A Christian view of trans

Christian theology supports trans people and transition unequivocally. The Bible recognises and values trans people. As Peterson Toscano said, a man carrying a water jar was doing women’s work, which was beyond shameful for a man in that culture- she must have been trans.

The Bible values bodies as good. God created humanity in God’s image, and everything God had made was very good. Male and female God made me! God knitted me together in my mother’s womb- I am fearfully and wonderfully made. And after my transition I was freed to see my body as beautiful and wonderful, not inadequate as I thought before. As God does not have a body, whether like in the Sistine Chapel with a grey beard and pink shirt or otherwise, the image is of our nature- like God, we are loving, creative, powerful and beautiful. It is that nature, made in God’s image, that drives us to transition.

Philip baptised the Ethiopian eunuch. Eunuchs were condemned in the old testament, but not in the new dispensation of Christ.

Jesus identifies with the lowly and downtrodden: whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me. When the Church spits hate, such as the Pope inveighing against “gender theory, which does not recognise the order of creation” calling it as bad as the use of nuclear weapons, he continues the oppression of the strong against the weak that Christ condemned. Francis was pleasing his conservative followers then, the modern equivalent of the scribes and pharisees who Jesus said locked people out of the Kingdom of Heaven. For them, morality is a set of rules, to be used to condemn others. However the Kingdom of Heaven is completely different: we have one Father, who is in Heaven, and one teacher, one instructor, who is the Christ. Jesus will send the Teacher, the Holy Spirit, who will be in us.

You know who you are and what is right because Christ has sent Christ’s spirit to be in you. Your conviction that your gender is not that assigned, your conviction that you are of the other gender, which you know despite all denial, which eventually you have the courage to assert despite all the mockery and hostility others rain down on you, comes from Christ, who says, In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!

Paul confirms this: If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you. In Acts, we read of the holy spirit coming on all kinds of people. Peter’s epistle predicts the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts– which is the moment you commit to transition, and fully expressing who you are.

The Kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened. That is, the Kingdom of Heaven is among us, here, present, now, when we follow the Spirit of Christ within. You know your transition is right through the Spirit of Christ leading you.

This post is not written for atheists. If you do not value the Bible, it will not convince you that God leads you to freedom through transition. You know that transition is good for other reasons. Rather I write for people when the Bible has been used to condemn them, for that is a false use of the Bible. The words of Jesus within us confirm that we are right to transition.

Pure and impure feelings

“I can’t feel what I am supposed to feel,” she said. Well, Duh.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy teaches that we can feel differently if we tell ourselves things. We can speak to our emotional self cajolingly or sensibly, and despair at disasters can become a stoic acceptance and continuing useful action. So, Situation, Thought, Emotion, Behaviour: what I think is going on in this situation affects how I feel about it.

Or, we can see that we do not perceive or think correctly, and correct our thinking so our feelings are not so bad. Black and white thinking: it is either perfect, or it is a disaster. Well, no, things are usually in the middle. Do not be downhearted, it is not that bad.

Unfortunately this denies my feelings. Things are not perfect, and therefore I am terrified. That I am terrified of something illusory which is only in my own mind does not stop the terror. And I know what I am supposed to feel, quiet satisfaction that everything is going smoothly. I can’t feel that.

When I was a child, I was split in two and my two parts were set at war with each other. I have been liberating myself since. My freedom matters to me more than anything else. I have many voices on my inner committee, but I might call these two the Actor and the Prisoner: the Actor who felt, desired, reacted as she was supposed to, and the Prisoner who must not be seen even by herself.

Could the war be over? I don’t know. I do know that as an adult my old ideas of “how I am supposed to feel” do not apply. There is how I feel, now. If I imagine it is other than it is, I will be conflicted and disappointed. I will feel numb rather than feeling the appropriate feeling.

There are still Appropriate Feelings swirling around, in the culture and in particular groups and situations, and I may not pick those up; and as an empath those may overwhelm me; and I don’t know, and will not speculate further here.

I am concerned that words affect my feelings. If I see a situation in a particular way that will affect how I feel, and the world I have constructed through verbal understanding may obscure the world as it is. Impure feelings are a response to my previous understandings. Pure feelings are a response to the situation as it is now.

