Gender Constructs, from the Beginning

There has been a lot of talk in the media and in the halls of government about gender of late, as we all know.  A lot of fear-mongering and handwringing among the conservative albeit vocal minority, that presumes to dictate to the rest of us how we should each live within our own bodies.  They would warp our views to believe that drag queens are out to “groom” our children, to become trans and queer.  And they claim to have the final word on what God thinks of all those wigs and corsets. Just like an earlier McCarthy era, (that of Joe McCarthy and his witch-hunt of supposed communists), they are trying to stir up fear and distrust among Americans.

I have a problem with all this hysteria. (Which is, itself a word steeped in genderized stereotypes.) Let’s start at the foundation of their strident “proof” that trans folk are supposedly not part of God’s plan. Even more precisely, let’s start at the literal beginning. Genesis chapter 1 to be precise. 

In our linear way of understanding a “story” we think of a “chapter” as a segment of one contiguous story. But Chapter 1 of Genesis is a completely different origin story from that in chapter 2.  Chapter 1 is the whole create the world in 7 days and it’s all good story.  Chapter 2 is the story of the subjugation of women and the subverting of the earlier goddess worshiping cultures (which surrounded Israel in the 6th century Before the Common Era).

So, if you remember your Sunday School or catechism, you’ll recall that on the 6th day God created humanity, ha-adam – the earthling, the human – from adamah, the earth.  Not some specific dude but the whole of humanity. And the God who did this creating? Elohim – which is a plural noun (gods) that is rendered singular (as He in English).  Today when someone is not bound by one gender or we don’t know the individual’s gender, the singular pronoun used to describe Them is often They.  When this nonbinary or unidentified God is considering creating this human being, God speaks to God’s self (presumably) about how the humans will be created in “our image”.  Either this god was talking to other co-gods or to God’s self – as a being of more than one gender – when They say that humanity will be created, in Their likeness.  Either way you look at it, you are only left with two legitimate possibilities.  Either the monotheistic God we claim to worship was not the only God (don’t even get me started about the archeological artifacts throughout Israel inscribed to YHVH and His Asherah) or the monotheistic God was nonbinary &/or intersex. 

The early Talmudic sages took this one step further and asserted that the first earthling was, like God, not bound by just male or female but an intersex unitive being which contained all genders.  And at the end of the day, GOD SAID IT WAS ALL VERY GOOD!

Now even if that is a bit too much for our little human brains to process, we then come to the second chapter; really a different and separate origin story, set in the Garden of Eden.  This is the one with the snake and big bad Eve tempting poor naïve Adam.  We have a different name of God in this story; YHVH (whish Jews do NOT call Yahweh – that is a Christian construct). Anyway, this God supposedly puts ha-adam asleep and creates woman by taking her from the human’s tzela. Tzela, contrary to popular belief, is not rib, but rather side.  Imagine how differently we would have all experienced our worth, (particularly as female bodied people) if we had read that we had come from the side of – equal to rather than subordinate and from – males.

So, here’s a non-binary God whose second act upon creating humanity is to perform gender reassignment surgery on Their creation separating as if conjoined twins, so that this solitary being would not experience the sense of isolation and loneliness that the Divine saw them experiencing.  One of the points in many theological treatises is that the whole reason Gd created was to not feel alone in the universe.  An act of compassion.

It is no coincidence that the same conservatives who are taking away the bodily autonomy of people with uteruses are also the same folks legislating the bodily autonomy of trans people.  They have been quite good at stirring up fear “for the children”.  Where is their compassion?

My husband (and others like him) knew that he was male at 5 years old; it was society that told him for the next 45 years that he was mistaken.  And yet, when he finally took the leap of faith to transition at 50, it was and is a true blessing.  His transition was blessed in our congregation with a naming ceremony, and when we later celebrated at his 50th birthday party, his mom proceeded to tell stories about the little boy she had witnessed even while the dictates of the time insisted he was a little girl.

What we’ve learned from science (itself also under attack by the same conservatives) is that gender identity is formed in the 3rd trimester, separately from the biological sex formed in the 1st trimester.  When children like my husband say they were born in the wrong body, they are being truthful.  Their brain and their bodies are not aligned.

There are currently almost 500 bills in 47 states which are trying to dictate to families with trans youth how to control and conform to one group’s idea of gender.  That doesn’t even count the number of bills about abortion rights.  In both cases, a calculating group is banking on creating fear and uncertainty under the guise of protecting children.  Their goal is to subjugate women and trans folk, in an effort to return all of us to a fictionalized “good ol’ days” when the white male ruled supreme. But their rhetoric never seems to address the concerns or needs of queer and trans children who have been forced into homelessness or who have died by suicide because of the judgment imposed by fearful parents and their fear mongering ideologues. Nor do they address the financial and health realities which are wrestled with by parents who must make the painful choice to abort a fetus regardless of whether it is wanted or not.

These hate-mongers do not speak for the Source of Love and Hope.  They certainly do not speak for the Christ they claim to believe in.  What did he have to say on the matter?  He dined with eunuchs and stood by the woman who haters would have stoned. Nor do these Christian Nationalists speak for the vast majority of religions in this country, who affirm the worth of each person, regardless of gender, as being made in the image of the Divine, with a Gd-given right to live fully and compassionately in control of their own bodies and genders.

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