eunuch

All posts tagged eunuch

Twilight, Fifty Shades, Male and Female in Bible, Law, Science and Society

Published May 29, 2013 by Katy J Went
The happiest place to be, Australia, has declared “23 genders” deserving of recognition and protection. Yet the UN Commission on the Status of Women and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court continue to assert just 2 “traditional” genders and reject the Yogyakarta Principles.

“Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law. Persons of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities shall enjoy legal capacity in all aspects of life. Each person’s self-defined sexual orientation and gender identity is integral to their personality and is one of the most basic aspects of self-determination, dignity and freedom. No one shall be forced to undergo medical procedures, including sex reassignment surgery, sterilisation or hormonal therapy, as a requirement for legal recognition of their gender identity. No status, such as marriage or parenthood, may be invoked as such to prevent the legal recognition of a person’s gender identity. No one shall be subjected to pressure to conceal, suppress or deny their sexual orientation or gender identity.” (Principle 3, Yogyakarta Principles) 

Numerous groups and individuals have defended the gender binary on the alleged absolute grounds of biology, tradition or religion (e.g. The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property – an organisation of lay Catholic Americans). On gender and sexuality, at least, Catholics, charismatics, evangelicals and biblical fundamentalists, not to mention Muslims, as strange bedfellows are ironically united. But are these grounds so easily or well defined? Biology offers plenty of scope for multiple and hermaphroditic genders; Native American tradition and other cultures allowed for 3-6 genders or more, such as: male, female, feminine man, masculine woman, gender-fluid and two-spirited.

As for religion, well God in Isaiah 56:4-5 affirms third gender folk as a distinct group apart yet especially loved and named from sons and daughters (male and female).

“For thus saith the Lord to the eunuchs/circumcised, Those who keep my Sabbaths, and decide for that in which I take pleasure, and take fast hold of my covenant; I give to them in my house and within my walls a memorial (yadh) and a name (shem) good/better than sons and daughters: I give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.”

Nice wordplay on eunuchs/cut off! The eunuchs cannot parent children and thus prolong their name nor are they regarded as sons or daughters, being inbetween, but instead of healing, as God offers to the blind, deaf, lame, lepers God gives them a name, nature and status, as shem can mean, as “good” as that of sons or daughters, creating a third category on an equal footing, called “better” to make the point. They are also given a “hand”, not a helping one, perhaps, but yadh can euphemistically mean phallus power or strength, portion or perhaps inheritance. After all, the bad verse division hides verse 3’s ending “Nor let the eunuch say, ‘Here I am, a dry tree.'”, a phrase indicative of barrenness.

Similarly, Jesus when referring to eunuchs cites three possible origins including “born this way”, “made” or “lifestyle choice” (Matt 19:12). Contemporary first century Jewish rabbis recognised at least 4 genders in the time of Jesus accepting hermaphrodite tumtums and infertile intersex and/or barren women. The Jewish Midrash Rabbah Genesis 8.1 speaks of Adam being created androgyne, bi-gendered, hermaphrodite and then being “cut in two” much like Plato in his Symposion (190 B) when he speaks of three generations: the masculine, the feminine, and the androgynous, and of the latter being split at Creation.

The Bible in Genesis 1 does not say that we are created “male *or* female” but “male *and* female”, “in the image of God”. This makes God male and female, but s/he/they are one entity – in three “persons” if you are Christian rather than Jewish or Muslim. Although “persons” is a problematic later Greek development than earlier Christian thought of God in three modes or manifestations: Father, Son and Spirit. Whilst the Spirit-Creator is mostly seen as female and the Father-Creator as male, nonetheless they are described metaphorically as a mother with nursing breasts as well as other female analogies (Deuteronomy 32:18; Isaiah 42:14, 49:15, 66:13; Hosea 11:3-4; Psalm 123:2-3, 131:2; Matthew 23:37; Luke 13:34, 15:8-10), leaving only Jesus as the XY male – but can we be sure of even that? If Jesus was the incarnation of God, then he too could be male and female, a fully intersexed Messiah), so that Jesus can truly stand for everyman, as in every man and woman, fully human.

The Hebrew word for “and” has a wide range of meaning, it also has the word “either/or” but does not use that here. The same word “and” is used of the animals to be taken aboard the Ark, “male and female” separate breeding pairs. Yet some animals can breed without being in a pair, some can have up to 7 gender variations within a species. Are these animals making a “deviant lifestyle” choice or were they not only born that way, but created that way and part of the “male and female” God envisaged?

