When Sex Difference in Christian Theology: Male, Female, and Intersex in the Image of God came out in 2015, I saw it celebrated by intersex friends and colleagues. This book, by Megan K. DeFranza also threw open the doors and windows for me as I was writing OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation.
Make no mistake, this is a work of scholarship with words like “ontology” and “anthropology” and footnotes on nearly every page. So don’t go in expecting light reading. However, Dr. DeFranza has done the heavy-lifting in terms of digging into gender generally and eunuchs specifically in the ancient world.
My Google Docs indicates that I cited Dr. DeFranza in 10 of my 25 chapters, and she was a prominent source in two particularly critical chapters. In chapter 4 (“Sex, Gender, Science, and Arguments from Natural Law”), I explore gender in the ancient world.
In the classical world, sex and gender were understood as a ladder of ascent toward perfection. At the top were manly men—understood as the pinnacle not only of male perfection, but also of human perfection. At the bottom were women and children. Unmanly men, hermaphrodites, and eunuchs occupied the middle. (DeFranza, page 114)
In chapter 11, I introduce eunuchs in the ancient world. Both of these chapters influence and inform the remainder of OtherWise Christian.
[Eunuch’s] gender ambiguity also enabled them to mediate between men and women, elite and public, sacred and secular. Thus, Kathryn Ringrose has aptly labeled eunuchs “perfect servants.” (DeFranza, page 74)
While explaining intersex wasn’t my focus in OtherWise Christian, Dr. DeFranza leads with a chapter putting intersex experience into both medical and cultural context. She also provides a literature review of relevant theological works on intersex (the list is very short!).
For my purposes, I only went very briefly into some of the theological topics that Dr. DeFranza delves into. Her exploration of historical shifts in the way theologians (and philosophers) have dealt with gender is much more detailed than mine and her footnotes are great for finding additional treatments (esp. Ringrose and Laquer).
Dr. DeFranza’s efforts to wrestle with Roman Catholic doctrine and tradition also far exceed my own. Someday, I hope to eventually publish OtherWise Catholic in some form and will surely draw on her work again for that project.
Preview: Sex Difference in Christian Theology
More from the author: Facing My Fears and Intersex Christians and the Image of God (with Lianne Simon)
Megan DeFranza website: https://www.megandefranza.com/
MORE RESOURCES: Transgender and the (Christian) Bible
ALSO Transgender Christian (auto)Biographies
ALSO Transgender Christian Oral Histories
Compiled by Mx. Chris Paige on July 1, 2019.
Note: This blog is intended to be an on-going work in progress. Please contact us if you have corrections or are able to contribute further context or reflections.
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