If I think, “They ought to be better than that! It’s no better than a glorified-“, the result is disappointment, resentment, peevishness. This does not advance my goals.

If I centre down, consider, seek out what I perceive, and what I feel about that, there might be some hope in the mix.

My own inadequacy and the terror that inspires is a strong habit. That seems to fit best with the Words, the description of how the world is and should be. I write down a possible verbal understanding of a particular situation, and realise that if I put a question mark after my two word summary my perception changes completely.

-What do you hope for?
-I hope for hope. I have seen what I can do, and I have done it. I hope I will see something I can do, and do it. I am not sure what it might be, now. I will see it is worthwhile and give it my energy.

What I want is to “flow like water” as Lao Tzu said, or “Pray continually” as Paul said, or to integrate as a whole human being, or to find my Inner Light or Reality or Freedom.

The world I inhabit includes others’ perceptions. I am sure the problem is not me, but others disagree.

Now, I feel gratitude and warmth. There has been an act of generosity towards me. I am surprised. She had suggested it and I had no expectation of it. It is an unaccustomed feeling. I was briefly tearful.

Right now, I have a common goal, getting the Labour vote out at the election, but that will end tomorrow, and become different goals requiring different action. My comrades are not my friends. We have this one thing of intense importance in common. We might make friendships in time.

I love Geertgen tot Sint Jans. I love the complete innocence of these faces. And Jesus apparently emerging from the tomb but still carrying the Cross is a powerful image I don’t recall seeing before. Other artists either have him carrying the cross, or hanging from it, or being lifted down from it dead, or Resurrected with the Cross behind him. Even the common image of Christus Victor, on the cross but robed and triumphant, arms wide in blessing, shows bare feet but not all that blood. I am not sure what to make of it.

How wonderful!

Jesus in Milton Keynes

To meet H in Milton Keynes. Can Christ encounter a trans woman?

It’s 2 1/2 hours on the bus, but I have Audre Lorde’s poetry to read:

it is better to speak
remembering
we were never meant to survive

A woman at a bus stop had left her husband after 22 years. Will you go back to him? asked the man emptying the bin. No, he beat her up. I congratulate her, and she says her family are helping her get stronger. Though he still lives in the town, and when he sees her gives her a dirty look as if she had wronged him. That’s worrying.

Milton Keynes has some really poor public art, I say. For example,

“What’s it meant to be?” H asks. An abstract sculpture. I suppose it is best in bright sunshine like today, with those contrasts between bright and dark. It would look different from hour to hour. (But I am writing after my encounter- I was sniffier before.)

After the Paula Rego exhibition we go into the park. I am still mocking, but beginning to take an interest. This is the Milton Keynes rose:

This, though, does not seem worth its prominent position:

But then we read that the Light Pyramid is sometimes lit to commemorate local or national events. On the way there we see the amphitheatre:

We sit in the shade of the beacon, talking of the good life and looking out over this heavily landscaped park.

I noticed the woman before I heard what they were saying. I got out my phone to take notes. Each chants a phrase several times, and sometimes in another language:

I cover this diamond in the name of Jesus.
This diamond is causing people sickness.
MK is covered in the name of Jesus.
Walk around in praise.
I soak this place with the blood of Jesus seven times.
Break every chain.
Holy Spirit have mercy on MK.
Grey Grace and Jeremy are praying to save Milton Keynes from Satan. I ask them for a photograph, and they ask why I want it. I pause for a moment. I want to say, because I too am a follower of Jesus. I wonder if this will mislead them, then decide to say it. They high-five me.

After, Grace prays over me. It is powerfully affirming. Though people gossip about me or I am confused, Jesus is with me. She speaks urgently, her hand on my shoulder.

We go back to the Rose, and notice the inscriptions. Some monoliths are blank, others inscribed. The stone is beautiful.

May 24th is Heartwarming Day, when John Wesley recorded “I felt my heart strangely warmed”. The second Saturday in June is Knit in Public day.

