“Death by a Thousand Paper Cuts”: Transphobia, Symbolic Violence, and Conservative Christian Discourse

  • Caroline Blyth
  • Prior McRae
Part of the Religion and Radicalism book series (RERA)


In this chapter, Caroline Blyth and Prior McRae explore the symbolic violence of language, as they discuss the transphobic violence inherent within conservative Christian discourses. Written as a dialogue between the two authors, Blyth and McRae look at a number of Christian responses to the “transgender debate” which have appeared in recent years on Christian social media sites, in book and journal publications, and within formal statements issued by churches and Christian-based community interest groups. Their discussions explore the violence intrinsic to these responses, which range from outright intolerance on the one hand to those tempered with a veneer of “benign concern” for the sinful status of transgender people. Although less explicit than the subjective physical violence affecting many people within the trans community, Blyth and McRae argue that these discourses nevertheless act as a constant source of transphobic violence, by problematizing or even negating the validity of trans identities, and ultimately attempting to erase trans people from families, churches, and communities.


  1. 7 Steps for Christian Parents to Confront Transgender and Homosexual Desires in Their Teenagers. 2016. Biblical Gender Roles, 26 March. Blog Post. Accessed 31 May 2017.
  2. Burk, Denny. 2014. Ten Ways to Love Your Transgender Neighbour. Denny Burk: A Commentary on Theology, Politics and Culture, 12 June. Blog Post. Accessed 25 October 2017.
  3. Cremin, Ciara. 2017. Man-Made Woman: The Dialectics of Cross-Dressing. London: Pluto Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Family First. (2015). ‘Boys Girls Other’: Making Sense of the Confusing New World of Gender Identity. 30 June. Accessed 5 June 2017.
  5. Fantz, Ashley. 2015. An Ohio Transgender Teen’s Suicide, a Mother’s Anguish. CNN, 4 January. Accessed 27 October 2017.
  6. Grant, Jaime M., Lisa A. Mottet, Justin Tanis, Jack Harrison, Jody L. Herman, and Mara Keisling. 2011. Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. Washington: National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Accessed 25 October 2017.
  7. Human Rights Campaign. 2017. Violence Against the Transgender Community in 2017. Accessed 21 October 2017.
  8. Human Rights Campaign and Trans People of Color Coalition. 2015. Addressing Anti-Transgender Violence: Exploring Realities, Challenges and Solutions for Policymakers and Community Advocates. Accessed 21 October 2017.
  9. Landsbaum, Claire. 2017. Laverne Cox Explains Why Anti-Trans Bathroom Legislation Isn’t Actually About Bathrooms. The Cut, 24 February. Accessed 12 September 2017.
  10. Molloy, Parker. 2015. Dear Leelah, We Will Fight On For You: A Letter to a Dead Trans Teen. Daily Beast, 1 January. Accessed 26 October 2017.
  11. Moore, Russell. 2016. What the Transgender Bathroom Debate Means For You. Personal Blog. 13 May. Accessed 18 January 2018.
  12. Movement Advancement Project, National Center for Transgender Equality, Transgender Law Center, and GLAAD. 2015. Understanding Issues Facing Transgender Americans. Accessed 23 October 2017.
  13. National Center for Transgender Equality. 2016. 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Accessed 11 October 2017.
  14. O’Neil, Tyler. 2013. What Does the Bible Say About Trans-Gender Identity? 26 September. Accessed 24 October 2017.
  15. Reformed Theological Seminary. 2017. Transgender Confusion and Transformational Christianity. Dr Heath Lambert. Public Lecture Video Recording. Accessed 14 June 2017.
  16. Schmider, Alex. 2016. 2016 Was the Deadliest Year on Record for Transgender People. GLAAD, 9 November. Accessed 21 October 2017.
  17. Southern Baptist Convention. 2014. On Transgender Identity. Accessed 31 December 2017.
  18. Steinmetz, Katy. 2015. Why Transgender People Are Being Murdered at a Historic Rate. Time, 17 August. Accessed 15 January 2018.
  19. Stotzer, R.L. 2009. Violence Against Transgender People: A Review of United States Data. Aggression and Violent Behavior 14 (3): 170–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Strachan, Owen. 2015. Transgender Identity—Wishing Away God’s Design. Answers Magazine, 15 March. Accessed 11 May 2017.
  21. Target. 2016. Continuing to Stand for Inclusivity. A Bullseye View, 19 April. Accessed 17 October 2017.
  22. Transgender Europe. 2016. Transgender Day of Visibility 2016 – Trans Murder Monitoring Update. 30 March. Accessed 18 January 2018.
  23. Williams, Mariam. 2015. What Would Christians Need to Overcome to Accept Transgender People? National Catholic Reporter, 12 January. Accessed 23 October 2017.
  24. Yarhouse, Mark A. 2015a. Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.Google Scholar
  25. ———. 2015b. Understanding the Transgender Phenomenon. Christianity Today, 8 June. Accessed 27 October 2017.
  26. Yeung, Peter. 2016. Transphobic Hate Crimes in “Sickening” 170% Rise as Low Prosecution Rates Create “Lack of Trust” in Police. The Independent, 28 July. Accessed 18 January 2018.
  27. Zaimov, Stoyan. 2016a. Franklin Graham Joins Over 850K Americans in Target Boycott. The Christian Post, 27 April. Accessed 25 September 2017.
  28. ———. 2016b. Robert Jeffress on What Jesus Thinks About the Transgender Debate. The Christian Post, 16 May. Accessed 24 October 2017.
  29. Žižek, Slavoj. 2008. Violence: Six Sideways Reflections, Big Ideas. London: Profile Books.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Caroline Blyth
    • 1
  • Prior McRae
    • 1
  1. 1.School of HumanitiesUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations