I Is for Intersex, Not for Invisible

I have been concerned about the oppression of people with intersex variations ever since I started trying to understand about gender (roughly 1998). Building an intersex section on the new Transfaith website in 2007 was one way that I pursued that commitment. Curtis Hinkle was kind enough to help me sort out some questions about how intersex organizing had been evolving up to that point.
Continue reading “I Is for Intersex, Not for Invisible”

Joseph and the Hypocrisy of Biblical Literalism

I want to talk about the hypocrisy of biblical literalism today, but, first, I want to get you caught up on the story of Joseph of Genesis. Peterson Toscano brought us one of the biggest breakthroughs in transgender biblical interpretation (ever) through his work on Transfigurations: Transgressing Gender in the Bible. If you already know about Joseph and his “princess dress,” then you can skip the next paragraph.

In Transfigurations, Peterson tells the story of Joseph (Genesis) through the eyes of his uncle, the uber-masculine Esau. While the live production has been retired, you can get it on DVD or streaming on Amazon. The excerpt about Joseph is even available as a YouTube video in support of the DVD.

To the best of my knowledge, this interpretation was first offered by Theodore W Jennings Jr in his 2005 book, Jacob’s Wound: Homoerotic Narrative in the Literature of Ancient Israel, but Peterson traveled the country (and the world) making this Good News known.

I spent Chapter 19 of OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation talking about Joseph(ine). Hint, hint: It’s not just about the “princess dress.” I also spend a much shorter chapter on Joseph in Christian Faith and Gender Identity: An OtherWise Reflection Guide.

To my mind, the bottom line is that the most literal reading of Joseph’s coat is that it was a “princess dress.” The phrase is ketonet passim. In 2 Samuel 13:18, it literally says, a ketonet passim was the kind of garment the virgin daughters of the king wore.” We don’t need queer theory or historical-critical exegesis. This is just plain and simple use of the Bible to interpret the Bible. This is a literal reading of the text.

Still, in online discussions of my work and Peterson’s work, I have repeatedly heard folk argue that this interpretation is not “credible.” Granted, there are other viable interpretations. It may have been a unisex royal cloak or an ornate garment with long sleeves, as scholars have long proposed. However, that less specific interpretation is not what 2 Samuel says. 2 Samuel 13:18 literally says that this cloak was a princess dress. It is a rare example of scripture specifically providing a definition. It is simple and straight forward.

Now often when we see masculine language in scripture, we take liberties to shift toward “brothers and sisters” or the people–to make the reading more gender inclusive. Masculine language has often served as a default and this is a legitimate shift from a masculine to a “unisex” reading.

Many languages have gender built into the language in this way. For instance in Spanish, hijos can mean “sons” or it can mean “children.” While the masculine reading is “literal,” it is an question of context and interpretation to decide when that masculine word indicates “sons” and when that masculine word means “children.” Hebrew operates similarly.

However, it really doesn’t work the other way! In Spanish, hijas always means daughters (never children of diverse genders). In Hebrew, feminine nouns are not used as generic, un-gendered words for people. In this text, it specifically says a ketonet passim is for the virgin daughters of a king. Virgin and daughter are both feminine words.

But they are not just feminine words. They are feminine words that really mean something in terms of gender, in terms of the power, significance, and care that are passed along to the children of royalty (in a variety of cultures). Virgin daughters would be available for a political marriage to a prince in another country as a way to secure an alliance. This availability was important and would often be made visible through clothing and jewelry, just a like a ring on a particular finger represents marriage in Western cultures.

There is plenty more to this text and to Joseph’s story, but the Bible literally says that the garment Jacob made for Joseph was a princess dress.

Still, people resist. There is a similar dynamic around eunuchs, where trans-antagonistic trolls (Christian or not) admonish transgender people to read Deuteronomy literally yet refuse to take the affirming words about eunuchs from Jesus in Matthew seriously. These are some of the most obvious examples, but the tendency is widespread.

For all the moaning about “biblical literalism,” anti-transgender forces pick and choose what passages to take literally and what passages to ignore as much as anyone does. Remember that “Because I Said So” is not a reasonable argument for a particular biblical interpretation. If someone is not willing to be consistent in their reading of the Bible, then there is good reason to suspect their motives.

Obviously, we have all been conditioned to read the Bible in “traditional” ways. That is, in accordance with the ways we were taught to read it by others. Just remember that those “traditions” also include white supremacy, anti-Semitism, and gender oppression. They are perspectives shaped by human readers who themselves had an “agenda” — even if it was simply an agenda to make Bible characters look more like the cisgender, heterosexual, men that they were most familiar with.

More OtherWise Self-Defense blog posts:

Order Transfigurations: https://petersontoscano.com/portfolio/transfigurations/

MORE RESOURCES: Transgender and the (Christian) Bible

Compiled by Mx. Chris Paige on January 4, 2020.

