Tag Archives: transgender

St. Joan of Arc

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 Iinterrogation by the Bishop  of Winchester (Paul Delaroche, 1797 -1856)
Joan of Arc:  Interrogation by the Bishop  of Winchester (Paul Delaroche, 1797 -1856)

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Transgender Lives: Diversity in the Body of Christ

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.

via An epiphany of transgender lives reveals diversity in body of Christ | National Catholic Reporter.

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Lutherans for Full LGBT Participation

On July 8, TransLutherans was announced as a new affinity group in ReconcilingWorks: Lutherans for Full Participation at our assembly in Washington, D.C. Thanks to the board for approving the formation of this group at its 2012 spring meeting in Minneapolis. TransLutherans has been a long time in the making. A word or two about the history of this process is in order.

The board of LC/NA approved a resolution in the fall of 2002 to add transgender and bisexual to our vision and mission statements, and a task force was formed to integrate this work into the RIC program. In 2003 transgender and bisexual identities were to be included in all subsequent mission statements of congregations who were to become RIC. All congregations previously approved as RIC were asked to update their statements as well. Many chose to use the wording “all sexual orientations and gender identities.” Those gathered at the final business session of the 2010 biennial assembly of LC/NA in Minneapolis approved a resolution to

  • increase transgender and bisexual training opportunities for board, staff, and Regional Coordinators,
  • create a national speakers bureau qualified to provide education,
  • commit the Legislative team and trans/bi/queer communities to work together to create resolutions for synod and church wide assemblies.

These resolutions would expand the welcome of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to specifically include trans*, bi and all people affected by binary gender oppression.

– full report at Huffington Post

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Trans Girl at the Cross: "Being Transgender is not a Choice"

I knew from the time I started writing blogs, I would be entering a stage where there would be some controversy.  The idea of being a Christian transgender person will fly in the face of many on both sides; the church and the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender community. 

 

 

The word Christian can spark heated debate on how the church has treated the LGBT community.  To mention that I am transgender in the church has lit a few fires of disagreement.  When you put the two together, you have napalm.  If not handled correctly and without proper education, the firestorm can rage out of control, damaging all with in its path.  But as a wildfire is known to do, it can burn away the old and make room for new life, so heated, healthy debate is not always a bad thing.

In my inaugural post here on ChicagoNow, one of the individuals that left comments made a few statements I believe I need to take time to discuss.  Before correcting some common misconceptions about being transgender, I want to take a minute to agree with one of his statements.

I agree that many in society today believe that the Bible, the Word of God, is full of bigotry and prejudice.  There have been many church leaders in the news recently that have done nothing but condemn the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender community.   Charles L. Worley of Maiden, N. C. preached a sermon that went viral on YouTube.  He preached that he thought gays should be fenced off from the rest of the population so they would “die off”.  With rhetoric like this, how is any non-believer ever going to think that God, above all things, is a loving God?  How is anyone going to think anything other than God is a God of punishment when he really came to die on the cross and forgive our sins?  I praise people like Andrew Marin and The Marin Foundation for their work in Chicago connecting with the LGBT community and spreading God’s love to those that have felt rejected by the church.  We need more people like that working to build someone up in God, instead of tearing him or her down.

-full post (the first of two) at Trans Girl at the Cross, Chicago Now

 

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U.S. Episcopalians move closer to allowing transgender ministers

The U.S. Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops on Saturday approved a proposal that, if it survives a final vote, would give transgender men and women the right to become ministers in the church.

The House of Bishops voted at the church’s General Convention to include “gender identity and expression” in its “non-discrimination canons,” meaning sexual orientation, including that of people who have undergone sex-change operations, cannot be used to exclude candidates to ministry.

The move comes nine years after the Episcopal Church, an independent U.S.-based church affiliated with the worldwide Anglican Communion, approved its first openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, sparking an exodus of conservative parishes.

The Anglican Communion is a global grouping of independent national churches, which develop their own rules for ordination and other matters pertaining to membership and conduct.

The Episcopal Church, which has about 2 million members mostly in the United States, now allows gay men and lesbians to join the ordained ministry.

The resolutions on gender would allow transgender individuals access to enter the Episcopal lay or ordained ministries, and extend the overall non-discrimination policy to church members.

The resolutions must now be approved by the church’s House of Deputies.

The church already bars discrimination, for those who wish to join the ministry, on the basis of race, color, ethnic and national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, disabilities and age.

When a similar resolution was considered at the church’s last convention in 2009 the bishops agreed the church would ban “all” discrimination, rather than identify individual groups.

But supporters of the change said it was time to go further.

At this year’s triennial convention, being held in Indianapolis, the church’s leadership is also due to consider approving a liturgy for same-sex weddings.

If approved, the church would establish a standard liturgy to use in same-sex unions for use on a trial basis starting in December, 2012.

Currently when church members ask for a blessing for their same-sex unions, they rely on their bishop for approval of liturgy, whether for a purely religious ceremony or for solemnizing a marriage where such unions are legal.

– Reuters.

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Telling Trans-Faith Stories

Despite the recent rise of murders motivated by a bias against LGBT people along side increasing anti-gay measures in states such as North Carolina, the growing body of anti-discrimination laws focusing on sexual orientation afford many gay and lesbian individuals the opportunity to live their lives authentically. The same cannot be said for transgender individuals. Few laws that prevent discrimination on the basis of gender identity protect this community and allow them to express who they are in public. Because of this, trying to estimate the exact number of people who self-identify as trans-sexual remains a challenge for researchers, health providers and others working with this community.

