Ever since the 2014 Family Synod, some Catholic bishops (and Pope Francis himself) have expressed criticism of what they refer to as “gender ideology”, by which they seem to mean gender theory. Gender theory, however, is not by any stretch an “ideology”, but a sound academic attempt to understand the complexities of gender as encountered in the real world. The only “ideology” I’m aware of about gender, is that espoused in Vatican doctrine, which reduces everything to a simplistic binary; everyone is either male or female, with distinctive roles appropriate to each; and that our primary social purpose is to find a suitable mate of the opposite gender, marry, and produce offspring. This is simplistic, patent nonsense, which should be obvious to anyone who simply observes the reality outside the lens of what is fondly believed to be the “traditional” family structure. There are many societies around the world in which traditional family structures recognized more than two genders. The hijra of South Asia are one example of a socially recognised third gender, now being recognised in government documents in some countries. Some Native American societies recognized even more than three genders.
From the Guardian:
Church of England to consider transgender naming ceremony
Vicar of Lancaster Priory proposes motion for General Synod to consider ceremony to mark a person’s gender transition
The Church of England is to debate plans to introduce a ceremony akin to a baptism to mark the new identities of Christians who undergo gender transition.
The Rev Chris Newlands, the vicar of Lancaster Priory, has proposed a motion to the General Synod to debate the issue, after he was approached by a young transgender person seeking to be “re-baptised” in his new identity.
The motion, which was passed by Blackburn Diocese last month, calls on the House of Bishops to consider whether it should introduce a new service to mark the milestone in the life of a trans person. A spokesperson for the Archbishops’ Council confirmed that the motion had been received, but said it would not be debated imminently.
Newlands urged the church to take the lead on welcoming a group that suffered high levels of discrimination.
He said he knew a number of trans people though his work with LGBT organisations. “It’s an absolute trauma to go through this, with the surgery, as people get a lot of transphobic bullying. The church needs to take a lead and be much more proactive to make sure they are given a warm welcome.”
– full report at The Guardian.
One question is occupying my mind on today’s Feast of the Epiphany: what does God’s rupture into humanity mean following a 17-year-old trans* girl’s suicide?
Leelah Alcorn walked onto a highway and ended her life via a truck three days after Christmas. As Christians worldwide celebrated Jesus’ birth, the Alcorns were instead confronted by their own child’s death. Leelah had written about the suicide on her blog shortly beforehand. That note, found here in full, says the following:
“The life I would’ve lived isn’t worth living in… because I’m transgender. I could go into detail explaining why I feel that way, but this note is probably going to be lengthy enough as it is. To put it simply, I feel like a girl trapped in a boy’s body, and I’ve felt that way ever since I was 4. I never knew there was a word for that feeling, nor was it possible for a…
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Among all the multitude of queer saints, Joan of Arc is one of the most important. In her notorious martyrdom for heresy (a charge which in historical context included reference to her cross-dressing and defiance of socially approved gender roles), she is a reminder of the great persecution of sexual and gender minorities by the Inquisition, directly or at their instigation. In LGBT Christian history, “martyrs” applies not only to those martyred by the church, but also to those martyred by the church. In her rehabilitation and canonization, she is a reminder that the leaders and theologians of the church, those who were responsible for her prosecution and conviction, can be wrong, can be pronounced to be wrong, and can in time have their judgements overturned.(This is not just a personal view. Pope Benedict has made some very pointed remarks of his own to this effect, while speaking about Joan of Arc). In the same way, it is entirely possible (I believe likely) that the current dogmatic verdict of Vatican orthodoxy which condemns our relationships will also in time be rejected. We may even come to see some of the pioneers of gay theology, who have in effect endured a kind of professional martyrdom for their honesty and courage, rehabilitated and honoured by the Church, just as St Joan has been.
|Joan of Arc: Interrogation by the Bishop of Winchester (Paul Delaroche, 1797 -1856)|
Jan. 6, Feast of the Epiphany. Coming as it does so early in the year, the celebration still seems to arrive a little late. Christmas festivities and holiday meals, topped off with New Year’s Eve parties, have more than filled our feasting needs. Now it is time to get back to diets and email. Yet something about this day still grabs our attention. Epiphany is a feast of “something’s up.” With portents in the sky and the hint of myrrh in the air, perhaps we’re being signaled: Stay alert — this could be the year!
