Part 3 of 4 of Hijra to Christ, a chapter of Transcendent Christ Transgender Christians.
We rarely consider Jesus’ gender. Relative to the rest of Jesus’ life and Resurrection, it is mundane. So, let us consider other mundane aspects of Jesus we rarely think about.
Jesus’ race: Jesus was physically born of Mary, a pure-blood Jew but spiritually born of the Holy Spirit who, not being a descendant of Israel, was not Jewish. Jesus’ ethnicity: Jesus was conceived in Nazareth but also in Heaven. Jesus’s economic class: we know Jesus was physically poor, not only being raised by a carpenter unable to get a hotel room, but also because when Mary takes him to the Temple, she sacrifices two doves, the sacrifice of a poor person, but Jesus, the whole world being created through him and Son of the Kind of the Universe, was wealthy beyond imagination. Jesus’ Jewish commitment: Religion: Jesus obeyed Torah at every moment but disobeyed Mishnah (oral tradition) constantly and without apology. Jesus attractiveness: was nothing to look at (Isaiah 53:2) yet as the Logos through whom all earthly beauty was made (1 John 1:?), Jesus was beauty incarnate. Jesus’ genes: received, we can assume, Jewish, XX genes from Mary but we have no idea what genes Jesus received from the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ knowledge and education: Jesus, presumably, was taught by his father and his knowledge was limited (Mark 13:32) yet as taught by the Holy Spirit, knew far more than any person. Jesus’ forgiveness of His sin: needed to be baptized by John and became sin (2 Cor 5:21) yet never sinned. Jesus’ power: refused rescue from arrest but could have called a legion of angels. Jesus’ physicality: as human, limited to a single place and time but as God is omnipresent. . Jesus’ age: born circa 5 B.C. Yet eternally begotten (Nicene Creed). Jesus mortality: Jesus was the Son of Man (אדם) and died at Golgotha with frailty of any mortal yet also Child of God and death has no hold over Him/Her.
We could go on and on and we clearly see that Jesus is the joining of two, seemingly opposite and impossible qualities. Jesus is, as every good Christian should agree, the Coincidence of Opposites in the deepest and most quantitative sense. In every sense, Jesus is the joining of the finite in His humanity and the infinite in Her and His deity. I struggle to find any sense where Jesus, the God-Human, is limited to one side of any binary.
Why would Jesus’ gender be any different? If God cares a smidgen about consistency, and God is obsessively consistent,7 then Jesus must be the joining of gender opposites too, female and male. Jesus must be an androgyne.
Jesus, before having a body would not have been male and therefore non-male gendered. Jesus, like God, was trans-sex.
The old Testament contains two prophecies that imply Jesus’ gender, androgyne Adam and androgyne angels.
Jesus is the Second Adam
Recall the cherubim guarding the Tree of Life from humanity is an heir to Adam, fulling God’s task to protect Eden. The heir to Adam is also Jesus, the Second Adam. So the cherubim are a prophecy of Christ. Perhaps the cherubim are even a theophany as angels often or always are. Gen 1-3 features God referring to a nebulous “us.” “Let us make Adam.” “Man [not Eve] has now become like us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take from the Tree of Life.” Immediately following, the cherubim come, as if God were speaking to them. One theory of the “us” is they are the angels, supported by these verses. Another theory, which Christians tend to prefer, is that “us” refers to the Holy Spirit and Jesus. If so, it becomes even more likely that Jesus is the guardian cherubim. This is not permanent. “To everyone who conquers, I will give permission to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:7, NRSV) The Orthodox liturgy for the third Sunday of Lent proclaims: “Now the flaming sword no longer guards the gates of Eden; it has mysteriously been quenched by the wood of the Cross!”8 Perhaps “us” literally refers to the angels and allegorically to Jesus, fulfilling both theories. But what is more important and more certain is that anagogically doubly becomes Adam, once by taking androgyne Adam’s place and once by taking the cherubim’s place.
Jesus appears an angel, and therefore androgynous, in other places as well.
