The unfinished part 1 of 4 of Hijra to Christ, a chapter of Transcendent Christ Transgender Christians.
I made a t-shirt that proclaims “God Is Transgender.” I wanted to write “God Is Queer” but I was concerned people would be offended in the wrong way, only interpreting queer sexuality and not queer gender. Jonah, a friend of mine and an Orthodox Jew, thought my shirt too tame. “Of course God is transgender. What’s controversial about that?” He’s right. That God is transgender is obvious from the Hebrew Bible. Adam’s gender is clear when studied, but not obvious. The only thing controversial or even interesting in the subject is to give it language.
To remark on God's own gender seems at once arrogantly impossible. Yet, the gender of God is unambiguous and undisputed in the consistent concept of God from Judaism to the New Testament to the present.
Sex is different from gender but related to it. It is easier to wrap our minds around sex, which is physical and tangible, than gender which is neither.
God has no sex. God is neither female nor male. God does have genitals, much less a vagina, penis, or vulva. God does not have gametes, neither large nor small. God does not have genes, much less X or Y chromosomes. God does not have secondary sex characteristics, not breasts, hips, shoulders, facial hair, or a menstrual cycle. In the literal sense, and sex is entirely literal, God has no sex. This should surprise no one.
Because gender is our relationship to our sex, and God has no sex, God can be neither man nor woman. “Man” and “woman” are categories of Creation and God has obligation to fit into one or the other any more than God needs to belong to Israel or the Greeks, the Baptists or the Catholics, the Temple or the whole earth. (1 Kings 8:27) It is sometimes said God is so great that even the concept of Unity could not contain God and God overflowed into Unity and Trinity. Neither would God be able to fit into only Man/Male or Woman/Female. Therefore, because God transcends sex, God is transgender, or “trans-sex”1 to be exact. God transcends sex in the most fundamental sense. If men are Mars and women from Venus, God is not even a planet.
Like planets, the Sex Binary is part of Creation. To claim that God must conform to the Sex Binary, besides being foolish and arrogant, would be idolatrous, setting an earthly creation higher than God and worshipping it! God transcends all Creation, gender included. It is not idolatrous to say God must conform to love because God is love (1 John 4:16). Love is a fundamental attribute of God that flows outward.
If you argue that the Sex Binary also flows from God like a fundamental attribute, God could still not conform to it. If sex flowed from God, then God would be place where the two sexes of the Binary join. God would be the Coincidence of Opposites! The Sex/Gender Binary claims that everyone is either male/man/masculine or female/woman/feminine, never neither and never both. God would be both and/or neither. God would be female and male, woman and man, feminine and masculine. God is trans-sex no matter how you interpret things.
One challenge of interpreting the gender of God that gender is in relation to sex and God has no physical body to house a sex. When it comes to theophanies, however, this is not true. In the First Testament, God incarnates several times into a physical form or at least what we infer is physical. These appearances are called theophanies. Theophanies are not God’s own self but clear appearances of God. On a superficial level, we say each theophany is God.
The most common theophany is a mysterious figure appears throughout the First Testament who the biblical writers call The Angel of the LORD. The Angel speaks with the words of God, sometimes identifying themself as the LORD, but more often is coy. There is nothing in the Bible to differentiate the Angel from God. Like all angels, the Angel of the LORD is identified as linguistically masculine but his gender is an androgyne. Whether or not a specific angel is the Angel is not always clear. It may even be that every angel is the Angel of the LORD.
The Angel of the LORD is first known to appear to Hagar after Sarah sent her away. The Angel encourages Hagar and names her son, Ishmael. After the Angel leaves, Hagar says, “Have I really seen God and remained alive?” And names that well Beer Lahai Roi which means “well of the Living One who sees me.” Hagar meets the Angel again after being sent away again.
The Angel of the Lord appears to Abraham just as Abraham is going to kill Isaac. The Angel says to Abraham, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD . . .” The Eastern Orthodox has long believed that the three visitors to Sarah and Abraham were a theophany, specifically each person of the Trinity. The narrator of the story does not bother to say what words are coming from the visitors and what from LORD. When they leave Sarah and Abraham for Lot, the narrator identifies them as angels. The angels predict Sarah’s pregnancy, bargain with Abraham over Sodom, and destroy Sodom.
Jacob also has numerous encounters with theophanies. First in Gen 31, Jacob tells of a dream where he meets an “angel of God” who identifies themself “I am the God of Bethel.” In Gen 32, “the angels of God met” Jacob and Jacob proclaims, “This is the camp of God!” Later, Jacob wrestles with a mysterious figure who tells him “You have wrestled with God and with אדם and have overcome” and Jacob responds, “I saw God face to face.”
God appears as a theophany several times outside the angelic manifestations. In Exodus, God appears as the Burning Bush. The Bush speaks in God’s voice, saying “I have observed the misery of my people in Egypt” and “I Am that I Am.” While every Hebrew and Christian knows God is not a plant, Exodus does not differentiate between the two. Similarly, “The LORD went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night.” (Exodus 13:21) Neither smoke nor fire has a sex. Torah does not tell us whether the Burning Bush was male, female, or hermaphroditic but we can agree it doesn’t matter.
Later, Moses will see a theophany of the LORD, seeing only God’s hand and God’s back. When God sent down fire to burn up Elijah’s sacrifice in front of the priests of Ba’al, some Christians believe this fire was also a theophany. Elijah may have witnessed another theophany in the form of the still, small voice. In every case, God neither appears as female or male. If the theophanies had a sex, Scripture excludes it and leaving us no method of deciphering it, telling us not to think about gender in regard to God.
Of course, the greatest theophany was Jesus.