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In 2014, Time magazine announced that America had reached “the transgender tipping point,” suggesting that transgender issues would become the next civil rights frontier. Years later, many people—even many LGBTQ allies—still lack understanding of gender identity and the transgender experience. Into this void, Austen Hartke offers a biblically based, educational, and affirm In 2014, Time magazine announced that America had reached “the transgender tipping point,” suggesting that transgender issues would become the next civil rights frontier. Years later, many people—even many LGBTQ allies—still lack understanding of gender identity and the transgender experience. Into this void, Austen Hartke offers a biblically based, educational, and affirming resource to shed light and wisdom on this modern gender landscape. Transforming: The Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians provides access into an underrepresented and misunderstood community and will change the way readers think about transgender people, faith, and the future of Christianity. By introducing transgender issues and language and providing stories of both biblical characters and real-life narratives from transgender Christians living today, Hartke helps readers visualize a more inclusive Christianity, equipping them with the confidence and tools to change both the church and the world.


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In 2014, Time magazine announced that America had reached “the transgender tipping point,” suggesting that transgender issues would become the next civil rights frontier. Years later, many people—even many LGBTQ allies—still lack understanding of gender identity and the transgender experience. Into this void, Austen Hartke offers a biblically based, educational, and affirm In 2014, Time magazine announced that America had reached “the transgender tipping point,” suggesting that transgender issues would become the next civil rights frontier. Years later, many people—even many LGBTQ allies—still lack understanding of gender identity and the transgender experience. Into this void, Austen Hartke offers a biblically based, educational, and affirming resource to shed light and wisdom on this modern gender landscape. Transforming: The Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians provides access into an underrepresented and misunderstood community and will change the way readers think about transgender people, faith, and the future of Christianity. By introducing transgender issues and language and providing stories of both biblical characters and real-life narratives from transgender Christians living today, Hartke helps readers visualize a more inclusive Christianity, equipping them with the confidence and tools to change both the church and the world.

30 review for Transforming: The Bible & the Lives of Transgender Christians

  1. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    As a cisgender person who no longer attends church or is religious, I'm not really the target audience for this book, but I was curious as to what the author had to say. The book is well written and engaging; I read it all in one go. From his time at Bible college and conversations with other trans christians, the author makes a case for the kind of loving, inclusive and life-giving community that I always wished church could be when I used to attend. In a time when trans people are at huge risk As a cisgender person who no longer attends church or is religious, I'm not really the target audience for this book, but I was curious as to what the author had to say. The book is well written and engaging; I read it all in one go. From his time at Bible college and conversations with other trans christians, the author makes a case for the kind of loving, inclusive and life-giving community that I always wished church could be when I used to attend. In a time when trans people are at huge risk of mental health problems, discrimination and violence, the church- especially the religious right in America- has been right at the forefront helping cause these problems. This book explores the potential for the church to be loving and accepting of minority groups, as Jesus was, and gives real life examples of the benefits which abound when churches live up to this potential, both for trans christians and the church as a whole. The book would be useful for any christian, trans or cis, whether they know a lot about gender studies or if they feel they have little knowledge of trans issues or how to be supportive and affirming to fellow christians who are trans, or trans people interested in attending or joining their church. The author explains gender related terms which people may be unfamiliar with and addresses both the passages which are often used against trans people (he calls them "clobber passages") and also goes beyond this to explore biblical parallels for trans people's experiences and the way they can and should be welcomed in to the church to enjoy community and abundant life that Jesus promised. There is a section at the end with practical advice for churches looking to be more inclusive, cis allies looking to help educate their church and make it a more welcoming place for trans people, and for trans people on how to find a safe and supportive church to join. This last section is very US-centric, but hopefully future editions will include suggestions from readers in other countries too. [Free ARC from Net Galley]

  2. 4 out of 5

    Josiah Hatfield

    Excellent book exploring transgender Christians and their experience within Christian spaces. Author Austen Hartke is a biblical scholar and utilizes those skills throughout while also smartly including a story of a transgender Christian in each chapter. (Good introductory book for those new to the subject of transgender topics as well!)

  3. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    This book attempts an impossible task: arguing that the Bible is in support of trans gender ideology. The arguments from Scripture are either poorly made, or nonexistent. Still, this book will help you understand the author’s experience and can at least serve to increase empathy and compassion for those of us who disagree with the entire premise of the book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    S.T. Gibson

    This is a warm, welcoming introduction to transgender theology. Hartke raises up the voices of diverse trans Christians rather than focusing on proof-texting, and the book ends with pointers for self care, church inclusion, and pastoral best practices. It's a good blend of memoir, theology, biblical study, and social mobilization, and Hartke imbues the narration of his audiobook with such a soothing, centered authenticity!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Monika

    Austen Hartke has an easy, conversational style whether he's inspecting Scripture and its historical and cultural contexts or sharing personal stories. Hartke includes conversations with and the experiences of other trans and nonbinary Christians, which ends up giving the book a truly intersectional lens (and that is vital when discussing about trans issues). Transforming is honest about the ways the church has failed trans and nonbinary folx and the challenges they face. Cis readers will gain i Austen Hartke has an easy, conversational style whether he's inspecting Scripture and its historical and cultural contexts or sharing personal stories. Hartke includes conversations with and the experiences of other trans and nonbinary Christians, which ends up giving the book a truly intersectional lens (and that is vital when discussing about trans issues). Transforming is honest about the ways the church has failed trans and nonbinary folx and the challenges they face. Cis readers will gain insight and hopefully, empathy. But Hartke's infectious optimism combined with plenty of positive experiences shared give the book a hopeful, "share the good news!" tone throughout.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Dillon