The first epiphany sprang a large surprise: a vulnerable infant who is God’s own son. How likely is that? The annual feast invites us to expect the unexpected, to be aware that graces come from surprising sources. Perhaps this year — within your family or your work site or your faith community — you may hear a personal story of courage and faith shared by a transgender person. This will be an epiphany and a grace.
To our own surprise, we have been blessed by such an epiphany. The past year has brought us deeper appreciation of the experience of transgender members of the human community. Mentored by a Catholic sister who has dedicated her life to ministry among transgender persons, we have been instructed by the witness of these often vulnerable members of the body of Christ. Their life stories carry a common theme: an abiding sense of “disconnect” between their inner sense of self and the evidence of their body. In their deepest awareness, gender identity (who I know myself to be) has been in conflict with the social role their physical anatomy suggests (who others expect me to be).
Attempting to conform to the expectations of their parents, spouses and children, transgender persons often struggle to override this sense of disconnect. Some enter into marriage, hoping this will suppress the daily reminders that they are not as they appear. Many more put effort into presenting a “false self” to the world, to protect against being discovered for who they really are. But the price of this unnatural effort is high. Alcohol and drugs offer false comfort along the way; suicide begins to appeal as an exit from this distress.
- A Catholic Introduction to Transgender Issues (newwaysministryblog.wordpress.com)
- Epiphany: Queer eye for the Magi (jesusinlove.blogspot.com)
- Remembering the Victims of Violence Against Transgender People (newwaysministryblog.wordpress.com)
- Christian responses to transgender individuals (christinedecleene.wordpress.com)
- Epiphany: Soho Masses Community Celebrate the Feast of Coming Out (queeringthechurch.com)
- Transgender Teacher Sues Catholic School Over Firing (newwaysministryblog.wordpress.com)
The cross-dressing saints of the Church.
St Matrona /Babylas of Perge is one of a number of female saints in the early church who dressed as men to be admitted to all-male monasteries. The stories and motives of these women are remote from our time, and ‘transvestite’, or cross – dressing, is not to be confused with ‘transgendered’. Still, whatever the full historic truth, it seems to me these are useful stories to hold on to as reminders of the important place of the transgendered, and differently gendered, in our midst. Many of us will remember how difficult and challenging was the process of recognising, and then confronting, our identities as lesbian or gay, particularly in the context of a hostile church. However difficult and challenging we may have found the process of honestly confronting our sexual identities, consider how much more challenging must be the process of confronting and negotiating honestly a full gender identity crisis. Their stories collectively also carry a sobering reminder of the differing regard given by society of the time to male and female lives – else why would women have sought out male monasteries, in spite of the risks and discomfort to themselves of their lives in disguise, if not expectation of some greater spiritual reward than in a female convent?
We’wha was a two-spirit Native American Zuni who served as a cultural ambassador for her people, including a visit with a U.S. president in 1886. She and other Native Americans are remembered here today for Columbus Day. We’wha is honored by many, including Native Americans and LGBT people.
Almost all Native American tribes traditionally recognized third and sometimes even fourth genders for people who mixed male and female characteristics. “Two spirit” is one of the many and varied Native American terms for alternative genders because one body housed both feminine and masculine spirits. From a Western cultural viewpoint, the two-spirited people have been seen as gay,lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer.
We’wha (pronounced WAY-wah) was the most famous “lhamana,” the Zuni term for a male-bodied person who lived in part as a woman. Lhamanas chose to specialize in crafts instead of becoming warriors or hunters.
We’wha (1849-1896) was a skilled weaver and potter who helped Anglo-American scholars studying Zuni society. In 1886 We’wha traveled from her home in New Mexico to Washington DC, where she met president Grover Cleveland. She was welcomed as a celebrity during her six months in Washington. Everyone assumed that the 6-foot-tall “Indian princess” was female.
-continue reading at Jesus in Love Blog