Thursday, 21 July 2016

God Made Us All In His Image Get Over IT! : A Liberal Christian Trans Approach To Christianity

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" Galatians 3:28.  

One of the primary assumptions that is made about transgender people in the mainstream media (MSM) and by the vitriolic filled trigger happy Conservative Christian egotists (aka Alt Right CJWs) is that trans people are not and can never be "people of the one true faith". Current Catholic doctrine, for example, states that gender reassignment does not change a person's gender in the eyes of the "faithful". The key point, says a 2000 document from The Catholic Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "is that the transsexual surgical operation is so superficial and external that it does not change the personality. If the person was a male, he remains male. If she was female, she remains female." As recently as 2015 (according to Taylor Wofford) the Vatican has expressed negative sentiment towards trans people; with regards to a Catholic trans man's enquiry about trans Catholics wishing to be godparents they said that because they were revealing " in a public way an attitude opposite to the moral imperative of solving the problem of sexual identity according to the truth of one's own sexuality" and so were not fulfilling the requirement to live their life according "to the faith".

Mind you I expect such tripe from a Church that freely elected an ultra conservative Pontiff  (Benedict XVI) who argues against Gender Theory because it's "subversive" and could eventually lead to "the self-destruction of the human race". Talk about being overly sensitive and deluded; we're more likely to have Mrs "Thatcherite" Theresa May  scare Larry the Cat into "accidentally" pressing the nuke button on New York than Gender theorists have of destroying the procreation process!

Besides, as I have argued in previous blogposts, Gender and Sexuality may both be fluid yet they are inherently separate concepts. There are stories on forums of  Christian trans women who were happily married and had children prior to their transition and yet are happy/happier when they finish the gender reassignment process! I guess Mr Ex wasn't talking about those trans women per se but liberal ones like me who dare to challenge the "conventional wisdom" that we have to procreate as a human being to have fulfilled any "divine purpose" in my life. Me fancying exclusively men and being trans must be a doubly whammy of subversive for Mr Benny! Make sure that head of his doesn't explode in angst ;)

So #SorryNotSorry about bursting that normative bubble of yours CJWs but I am a fully fledged Christian, just not a traditionally leaning one! I want to let trans people out there know that being gender fluid doesn't make you fundamentally "immoral" or "irreligious".

Old Testament Views on Transgenderism:

Strangely enough in the whole of the Bible there's only one passage which refers directly to any notion of transgenderism being wrong....and guess what....it comes from the OLD TESTAMENT ! Deuteronomy 22:5 proclaims that "women must not wear men's clothes, and men must not wear women's clothes. Everyone who does such things is detestable to the Lord your God". Well if God detested the cross-dressing antics of Israelites in the days of cloaks and sandals, who knows what he might think of Harry Styles wearing "female designated" bomber jackets or Annie Lennox wearing a crisp white shirt in her "Sweet Dreams" music video circa 1983? The lines between gender defined clothing are becoming more blurred as people realise that God allows us to have the freedom to choice how we present ourselves to the world. God created human beings who helped to progress our understanding of gender so that it's no longer shameful for someone like me to attend my local Easter Sunday service in amethyst gold earrings and a funky mini dress. These "purity codes" are just outdated! Some trans Christians would argue that wearing clothing that agrees with their preferred gender means that they are complying with God's commands. I personally don't agree that God wishes us to be tied down in such a Draconian way, especially as he created fashion designers like Mary Quant and Henry Holland to challenge preconceived ideas that we always have to conform to gender normatives.

1: Samuel 16:17 offers an interesting rebuke to Deuteronomy's demand for outward appearance conformity: "... the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." Equally Zechariah 12:1 talks about God forming "the spirit of man within him".  If God is interested in a person's "interior reality" or spirit, then perhaps he also cares and respects a trans personality which is contrary to the Vatican's statement that there is only a binary form of gender truth that corresponds rigidly to biological determination.  The passage may accept that trans people exist but it's hardly a glowing overt endorsement of trans lives. Promising start though!
New Testament Views on Transgenderism:

It's interesting to note that the New Testament is much more ambiguous when it comes to discussions of transgender. Conservative Christians are quick to point out 1 Corinthians 6:18-20: "know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" If your male body is "God's temple", then you should just accept what God has given even if your God given spirit (which includes your female gender identity) is in conflict with the body.

However, in  John 7:24, Christians are told "Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment". Here Jesus's doctrine clearly contrasts with that espoused in Deuteronomy and seems to refer back to that in 1 Samuel, so perhaps CJWs better stop judging someone's "happiness" based on biological gender and be more accepting of their perceived gender identity, regardless of what clothes they were or whether they have gone through gender reassignment.

Equally, there are references to eunuchs being acceptable candidates for baptism as found in the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch from Acts 8. Jesus refers to the story in Matthew 19:12 where he states: "there are eunuchs that 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". The Ethiopian Eunuch was actually the first gentile conversion to Christianity. Jesus appreciated the Eunuch's differences (Conservatives may say this is because Jesus had to accept the Eunuch would be unable to fulfil his natural purpose so can only get pity) but Jesus wanted his apostles and followers to treat the Eunuch as an equal, a "neighbour".