    I was looking forward to this book. I thought I might actually get a strong biblical argument for an "affirming" stance on this issue. I knew a bit about Hartke prior to reading this from an interview in a podcast and felt sure that I would be given some level of thorough biblical exegesis that would provide a strong challenge to the non-affirming stance (admittedly my own position). However, I was extremely disappointed. I was met primarily with the rhetoric of identity politics, emotional appe I was looking forward to this book. I thought I might actually get a strong biblical argument for an "affirming" stance on this issue. I knew a bit about Hartke prior to reading this from an interview in a podcast and felt sure that I would be given some level of thorough biblical exegesis that would provide a strong challenge to the non-affirming stance (admittedly my own position). However, I was extremely disappointed. I was met primarily with the rhetoric of identity politics, emotional appeal from personal testimony and the testimony of others in the LGBTQ+ community, and more disappointingly than everything else, biblical exegesis (read: eisegesis) that was run through the horrible hermeneutical grid of personal experience and testimony of others. If you want a book that will tickle your trans-theology-affirming itching ear, look no further. If you are looking for a strong, exegetical and academically rigorous and honest approach to this important and timely issue...look elsewhere.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Brooke Scott

    This is the beginning of a very important conversation in churches. I met Austen at a conference this year and he is just as charming and vulnerable with his story as he seems—a true gift. His writing is MEATY with a lot packed in, but it is impeccably conversational. He even attempts to incorporate the voices of trans people of color, who contend with MULTIPLE layers of oppression. The book begins like a crash course on sex versus gender, which I felt like I had a pretty good grasp on. But then This is the beginning of a very important conversation in churches. I met Austen at a conference this year and he is just as charming and vulnerable with his story as he seems—a true gift. His writing is MEATY with a lot packed in, but it is impeccably conversational. He even attempts to incorporate the voices of trans people of color, who contend with MULTIPLE layers of oppression. The book begins like a crash course on sex versus gender, which I felt like I had a pretty good grasp on. But then he moves into the details of how various Scriptures have been wrongly interpreted and how God is moving the church towards full inclusion of LGBTQ+ persons. His exegesis is beautiful and you can tell he has really done his homework. For individuals who need an introduction to this topic or are trying to reconcile gender identity and faith, this is a must-read. I will be recommending this book for a long time.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kit

    So, this destroyed me in the best way possible. I'm thinking a lot about faith-- expect to see many more books on Christianity and other religions in the near future-- I saw this book at the library, and I thought it would probably be a good entry point for me, since I am so openly and almost aggressively trans in every area of my life. The beginning of the book enumerated the ways in which churches and individuals have used theology to harm lgbtq people and made me question why I picked up a bo So, this destroyed me in the best way possible. I'm thinking a lot about faith-- expect to see many more books on Christianity and other religions in the near future-- I saw this book at the library, and I thought it would probably be a good entry point for me, since I am so openly and almost aggressively trans in every area of my life. The beginning of the book enumerated the ways in which churches and individuals have used theology to harm lgbtq people and made me question why I picked up a book like this in the first place, why I was considering joining a faith community at all. In spite of knowing quite a few queer Christians (it's what happens when you go to a school with Saint in the name), I was reminded of the general bigotry I unconsciously associate with Christianity, which prevents me and many others like me from engaging with faith. At best, it seems like many Christians are blissfully ignorant of social issues, walking away from church services that command them to love their neighbors without seeking to understand their neighbors' perspective. At worst, it feels like an institution that actively encourages hateful practices. But Hartke spent the rest of the book debunking hateful rhetoric with their own theological analysis, supported by other progressive Christians' analysis. He even interviews other trans Christians with different identities-- different genders and races, primarily-- because he understands that his perspective is not universal or monolithic. I found myself moved way more than I expected to be, especially as someone who hasn't been personally rejected or affirmed by a faith community. It was incredible to hear interpretations of the Bible that affirmed the existence of people like me, interpretations encouraging radical love and bravery on the part of lgbtq Christians and their allies. It made me want to come out to the few but highly significant people in my life who don't quite know just how queer I am. From my limited understanding of the Bible, Hartke's positions seemed reasonable and defensible. His writing, in terms of unpacking both gender identity and the Bible, was highly accessible, although it seemed like he assumed a slightly greater knowledge of the Bible than I actually have (which might make sense for a book with Christians as its primary audience). If you have the vaguest idea that this book might be for you, I highly recommend that you read it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    This is a book I would recommend to everyone. It's very good, well written, and left me wanting to read it again more deeply and thoughtfully immediately after finishing. As a trans guy who isn't really sure what he believes in, I highly recommend this book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Justin

    Questions related to transgender issues are at the forefront of the next big conversation the church is having. Hartke's book provides a good starting point with a blend of personal experiences (from a number of people) and some exegetical work. The personal experiences were more compelling, helping to put narratives to and actual people into the discussion. The exegesis raised plenty of interesting ideas but sometimes seemed to miss the main purpose of the given passage. The book's worthy of a wi Questions related to transgender issues are at the forefront of the next big conversation the church is having. Hartke's book provides a good starting point with a blend of personal experiences (from a number of people) and some exegetical work. The personal experiences were more compelling, helping to put narratives to and actual people into the discussion. The exegesis raised plenty of interesting ideas but sometimes seemed to miss the main purpose of the given passage. The book's worthy of a wide read, both by those affirming and those non-affirming, and Hartke's clear writing and fast pace make it a good entry point. [Based on a NetGalley copy.]

