God is far more than male and female
February 22, 2018 10:05 PM   Subscribe

"Transgender people enlarge life and our understanding of spirituality and justice and the nature of God and Christian community," says Jo Inkpin, Australia's first openly transgender priest, who tells her story to the ABC.
posted by Athanassiel (7 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
"attempts to undergo gender transition are opposed to Christian teaching", and, "biological sex is an objective biological fact which cannot be altered at will".

I know this is *ahem* preaching to the choir, but v what Christian teachings are opposed to gender transition? Also biological sex is an objective thing, but liked most things in the real world there are grey area and fuzzy borders. They can in fact can be altered at will (see hormones and gender reassignment surgery)
posted by jonnay at 8:02 AM on February 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

@jonnay - those who think we trans folk are Extreme Gays (tm) will look at Deuteronomy, those who are gender essentialists will look at gender roles throughout the Bible, but I personally (being a trans man) almost always get, “God made you female, altering your body is against God's will”, which basically points to the “made them male and female” bit in Genesis.
posted by Wossname at 8:24 AM on February 23, 2018

I know this is *ahem* preaching to the choir, but v what Christian teachings are opposed to gender transition?

Often you get people citing Genesis 1 ("male and female he created them"), and the Old Testament prohibitions against cross dressing (really), and extrapolating off that. It can certainly be more complicated than that, but that's the basics. You also get a surprising number of people who use these debates to straight up deny the existence of intersex people, so that's depressing.

For Lent, I'm avoiding a handful of internet communities, including some Christian/Anglican ones, that tend to get me riled up, so I'm very glad to read this here and not there.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:29 AM on February 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Jesus himself appears to have contradicted the "created male and female" argument in Matthew 19:12: "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.” It's interesting that he goes so far as to recognize these distinctions while making it clear that they are all equally acceptable.

There is also the story of the Ethiopian eunuch whom the apostle Philip converts in Acts 8:26-40. At first glance, the Ethiopian's gender appears incidental and not a big deal; the story seems to further the main narrative of the Book of Acts about spreading the Gospel to the Gentiles. However, there is some dispute about whether or not Simeon the Black (as he is known in Orthodox and Coptic Christianity), who was an official in the court of the Queen of Ethiopia, was an Ethiopian Jew. This seems a minor point in one respect but in another is critical, because as a nonbinary Jew he would not have been permitted to worship in the Temple, but as a nonbinary Christian he would have been fully accepted in the Church.

And then there is Paul's letter to the Galatians (which conservative Christians tend to ignore for a variety of reasons at their own peril), in which he says, "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28)
posted by filthy_prescriptivist at 10:45 AM on February 23, 2018 [6 favorites]

Whoops . . . to be precise, St. Philip doesn't convert the Ethiopian, who is already receptive to the Gospel; rather, he baptizes him.
posted by filthy_prescriptivist at 10:52 AM on February 23, 2018

So I looked up that verse in the Chinese versions on one of the online Bible websites, out of curiosity (and some glimmer of hope of having something to show my mother).

--one translates it as "there are many reasons people don't get married; for some, it's because of a birth defect"
--one translates it as "some people cannot marry because they are born unable to procreate"
--one translates it as "there are many reasons people can't get married. some are born unable to procreate"
--one translates it as "some singles are born that way" (I guess a better English word is bachelor/spinster?)
--two editions from the same publisher translate it similarly to the English one you quote, "because some are born eunuchs"

That puts a rather different spin on it. I don't know how faithful they are to the original... Greek?
posted by inconstant at 1:31 PM on February 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

as a nonbinary Jew he would not have been permitted to worship in the Temple

? Isaiah 56:3-5
Let no foreigner who is bound to the Lord say,
“The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.”
And let no eunuch complain,
“I am only a dry tree.”
For this is what the Lord says:
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose what pleases me
and hold fast to my covenant—
to them I will give within my temple and its walls
a memorial and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that will endure forever.

I understand that someone "crushed in the stones" could not serve in the Temple (i.e., as a cohen/priest) but I'm pretty sure there are historical accounts of eunuchs worshipping there.

Intersexuality has been a live issue in Judaism since basically forever because of the necessity of fitting the biological reality of non-binary gender into the requirements of a religion that pretty much assumes people are either male or female. Without wishing to imply anything about biological essentialism, modern advances in medicine mean that even Orthodox Judaism can't ignore current social changes.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:23 AM on February 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

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