I find the art gallery beautiful, inside and out:

I love the primary colours, the steel, concrete and breeze blocks, the detail of it.

I am a little sad that Grace might not recognise my way of following Jesus, but do not want her to change hers, but to grow in it.

In the bus back I read a little, and practise my presence meditation:

I am here. This is. I am.

Paula Rego was wonderful. On the bus I read Richard Rohr quoting Peter: “He has given us something very great and wonderful . . . you are able to share the divine nature!”

Partial inclusion

When I am not accepted, often I am tolerated. When I am not wholly valued or cherished, I may be partially included: I pretend to be a normal person, and am allowed to be that normal person in the group. So naming the way in which my difference is rejected may be a threat to me: it draws attention to my difference, so maybe my pretence at normality has been seen through, and I will be rejected. No, no, it’s no trouble, I say. Please don’t worry about it.

Though I am depressive, and need a lot of acceptance before it gets through to me; and I am hypervigilant for any sign of rejection. And, that could be seen more positively: particular aspects of me are appropriate for this group accomplishing this task, and others can come out at another time.

Our liberation is bound up together. If I can take off my masks, I can accept others without theirs, and even help them to remove them. We shall stand together naked and unashamed, but conscious and aware. Jesus says: “When you strip yourselves without being ashamed, when you take off your clothes and lay them at your feet like little children and trample on them! Then [you will become] children of Him who is living, and you will have no more fear.

This is a spiritual process, among Quakers. My Friend asked, What would it take to enable us to live in consciousness of peace, love and joy so that such issues as these and many others are resolved spontaneously? I think we need practice. I don’t know we will ever manage it spontaneously. I replied, For me, that is a continual process of emptying myself of my requirements of others and my false perceptions, and appreciating what is around me and within me. It is not instantaneous- noticing something and welcoming or emptying it, as it also involves things I desire or need to explore. There is love in me. I have blind spots where I do not notice- logs as well as specks in my eye- and it is a matter of seeing. I am pleased that I said there is love in me. I can acknowledge my goodness. Not everyone can.

Trans people are bound up in the concept of a real self, a kernel which is unchanging, which is the sex not assigned at birth. That might be a chimera. I can imagine a person’s self-concept being exhaustively defined, all the things they think they are and ought to be, but not the organismic self because it is an organism. I am an organism that reacts to circumstances, taking in ideas, responding to stimuli, so I cannot know how I will react until I am provoked. As the world I am in changes, I change.

How comfortable are you? There is a Quaker booklet, Owning power and privilege, which considers how some of us are advantaged, and the first voice in the text is a “white, middle class, educated, affluent” person who calls himself a “typical Quaker”. My voice comes later: For many of us, understanding power and privilege will be a matter of seeing both sides- how we are simultaneously disempowered and empowered by social structures and deep, embedded cultures. I am white, middle class by origin at least, educated, and I have refused policemen peremptorily demanding to come in to my house, unlike that typical Quaker who acknowledges “police attention bypasses me”. I know he is a man, from the pronouns he uses of himself. I think he’s straight. He does not mention being a straight man in that list of privileges. Fair enough, it’s a toolkit for recognising privilege in onesself, but the most privileged person is heard first.

Though the toolkit’s epigraph is by an “Aboriginal” activist, Lilla Watson: If you have come here to help me, then you are wasting your time… but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together. She could be educated, too.

How comfortable are you? Bud Tillinghast has started a blog on the Roman Empire as a way of understanding the Bible. He quotes an English publication: August is named after Augustus Caesar…[who] brought peace and prosperity to the Roman Empire… The extensive network of Roman roads made travel much easier and thus [helped] the spread of Christianity. He points out that “peace” was in the interests of the Roman elite, at the expense of the rest, and that those roads helped soldiers march easily to places the Pax Romana was threatened. Tacitus said, They make a desolation and call it peace. If we think of that “peace” as a good thing, it is because we think of our own imperial adventures as beneficent, spreading order, rather than rapacious.

The way to equality is owning our power and privilege. It might help us get people of colour in if we recognised our privilege, as part of the emotions, attitudes and prejudices in [ourselves] which lie at the root of destructive conflict, the things we can’t see because they are so normal and expected. This is just how things are. This is not how things should be.

