J. K. Gayle wrote something in a blog post last year that I’ve been meaning to follow up on and blog about since then. Here’s an excerpt from the post, which is engaging some statements that emerged from the Southern Baptist Convention, as well as Jesus’ statement about eunuchs:
Jesus’s discussion of marriage from the beginning between those grown up being boys and those grown up being girls is followed by a discussion of a different sort of sexual human. And that further discussion describes the choices made about their biological sex parts from the beginning, and imposed by others, and elected by themselves. There is not just the birth sex male, in marriage, over the birth sex female. There is also gender determined, by the birth process, or by others, or by the individual.
The sex “normal” is categorically challenged by Jesus here…Now without a whole lot of trouble some can read the discussion of Jesus here as applying to getting beyond this problem of narrow and precise binarying. And without too much inference there can be applications made to transgender human beings as well as to cis gender ones…Here is a reasonable translation of Matthew 19, if you can accept it:
Some aren’t biologically “boys” at birth; some are re-sexed by others; some transgender for heaven’s sake. Accept it if you can. Matthew 19:12
My mind immediately turned to Paul’s statements about there being neither male nor female in Christ (Galatians 3:28). There too, we have an early Christian source challenging gender binaries in a provocative way. And yet many who claim to embrace the radical message of Jesus and of Paul are nonetheless defenders of rigid gender binaries and the associated traditional roles that have tended to go along with them. The irony, of course, is that conservative religious people tend to think that they are the ones who are going against the flow and being countercultural radicals in resisting the social norms of their own time, rarely realizing that what they are defending is not the Gospel, but ancient cultural norms which are sometimes embedded in the scriptures, but at least in places are challenged and subverted by them.
Of related interest, see Progressive Redneck Preacher’s blog post from last year about “God Beyond Gender,” highlighting (among other things) that Jesus is sometimes said to be the incarnation of God’s Wisdom, which is personified as a woman in the Jewish tradition. Also relevant is Tom Sapsford’s article on a soldier in the ancient Roman army whose characterization connects quite naturally to modern discussions of transgender individuals serving in the military.