Speaking to the World
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Transgender Public Scholar, Intellectual Activist, Visiting Professor, Duke Divinity School & Named Faith Leader to Watch by the Center for American Progress
Dr. Roberto Che Espinoza has always been a reluctant leader — knowing that collaboration and togetherness are a way forward but society doesn’t always value these skills. But it has never stopped him from trying. He is passionate about the politics of radical difference and the ways that our collective differences might shed light on how we become a better body together. He is also a teacher at heart and loves being with people and teaching the community. Read More >
These passions are reflected in his career. Dr. Roberto is a transgender scholar-activist and was named Faith Leader to Watch by the Center for American Progress. He is the founder of Our Collective Becoming, a Nashville-based collaborative project that is dedicated to social healing, nurturing radical belonging, conviviality and stewarding ethical futures, and the author of two books: Activist Theology and Body Becoming: A Path to Our Liberation. His next book-length project focuses on belonging and freedom.
As a speaker, Dr. Roberto’s energetic and moving presentations range from overcoming adversity to help change the world to exploring queer justice and anti-racism to rethinking intersectionality to exploring why DEI is not enough. He is passionate about bringing us all together and bridging our differences, no matter who we are, and dismantling and disrupting supremacy cultures.
Dr. Roberto is also on the faculty at Duke Divinity School teaching at the intersections of queer theory and theology/ethics and decolonial theories. He has been featured in fashion magazines and appeared on many different podcasts, including Pete Holmes’ You Made It Weird.
As a public scholar and intellectual activist, Dr. Roberto is committed to translating theory into action, so that our work in the borderlands reflects the deep spiritual work of transforming yourself to transforming the world. Read Less ^
Interview Roberto Che Espinoza
Dr. Roberto Che Espinoza: an eternal search for joyful belonging
To say that Dr. Roberto Che Espinoza had a tough childhood just might be the understatement of the year. A native of Longview, Texas and the child of a Mexican mother and an Anglo father, he was always negotiating the in-between space, navigating being mixed-raced Latinx, queer and gender non-conforming. Add to that, he is autistic, suffered a brain aneurysm at the age of 16 and survived two full craniotomies as an emergency intervention. And yet he not only survived but also thrived. In this inspiring talk, Dr. Roberto shares his story of overcoming adversity and how anyone, despite what they’ve been through, can be an agent of social change.
In this talk, Dr. Roberto Che Espinoza takes you on a journey of the history of Pride, from its beginnings to what it has become today. He weaves in his personal story as a transgender scholar-activist, as well as how to build relationships and bridges between corporations sponsoring Pride events and the communities where these happenings are being held. You’ll also learn about the future of Pride and what you can do to make these events even more meaningful. Breakout sessions are available, as well.
In the last few years, AI (artificial intelligence) has become the buzzword for companies. And there are a lot of benefits to it. It can stimulate the economy, increase productivity and create more jobs. But there is also a dark side to this new tech. It has been proven that AI has a problem with gender and racial bias—affecting marginalized communities the most. Some facial recognition software, for example, doesn’t recognize darker faces. And that’s just the start. In this talk, Dr. Roberto Che Espinoza discusses the racism of AI, how we can stop its destructiveness and how we can help create livable lives for all of us.
Incorporating a DEI program at your company is not only the right thing to do but also good business. It has been proven over and over again that it increases employee engagement, as well as productivity and creativity. But launching a program is just the start, says Dr. Roberto Che Espinoza. In this talk, Dr. Roberto, a transgender scholar-activist, gives you the tools to start a successful DEI program and how and why you need buy-in from everyone on the team. He also shares his personal story, why intersectionality is so critical, how to steward equity in corporate culture and build networks of trust that can create conditions for radical belonging thereby extending DEI efforts toward belonging for everyone.
