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Trans and non-binary

The Bible and Violence Project: Meet Joseph N. Goh

Picture of Joseph N. Goh credited to Puah Sze Ning

Joseph N. Goh (he/they/any) hails from Sarawak, Malaysia, and joined the School of Arts and Social Sciences, Monash University Malaysia in January 2016.  Currently a Senior Lecturer in Gender Studies, Goh’s first single-authored monograph entitled Living Out Sexuality and Faith: Body Admissions of Malaysian Gay and Bisexual Men (Routledge 2018) was based on his doctoral project. It analyses and theorises the self-understandings of gay and bisexual men of various ethnicities, classes, ages and faiths on their gender and sexual identities and practices, and their performances of religiosity and spirituality. His second book, Becoming a Malaysian Trans Man: Gender, Society, Body and Faith (Palgrave Macmillan 2020), was the first dedicated academic volume on Malaysian transgender men, and won the ‘Ground-Breaking Subject Matter Accolade’ in the IBP 2021 Accolades in the Social Sciences category of the ICAS Book Prize 2021 competition. His third sole-authored volume, Doing Church at the Amplify Open and Affirming Conferences: Queer Ecclesiologies in Asia (Palgrave Macmillan 2021), was the first in-depth theological study of a series of Christian conferences in Asia by and for LGBTIQ-affirming churches, communities, organisations and individuals. Goh has also co-edited several anthologies with Robert E. Shore-Goss, Hugo Córdova Quero, Michael Sepidoza Campos, Sharon A. Bong and Thaatchaayini Kananatu. He is a member of the Emerging Queer Asian Pacific Islander Religion Scholars international group (EQARS), and sits on the advisory board of the Queer Asia Book Series (Hong Kong University Press), as well as the editorial boards of the Queer and Trans Intersections Series (University of Wales Press) and QTR: A Journal of Queer and Transgender Studies in Religion (Duke University Press).

Goh, along with his collaborators, was awarded the Vice-Chancellor’s Diversity and Inclusion Award (2018) and Pro-Vice Chancellor’s Excellence in Diversity & Inclusion Award (2022) for the development of the Understanding Gender Inclusivity in Malaysia training module at Monash University Malaysia, which serves to create greater awareness of the issues, needs and concerns of LGBTIQ people in the interest of equity, diversity and inclusion. With research interests in LGBTIQ studies, human rights, sexual health, theology, spirituality, religion, and qualitative research, Goh’s two present projects focus on the complex and controversial operations of SEED Malaysia, the first transgender-led community-based organisation in Malaysia, and the manifold spiritualities of Malaysian Christian transgender women.

Goh’s contribution to The Bible and Violence Project is a book chapter entitled ‘A Triptych of Biblical Violence Towards Gay and Transgender Christians: The Case of Malaysia’. Cognisant of the multifarious ways in which the Bible continues to be weaponised against people of diverse genders and sexualities in his home country, Goh argues that there are three parallel and mutually interactive dynamics in the production of Christian violence against LGBTQ Malaysians: (i) official Bible-based ecclesiastical pronouncements against gender and sexual diversities; (ii) scriptural de-legitimisations of gay and transgender people as personally experienced in churches and faith communities; and (iii) insidious practices of conversion therapy. He demonstrates how non-affirming Malaysian Christianity galvanises and preserves the vulnerability of LGBTQ Malaysians, branded as ‘sexually broken’, with far-reaching consequences beyond the immediate use of the Bible as ‘sacred’ arsenal.

Goh owns a personal website at https://www.josephgoh.org/

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The Bible and Violence Project: Meet Alex Clare-Young

Bible picture with a 'warning' sign.

I’m Alex Clare-Young and I am a creator, a writer, a member of the Iona Community, an ordained minister in the United Reformed Church and a transmasculine non-binary person. That last bit means that I was labeled as female at birth and have transitioned towards male, and that I now identify outside of the binary genders of male and female. I use the pronouns they/them or just my name. I am currently in ministry in Cambridge City Centre, where I particularly work with those who have experienced exclusion and isolation, including those who have suffered church-related trauma. I am also an associate tutor at Westminster College, Cambridge. As well as this chapter on transphobia, violence and the Bible, I am also currently working on a chapter about trans pregnancy for a volume on pregnancy and theology and on a book, Trans Forming, which arises out of my PhD thesis on trans identities and theology and will be published by SCM Press in early 2024. 

Alex Clare-Young

For me, there is an inextricable link between biblical interpretation and transphobic violence. I do not only mean transphobic violence perpetrated by Christians. I mean all transphobic violence. That claim rests on the words “You are either a man, or a woman”. Those words, or words like them, are heard regularly by trans people just before a verbal, psychological, physical, spiritual or sexual attack. They can also be found littering our media – print, audio, screen, and social – daily. I was asked yesterday how it feels to be trans when, at the moment, people are debating our existence very publicly all of the time. The reality is that it feels like violence. Those words – man on the one hand, and woman on the other, are not scientifically or historically founded. Rather, they are found in interpretations of scripture. They are not found in scripture itself but in interpretations thereof. That is why I believe strongly in this chapter. It is essential that people of good will continue to challenge the narrow interpretation of scripture that grounds daily violence against trans and non-binary people. 

As a trans person, I would rather stay as far away from the topic as possible. It would be safer. As a human being, and particularly as a human being who claims to be a part of the Body of Christ, I cannot ignore this violence or the voices of those who are suffering. That is why I write.


If you are involved in the Bible and Violence Project and want to be featured on this blog, please contact Johanna ([email protected])

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