Robyn Henderson-Espinoza is the only Nashville-based transqueer Latinx neurodivergent public theologian they know.
“I don’t know anyone like me,” Henderson-Espinoza, who uses gender-neutral pronouns, said in an interview.
Yet it wasn’t until recently that Henderson-Espinoza, 45, got to know each other better, such as being diagnosed that they are on the autism spectrum.
Amid this turbulent time in their lives, Henderson-Espinoza also took the time to write reflections on their personal experience and its connection to larger socio-political events, which they later turned into a book.
Henderson-Espinoza’s new book “Body Becoming: A Path to Our Liberation” was released Wednesday. The author will discuss the project at an event Saturday at Thistle Farms from 5-8 p.m.
Henderson-Espinoza – an ordained Baptist minister with a doctorate in philosophy – had known for many years that they were transgender, but did not explore what it meant to them until 2017, when they moved from California in Nashville. Henderson-Espinoza found a Vanderbilt doctor who oversees Henderson-Espinoza’s hormone therapy.
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Then, in 2018, Henderson-Espinoza learned they were on the autism spectrum. “It never occurred to me that my brain worked differently,” Henderson-Espinoza wrote in their new book. “I realized that my socialization in the church and the academy had been through neuronormative people who didn’t understand my body or mind and staged such a disconnect from my body!”
While all of this was happening, “I was writing in real time,” Henderson-Espinoza said in an interview. As they wrote, Henderson-Espinoza reflected on their experience in a larger context.
Henderson-Espinoza’s first book, “Activist Theology” released in 2019, is less personal than their new book. Henderson-Espinoza runs a nonprofit with a similar name, Activist Theology Project.
“My intentions in the world have been to invite people to relate…I’m not trying to have a platform. I’m not trying to be a talking head. I’m trying to to relate and build community,” Henderson-Espinoza said in an interview.
An example in Henderson-Espinoza’s new book on the ties between the personal and the political involved participating in a counter-protest to the Unite the Right rally. The Unite the Right rally drew white supremacists to Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017 for a march.
“At this Charlottesville Unite the Right rally, I could feel the hatred towards my body and the indifference towards marginalized people,” Henderson-Espinoza wrote in their new book.
The gathering, along with the suspicious messages and mails Henderson-Espinoza received afterward, created a trauma for Henderson-Espinoza that they are still dealing with.
In the book’s section on the Unite the Right rally, Henderson-Espinoza wrote, “We cannot change the future in the direction we want it to go without first changing our cultural understanding of bodies. This work requires our attention for attention to self and to the other.”
Liam Adams covers religion for The Tennessean. Reach him at [email protected] or on Twitter @liamsadams.