  11. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    This was a surprisingly easy read. Hartke kept the tone light and conversational, even when discussing heavy, emotional topics. Hartke provides quotes from interviews with other trans/non-binary (including Two Spirit) Christians, scholars, and ordained ministers throughout Transforming, which makes it wonderfully intersectional and inclusive. It is… affirmation and shared narrative that can give transgender Christians the courage to carve out a space for themselves in a global church that often i This was a surprisingly easy read. Hartke kept the tone light and conversational, even when discussing heavy, emotional topics. Hartke provides quotes from interviews with other trans/non-binary (including Two Spirit) Christians, scholars, and ordained ministers throughout Transforming, which makes it wonderfully intersectional and inclusive. It is… affirmation and shared narrative that can give transgender Christians the courage to carve out a space for themselves in a global church that often ignores or actively persecutes them. To know that you belong to a God who gathers the outcasts and who commands doors to open... this is the kind of love that leads to liberation. (99) The balance between academic bible study and personal stories was perfect, in my opinion. The writing was never dry or stuffy, but I still learned a lot. Hartke really dives into the cultural and historical context of the bible verses he discusses, with a fascinating focus on eunuchs. I had never thought of eunuchs much (they weren't taught on much in my church growing up), so thinking of them as the nonbinary gender of biblical times was eye-opening. And he didn't shy away from the "clobber passages"-- scriptures used to discredit the idea of any sexes or genders beside male and female. [Genesis 1:27] does not discredit other sexes or genders any more than the verse about the separation of day from night rejects the existence of dawn and dusk. (51) I had serious emotional reactions to Hartke's affirming interpretation of several Bible stories. Even as a white cisgender woman, the freedom that Hartke finds in the Lord and in the Bible was so heartening; I can only imagine how this reading experience must be for trans Christians. The sections on Isaiah, Phillip and the Ethiopian, and Jacob Wrestling the Angel were especially enlightening and engrossing. And "Chapter 10: Even Jesus Had a Body" was so body positive and liberating from the old Christian idea that "the flesh" is inherently sinful. [The image of Jacob wrestling with God] is incredibly familiar to transgender Christians who have spent a portion of their life grappling with their faith and their gender. Sometimes we have to fight to have our gender recognized, and sometimes we fight to be seen as Christians, and sometimes it feels as if we’re just holding on to God with both hands and refusing to let go until God gives us something. (82) Overall, I highly recommend this book if you're looking for a trans-affirming biblical interpretation but don't want something overly academic. The back of the book has lists of incredible resources, including ways to find inclusive Christian communities. Transforming is not only about how transgender and nonbinary individuals belong in Christian spaces, but that they have important viewpoints to bring to the table that makes those Christian spaces richer and more complete. Are we called to sameness, or are we called to oneness? (161)

  12. 5 out of 5

    John

    In his book, Transforming, Austin Hartke pours onto a few hundred pages the stories of Transgender Christians and their interaction with the sacred Christian text, gender identity, faith, doubt, and living and finding space in a spiritual community. Without a doubt, it is an important essential read for anyone that has not explored the issues surrounding the trans-community. Though having been an advocate for many years I found the first 3 chapters extremely helpful in providing a basis of langu In his book, Transforming, Austin Hartke pours onto a few hundred pages the stories of Transgender Christians and their interaction with the sacred Christian text, gender identity, faith, doubt, and living and finding space in a spiritual community. Without a doubt, it is an important essential read for anyone that has not explored the issues surrounding the trans-community. Though having been an advocate for many years I found the first 3 chapters extremely helpful in providing a basis of language and words to help understand and clarify the conversations surrounding transgender and other LGBTQ communities. Without a doubt, Hartke is a student of modern Biblical scholarship and his love for the Bible and God are evident throughout the text shared with his love for understanding and educating those of us that are simply not deeply knowledgable about trans-issues. The book is thoughtful, clarifying and vulnerable. Hartke has interviewed many people and shared their stories while educating from the pulpit of trans-theology. Though I appreciate Hartke's voice I will admit I noticed some real leaps in thinking that didn't follow a strong hermeneutic. Interestingly, enough Hartke also warns against the prevailing notion of apologetic defense. SO there is the intertwining of both understanding and empathy toward Hartke, and yet the desire for a stronger argument in some places. But ultimately this book is more than articulation and apologetic, it also is a guide for people like me that struggle and try to understand other viewpoints. There were some chapters that after reading I was so moved by the ideas (Ethiopian Eunuch, Jesus has a body too, and others) that I was able to really develop a sense of experiential understanding and empathy. I fully believe anyone that wants to explore the intersection of trans-issues and religion needs to read this book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Poke

    This book wasn't nearly as earth-shattering as I was anticipating it to be, and I think that's ultimately a good thing. Austen strikes a good balance of introducing new ideas but also remaining grounded in core theological concepts. Many readers who haven't encountered topics of gender/sexuality in theology will feel pretty much at home in this book, as Austen offers new sound theological insights on passages most would deem "common." As a cisgendered person, I found this book to be a good starti This book wasn't nearly as earth-shattering as I was anticipating it to be, and I think that's ultimately a good thing. Austen strikes a good balance of introducing new ideas but also remaining grounded in core theological concepts. Many readers who haven't encountered topics of gender/sexuality in theology will feel pretty much at home in this book, as Austen offers new sound theological insights on passages most would deem "common." As a cisgendered person, I found this book to be a good starting point on 1) educating myself on issues transgender folks wrestle with everyday 2) connecting theology to the LGBTQ+ community, and 3) informing me on what I can do to support that community. I'd recommend this book to pretty much anyone, even people who are a bit skeptical about how transgender identities mix with Christianity.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Blok

    It's been a while since I've read this book, but I remember it being eye-opening and generous. I better understand the experiences of transgender Christians than I did before. I am grateful to Austen Hartke for being such a kind, generous and clear voice.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    I am cisgender but wanted to learn more about the lives of trans in relation to Christianity. A good read. It gave me much to think about. I think I can be more supportive because I read this.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Andy Hickman