At the 11th annual Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference, the largest trans specific health conference in the world, 2,400 participants converged to explore in a safe environment the health and well-being of transgender people, communities and allies. This year there was a strong interest in spiritual health, with over 50 spiritual activities available including interfaith workshops, film screenings, worship services, meditation/yoga and exhibition booths.

T Forward, a new initiative announced as a component of TransFaith Online‘s Interfaith Working Group, will serve as a hub for religious leaders working with transgender people and communities to share stories and to advocate for “secular” legislation. Those religious leaders present T Forward’s launching session reflected on the disconnect between national church policy that affirms those who are gender nonconforming and how local congregations implement–or ignore–these nonbinding resolutions.

-full report at The Revealer.

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Marina/Marinos of Alexandria 12/02

Marinos was one of a group of saints we might describe as transmen, biologically female but who lived as male monks in men’s monasteries. Some of these are known only by name, some of the stories may be variations of the same person’s story under different names, but that of Mary / Marinos, also known as Pelagia, is one of the most completely  known.
The story as we have it, is that Mary was an only child from the north of Lebanon, raised after her father’s death by her widowed father, Eugene. Once Mary had grown up, Eugene told her that he would pass over to her all his possessions, as he wished to enter a monastery, for the sake of his soul. Mary was not happy with this, as she too was concerned for her own soul. So they agreed that Mary would cut her hair and adopt male clothing, so that she could pass as male, and enter the monastery together with her father. This they did, joining a monastery in Alexandria, Egypt, from which she takes her name. Inside the monastery, where the two shared a cell, the other monks noticed the higher pitched voice and smooth skin of their new brother (now known as Marinos), but assumed that either he was a eunuch, or that this was a special mark of the holiness they all saw in him.
Marina (in red) being brought to a monastery by her father Eugenius.
(14th century French manuscript).
In time, Marinos’ father died, and he responded by increasing still further his ascetic manner of life. The abbot called him one day, and referring to his great holiness, sent him out in the company of a few others on monastic business, where they needed to spend one night in a public inn. The innkeeper had a daughter who set her sights on seducing the attractive Marinos, without success. She had however already been made pregnant by another (either one of the monks, or by a passing soldier – the sources diverge). When she realized she was with child, to protect herself she accused the innocent Marinos.

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New Scientist: Fish that change sex – and back again

At  New Scientist, “Zoologger” has a post up on the transsexual abilities of the hawkfish (species Cirrhitichthys falco), which is found off Kuchino-Erabu Island in southern Japan. As the post notes, transitioning in fish occurs in many species – but this one reverses the process. (Even this ability is not unique though – see Joan Roughgarden, “ Evolution’s Rainbow  “).

Transgender fish perform reverse sex flip

When it comes to selecting mates, hawkfish keep their options open. The flamboyantly coloured reef dwellers start life as females but can transform into males after maturing. Many marine animals do this, but these fickle fish have a rare trick up their fins: they can change back when the situation suits.

Tatsuru Kadota and colleagues from Hiroshima University in Higashi-Hiroshima, Japan, have observed reverse sex changes in wild hawkfish for the first time in the subtropical reefs around Kuchino-Erabu Island in southern Japan.

Hawkfish live in harems, with one dominant male mating with several females. Kadota’s team studied 29 hawkfish and found that when it comes to sex change, the size of the harem matters.

If a male hawkfish took on many females, one of the two largest females would change sex and take over half of the harem, mating as a male. Conversely, if that new male hawkfish lost a few females to other harems and was challenged by a larger male, it reverted to mating as a female, instead of wasting precious energy fighting a losing battle. “The ability to undergo bidirectional sex change maximises an individual’s reproductive value,” Kadota says.

– read the full article at  Zoologger /New Scientist,06 January 2012 .

Footnote:

A reader, Mario, has shared a link to a fascinating story about a domestic hen that transitioned to a cockerel, after an injury. I’ve known about transitioning in fish species for years, but this is the first time I’ve come across an instance in birds.

Thanks, Mario.

Related Posts on Animal Sexuality:

Books:

Bagemihl, Bruce: Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity

Long, John A:The Dawn of the Deed: The Prehistoric Origins of Sex

Long, John A: Hung Like an Argentine Duck: A Journey Back in Time to the Origins of Sexual Intimacy

Roughgarden, Joan: Evolution’s Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People

Sommer, Volker and Vasey, Paul: Homosexual Behaviour in Animals: An Evolutionary Perspective

 

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Tough Survivors: Gender Fluid Eels

To rice farmers and agricultural economists, the rice paddy eel is a pest, presenting an indirect threat to rice crops. To me, it’s yet another example of the remarkable gender and sexual diversity of the natural world – and one which is a real tough survivor.

REFLECTING nature’s remarkable diversity, the rice paddy eel is both hermaphrodite and transgender.
All the young start as females; some become masculine as they mature. When female densities are low, some of the male eels become transgender, turning into the opposite sex again.
The process, which takes up to a year, allows the replenishment of female populations. The greater the proportion of females in the eel population, the greater the reproduction rate.
This remarkable agility to adapt, and without natural predators, allows the paddy eel to multiply fast.
A rice paddy eel may grow as long as 3 feet to 4 feet and weigh as much as half a kilogram. As a voracious predator, its rapid spread threatens fishes, frogs, snails, worms and aquatic insects.
It survives harsh environments as well, from fresh and brackish to saline conditions and even cold temperatures well below freezing.
It can survive for weeks without food and, by burrowing in moist ground, can live for long periods without water.
When not using gills underwater, the rice paddy eel gets a fourth of its oxygen needs from the air – through the skin.”