Monday, 9 June 2008

Today's Battles

Ask Me About My Death Ray

Well, sometimes it's a good thing I don't have one a Death Ray, that is. Lead me not into temptation and all of that.

Over at the Times of Malta, quoting International Law (UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights article 16 and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights article 23) to show that the Maltese government is not just acting immorally, but illegally. Contravening treaties they are signatories to, not just customs. Saying that a female birth certificate is issued 'merely to avoid embarrassment' and doesn't actually mean you're female for the purposes of marriage, but then saying that you can't be male for the purposes of marriage due to that self same birth certificate, that's not just insane, but evil. Illegal too, for once.

Then there's Chicken Little at Christian Post. There I advise people to go read the Bible, Matthew 19:12 and Isaiah 56:4-5 on Intersex conditions. Medical papers too, though often such people see the Good Book as being the only source of knowledge. Until they get a toothache, and require anaesthesia for an extraction, then medical knowledge suddenly gets legitimised. For a time.

And over at Reasonable Christian, it's been a month since I gave him the references to the peer-reviewed scientific data he requested. My comment still hasn't appeared, despite e-mails between us on the subject, including corrections to some URLs. His blog, his rules, but doing the equivalent of saying "la la la I can't hear you" is neither Reasonable nor Christian. Still, perhaps he is just "reviewing the data" before allowing such dangerous notions to be posted. It's one thing to say that the evidence is unconvincing, another to assert that it doesn't exist, and to deliberately suppress its publication to conceal the falsity of that proposition. Perhaps it just slipped his mind. Probably, in fact. Most such people are really quite decent. They may disagree, and can even get quite emotional about it, but they're rarely malicious. We'll see what transpires.

It really is a good job I don't have a death ray. Ignorance I can deal with, malice and hypocrisy, not.


Anonymous said...

A tangent to your actual posting, but your mentioning of two important trans related scripture references and leaving out a third prompted me to add it.

When mentioning scripture and trans it is important to add the specific reference to a trans person, not just the inclusive word of eunuch which includes those that are specifically gender variant and could not or did not marry under the codes of marriage at the time. That reference is Genesis 37 where we have the first recorded trans hate crime but more importantly the specific reference to an mtf individual. Yes, Joseph daughter of Jacob. The hebrew word for Joseph's coat of many colors--often attributed as having an unclear meaning in Gen 37--occurs only two places in the Bible. The first is Genesis 37:3,23,31-33 where Joseph is doing the wearing and where the incensed and outraged brothers tear the garment off violently. The other is 2 Samuel 13:18 where that hebrew word is explicitly defined as "the kind of garment the virgin daughters of the king wore;" i.e. a princess dress. Yes, Joseph was prancing around in the fields of what became Israel in a princess dress. So now do you better understand Joseph's treatment by the other male children of Jacob?

This explicitly trans reference in the Bible should not be overlooked because of the way Joseph was used by God as well as the reunion with Jacob and the reconcilliation with the 11 brothers. I see that story as having messages to both the non-gender variant community as well as to the trans community, and that is why I think it should not be left out whenever quoting supporting scriptures related to trans.

Unknown said...

Very Interesting ShannonB! When you consider that Joseph is in the line and lineage of Jesus we are left with a deeper understanding of the last commandments given, i.e. Love God, Love others, Love self.

Also seldom do we hear of Isaiah 56:3-5 and the special status given to those who are separate from the accepted norm of person. (ISA 56:3 Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, The LORD hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree.

4 For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant;

5 Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off. KJV)

Additionally, many use Duet 22:5 and Biblical Law as a current legality to demean those who may appear outside of the norm. As a MtF post-op I take claim to Duet 23:1! If the law supersedes logic of Grace, then, the church that denies Christ's grace to enact law would bar me from entrance. Hence, their message is dead.

Regardless, we should be like Joseph and wear our many colors in response to God.

Anonymous said...

That interpretation of Gen 37 seems to be a stretch. 1. the word didn't necessarily indicate gender at all--it could just imply "royal". 2. There were some hundreds of years between Joseph and Samuel--any gender implication may not have carried across that time span (eg a soldier's shirt used to be called a "blouse"). 3. if it did imply gender, it still doesn't mean Joseph was MtF; he could have been gay, or a crossdresser. 4. I seem to recall that Joseph had a couple of sons, which seems unlikely if he was MtF
5. The garment was a gift from Jacob. While that could imply a paternal message of "We're all going to accept Joseph with her little quirks", it would seem more likely to imply that Jacob was playing favorites. Joseph wasn't the oldest son, but IIRC he was the oldest son of Joseph's favorite wife. 6. Joseph had dreams in which he saw himself ruling over his older brothers, and he was unihibited in telling them about it. Gen 37v19-20: They said one to another, "Behold, this dreamer comes. 20 Come now therefore, and let's kill him...We will see what will become of his dreams."
Of course I'm hardly an expert at exegesis, and it's possible Joseph was trans and that was a factor. I just don't see a good enough particular reason to think so.