    Transforming: The Bible & the Lives of Transgender Christians by Austen Hartke What a fantastic book. Austen speaks with wisdom, grace, clarity and hope. As a heterosexual cisgender male married priest I am recommending this to others! “.. I learned from Jesus , who after his resurrection chose to show his body to the disciples – a body that was scarred and transformed, and yet still his own.” (p.2) “Biologically, I learned that the world isn’t separated distinctly into land or sea; there are also Transforming: The Bible & the Lives of Transgender Christians by Austen Hartke What a fantastic book. Austen speaks with wisdom, grace, clarity and hope. As a heterosexual cisgender male married priest I am recommending this to others! “.. I learned from Jesus , who after his resurrection chose to show his body to the disciples – a body that was scarred and transformed, and yet still his own.” (p.2) “Biologically, I learned that the world isn’t separated distinctly into land or sea; there are also marshes, estuaries, and coral reefs.” (47-48) [Genesis 1:27] does not discredit other sexes or genders any more than the verse about the separation of day from night rejects the existence of dawn and dusk. (51) “Renaming is as old as language … example(s) of someone being given a new name to illustrate a new identity. ‘And Moses changed the name of Hoshea son of Nun to Joshua.’ (Numbers 13:16) (76) “Hagar, the slave of Abraham and Sarah .. meets an angel of God inn the wilderness in Genesis 16. Verse 13 says, “So she named the LORD who spoke to her, ‘You are El-roi’ for she said, ‘Have I really seen God and remained alive after seeing him?’ El-roi in Hebrew means ‘God sees’ or ‘one who sees.’ In this case, Hagar is not changing God’s identity; she’s giving a new name to recognise the identity that God already has.” (77) “When we look at stories of renaming in the Bible, we often find that a character is handed a new name they never asked for. While I'm sure Abraham treasured the new name and promise God gave him, and while Peter probably felt honored in the moment Jesus proclaimed him the bedrock of the church, not everybody comes by their new name so easily. Some people have to fight for it.” (81) [The image of Jacob wrestling with God] is incredibly familiar to transgender Christians who have spent a portion of their life grappling with their faith and their gender. Sometimes we have to fight to have our gender recognized, and sometimes we fight to be seen as Christians, and sometimes it feels as if we’re just holding on to God with both hands and refusing to let go until God gives us something. (82) It is… affirmation and shared narrative that can give transgender Christians the courage to carve out a space for themselves in a global church that often ignores or actively persecutes them. To know that you belong to a God who gathers the outcasts and who commands doors to open... this is the kind of love that leads to liberation. (99) Eunuchs are spoken of by Jesus in Matthew 19:11-12. The eunuch in Acts 8:32-35 “was poring over scripture and teasing out answers because he had to in order to survive as a gender-nonconforming, racially marginalised, royally subjugated person outside the bounds of the faith he sought to join.” (123) “It was the first time I’d ever experienced liturgy, and it was weird and wonderful. What really got me was the communion table. They said, ‘Everyone without exception is welcome to the table.’ And I went. Not thinking much of it, but then, every single week I found myself thinking, ‘I need to go back.’ Not because I felt a sense of duty or obligation, but because I felt it sustaining me. I felt hungry for going through the line and getting the Eucharist again. I felt like it was holding my life together.” – Asher (p133) “The foundation of Christian theology is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet seldom is the resurrected Christ recognized as a deity whose hands, feet, and side bear the marks of profound physical impairment.” (138) [from Nancy Eiesland, author of, The Disabled God: Towards a Liberatory Theology of Disability] “There are two ways to interpret what Paul says in Galatians 3:28 about our being one in Christ: either it means that we're all whitewashed and homogenized and our differences are erased... or it means that we're called to find a way to make our different identities fit together, like the bright shards in assorted colors that make up the stained glass windows of a cathedral. Are we called to sameness, or are we called to oneness?” (161) Again it is worth highlighting, “Are we called to sameness, or are we called to oneness? (161) “There are times when I think Christians need to see ourselves more in the ninety-nine sheep who stayed put, and ask ourselves if we may have been part of the reason that the lost sheep got lost in the first place.” (168) Also: “The thing is, we can't be in right relationship to each other if we can't see each other. We can't be fully present in any relationship if we're walling off part of ourselves or hiding beneath a mask.” “It might seem daunting to a congregation to have to learn about pronouns, or to designate a bathroom gender-neutral, or to have difficult conversations about what it means to affirm LGBTQ+ identities. But transgender people are not a burden for Christianity, or for the church. They come bearing gifts!” “But charting our identities along a line in two dimensions has its limitations; namely, it doesn't accurately reflect the human diversity we observe. We don't see each other, or ourselves, in only two dimensions, and bisexual and nonbinary advocates are suggesting that it's long past time to update our ideology. Perhaps, instead of insisting that each person can be charted along a line, we should be looking up and seeing the multitude of sexualities and gender identities that exist in 3D, sprinkled through space like the stars.” “What God was giving the eunuchs, through Isaiah's proclamation [56:3-8], was not just a place in society, and not just hope for a future. By giving the eunuchs the same kinds of gifts given to Abraham and Sarah--a name, legacy, family, acceptance, and blessing--God was consciously associating the two stories in the minds of the people. God was giving the eunuchs a story to connect to--a story that set a president, grounded in divine grace. That was the story I needed to hear. I needed to know that my problems were like the eunuch's problems, which were like Abraham and Sarah's problems, and that all of these complications were overcome by God's great love.” “...If Jesus came to bring abundant life to all who follow him, that means that transgender Christians should be able to stop spending every single bit of their energy defending themselves against those 'clobber passages,' in order to concentrate instead on becoming better disciples. We should be able to move from survival practices to thriving faith. Jesus didn't come to make things marginally more bearable. He came to give us abundant and eternal life.” “Nobody talked about it.” When M was in high school, they joined some friends who attended a youth group at a large nondenominational church in town. Rather than pews, M found comfy chairs and couches. Rather than hymns, there were praise songs. It felt as if faith was springing up fresh and new, and M took to it like a duck to water. Near the end of high school they began to discern a call to ministry, but the church M was now attending didn’t approve of women in ministry; so, as someone assigned female at birth, M hit a brick wall. “I was told, ‘Women can’t be ordained.’ So it took me two years, even when I was read as a cisgender straight woman, to overcome that basic gender”

