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Gender and Symbolism

Symbolism is not at all prevalent in contemporary, Western Christianity and I think this is an extremely sad state.  Without descending in huge criticism, let me just specify that for transgender Christians symbolism plays an especially important role. Because gender is a symbol. Gender is the symbol of what it means to be female and male. The challenging aspect of this is that while cisgender people get their gender symbols handed to them, their is little symbolism in our culture developed for trans genders and most of that symbolism is derogatory. The utterly positive aspect of gender symbolism is that it provides a fantastic lens to understand and live as trans and an effective tool for communicating our genders to others. To embrace gender symbols is to better fulfill living as human.

I fully believe a reason our culture has denied the existence of trans people for so many centuries while many other cultures have little harmoniously with trans people is our failure to understand and appreciate symbol. Instead, we are obsessed with literalism. Literal understanding is diametrically opposed to symbolic understanding. Literalism is concerned only with the lowest common denominator distilled in a test tube - the essence of a thing is identical to what it is made out of. Thus, taking gender literal allows for no more than biology - sex. Symbolism, however, is concerned with everything else - the essence of a thing is a mixture of its meaning, purpose, past, intuitive impressions, emotions, associations, and everything human.

But symbols are difficult. Many contemporary Christians would simply dismiss the challenge saying, "It's just a symbol. Don't bother." Because Christianity relies on symbols are every step, I think that's heresy. Creation, Revelation, the Incarnation, the Resurrection, and the Kingdom of Heaven are all symbols. Yes, they are literal too, and every thought and feeling ever experienced were literally electronic charges in a grey lump. What matters is the symbol. That's why I cannot ignore symbols.

In Worship

In Orthodoxy, the placement of the sexes during services were once divided with females all standing on one side of the room and males on the other. In a church, the front of the room, the chancel, symbolizes God and naturally the rest of the room represents the Church (or humanity). By dividing the sexes, they symbolize the difference between gendered Creation and God. When I first heard this I felt a twinge because it was not obvious where I as a genderqueer person would fit into such an arrangement. I couldn't properly stand on either side without claiming, "I am really this gender and not the other." In just a few moments, though, the resolution appeared. The person who told me this didn't tell the whole story; a few Christians did not stand in either the female or male sides: the clergy.

Clergy act as the mediators between God and humanity. Or, if you find "mediators" unsettling, call them "aids," "communicators," or "helpers." They do this literally in life and symbolically in worship. They stand between the two groups, speak the Word of God to the Church, speak the word of the Church to God in prayer, and serve the sacraments. In the Orthodox Church the symbols are more abundant: They travel constantly back and forth and all among the congregation, bringing the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures, and the Elements with them. It is through them that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. At the finale, the priest literally holds out Jesus where He is reverenced by Christians. All of these things are symbols that the clergy have one foot on earth and one foot in Heaven.

Establishing that, we must contemplate, what is the gender of God? I'm sure you must agree with both me and Christian tradition that God is not locked into one gender or the other but transcends gender as gender is basically a human attribute. The clergy, therefore, must also transcend gender. Sometimes they will be masculine and sometimes feminine. Thus, the clergy are transgender! And genderqueer, more specifically. This is beyond convenience, this is Providence. Even their feminine leaning robes are a testament to this.

See Also

Allusioning Names - People with names symbolizing their identity
Objection: Christ and the Bride Using the symbol of Christ marrying the Church to inform earthly marriage