Manifestation of God
We could conclude that Jesus is Androgyne simply by the above
Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:4b NASB
Sex of Jesus
Because Jesus was trans-sex before the Incarnation, totally without sex, and became a flesh and blood human with a sex, Jesus changed sexes. Jesus began with no sex and was born, physically transitioned, into a different sex. Jesus is the world’s most famous transexual! That simple fact is profound. Jesus knows how it feels to move from
and worth dwelling on.
Stacy, A college peer of mine held the opinion that Jesus was intersex with XX chromosomes but with a male phenotype. She had the right motivation: if Jesus was be Salvation for her, a woman, and men and the archetype for both, Jesus must have been both female and male. The Gospel writers believed Jesus had a male body so Stacy found balance by believing Jesus’ male phenotype was balanced by a female genotype. If I followed her preoccupation with Jesus’ physical body, I might agree with her hypothesis. Her reasoning is sensible.
The mainstream Christian’s response is denial. We believed Jesus was not intersex for so long and we do not like being told we were mistaken. That is a poor response. It is no better to respond that this is idea is too bizarre to be true. Again, Christians believe plenty of fantastic things. Hopefully you have recently eaten Jesus’ flesh and drank Jesus’ blood. That is no less bizarre than Jesus being intersex.
Jesus may or may not be intersex. I am personally agnostic on the matter. There is neither any evidence that He was not nor sufficient evidence that She was. I disagree with Mollenkott’s theory is sufficient because I believe God occasionally takes liberty with Nature. At times God does work through Nature; God’s creation of every human being is a completely natural process from conception to birth. But at times God is strictly supernatural. If there is any point God would act supernaturally, it would likely be general Creation, Incarnation, Resurrection, and the General Resurrection.
When I heard Stacy’s intersex Jesus theory, I disagreed. I was not yet in harmony with my gender and confused and upset with my male sex. I believed that because I was feminine and male, that sex was irrelevant. My sex should not matter and neither should Jesus’. It was possible Jesus was intersex, but not necessary. All that was required was that Jesus was intersex mentally-emotionally, both feminine and masculine as I was. I was wrong. I was egotistical to make Jesus in my image. Sex does matter. Certainly Jesus and I can both be completely male but also feminine and masculine, as can all males. But for as long as culture believes masculinity exists, maleness will be a symbol of masculinity.9 As long as Jesus and I are male, our gender will be perceived as mainly masculine no matter how we feel or act. A great deal of transpeople, myself and friend Jordan included, choose not to physically alter their body to correspond with our body identity for a variety of reasons but with two main disadvantages. We continue to have greater conflict between our body and our body identity than we would otherwise; we live with ongoing damages to our sense of body-integrity, self-esteem, and happiness. We must also have a gender identity which does not manifest in our body which means others will always perceive us differently than we perceive ourselves. People interpret me more masculine than I interpret myself; people identify Jordan more feminine than he interprets himself. There is always a barrier between others and ourselves which damages relationships. In a perfect world, our bodies would (and will) match our gender identity; I would have a body equally female and male; Jordan would have a standard male body.
I still find Stacy’s intersex Jesus theory insufficient, but for a different reason. Jesus was incarnated into an imperfect world and thereby into an imperfect humanity. God is immortal, but Jesus died. God is the source of all beauty, but Jesus was ugly. God is omniscient but Jesus did not know the day of the General Resurrection.10 God is an androgyne, at least the Imago Dei is an androgyne, but Jesus was not necessarily so.
Resurrection / Coincidence of Opposites
On the other hand, Jesus must be immortal, beautiful, omniscient, and an androgyne otherwise Jesus is not God. This contradiction is likely why Christians are shy of talking about Jesus’ ugliness and ignorance of the General Resurrection. How do we reconcile this contradiction. And this is a contradiction.
If Jesus is the perfect incarnation of God, God who is the Coincidence of Opposites, both female and male and neither male nor female, then Jesus must also be both/neither female and male. If God required becoming human for humanity’s salvation because from the beginning God, split humanity from God’s by sending his ruach (breath/soul) into humanity, then it is easy to conclude that because God divided humanity from the very beginning into Woman and Man, Jesus
When we recognize Jesus as the incarnation of God, we make no small statement. In the Nicene Creed we say Jesus is,
Eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
True God from true God,
Begotten, not made,
Of one Being with the Father.