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Book review: Austen Hartke. Transforming: The Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians. Westminster/John Knox Press: Louisville, 2018. Austen Hartke’s book is a clear and succinct biblical, historical, and cultural evaluation of the subject of Christianity and transgender people. It is a needed resources not only for trans Christians, but also for clergy (some of whom may also be trans) and anyone interested in what the Bible REALLY says about trans people and whether or not churches should Book review: Austen Hartke. Transforming: The Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians. Westminster/John Knox Press: Louisville, 2018. Austen Hartke’s book is a clear and succinct biblical, historical, and cultural evaluation of the subject of Christianity and transgender people. It is a needed resources not only for trans Christians, but also for clergy (some of whom may also be trans) and anyone interested in what the Bible REALLY says about trans people and whether or not churches should welcome or shun them. The conversation thus far has mainly been one-sided in the popular culture. Perhaps because so much anti-trans activity—be it violence, denial of service, employment discrimination, or mean-spirited legislation—is disingenuously couched in claims of religious freedom. This book clearly demonstrates that nothing is further from the Biblical standard of how people should treat one another than anti-trans bias, bigotry, and discrimination. Austen points out that Genesis 1:27 "does not discredit other sexes or genders, any more than the verse about the separation of day from night rejects the existence of dawn and dusk . . . In the same way we call God the Alpha and Omega, implying all things from the first to the last and in between . . ." (51). An interesting point to note is that those who hate trans-people frequently demonstrate animas toward immigrants as well. This is something the Bible is mindful of too. For example, Isaiah 56:3-8 [re: foreigners and eunuchs] "To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, . . .I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer . . . for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples" (90). Austen elaborates: "Their fear of separation, fear of being forgotten, fear of being kept out of God's family--all based on identities as unchosen as the place of their birth and as intrinsic as the shape of their body. Their fears were my fears too. Yet here was God . . . quieting those fears and promising an unequivocal welcome" (90). This is an unequivocal refutation of Deuteronomy 23:1 which expelled eunuchs not only from places of worship but from society. In Matthew, "Jesus singles out eunuchs, the gender-nonconforming people of the ancient world, as an example of people uniquely gifted for discipleship in the kingdom of heaven: 'Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can'" (102-3). As Austen explains, "He [Jesus] may have been speaking about people who were born with diverse sex characteristics, in the case of intersex folks, about people who had been castrated against their will, as many eunuchs were in biblical times, and about people who had chosen a life outside of their assigned sex" (106). Historically, it is a fact that it wasn't until 325 that the Council of Nicaea made discriminatory rules about eunuchs becoming a clergyperson (106). They also made other discriminatory rules of women as well—but that is another story. One must ask by what authority did the Council act? It wasn’t based on the teachings of Jesus because "throughout the Gospels Jesus never once . . . uses a eunuch as a negative example. As J. David Hester points out, 'There is absolutely no suggestion that to be a eunuch is to be someone who is in any way in need of fixing, healing or reintegrating into society . . . Instead the eunuch is held up as the model to follow.' The fact that he [Jesus] uses eunuchs as a positive example . . . means that Jesus knew about people who fell outside the boundaries of sex and gender, and that he did not see them as broken or as morally corrupt. He saw them as people with a variety of experiences and as people with something important to teach the world about God's kingdom. . . This complicates some Christians' belief that God wants all of us to be cisgender and male or female, and that the binary itself is required or natural" (110). Isaiah's paring of eunuchs and foreigners is repeated in Acts (chapter 8) when Phillip was specifically instructed to approach a eunuch from Ethiopia--keep in mind he was "outside the boundaries of gender, race, class, and religion" [an example we call today: intersectional] (115). Justin Tanis notes that unusualness of the encounter as well—a liminal in-between space called the "wilderness"—suggests God works "outside of human boundaries and conventions" (115). Austen explicates I Corinthians 12: 14-22,26 to mean that "no member of the body of Christ is dispensable, no member can deem any other person unnecessary, and just because someone does decide to say someone else is dispensable or unnecessary does not make it true" (135). Austen throws some science in for good measure: Ann Fausto-Sterling "argues that sex is also socially constructed, because there's nothing in nature that decides whether XX or XY chromosomes or testicles and ovaries should be categorized as male or female or something else altogether" (29). How should churches help transgender Christians? The research of Anneliese Singh, a professor of counseling and human development provides some suggestions. Singh noted there are "five things that predicted high resilience: the ability to create and define your own sense of self; the recognition of your own self-worth; awareness of oppression, so that you can protect yourself [beware gaslighting!]; connection with a supportive community; and the cultivation of hope for the future" (150). Finally, Austen also offers specific guidance focusing on education, conversation, consensus, connection, and follow through on pages 170-71.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jdshankles

    This book. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. Austen does a remarkable job of speaking to all people about what it means to be transgender and Christian. He teaches us about terminology and pronouns in a way that is both direct and compassionate to those who are new to supporting transgender people in their lives. He also teaches us the Bible in a way that is interesting and accessible. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, he shares the stories of transgender people This book. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. Austen does a remarkable job of speaking to all people about what it means to be transgender and Christian. He teaches us about terminology and pronouns in a way that is both direct and compassionate to those who are new to supporting transgender people in their lives. He also teaches us the Bible in a way that is interesting and accessible. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, he shares the stories of transgender people and their stories and struggles with faith. This book broke my heart in beautiful and terrible ways. This book is wonderful, accessible, and necessary. As a pastor, I will use this book regularly in my ministry.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Laurie J. Becker

    Encouraging, Hopeful, Challenging for all Christians I purchased this book after meeting the author on a college campus. Reading this book was like getting to continue the conversation. I wanted to hear what Austen had to say so I could share it with someone close to me. I was so touched by what I read. I will probably need to go read it again because this first time through was an emotional roller coaster. Ultimately though I think it draws the reader in and makes you remember what it is to expe Encouraging, Hopeful, Challenging for all Christians I purchased this book after meeting the author on a college campus. Reading this book was like getting to continue the conversation. I wanted to hear what Austen had to say so I could share it with someone close to me. I was so touched by what I read. I will probably need to go read it again because this first time through was an emotional roller coaster. Ultimately though I think it draws the reader in and makes you remember what it is to experience God's love and grace. I don't know if my loved one is ready to read this book yet, but I hope to share the encouraging perspective I gained from the book with him.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Nikki Hastings

    ARC received via NetGalley. I read this with my wife, who is a trangender Christian herself. We were both deeply moved and oftentimes found that the author had spelled out feelings, thoughts and ideas we had experienced but had been unable to put into words. This book has since been recommended to our priest and church book club. We have also ordered a print copy for our personal bookshelf. Queer Christian voices are so rare- queer transgender voices are rarer still. We need more books like this.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Klaassen

    This short book is a rich read that draws from scripture, story and tradition to open wider Christian spaces for people who are trans. Written in accessible, conversational style, this is a wonderful introductory text, a solid resource, and a life affirming call to inclusion. Bonuses for the theological work with identity - both as non-binary and as multiple, and for the six pages of current resources under “Further Reading.”