I am seeking my own liberation here, not just as a trans woman oppressed by the Patriarchy but as an educated white person oppressed by my education, which blinds me to other perspectives. When the least of us is free we are all entirely free.

overcome

What did Jesus mean, “I have overcome the World”? As a postmodernist, I would say whatever the reader needed the phrase to mean, in that moment- and if you had a blinding flash of Insight into it, perhaps he meant that. Certainly he means we can overcome: there is little point in the God-man, once, overcoming if his followers do not overcome too. He does not mean that he has what outsiders imagine is the Zen-like calm, as Jesus wept and became angry. I started my spiritual journey wanting not to experience difficult emotions, but they are unavoidable.

And for me, it means this. I had the sense of being lovable and acceptable, loved and accepted by God and by myself, and that is enough. I do not need the acceptance of others, which they can withhold to manipulate me, or to avoid their condemnation as it will not hurt me. If I accept myself, that is all the acceptance I need. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ- for the Spirit of Life in Christ has set us free.

The whole verse is this: I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world! Just before he was crucified. It is not conquering in a worldly sense, but leaving worldly sense behind.

I seek integration. There are all these voices in me, or feelings, or even characters, different ideals of being and understandings, and I want them all to work for the same goal, to pull in the same direction. A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. I say,

I am here

and I am, one being, present and aware. It feels like it is what I called the inner child. Then there are my counsellors: the rational self, knowing the sensible thing to do. Even the inner critic. “You will embarrass yourself”- embarrassment is extremely painful. There has to be one making the decisions, and it has to be the one with the power to decide.

 

True love waits

No-one wants abortions to happen. To reduce the numbers, there are three main paths- legal restrictions, better religious education, and better sex education. I want to speak up for the second.

Better religious education, and more people following in the footsteps of Christ, will reduce abortions. The two great commandments are to love God, and to love our neighbour as ourselves. This means respect and care for all, including those who need abortions. It also means care for those who are at risk of needing abortions: social groups which may be found through sociological research. They are our sisters; every hair on their head is numbered. Rescuing them from abortion does not mean enforcing rules on them, but making it as far as possible unnecessary. We enforce rules on subjects. Sisters deserve better.

Constantine used Christianity as the ideology of his empire. It became a system of moral control of the populace: the State could kill the body, and convince the person soul and body would be destroyed in Hell. Before that, Jesus told us how to navigate a strange, unpredictable world, in which the rich, living in luxury and self-indulgence, kept back the wages of the labourers by fraud; a millennial time, when there were wars and rumours of wars, and tales of a Messiah and the coming of God; people trying to live as best they could by following the rules they thought were God’s rules, and a watchful Empire taking over, ready to enforce its will by extreme violence. About forty years after he died, the Empire destroyed the Temple.

God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world be saved through him. Jesus did not tell the rich young ruler to rule in a more moral fashion, but to give up all stake in that society and become an itinerant. Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.

So it is not the Christian’s job to enforce rules on others. We recognise that is the State’s job, and every person should be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. We obey because of conscience, not just fear. Jesus sent out the seventy, expecting them to be welcomed and fed, and so we should behave like those hospitable Jews. We should bear one another up with a tender hand.

We should also not judge, but remember our own frailty and need. We each need the support of the community, so should not deny that support to others. So when someone needs an abortion, we should support that; but work so that fewer abortions are needed. Self-respect and respect of others promotes sex in a loving relationship, rather than abusive or exploitative sex.

The Christian who only intervenes to say No- who takes no interest in a woman until she needs an abortion, and then denies her what she needs- behaves in the opposite way to Christ and drives people from Christ.

Dirk van Baburen, Christ washing disciples feet

Jesus and the Buddha

When Richard was working at Mind, he came across a man who believed he contained the soul of Jesus and the Buddha. They were the same person, which is possible as the Buddha lived centuries before Jesus, though some might think such a powerful being would be more than capable of being both at once.

According to him, a UFO had hovered over him when he was a child, beamed his soul out of him, and beamed in the soul of Jesus and the Buddha.

