an effort to counter the assumption that religions hate queer and trans people, a pair of religion professors is launching a new academic journal exploring the connections between religion, gender and sexuality.
“When we say a particular religion hates queer people, we’re erasing the queer people in that religion,” said Melissa M. Wilcox, a religious studies professor at the University of California at Riverside, who launching the journal. “We’re reducing it to one particular take or one particular branch and to a certain set of elites who have claimed the right to say what they want by silencing everyone else.”
“QTR: A Journal of Queer and Transgender Studies in Religion,” is set to publish in 2023 and will explore Christianity, Buddhism, Jewish communities and other faith groups through a queer and trans studies lens. It will feature queer and trans approaches to sacred texts as well as ways trans and queer people have created their own religious spaces.
A website is planned in conjunction with the journal and will include audio interviews, podcasts, poetry and fiction. Initial articles for the journal will be workshopped at UC Riverside in May. The university on Feb. 18-20 is also hosting the fourth annual UCR Conference on Queer and Transgender Studies in Religion.
Joseph Marchal, a religious studies professor at Ball State University in Indiana, said that while some people have used religious arguments to target queer and trans people, “many queer and trans people are religious and find community and affirmation in religions.”
“There’s an assumption that to be religious is to be hostile to thinking about gender and sexuality and specifically thinking about queer and trans people,” said Marchal, who is launching the journal.
“It’s just so clear that when we think about gender and sexuality and religion, the world needs better, more informed knowledge about those things,” he added.
While a 2017 Pew Research Center report showed most white evangelical Protestants (61%) say society has “gone too far” when it comes to accepting transgender people, 2015 data from the Public Religion Research Institute showed majorities of all major religious groups favored passing nondiscrimination laws for LGBTQ people, although the degree of support varied.
Claire Markham, associate director for the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at the Center for American Progress, and the initiative’s research assistant Tracy Wolf, wrote in 2017 that “it would be a mistake to ascribe discriminatory opinions to all people of faith” when thinking about religion and transgender people.
With this journal, the professors aim to make the scholarly work widely available to both academics and the public.
“This is one of the areas in religious studies that is directly relevant to people’s lives,” Wilcox said.
Wilcox noted how early gay, lesbian and feminist activists had ties to religious organizations. “That tells us something really important about the really common things that people say about queer and trans people not being religious.”
“This work saves lives,” Wilcox said. “Anybody just Googling to find out who is out there like me or is there space for me in this religion will be able to find the work collected in this journal.”