  22. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Tucker

    Really enjoyed this. As someone who seeks to be an ally this is a great resource in regards to proper language and exploration of relevant biblical passages.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    The understanding of Christian community has evolved throughout its history. For centuries it was accepted that there were free people and slaves; now the Spirit has moved us to see, clearly, that slavery is morally wrong. Then there was the issue of men and women; for centuries men dominated the Christian community with women seen as less-than-equal and of lower status within both the human and Christian community. The Spirit has led us to a more accurate understanding of humanity, and the reco The understanding of Christian community has evolved throughout its history. For centuries it was accepted that there were free people and slaves; now the Spirit has moved us to see, clearly, that slavery is morally wrong. Then there was the issue of men and women; for centuries men dominated the Christian community with women seen as less-than-equal and of lower status within both the human and Christian community. The Spirit has led us to a more accurate understanding of humanity, and the recognition that there is no longer male or female, but that all are one, and equal, in the eyes of God. And so, in the last 100 years, women have been able to assume leadership positions with most Christian traditions. Those traditions which have failed to do so as of this time are increasingly becoming irrelevant to those seeking a relationship with God. More recently the issues of human sexuality has been the dividing issue. Only in the last few decades have most Christians come to understand that sexual orientation is not a choice but a state of our human design. And as such, doors have started to open to recognize the equality of those in the LGB (but not yet T) community in the life and leadership of the church. And again, those who have failed to recognize this reality are starting to see decreasing ability to connect with the very people they are called to serve. The issue of our current day is the "T" in the LGBT community. Admittedly, my understanding of Transgender people - their lives, their challenges, and most significantly, their struggles of faith and relationship to the Church - has not even been on my radar screen. Yet about 6 months ago I had the opportunity to hear the author of this book speak at a forum in our community. I thought it beneficial to attend. Engaged by Hartke's presentation, I picked up a copy of his book. In it, Hartke brings into clarity the challenges of faith and church life for those who are transgender. I was very pleased to read the chapter in which definitions are shared about many terms related to this issue - transgender, binary, cisgender, gender dysphoria - among others. Hartke, who is transgender male, and who attended Luther Seminary, also skillfully looks at passages of Scripture which speak to, and can uplift, those in the transgender community. He conveys insights that I had not noticed or heard before which allow the Scriptures to affirm and encourage those who are transgender. These are passages of Scripture which are not in the common lectionary of the Church, nor passages that most people are probably even aware of - even though we claim the authority of Scripture for our lives. Like issues of slaves, women, and gay people in the history of Christianity, the issue of transgender realities is, and will be for some time I am sure, a lighting rod of controversy. Will transgender people ever come to the state of equality that blacks, women and gay people have? Time will tell. Yet for those people of faith who truly wish to gain a deeper understanding, especially on a theological level, of the issues of transgender people and Christian community, this is a compelling read.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Luke Hillier

    This book reminded me a lot of Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate, and I'd imagine the two get compared often. Both are addressing an identity under the LGBTQ umbrella (Lee as a gay man and Hartke as a trans man, who is also peripherally bisexual) and arguing on their behalf using apologetics and biblical exegesis undergirded by personal narratives of those whose lived experiences are directly related. Notably, Hartke's own personal story is focused on far less here, a This book reminded me a lot of Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate, and I'd imagine the two get compared often. Both are addressing an identity under the LGBTQ umbrella (Lee as a gay man and Hartke as a trans man, who is also peripherally bisexual) and arguing on their behalf using apologetics and biblical exegesis undergirded by personal narratives of those whose lived experiences are directly related. Notably, Hartke's own personal story is focused on far less here, and instead he's chosen to feature a wider variety of trans and nonbinary perspectives throughout his chapters, many of whom are non-white. The similarities also extend towards a gentle, warm tone which yields a noticeable palatability that I'd imagine makes the books more approachable regardless of the readers' standpoint. While this is strategically wise (and also plausibly just in step with who they are as people), I do often find myself wishing for a bit more heat from books like these, and as a whole the writing falls a bit flat for me as it stays within what feels like a safe range of expectation. Although I know they'll be easily dismissed as sentimental and pathos-driven by most who aren't already affirming, I found the personal narratives pretty moving. It was powerful to hear so many trans people articulating the fruits that have come from finding faith communities that accepted and loved them and that provided an undercurrent of hope throughout the book. For me, a linchpin of the argument in support of trans identities is the fundamentally socially constructed elements of gender, and while Hartke provides an extensive overview of the facts and relatively recent history of trans identities, I felt like that more philosophical or sociological perspective was missing, or at least never driven home. That said, I did really appreciate Hartke's exploration of the eunuch, both as an archetype referred to in Isaiah as well as the biblical figure Phillip featured in Acts. Given that gender as we know it today looked very different in biblical times, these feel like relevant identities to explore and I think there's some meaningful and oft-ignored exegetical work done around them. There were other points were the arguments felt less compelling or directly relevant (particularly the chapter around names), but as a whole I felt like it accomplished what it set out to do.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    Over the recent years, I have been hearing and "learning" about various concerns around being an LBGTQ+ person in Christian churches. Or, often, being "outside" the membership of many Christian churches. Because we have gay friends and cousins, I have had the opportunity to get to know people, with my husband, and by developing a relationship, many of the various biases and fears (I am imagining that is where distrust springs from) have dissipated. But I must confess that I was still rather ratt Over the recent years, I have been hearing and "learning" about various concerns around being an LBGTQ+ person in Christian churches. Or, often, being "outside" the membership of many Christian churches. Because we have gay friends and cousins, I have had the opportunity to get to know people, with my husband, and by developing a relationship, many of the various biases and fears (I am imagining that is where distrust springs from) have dissipated. But I must confess that I was still rather rattled by the trans-gendered people in a church we attended on various visits to Edmonton, and feel quite bad that it took me so long to recognize the kindness and joy of the trans people there for this long. Last year I became part of a Facebook site that looked to expand spirituality beyond my current denominational doctrines, to include "all" of God's children in discussion. While the impetus for the site was sparked by desiring to support a forum for women's ordination, it also includes a number of posts and conversations around other forms of inclusiveness and justice: racism, gender issues, etc. I have made some good friends on that page and am now feeling ready to be more inclusive and advocate for the education/justice that is missing in the particular church community I belong to. Sooo, I ordered a few books to help me be better informed. TRANSforming: The Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians by Austen Hartke was one. Austen grew up with gender dysphoria and eventually openly transitioned to the gender that fit his "inmost being" (Psalm 139:13). He went on to become a Pastor and also an author and vlogger about Christianity and transgenderism on Youtube. This book is a lovely refinement of all those elements. It provided me with some essential understandings, and a desire to get off the fence and become one of those "welcoming" pro-active Christians that is described in the happier parts of the trans experience with Christians. There are amazingly clear explanations of God's love for ALL of his created beings-- the love that transcends having to be someone you are not-- with inarguably clear "proof scriptures" that keep things contextual and easy to understand. There are also suggestions for people who want to learn more and get to know trans people who come into their arena. This is a gently written, sweet and encouraging book for a broad audience in and outside-- but mainly inside-- the Christian church.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sean

