UA lecture to examine gender in Judaism, law

Max Strassfeld

The Arizona Center for Judaic Studies will present a lecture by Max Strassfeld, Ph.D., “(Cis)gendering Religion: Rabbinic Literature, Anti-trans Bills, and Trans Jewish Cosmology,” on Oct. 9 at 4 p.m. at the University of Arizona Hillel Foundation, 1245 E. 2nd St. Strassfeld is a professor in the UA department of religious studies and classics. 

His talk weaves together the recent spate of anti-trans bills within the United States (which seek to regulate trans access to public facilities), Late Antique rabbinic texts about androgynes and eunuchs, and contemporary trans Jewish readings of Genesis. The thread that connects all three is a struggle over the legibility of trans bodies in both religion and law. Here, Strassfeld argues, contemporary characterizations of religion as essentially hostile to trans subjects obscure the effort involved in rendering trans/religion incoherent, and collude in the cisgendering of religion.

Strassfeld earned his Ph.D. in religious studies from Stanford University. He specializes in rabbinic literature, history of sexuality, and religious studies theory and method.

Strassfeld is an affiliate of the UA Institute for LGBT Studies and the UA Judaic Studies Program. His book project, “Classically Queer: Eunuchs and Androgynes in Rabbinic Literature,” explores the function of the eunuchs and androgynes featured widely in Jewish law and pairs classical Jewish texts with intersex autobiography, transgender studies, and theories of queer temporality, in order to argue that the rabbis use these figures to map the boundaries of normative masculinity. He was awarded the Frankel Fellowship for New Perspectives on Gender and Jewish Life at the University of Michigan in 2013-2014.