Can one be transgender and be a faithful follower of Christ?
The Answer is YES!
We have the privilege of walking with transgender siblings on their journey reconciling their gender identity with the Christian faith.
Singapore has predominantly conservative Christian churches and social values.
Many disenfranchised transgender Christians have left the faith because of the lack of spiritual support – or even outright hostility – when they come to understand and express their gender identity.
Many would say that being there is no biblical support for being transgender! That’s because we often read the bible with normative lenses – and here we read the bible with a cisgender lens.
When I was in seminary, Peterson Toscano was invited to perform “Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible.” After the performance I rushed back to my room to go through parts of the Bible that he referenced – and he was right!
You may be familiar with the story of Joseph and his coat of many colors in Genesis 37. The coat of many colors is translated from the Hebrew phrase “ketonet passim”. If you have a NIV translation of the Bible, there is a footnote saying “The meaning of the Hebrew for this word is uncertain” I think that’s rather dishonest because the phrase “ketonet passim” does appear elsewhere in the Bible in 2 Samuel 13:18 – and the text explains what ketonet passim means – and it says “this was the kind of garment the virgin daughters of the king wore.”
It is inconclusive if the term refers to a gendered garment for princesses, or if it was merely a colourful robe worn by royalty. What we do know is that Joseph’s doting father made him this ornate robe, and it made his brothers jealous.
In Bereishit Rabbah 84:7, some Jewish rabbis’ exegesis of the Genesis text said that Joseph “pencils his eyes, lifts his heels, curls his hair, twirls, hugs himself” and that “Joseph is the image of his beautiful mother”.
Think about it… This suggests an ancient conception of an effeminate, gender-variant Joseph by the early commentators, who are much closer culturally to the original texts than where we are today, as they had additional sources from their traditions to draw from.
Joseph isn’t the only gender-variant character in the Bible. Some are hidden in plain sight to us today, but in the context of ancient times, they stood out like a sore thumb. One of them is the man carrying the water jar that Jesus sent his disciples to look for in Mark 14 and Luke 22.
Back then, fetching water was a woman’s job. The sight of a man carrying a water jar would have stood out as very unusual and certainly did not fall within the gender norms of their day. But it is for that very reason that Jesus’ disciples would have been able to notice him and follow him down the streets to the upper room. His difference made him visible in the Passover crowd. Had Jesus asked them instead to look for a woman carrying a water jar, they would have had no way to know which woman they were supposed to follow.
It is not clear if this person was transgender, gender non-conforming, or performing the gender atypical task for some other reason. Whatever the reason, God worked through this water carrier to lead the disciples to the room where Jesus would host His last supper.
In conclusion, for our transgender siblings, I hope this sharing helps you know you can be transgender and Christian. For our Christian siblings, I hope this can be an invitation to allow God’s perfect love to cast out our fears – allow love to cast out the transphobia that is lodged in our hearts.