-So the actual human being has been abducted.
-Yes, he claims to be an alien.
-Has he any memories from before?
-He says not.

That would be quite useful, actually. All those bits where the Gospels contradict each other, he could tell us what really happened. And there are too few parables for three years of teaching: he could tell us the ones which were missed out.

Though he might just say, “A wicked and corrupt generation has asked for a sign”.

So what happened to him? Did the pills take it away? No, Richard did not meet him at Mind, but at the Nupton Quaker Meeting House, where he was preaching to his followers.

Followers!!? It is a good job I had put my teacup down. Yes, there was a woman who wrote a lot of books about UFOs, who interviewed him, and believed him.

Why have we not heard of him? I would have thought Jesus would want to do more than give a talk in the Meeting house. But he is not doing much, this incarnation: he was formerly a Scout-master in Zhuzhkov.

One of my pedantries is that they have been called Scout leaders since at least the Seventies, but I forbore from mentioning it.

The Harrowing of Hell

Taking up my cross

Julius is a satanic figure, while Tallis is represented as Christ-like, since he absorbs suffering while Julius sows it….evil is propagated in the world by the transmission of suffering from one person to another, and that it can only be stopped by someone’s being willing accept the suffering without passing it on. -Wikipedia on A Fairly Honourable Defeat.

I don’t believe in consciousness after death. My Self is so bound up in this physical being, and so influenced by the physical world, that I cannot imagine anything recognisably me in a Heaven with different physical laws and some sort of “perfect” body. At best- and Paul is worth reading– there is something quite different, in the common analogy as different as being out of the womb from being in it. A wise Quaker told me our atoms leave us and move through the world, in other people or in the Earth, and we live in the memories of those we have touched. What will survive of us is Love. As this was exactly my view, my belief may merely be following the fashion.

So, Heaven is here, and I seek to follow Christ, taking up my cross.

My friend Carol, who put me up last year, paid me no attention whatsoever. She had her house presentable and had a programme of entertainments, she cooked well and was the perfect performance of the attentive host, and she talked endlessly of her achievements, difficulties, luck and cleverness. I hated her by the end, and yesterday she invited me again. Absorbing pain is sometimes beyond me: I told her how I had loathed her before I left. She will phone again, though I never phone her: so I do, generally, give her relief.

I could absorb pain in the CAB, listening to people’s woes and earthing them: they left lighter. Then again I got into fights, when I felt I was in the right. I absorbed my mother’s pain, perhaps, when young.

I did a blog post this morning, showered, then encountered my inner critic. I amplified her diatribe, to drain the pain from it: I must do my washing right now, and hang it outside, or I will miss this bright dry day and break the rules and prove my utter uselessness and badness

gosh that’s liberating, satire like that. The point is most of my anger is aimed at me not others. And I did my washing so my clothes and towels would smell better.

Now, I am retreated from the world. On 7 May I got a letter from the Department for Withholding Payment: give us all your bank statements by 14 May or “you may lose benefit”. I posted them, and as I write this got a brown envelope with the familiar type-face: even though it says I am awarded benefit, I felt washed with anger and fear at the threat I had weathered. And it passes over. I will not inflict it on another.

In the park, I played at being Christ-like by exaggeratedly walking out of people’s way. I can play, and analyse the feelings. If I did it, I would have to be without egotism.

knees of Jesus

The Kin-dom of Heaven

The Kingdom of Heaven is here. All we need to do is recognise that, and then we will live the eternal life fitting in God’s kingdom, and help others to do the same.

God saw what God had made, and behold it was very good. God made us all male and female, each a complex mix of both, in God’s own image: loving, creative, powerful, beautiful. God knit me together in my mother’s womb- God’s works are wonderful, and I know it well.

Christ came as the seed which brought forth a hundred-fold, the seed which grew into a tree in whose branches the birds nest, the yeast which worked through all the dough. He told us not to worry what we will eat or wear. He told us to go out and make disciples of all nations, and promised to be with us as we did.