Whatever is the Being of God is therefore the Being of Jesus. Genesis says the image of God is male and female. It does not seem to mean that God's Being is male and female, however, as those are human constructions. God's Being could no more be male and female than it could be Jewish, brunette, or freckled. Rather, God's "image" is how we perceive God. Think of your own image - simplified manifestations of your self like your reflection in a mirror, your impression on a photograph, or your silhouette of your shadow in the ground. Likewise the Image of God implies the the impression left by God on us mere mortals, things like Creation, God's actions, and God's word through the prophets. Creating the Universe was both an act of the female who gives birth and the male who inseminates. God's comfort reminds us of the feminine and God's destruction of the masculine. God portrays God's Herself and Himself as both a seamstress and a warrior. These are all minor images, minor incarnations, of God.The difference between image and incarnation is slight at most. If an artist was to create a human sculpture, she could either compare her medium with her model and visually shape one after the other or picture the model already within the medium whom she must dig out. In either case, the model is transposed to the medium.
[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all Creation. Colossians 1:15 NASB
In the Incarnation, the Image, we expect God's finest work. God incarnates God's self carefully, mindfully creatively, and authentically. Whereas God partially manifested into Scripture, we expect only the best of the Incarnation. Whereas a priests and prophets were markedly human with God's influence, The Incarnation was fully human and fully divine. Thus if Jesus was truly the full Incarnation and full Image, I can see no other way than that Jesus was male and female.
We can test this theory the same way we test the gender of God's image. Justin Tanis analyzing the masculinity and femininity of Jesus. Using Second Testament actions and words of Jesus, Tanis compiled as many feminine attributes and masculine attributes of Jesus as he could and lines them up in columns. It will not surprise anyone they come out equal in length.
This prompts two questions: How was Jesus both male and female? and Why is Scripture silent? The first question first.
A few inquiring Sunday school attending kids have asked why Jesus was a man at all and not a woman. At least in my generation, Christians dealt with this consistently explaining that Jesus had to be one or the other and had God become a woman, She would have no respect. I see now the problem in this premise: God did not have to choose. If God could combine human and divine, surely combining female and male is easy! Nature combines them all the time in normal intersex and trans people. Artists and storytellers combine them in their arts in the form of hermaphrodites. Which could Jesus have been?
I have heard proposed casually that Jesus was not a regular male, but born an XXY (Klinefelter's syndrome) intersex person thus being both female and male. People with Klinefelter's appear male anatomically with some minor and almost negligible physical differences. This would explain our second question easily as Klinefelter's Syndrome wasn't discovered until recently. I dislike this, and the intersex idea in general because it seems a cop out - Jesus is technically female but God hid it for only the Trinity, some angels, and gender theorists to find out. It contradicts the whole idea of the Image of God which is visible. It also leaves us nothing to struggle with and Jesus made conservative people quite uncomfortable. Besides, intersex people are fully female and fully male, only part of each. Likewise, I doubt Jesus would be a regular trans person either for all the same reasons except it has the advantage of still making some people uncomfortable.
Jesus as an androgyne seems thoroughly convincing to me. An androgyne is defined as a person fully female and fully male. That means vagina, clitoris and/or penis, scrotum and/or labia, breasts, and facial hair. There's nothing more uncomfortable or wonderfully paradoxical than mixed genitals on a regular person, let alone your God.
I anticipate that at this point you're offended. Go take my advice in the prologue. If you're calm then we can continue.
If my original premise, that Jesus is female and male because the Image of God is female and male, I have a second motivation as well. The traditional understanding that Jesus was only male is downright sexist. If God manifested God's self as male and only male, I would have to conclude that God is more masculine than feminine and thus men are more like God than women. If Jesus, the subject of our adoration and prayers is male and only male, I would have to conclude adore men more. If Jesus, our ultimate role model and archetype is male and only male, I would have to conclude God desires all people to strive for manhood and reject womanhood. However, these do not sound like God's character at all, but they sound remarkably like the pride of men desiring to be like God, to be adored by women, and hold all womanhood and anything different than themself in xenophobic contempt. Men have monopolized an interpretation of Jesus long enough and I will not submit.