    [I received a copy of the book from the publisher with the expectation of an honest review.] Before saying anything at all about Hartke’s thought-provoking book, I should offer a full disclosure so my biases are known. I am a Christian; I am gay; and the idea of transgender and the phrase “I identify as male/female” makes me rather uncomfortable but not so much that I can’t have a reasonable discussion about it. “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio….” Anybody who does not realize t [I received a copy of the book from the publisher with the expectation of an honest review.] Before saying anything at all about Hartke’s thought-provoking book, I should offer a full disclosure so my biases are known. I am a Christian; I am gay; and the idea of transgender and the phrase “I identify as male/female” makes me rather uncomfortable but not so much that I can’t have a reasonable discussion about it. “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio….” Anybody who does not realize that the world is far more complex than they are capable of understanding simply is not well suited for living in the real world. The biggest conceptual mistake we can ever make is to pretend that our understanding is sufficient to describe reality, that we know everything. I remember when I was maybe four years old, standing in the front yard looking at the world all around me. Voila! I had an epiphany. I rushed inside to tell my mother, “Mommy, Mommy, I know everything!” Oddly enough, she laughed at me. That event was my whole life in one moment. I have never stopped thinking I know everything, and the universe has never stopped laughing at me. I have learned less humility from this than one might expect, but a little bit—enough that I get suspicious whenever I find myself “knowing something” with no actual evidence, learning, or experience to back it up. And since I have never said the words “I identify as...” (in fact, have no real point of contact to understand them), since I don’t really know what it would mean to feel I am supposed to be a woman rather than a man, I am forced to admit that whatever I may think I know about the subject is … well, sometimes I’m still a four year old who thinks he knows everything. One of the clues I picked up fairly easily is the fact that some people are getting kicked out of their families, losing their jobs, spending enormous sums of money, enduring anguish, and undergoing medication and really severe surgery to make their physical body correspond with their emotional and mental conception of themselves. It is possible that people might do all of this because they are just bored, but as soon as I start thinking that way, I deserve to kick myself for an idiot. Of course this is something real to these people, real in a way I simply do not and can not understand. The tiny bit of humility I have learned forces me to admit that I just don’t know what they are going through; I don’t know what it feels like; I don’t really know anything at all. The Golden Rules is very clear in this case: I need to shut up and listen. Nothing else will do. The Lord who teaches me “Do to others what you want them to do to you,” leaves me no other option. So I will shut up and listen, and fortunately Hartke steps in as someone patient, clear, and articulate to listen to. Hartke begins with a careful exploration of the concept of sex and gender as expressed in the creation stories of Genesis. It has been normal to read those chapters as meaning that each and every human is precisely and entirely male or precisely and entirely female, that each person is and must be heterosexual, and that the whole point of it is procreation. In chapter 4, “And God Said, Let There Be Marshes,” he does a good job of deconstructing the binaries we imagine the Bible requires. Although there is a clean distinction between, e.g., light and dark, day and night, ocean and dry land, just as there is with male and female, it never occurs to anybody to assume this means that the Bible is saying there is no dusk or no swamps, even though it is normal to assume the story means that there is nothing besides the male/female duality. But it is simply a fact, he points out, that there are in-between areas, mixed zones. He asks the reader to consider the possibility that the “male/female” duality is no more meant absolutely than is the “day/night” duality. It is a difficult idea for some; but Hartke brings to our attention the testimonies of people who tell us what it is like to live with that as a reality of life. The biblical interpretation might not carry the weight of the argument on its own, if one were inclined to fundamentalism, and the personal testimonies might not, but the two together are presented to full effect and are compelling. At the very least, this reviewer finds it difficult to believe that anybody could read the section without at least a little grudging acknowledgment that there is a case to consider. OK, now it is time for confession. Although I can have a reasonable discussion about the topic of “non-binary” and transgender people, I find myself uncomfortable with the dismissal of the male-female duality as a normal part of how the vast majority of humans perceive themselves and their humanity. I am uncomfortable with the dismissal of biological categories based on reproduction as normative for the common animal (including human) experience. I think I would have an easier time hearing someone like M, one of the transgender people whom Hartke quotes, if they did not say things like, “To say that you’re nonbinary innately suggests there is a binary, and my whole point is that there’s no such thing. We’ve created this formula and forced our understanding of gender into it.” While I very much need to hear M’s story, and listen respectfully and carefully to what it feels like to go through life as they do, I nonetheless resist when told that the lived experience of humans and other animals as male and female is “created” by humans, imaginary. M needs me to understand that their experience is real and valid; I need M not to insist that they are representative of the norm. It would make it easier to hear; it would help me realize I am talking to a person who is living in the real world. Part of the rhetoric of transgender and non-binary coming out has the unfortunate consequence of telling those of us who see ourselves as complex and multifaceted but nevertheless “male” or “female” that our self-perception is wrong and non-existent. That Hartke naturally furthers this rhetoric interferes with my ability to listen respectfully, and I do not like that. If you are a Christian who is transgender or think you might be, read this book for a comforting and strengthening reexamination of Christian theology. If you are Christian and not transgender, read it to have your horizons expanded and your assumptions questioned. Read it to hear to voices of people who experience themselves differently than you do. Read it to obey the Golden Rule. In spite of the discomfort is caused me, and my objection raised above, I am grateful to Hartke for having written this book. Having read it, I am sure I will be able to be a better friend to the non-binary and transgender people in my life.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    Austen Hartke's book is one that anyone wanting to be surprised by the Bible should read. This book offers us an opportunity to think more deeply about the limits we place on a limitless God and a limitless love. This book offers new images drawn directly from the pages of the Bible and interpreted by the hearts of LGBTQ+ folks that challenge and love us into a new understanding of our faith. Whether you are a biblical scholar, a pastor, a casual Bible-peruser or just opening the Bible for the f Austen Hartke's book is one that anyone wanting to be surprised by the Bible should read. This book offers us an opportunity to think more deeply about the limits we place on a limitless God and a limitless love. This book offers new images drawn directly from the pages of the Bible and interpreted by the hearts of LGBTQ+ folks that challenge and love us into a new understanding of our faith. Whether you are a biblical scholar, a pastor, a casual Bible-peruser or just opening the Bible for the first time, Austen's work addresses deeply complicated matters in an easy-to-read way. Even while explaining ancient Hebrew, Austen writes as if telling his friend a story and you're carried along with his words without difficulty. Austen's words offer hope and life where so often the church has offered only hate and isolation. Austen challenges us to be better and he writes compassionately in the knowledge that we all start somewhere and often in different places. He advocates for the NEED to include LGBTQ+ and specifically transgender folks in our faith spaces because we are better as one than in shattered pieces. Whether you begin this book agreeing with everything Austen says or not, the book is written in a way that invites thoughtfulness, conversation and compassion, rather than confrontation, division and blame. Austen's fierce intelligence paired with his deep gentleness and vulnerability at sharing his own story and so many others shines through on every single page. This book is a gift of light and life.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Cat