Jesus told us our neighbour is every human being, even the despised foreigner. He chose Paul “to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel”. All will be made alive in Christ. He is our great example, a light to the nations, that [God’s] salvation may reach to the end of the earth.

Death is real in the Bible, but there are many deaths before our hearts stop beating. We die, and are born again. We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another. Whoever does not love abides in death. Our redeemer lives, here, now, and so shall we: we have eternal life! Eternal life, life partaking in the life of God, here, now, not after we are buried, not in a place where the laws of physics do not apply. To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

I had not realised that “The lion shall lay down with the lamb” is a misquote, though preserving the sense: but these animals are people, ceasing to be predatory on each other, but living together in love and unity here on Earth, led by the child Christ, by his great example. We are all kin, children of God.

We must take up our cross, if needed, and follow him. He did not resist when arrested and executed, but healed the ear of the man sent to arrest him. Non-resistance, the way of Peace, here, now, opens the eyes of all to the Kin-dom of heaven, for everything that was made by God is kin.

This is the Kingdom of Heaven, here, now. Open your eyes and see it. Love, and enter it.

The painting is by American Quaker Edward Hicks. More on peace, shortly.

Edward Hicks, the Peaceable Kingdom

For Michelle Lesley, with whom I had a long discussion. And, because I can find no better place for it, here is the alternative view of Biblical Christianity:

Biblical Christian Principles

It is all the more striking, in that if you image-google Dixon Diaz you see how right wing all his other cartoons are.

Jesus Unmasked

I am grateful to Susan Ritchie or Sanderson for her generous gift of the book Jesus Unmasked by Todd Friel. It is a token of Christian love for someone only met through blogging- hooray for WordPress! Susan shows little sympathy or understanding for trans women, but wishes to reach out.

I feel talked down to by the over-simplified style. Few of us have the patience for waiting. Imagine waiting four hundred years for someone. OK, you’d be dead, but that’s not the point. It is all like that, which gets wearing. It has silly errors: it claims that the “devil” tempted Eve, rather than the “Serpent”. More seriously, it states substitutionary atonement as if it were true, and evinces a literal belief in the creation story, even in Job and Jonah: The Old Testament is actually a history book with theology in it. There are no true allegories… but there are actual events that are fuzzy pictures of something else. Whereas any understanding of carbon dating, ice cores from Antarctica, or the fossil record refutes that. My heart sank at the endorsement from Ken Ham on the cover. Literalism leads Friel to call 397-5BC “The silent years”, ignoring the fact that some of the psalms and the final Hebrew/Aramaic form of Daniel were written or edited in the time of the Maccabees.

Fuzzy pictures: it takes the OT as prophecy of Jesus. It says that the Ram caught in a thicket was a prefiguring of Jesus. That is a valid interpretation, but he should not exclude others.

Friel delights in cruelty. The first nine plagues failed to soften Pharaoh’s heart, so God sent plague number ten and it was a doozey. Susan left her card in the book at p81, where Friel claims God is exceedingly long-suffering and amazingly kind, in a section on the extermination of the Canaanites. He loves Hell: There will not be a trap door with a chute that leads sinners to hell like a water park slide. God Himself will cast them to eternal damnation… they will suffer eternal conscious torment.

Unable to criticise post-modernism, he produces a straw man. Even though we completely disagree, we are both right. Then he claims his account of Jesus is true and Revealed. But the Bible is a conversation, a series of unreconcilable stories. There are many interpretations.

His contempt for people prevents him from seeing them clearly. The Pharisees and Sadducees wore splendid robes and would never stoop to hug children and babies. No, they were people who attempted to do God’s will by conforming to a set of complex rules- like modern Evangelicals. Of course they hugged children. He claims the same crowds who welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem with chants of Hosanna one week later were chanting “Crucify him!” Ridiculous, there were a million people in Jerusalem for Passover.

What can I agree with? He says the Bible is a progressive revelation of God. Indeed. The culmination is Jesus.

Should conservative Evangelicals wish to show their love, I would rather they prayed for me. Whatever they desire for me, the Holy Spirit will translate their prayer for my good.

Another picture by Sir John Lavery, who delights me.

John Lavery, Miss Auras, The Red Book