It is not about distinction, separation and categorisation but creative variety. Day and night, light and dark are not polarised binaries, but a fifty shades of greyscale, with dawn, daybreak, diluculum, sunrise, morning, coffeetime, midday, teatime, dusk, crepuscule, evening, twilight and everything in between. Gender is similar.

Nobody seriously disputes anymore the ethics of slavery, the Christian equality mantra of Galatians 3:28 stating that “there is neither slave nor free…”, but it continues “…neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus”. So why are we debating gay, trans, women bishops etc still? Just as God is male and female and yet still one, so are we both individually and as humanity. We are male and female and every shade in between, however gender is counted: 2 genders, 3 genders, 23 genders and none.

Simplistic literalist black and white, male and female theology creates summary judgements of human conditions outside of the binary, neat Sunday school scenarios. Real life is complex, beautiful and individual, and Jesus’ radical solution: Love transcends all these complexities.

The Australian HR Commission report suggested that “people are protected from discrimination without reference to:

  • a binary construct of gender which only protects individuals who identify and present consistently as either male or female
  • a binary construct of sex characteristics which fails to protect intersex individuals
Away with binary and biblical constructs, I say, let gender and Genesis be organic!

Odds on black Papal favourite Turkson wants to convert my “trendy alternative gender” identity

Published February 14, 2013 by Katy J Went

Diversity? The possibility of the modern era’s first black pope, yet this would be twinned with the more traditionalist evangelical stance of African Catholicism that would rather deliver and exorcise me of my “trendy alternative gender” identity! Gender and Sexuality are as difficult to change as the colour of one’s skin.

Turkson has said, 

“We need to find ways of dealing with the challenges coming up from society and culture,” he said, adding that the Church needed to “evangelise”, or convert, those who had embraced “alternative lifestyles, trends or gender issues”. He added: “We cannot fail in our task of providing guidance.”

Cardinal Turkson has caused controversy in the past both by screening a video claiming that Europe faced being overrun by Muslims and by insisting that condoms were not the solution to preventing HIV.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/the-pope/9866227/Pope-resigns-Peter-Turkson-reveals-vision-for-the-Church-and-alternative-lifestyles.html

I’ve met trans and intersex Catholics, one was indeed among many that the Roman Catholic church literally hounded out of convents and colleges, under the auspices of the current Pope when he was head of the Inquisition, I mean, Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei – the Doctrine of the Faith, of which Ratzinger was Prefect from 1981 till 2005.

“Under the influence of Paul McHugh, a transphobic Johns Hopkins psychiatrist and conservative Catholic ideologue (and advisor to the Vatican on sexual matters), the Vatican pronounced in 2000 that transsexualism “does not exist” – claiming that it is a form of insanity instead.” http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/TS/CatholicTSDecision.html

The “mental instability” of transsexuals is constantly referred to in the Vatican document, allegedly rendering trans unsuitable for ministry, untrustworthy in marriage, and to be expelled from religious communities – permission for which was given.

Catholics who have undergone “sex-change” procedures are not eligible to marry, be ordained to the priesthood or enter religious life…”The key point is that the (transsexual) surgical operation is so superficial and external that it does not change the personality. If the person was male, he remains male. If she was female, she remains female…”
 
The document’s conclusions close one area of controversial speculation that arose in Italy in the late 1980s when a priest publicly announced he had undergone a “sex-change” operation.

Given church teaching that only males can be validly ordained priests, the question posed in newspapers at the time was whether a priest who undergoes a “sex-change” operation remains a priest — the answer is “yes” — and whether a woman who undergoes the procedure can be ordained — “no.”

So basically the church still has its knickers in a theological twist over gender. A transwoman remains a man in Roman Catholic eyes but is mentally ill and untrustworthy and therefore should not be in ministry and a transman remains a woman and women can not serve as vicars of Christ on earth. 

It is time for the Christian orthodoxy to reflect on the statements of Jesus, such as Matthew 19:12: 

For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.’” 

And to look at the then current Jewish teaching on intersex and third gender including eunuchs and androgynous tumtum etc. Even the Hebrew Bible in the book of Isaiah, written centuries before the Church came into being, was more enlightened: 

 “To the eunuchs … to them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, And a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off.” (Isaiah 56:4-5)

Isaiah does not proclaim healing, deliverance or expulsion from religious communities and ministry, but the granting of a name “better” than that of son or daughter, a recognised status as a third gender, whom Jesus and St Philip (Acts 8:26-40) further acknowledged as accepted in their existing state (born or made that way) and able to serve the community of believers.