Anonymous said...

Laserlight, thanks for your thoughts. I would like to answer some of the points you raise as they are legitimate questions; and my answers to these may be of interest to other people reading this blog.

I think the biggest weakness to my argument is #2; the risk that over time the meaning of the word had mutated by David's time. Language is necessarily alive and evolving as it is being used.
The one thing in favor of my interpretation in that regard is that Genesis was not written contemporaneously with Joseph, but much later, and hence much closer to the time of David when the meaning WOULD have been more similar. Since it is explicitly defined in 2 Sam it is likely that it carried the same meaning at the time when Genesis was written and RE-written over the centuries. If the meaning was not intended to be the same, wouldn't the retellings over the centuries have modified the Genesis story? Considering the modifications that were done to the New Testament that we know of because of the plurality of manuscripts, I find it inconceivable that it has not been the intention over time that the two instances of the word are intended to carry the same meaning for the thousand years or so until it was incorporated into what we now know as the Bible.

As to your other points, as #1 and #3 allow for both possibilities it seems like a personal interpretation issue and I believe that it did imply gender because of Tamar being the one wearing it, not Amnon, even if you discard the translation from Hebrew.
As for #4, I am mtf and I have a couple of sons too, so what? Marriage and family were socio-political obligations that--in a time of where SRS was not offered--still had to be upheld and had no relation to the identity either sexual or gendered of the individual; or do you contend that gay men and lesbian women did not exist in the 10th to 5h centuries BCE?. You might have a better case for drag queen considering his rise to importance in Egypt( a land and government where gender variance was exalted at the time), and yet that would still be considered transgendered. The difficulty is translating modern gender/social roles into a culturally different society, whether it be on the other side of the planet or 3000 years ago. I used mtf in its descriptive role relating to birth gender and gendered presentation. We do not have a descriptive list of everyone Joseph slept with, so we have no case for gay at all. But be it crossdresser or drag queen, Joseph's variance is clearly gender related making him transgender either way.

Ahh, #5, yes let's consider WHO gave Joseph the garment. Jacob, "sissy boy" who "dwelt amongst the tents" rather than going out hunting like his brother Esau. A man who had lived with a feminine side and the prejudice that would have accompanied that expression throughout his days. Who better to be a doting and understanding father to a young trans who desired to dress female? Is that not exactly the person who would indulge the feminine son's desire to crossdress? Remember, it would be another 400 years or so before the laws of Leviticus would be written, thus Jacob would have no religious reasons to prohibit his "son" from wearing women's clothes other than the social prohibitions; and Jacob would have felt he could protect Joseph from his position of power(rich and influential in the surrounding countryside).

Leastways, that is how I see it. As a student of both theology (I preach in churches semi-regularly) and history (and, physics, and paleoecology...but I digress) I have had some experience in exegesis, but I am always willing to learn more. Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts. ShannonB

Zoe Brain said...

You know something? You meet some of the most knowlegeable, rational, polite and kind people here, don't you?

Thanks to you both for discussing this here, it's not an area I'd thought of before. I have no idea what the situation really was, and I feel I'd have to know a lot more of the cultural background than I do before I could make a useful contribution to the debate.

A case has been made that a gender variant Joseph is plausible. I'd need a lot more data before I'd be able to distinguish "barely possible" from "very likely". It "feels right" though, in light of other issues lost in translation.

Anonymous said...

Caveat: I'm so strongly biased against jumping to conclusions that I often don't do it even when justified. One plus one is not necessarily two, to me...YMMV, AMDG. With that in mind:
1. yes, it's ambiguous. It allows the MtF interpretation, but IMO it doesn't particularly support it.
2. good point.
3. ditto 1
4. I'll withdraw this. I was thinking of the technical difficulties that e.g. Zoe had; but those wouldn't necessarily apply to everyone. And in any event, we can't do a paternity test.
5. This is, I think, your weakest argument. Both of my brothers love hunting and fishing (one's a guide, one's a forestry worker); whereas I've never been hunting, hate fishing, and would far rather spend 14hr/day on the computer or reading. But that makes me geeky, not intersexed unless you're using a definition of "intersex" so broad as to be useless. And Joseph's announcing to his brothers "I had this dream about how I'm going to be your king" sounds, to me, more like a geek with Aspergers than it does someone who's at all tactful or socially competent. His brothers weren't trying to get rid of him because he was a sissy boy, rather because he came across as an arrogant young punk. Possibly the scribe just missed the "because he's a pansy" component, but if so, it's difficult to argue that the scribe meant to imply that the "coat of many colors" was feminine.

I'm not saying Joseph was/wasn't MtF. I'm more saying that, when I bought a minivan, suddenly half the vehicles on the road were minivans. Because of my own personal involvement, I was better at noticing them; however, I also perceived them as being more numerous than they actually were.