We often think of bridging as the work of unifying, but what if bridging is learning our particular and universal standpoints and beginning to relate with one another in light of our differences, instead of demanding that our differences be silenced or erased? How might bridging our differences help us become a richer, more fluid, robust, and nimble society? How might bridging our differences and generating relationships from the place of our individual and shared differences create conditions for a more livable life? Dr. Roberto Che Espinoza shares how his differences have landed him at dinner with Fundamentalists and Conservatives and how their shared vision of another possible world helped them become friends with each other and welcome each other in generative ways. Bridging with difference is not agreeing to disagree. It is helping each person become restoried and live their truth in a radical relationship with difference.
"Dr. Roberto’s deeply contextual, embodied work as an activist theologian brought necessary depth to our conference. As a panelist for 'Bridging Communities: Faith-Based Leadership,' Dr. Roberto’s engaging humor and rigorous imagination expanded the conversation, calling the audience to 'hold curiosity for borderlands as places to sit rather than bridges to be crossed.' Dr. Roberto’s attention to intersectional liberation and thoughtful engagement across faith traditions was instrumental, and the panel was consistently ranked a conference highlight in our post-conference survey."
"Dr. Roberto Che Espinoza brings insight, compassion, and a remarkable ability to connect with students. Dr. Espinoza engages the audience with keen intelligence and a candid, compassionate dialogue that challenges concepts of social justice and human rights work."
“Roberto brings dynamic, prophetic possibilities to life, whether in an academic lecture, a blog post, or from a protest megaphone. They bring a unique blend: grounded, activist-informed, and community-engaged human, who is deeply philosophical and theological. They weave humor, story-telling, passion, and personal vulnerabilities with analytical critique and lived practice to imagine new ways of being and becoming in the world that dismantle white supremacy and liberate those most oppressed.”
“As this year's Transdisciplinary Theological Colloquium unfolded the emerging meaning of 'Trans,' we enjoyed as featured guest Roberto Che Espinoza. Their contribution of opening keynote address one day, and public interview the next was a dazzling gift of intellectual depth and imaginative creativity, and generous conversational engagement. Dr. Roberto left us not just aglow with edgy insight but provoked to fresh action.”
“As a scholar, writer, and speaker, Roberto is laying the foundation for an Activist Theology that must accompany today’s movements for justice, if we’re to sustain ourselves and each other long enough to realize a world in which individual and collective liberation are possible. With wit and charm and a laser-like capacity to name bullshit, Roberto rejects the simple narratives that would have us turn “community” into a mere buzzword and spiritual practice into another consumerist fad. They possess that rare capacity to name complexity without being paralyzed by it, attacking white supremacy and its effects with a ferocious intelligence while continuing to expand who’s at the table and to work across difference, and rejecting bad theology while lifting up the radical principles that underpin history’s most powerful wisdom teachings and religious texts. For anyone interested in liberation theology and deep community building, their teachings are mandatory listening.”
"The work of Dr. Roberto Che Espinoza is important not just to theologians or clergy, but to anyone who desires to understand the overlapping strands between theology, activism, and intersectional liberation. In a moment when Americans urgently need to consider not just what we believe, but what belief looks like when it’s out on the streets and in our communities, Dr. Roberto is a prophetic voice."
Wow, Dr. Roberto Che Espinoza's presentations deeply expanded my thinking, theological vocabulary, and understanding of theory-practice connections, and energized my spirit in ways I could not have imagined would be possible at an academic conference. In question and answer sessions, Dr. Roberto brought a model combination of candor, graciousness, attentiveness, and an invitation to think and dialogue with them in politicized, honest, theoretically generative exchanges."
“Weeks later, students at Hollins are still talking about Dr. Roberto’s lecture, describing it as: 'balm for our weary souls.' Seamlessly weaving personal story together with theory and theology, Dr. Roberto spoke about strategies for surviving and resisting supremacist ideologies and institutions. They suggested we start by answering two basic questions: 'Who am I?' and 'Who are my people?' I have rarely witnessed such an elegant blending of theory, practice, and personal narrative. Dr. Roberto’s lecture was so much more than an academic presentation; it was a gift of spiritual activism at work.”
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