    This book caught my eye as I was passing by my library's religion section, and, as a trans person who no longer has any religious affiliation with Christianity, I was fully prepared to be disappointed yet again. But when I started reading, I found that my fears were unfounded; the book itself was actively welcoming to people like me while also breaking down Christian beliefs and Bible verses in ways that, for once in my life, didn't feel difficult to grasp. The book is a delightful blend of educ This book caught my eye as I was passing by my library's religion section, and, as a trans person who no longer has any religious affiliation with Christianity, I was fully prepared to be disappointed yet again. But when I started reading, I found that my fears were unfounded; the book itself was actively welcoming to people like me while also breaking down Christian beliefs and Bible verses in ways that, for once in my life, didn't feel difficult to grasp. The book is a delightful blend of educating, uplifting other trans voices, and biography in a way that I don't think I've seen before. Bible verses I'd heard many times over the years were finally given some historical context and were broken down in ways that I could both properly understand and even begin to relate to. The trans people featured in the book were all treated with respect (which is a low bar to have to meet, I know, but it often isn't met at all). The resources list at the end was also helpful. I'm certainly not inclined to rejoin Christianity, not by a long shot, but it does feel like I better understand why some of my trans siblings choose to stay in the religion. It also feels like I've finally started getting some closure of some sort. Not too bad at all for something that just caught my eye walking by.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Bergstrom de Leon

    It can be hard, scary and perhaps even overwhelming to begin to dive deeply into a theological (God-focused) understanding of the many "social" conversations occurring around us. I know I struggle to find the time, which is why I am so deeply grateful for Austen Hartke and those whose lives he shares in his first book "Transforming." With wit, compassion, an easy conversational tone and deeply discerned biblical stories, Hartke invites the reader into the lives, questions, stories and hopes of t It can be hard, scary and perhaps even overwhelming to begin to dive deeply into a theological (God-focused) understanding of the many "social" conversations occurring around us. I know I struggle to find the time, which is why I am so deeply grateful for Austen Hartke and those whose lives he shares in his first book "Transforming." With wit, compassion, an easy conversational tone and deeply discerned biblical stories, Hartke invites the reader into the lives, questions, stories and hopes of transgender Christians. Hartke's generosity to those of us who know so little, having never had to wrestle with such fundamental questions, astounds me and his ability to draw the reader into these questions without judgement or snark, but honest and open invitation is utterly beautiful. This book really is written for anyone. Anyone who wants to explore, have a conversation, or learn more about the Bible and transgender Christians. It's a fast and informative read weaving real life experiences and accounts of transgender Christians with well solid biblical work.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Hafren Evan

    Well written and researched apologetics, this book must be commended for what it's trying to do. Personally though, I did find it a little dissapointing, especially the chapter on Christ's new body after the resurrection, which I felt was an angle loaded with possibilities for some new, trans-affirming theological arguments, but which didn't seem to really deliver much. Other investigations, such as eunuchs in the bible and early Christianity, God giving people new names, and the well-reasoned i Well written and researched apologetics, this book must be commended for what it's trying to do. Personally though, I did find it a little dissapointing, especially the chapter on Christ's new body after the resurrection, which I felt was an angle loaded with possibilities for some new, trans-affirming theological arguments, but which didn't seem to really deliver much. Other investigations, such as eunuchs in the bible and early Christianity, God giving people new names, and the well-reasoned injustice of Christians excluding, judging or persecuting trans people for being who they are were great and really helpful. Interviewing trans people to let them speak for themselves was also great, but as a trans person myself, sadly I could only really identify with the horror stories, not the experiences of people finding welcoming church communities (although I'm glad they did if it helped them). The chapter on Jesus searching for the lost 99nth sheep made me cry for hours : [ My review is probably a bit biased, because I believe organised Christianity is just a toxic mess best avoided by trans people, and I personally don't feel comfortable attending churches anymore. However, it's no less biased than church-going trans folk who will probably read this book through rose-tinted glasses with a Pollyanna optimism. Actually, I was hoping this book could me help heal some of the damage done to me by my long search and many encounters with organised religion, but mainly this book helped me realise how free I've become of the desire to find belonging in any church community. Why are we the ones still having to make apologies at all?

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