Queering the Bible, Pt6 – Trans

“For some are Eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have made themselves Eunuchs because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.” – Matthew 19: 12

In the Bible, the closest thing to being trans was being a Eunuch. Of course, back in antiquity, gender reassignment surgery and post-modernist, feminist concepts of being genderqueer did not exist. The term ‘eunuch’ was the only way to describe someone living between genders, as well as describing intersexuality. The above passage in Matthew 19 tells us that Jesus accepts trans and intersex people as equal. The term, ‘if they were born that way’, is particularly interesting to trans people who believe they were trans from birth, and can be seen as an OK for transexuality.

Isaiah 56:3-5 also may be of interest: “Let no foreigner who has bound himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely exclude me from his people.” And let not any eunuch complain, “I am only a dry tree.” For this is what the LORD says: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant- to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off.”

The only passage in the Bible that could be seen to be anti-trans is Deuteronomy 23:1 -“No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the LORD.” This can be seen in the same context as the Holiness Code (see above), to create a distinct national identity away from pagan Gentiles who used to crush men’s testicles in deference to pagan gods.

Indeed there are many references to Eunuchs in the Bible; all of them (besides Deuteronomy 23) can be seen in a positive or neutral light. The neutral, historical accounts include 2 Kings 20:18, Jeremiah 29.2 ;34.19;41.1625.52. The positive accounts include 2 Kings 9:32-33 where 2 eunuchs throw Jezebel down at Juhu’s command, Jeremiah 38.7-13, where Ebedmelech (a eunuch) saves Jeremiah from imprisonment, Daniel 1 shows Daniels love for Eunuchs in the court of Nebuchadnezzar and how the eunuchs help Daniel stay ritually clean.Acts 8:26-39 shows Phillip baptising an Ethiopean Eunuch, and bringing them into the church.

The words of Genesis 1:27 – “So G-d created man in his own image, in the image of G-d he created them; male and female he created them.” are often perceived to be anti-trans. Let’s take a look at what the scripture really says here. Firstly, it tells us that G-d is androgynous, the image of G-d being both male and female. It tells us G-d made us in his image; it tells us G-d made us both male and female, though not necessarily one or the other. If G-d *him*self is androgynous, how can he condemn a human for being do too?

The term ‘eunuch’ is often misleading in translation. The original Hebrew/Greek may have a similar meaning to what we understand as the Indian concept of ‘third gender’, a group that comprises of gender variant people, including gays, bisexuals and lesbians.

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  1. Interesting that you’ve stuck entirely in the Old Testament here. There’s some very interesting stuff in the New Testament that gets thrown around also. Paul, for instance, states that “in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, Male nor Female etc.” – but the Arsenokotai stuff also comes up.

      • radicalrabbit
      • March 31st, 2010

      Yeah… I was going to write a separate one about trans in the new testament but never got round to it. i suppose my idea was to ‘counter’ some of the more reactionary elements in the old testament, perhaps i should have focused on the more transhappy new testament…

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