Now, my second question, Why is Scripture silent?
Make no mistake, Scripture presents Jesus as a man. "Jesus," so far as I know, is a man's name and Scripture used male pronouns and titles. Only once, in two gospels, is there an explicit mention of Jesus' femaleness:
Oh Jerusalem . . . How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings. Luke 13.34 NASB
That's only an analogy and not sufficient for any proof. However, my ears tingle at the slightest hint of something trans and I have never, ever heard a cisgender man refer to himself using a female analogy as Jesus does here (except in jokes or insults).
But the absence of evidence is not proof of absence. There are three possible reasons: the gospel writers didn't think it worth mentioning; the writers wanted to ignore it; the writers didn't know. Or, a bit of all three. First, it is customary to refer to trans people with masculine language because you have to choose one or the other. Hebrew and Aramaic had no neuter tense or pronouns. Eunuchs were always referred to with masculine language despite their lack of masculinity. God, in the First Testament, was almost always given male language despite every Hebrew's admission that God had no penis.
Second, the writers chose not to write much about the feminine side of Jesus' gender. Note they do not spend much time on Jesus' masculine side either. On the four aspects of gender, they don't write at all about Jesus' sex, gender identity, or gender expression and concerning Jesus gender roles, Justin Tanis shows Jesus was remarkably transgender (relative to the culture). The only gender markers the writers give are pronouns (he or she), titles (son, brother, king), and calling Jesus a man. So if the writers new about Jesus' sex, why not use feminine and masculine language? That sounds easy, but it's not. I tell everyone they can use any pronoun for me and they always choose one and stick to it. I've tried to use both feminine and masculine pronouns for God, but it's just too hard for me. And I'm an enlightened trans person! I stick to avoiding pronouns altogether. Imagine Peter who doesn't even want a woman touching Jesus trying to understand multiple genders! Besides their own inability, I could understand if the apostles thinking Jesus' gender would be a distraction from Jesus' message. Jesus is controversial enough with all that "be birthed again, cursed is the rich, drink my blood" and implying divinity without having to worry about Jesus' unmentionables too.
I don't think either reason is why because I find this last possibility so convincing: the writers didn't know. Jesus was awfully mysterious and still is. The apostles couldn't even understand many simple things like, "They will . . . kill Him [the Son of Man], and three days later He will rise again." (Mark 10.34) If Jesus said to them, "guys, I'm the Daughter of Woman too; I've got a womb and everything." You think they'd understand? I have friends who have spent hours with loved ones trying to explain without any success. One friend has so far come out to her dad four times and he just doesn't realize.
Besides that, when most people see a hermaphrodite, they think they're a male. It's a lot to explain, but to summarize, people who see someone with both female, feminine, male, and masculine features will ascribe a male gender to the person. Female gender attribution comes only if no male attributes are present. Thus if Jesus had a perfectly androgynous face, breasts, wide hips, short, and a beard, almost everyone would interpret Jesus as male without question. That's why you've probably never recognized a female-to-male transexual - it's so easy to convince someone they're a man.11
A new understanding of Scripture, if done right, not only deepens understanding but should explain something that didn't make sense before. Before the Crucifixion, Jesus' mind was "perfect" (for lack of a better word) but Jesus' body was limited. Jesus got tired, thirsty, hungry, and was mortal. At the resurrection, Jesus' body changed remarkably. Jesus could walk through walls and disappear entirely while the gospel writers emphasize that Jesus was still physical. Something else is odd about Jesus' body: people don't recognize it. Mary Magdalene, the first to see Jesus, does not recognize Jesus even she's looking for Jesus (John 20). Secondly, Jesus appears on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24) and is not recognized even though Jesus is talking about why the Messiah must die and resurrect and they still don't recognize Jesus. Thirdly, Jesus appears to two other disciples walking to the country in Mark 16. The Mark passage is interesting because it records "Jesus appeared in a different form." Not recognized once is odd, twice is a coincidence, and three times holds a meaning. There's also the apostle's strange behavior at the beach when they see Jesus for the first time.
