Notes on Erin Runions, How Hysterical

Erin Runions has a couple chapters in How Hysterical that brings together trans topics and biblical/filmic interpretation: “Zion is Burning: Genderfuck and Hybridity in Micah and Paris Is Burning” and “Why Girls Cry: Gender Melancholia and Sexual Violence in Ezekiel 16 and Boys Don’t Cry.” I have to say I personally find the “Zion is Burning” essay far stronger than the “Why Girls Cry” essay. Let me focus on the “Why Girls Cry” essay. I think Runions is largely sympathetic to the trans experience and upsetting the gender binary (as her Zion is Burning essay illustrates), but I had difficulty reading this essay. I found that Brandon Teena’s trans expression seemed undermined in the essay, reinforcing the words of those who killed him (as a woman who transgressed gender boundaries as a lesbian) rather than his own gender expression: “I am a guy.”

I found this alignment with perpetrators of gender violence in the undermining of Brandon Teena’s own expressions – even in filmic terms – troubling. The film does portray the perpetrators killing Teena for being a lesbian who masqueraded (persuasively) as a man. But for a trans person, the violence includes the forcible de-transition from male to female, killing the soul before killing the body. Nonetheless, both essays include a sympathetic attempt to bring biblical sources into dialogue with trans issues.


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