 Loving "thy neighbour" is unconditional for Jesus. Even Jesus's followers were unsure what the term "neighbour" was supposed to mean; that's why Jesus tells the didactic story of Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. The story centres around a traveller (his nationality is left out by Jesus but most believe he was a Jew) who is beaten up and left to die on the road and is then ignored by a priest and a Levite before being helped by a Samaritan. Samaritans were hated by Jews so the fact Jesus praised a Samaritan for helping showed that even a perceived enemy can be capable of selfless compassion. So I say even if some Christians may perceive transgender people as the enemy, they should try to love them unconditionally regardless of personal feelings.

My favourite passage which I've always believed is very relevant to the debate about Conservative disdain and hatred for Christian transgenderism comes from  John 8:7. Jesus actively stopped Jews from enacting the Mosaic law against a woman who had been accused of adultery (stoning required); "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." None of them were completely free from sin, so none of them had the right to condemn her for her actions. So whether people like the way you live your life or not, it is not up to them to judge you for it. If God is Love then he must accept LBGTQIA individuals have a right to exist and that we should be loved for our authenticity and confidence. So what's the point in being engaged in self loathing?

How can Conservative Christians honestly believe they are "free enough" from sin to judge others who don't share their beliefs if they believe that nobody on Earth is truly free from sin as a result of Eve's actions in the Garden of Eden aka "original sin"?

There's No Correct Ontological Interpretation Of Scripture:

For starters, no Christian scholar owns the "most proper correct ontological interpretation" of the Bible. Our understanding of Scripture has changed radically over the past 100 years. It has become apparent through hermeneutic study that Biblical passages had been changed over time to suit the patriarchal requirements of mid Roman society in order to gain more converts for the Christian cause. Modern scholars have also interpreted terms from the Hebrew and Greek in different ways from previous scholars. They have pointed out issues with copying errors and forgeries and can point to instances where views that were previously accepted are no longer acceptable today, including endorsements of slavery of Gentiles and treating women as inferior. John Boswell The Marriage of Likeness: Same-Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe (1994) has found instances of "sinful behaviour" being positively documented in the Bible; for example Ruth having a relationship with her mother-in-law Naomi and David having a relationship with King Saul's son Jonathan.

In The Body in Context: Sex and Catholicism (1992), Gareth Moore argues that while Conservative Christians are happy to follow the law set out in Leviticus 18:22  (same sex condemnation), they reject the passages later on about advocating for beheading as a punishment or the expressed wish that Christians should not wear garments of two kinds of material. Basically, the Bible is being used inconsistently to reinforce prejudices. Instead Moore believes that Christianity must adopt a more inclusive attitude towards transgender people, because it is a religion that positively seeks to make room for the marginalised and outcasts in society - 1 Corinthians 1:26-28.

Here's one radical Christian Creation argument for you:

A radical trans Christian argument comes into its own when considering the initial Creation verses in Genesis. We all know the old story; in the beginning "God created Adam"- an "earth being made in the image of God". Now Judeo-Christian Conservatives want us all to believe that the passage has to refer to our understanding of a "man" because that's how the passage has always been interpreted. Perhaps they should understand in the past that religious knowledge and understanding was "privileged" into the hands of a small minority of educated, rich men who thought their interpretations were wholly correct. Some liberal Christians and atheists might argue that Adam was not actually a man in our biological understanding of man, but "man and woman" or even unisex - i.e. he was the first transgender person in Biblical history. This flies in the face of conventional binary interpretations that centre around Genesis 1:27: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." Perhaps the only reason why God created Eve was to divide a body into two to provide fellowship; it certainly wasn't his original intention to allow them to procreate; God only gave that ability to Eve after she committed the act of "Original Sin" because he wanted Eve to "suffer for her sins through the act of childbirth". Before that it is plausible to argue that as Eve was made from the flesh of Adam (the perfect unisex being) she had to be genderless. In Paradise there is no such thing as gender because God treats us as one in an equal way.

Perhaps it was the original interpreters of the Christian narrative who decided to lay the blame for original sin at Eve's door because it served their purpose to lock women out of leading a truly authentic religious life on a par with those "educated men". I've never been one to interpret Genesis literally so it doesn't really matter to me so much whether Eve was to blame or not. Of course the fact remains that inheritors of fundamentalist Biblical interpretation feel the need to denounce trans people because they provide a threat to the binary original sin system. They fear trans men getting a foothold within the Establishment because they would seek greater positions of authority within the Church and family unit so the "natural order of things" is disrupted. Hence the initial comments spouted by Pontiff Benny et al. Christianity has a long way to go in terms of accepting gender fluidity but at least there seems to be a way forward, if Biblical hermeneutical research is anything to go by!

So Any Positives Church wise?
Luckily some churches have begun to openly accept transgender people as being normal and vital members of their worshipping communities. Unitarian Universalism became the first liberal Christian denomination to accept openly trans people to become part of the clergy in 1979. The first trans Unitarian minister was ordained in 1988 and in 2002 Rev. Sean Dennison had the honour of becoming the first openly transgender person in the Unitarian ministry to be called to serve a congregation in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Church of England has made great strides in recent years to accept trans clergy; Sarah Jones became the first openly ordained CofE minister in 2005.

My advice to trans people in the Catholic faith is twofold; you can either seek a different denomination that is prepared to accept you for your perceived gender identity or you continue the fight from within your national Catholic church and consider more liberal Cardinals to approach the Pontiff to convince him to treat trans people with the care and compassion they deserve.