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.

Gender Diversity: Muxe

The muxes are a kind of gender diversity found primarily in rural Mexico, specifically in southern Oaxaca among the Zapotec people. They are assigned male at birth, but express themselves in feminine ways. Some muxe identify as men, some as women, and some as simply muxe.

The Zapotec language is gender-neutral, so there is no indigenous reason to force a specific gender on the muxe. The muxe identity is a part of Zapotec culture and does not translate neatly into the assumptions of other cultural contexts. The culture allows for some significant ambiguity in regards the the muxes, which is only amplified by globalization and contact with LGBT organizing outside of the region.

Even the Roman Catholic Church in that region accommodates the muxes. Legend suggests that the muxe are connected to Saint Vicente Ferrer, but muxes are actually believed to pre-date colonization. They play an important role in preparing fiestas.

The acceptance of muxes within Mexico is not universal. Bullying and discrimination remain an issue, despite high levels of acceptance in Oaxaca. Some muxe who have been rejected by their families in other parts of the country flock to Juchitán to experience acceptance.

Life Outside the Binary: Meet Mexico’s Muxe Community Celebrating Genderqueerness (Culture Trip, 2019)

The Third Gender of Southern Mexico (BBC, 2018)

Guardian story (2017):

Compiled by Mx. Chris Paige on October 17, 2019.

Note: This blog is intended to be an on-going work in progress. Please contact us if you have additions, corrections, or concerns.

Gender Diversity: Hijra

In India, there are centuries of traditions around hijras. Hijras are also called Kinnar, Kothi, Aravanis, Jogtas/Jogappas, Khusras, or Shiv-Shaktis, depending on the community. India is a very large country and conditions vary by geography. Hijras were previously respected as spiritual authorities in the region and frequently played a role in religious and spiritual ceremonies. They are understood to be connected to the half-male, half-female image of Shiva in Hindu teaching.

Language about eunuchs was imported by the British, during the time that the British were colonizing India (19th century). Hijras were criminalized. As a result, hijras were relegated to high-risk and low-paying economies such as dancing, entertainment, sex work, and begging. Hijras survived in part by creating their own communities with other hijras forming their own families complete with parental figures. Continue reading “Gender Diversity: Hijra”

Gender Diversity: Two Spirit

Yesterday, I wrote about gender diversity around the world. “Two spirit” is a particularly important term in North America, but it is still an umbrella term.

Two spirit is a translation of an Ojibwe term, but the English translation was selected by Native Americans in 1990 as a Pan-Native term to be used instead of a pejorative, French word (the b-word) that had been used by anthropologists and other cultural outsiders. Continue reading “Gender Diversity: Two Spirit”

Gender Diversity Around the World

Wednesday night, we went over Chapter 3 of OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation in my OtherWise Self-Defense course. One of the most common questions I get in readings is about the non-English terms that I list in this section. People want to learn more.

In considering this topic, it is important to be clear that terms from other cultures and languages are almost never an equivalent to “transgender” or other modern terms that are based in a Western worldview. Each term is embedded in a cultural context that has its own assumptions about gender and sexuality–and which may have been influenced in various ways by violent colonization. Sometimes these terms may be considered pejorative in the modern world, even if they were honored identities historically. Continue reading “Gender Diversity Around the World”

Bible Bash Podcast

I’ve written about several, specific episodes of the Bible Bash podcast. I think it’s marvelous and am honored to have had the chance to talk with Peterson and Liam about OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation (on a forthcoming episode).

The best way to get the hang of what they are doing is to listen to an episode or two. However, I asked our esteemed hosts to explain it to me.

Continue reading “Bible Bash Podcast”

Choose Life, Deuteronomy 30

Our friends over at Queer Theology were talking about Deuteronomy 30:15-20 on their podcast this week. I start chapter 1 of OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation with the same theme (specifically Deuteronomy 30:19):

I am now giving you the choice
between life and death,
between God’s blessing
and God’s curse,
and I call heaven and earth
to witness the choice you make.
Choose life.

Deuteronomy 30:19
Good News Translation Continue reading “Choose Life, Deuteronomy 30”

OtherWise Self-Defense, live chat and online course (weekly)

One of my goals with OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation was to provide resources for self-defense against Christian trans-antagonism. However, the title, “OtherWise Christian” and my emphasis on the (Christian) Bible can get in the way–especially for those who have been most abused by Christian supremacy and trans-antagonism.

Nonetheless, I believe that this content is an important resource and I want to share it widely, especially with those who have been most impacted by Christian supremacy and trans-antagonism. So this fall, I will begin gathering folk online and moving through OtherWise Christian one chapter at a time–talking about concepts from the book and how they relate to Christian supremacy and transgender experience.

Continue reading “OtherWise Self-Defense, live chat and online course (weekly)”