What is the "different form"? Isaiah says Jesus was not much to look at; maybe the resurrect made Jesus better looking, but I doubt Jesus has such a standard of beauty. Perhaps Jesus' face had a huge scar which the resurrect removed. Possibly, though unconvincing. And wouldn't the apostles recognize Jesus' voice, too? I have encountered only one explanation that makes sense of the confusion and the gospel's lack of explanation: Jesus' gender changed. Perhaps Jesus' body pre-resurrection was imperfect regarding sex, only expressing maleness and the resurrection perfected that attribute of Jesus body as well; the resurrection created a femaleness to Her including, of course, Her voice. Perhaps Jesus was a hermaphrodite all along but He expressed the female much more strongly post-resurrection.
In either case, Jesus' transgender status helps understanding a gospel mystery and complements well the frequent pairing of opposites in Jesus' life: life through death, victory through peace, richness through poverty, strength through weakness, humanity meeting divinity, and male meeting female. Male combined with female should be the least challenging! As important as gender is to us, we wealthy Americans should rather be offended at Jesus' scandalous call to poverty.
"He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me?" John 14:9b-10a NASB
For this reason he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 2.17 TNIV)
Even Jerry Leach shares believing the androgyny of Christ with me. Jerry believes in a method of spiritual healing championed by Leanne Payne she calls healing prayer. A person takes a visual idea causing them distress, commonly memories and dreams, and prayerfully invites Jesus in to transfigure the images into something holy. I attended a Payne conference by the wishes of my parents hoping I would discover and heal my childhood memory which was making me transgender. A family friend, John Fawcett, prayed over me and without warning or invitation, asked God to heal me. A believer in reparative therapy, he prayed that I disassociate from the allure of my mom’s large hips and breasts. Speaking of my mom so sexually was angering and I longed him to shut up so I could leave. While he hugged me, also without welcome, a hard image came to my mind, something between thought and vision. Where John sat, Jesus filled up his body so fully as to replace him physically and spiritually and protected me from John’s baseless penetration of my mom, my gender, and knowledge of God. Silently Christ comforted me from foolishness. Although I instinctively picture Jesus as black, this image was stereotypical white flowing robes, long brown hair, and beard reminding me of the genderqueer presentation I had been sporting - a skirt, t-shirt, beard, and long hair. Pressed closely, the bottoms of Jesus’ robes rolled next to my skirt, Her hair flowed amidst mine, His beard mingled with mine.
For some Christians, this is proof of Christ’s gender transcendence and the validity of Christian transgenderism. I disagree. Perhaps this was a divine vision. But perhaps this unique sight was my imagination rebelling against the gender binary John physically pressed into me. As (nearly) Orthodox, I reject personal experience as valid authority for knowing God. However, I do agree with Leanne Payne that these symbols are at least expressions from our emotional depths. To the extent that these symbols are common among all people, they express the human collective unconscious. These symbols were enough to convert C. S. Lewis to Christianity (for him, transcultural narratives of the dying-resurrecting god-man) and, as communal experience, we ought to listen.
Back to Jerry, he had a strikingly similar “vision.” In it, he puts on “a woman’s long flowering nightgown” and finds Jesus in the room but can see only Jesus’ hair. In shame, Jerry strips naked and they embrace.
His chest was the most masculine one could imagine, yet seemed to envelope me as though it were a mother’s breast. A the same time, I caught two distinctively different fragrances coming from His person; His robe saturated with a man’s body odor and His skin of sweetest perfume. I was conscious of His masculine strength as He drew me closer into His masculine/feminine chest and body.
Like the Old Testament messianic prophecies going above the Hebrews’ heads, Jerry neither elaborates nor comprehends these words but cannot help but proclaim them.