I will be the first to admit that I sound secular when I tell others, I don’t care what your religion is, so long as you don’t force it upon others. Live, and let live.

I’m also aware of my country’s varied history. In states like Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, they were founded as colonies to help people who were not members of the Anglican Church flee and practice in peace, so I understand the need the need for religious freedom. (For Pennsylvania, because of the Quakers. For Bay Staters, they were founded by the Puritans.)

In the perspective as an American, we are a melting pot, so it makes sense to live and let live. But from the perspective of the transsexual experience? If I expect others to tolerate my existence, etiquette dictates I return the same respect.

(I get that there are plenty of people in each of the world religions that not only tolerate, but accept and embrace transgender and “third gender” individuals, or encourage sex changes to comply with religious rules, like some Orthodox Jewish communities. This post is to address my respect and attempt to work with traditionalists in these faiths who are not as open to the idea.)

I’m a sucker for rosaeies. And Catholic imagery.

The Bible in Genesis mentions God made us male and female. The Bible also mentions a concept called saris (in general, gender ambiguity, classically translated as “eunuchs”). I’ll be the first to admit, I have no background in history or theology, so I have no idea what the cultural context of the word means. I do know the term refers to someone born male, but wasn’t quite like most men of their times, and often has some kind of “female” quality about them.

In their defense, because the ancient Hebrews were a pastoral people, they did not have the time to be figuring out things like “gender identity”; they had to spend their waking hours working for the survival of everyone. They did not have the food and housing securities we had today, and thus have time to comprehend gender theory, deconstruct various aspects of identity, and undergo self-determination. Their ancient laws were a means to figure things out quickly so you can get on surviving—if you born one way, you lived like this; if you were born that way, they needed you to live like that. They needed the familial and social cohesive to work for the benefit and survival of everyone; anyone who acted in a way that sowed uneasiness, that was going to be a big issue. As ancient Arabs were even more nomadic, their survival was harsher, and also needed people to follow rules and traditions that they knew guaranteed their survival.

shiva nataraja figurine surrounded by lighted tealights
Shiva, a popular god in India, has a form called Ardhanaranari, which loosely means “The Lord who is half woman”. This incarnation is worshipped widely across the subcontinent. Archaeology suggests people of the “third gender” were respected in ancient India. I worshipped him when I was younger.

Agricultural peoples, like the ancestors of modern India, had much better food and shelter security, so they had the ability to figure things out. They didn’t separate sexual orientation from gender identity, but they have a ton of terms for each kind of mashup they could think of. That didn’t mean that society was totally accepting—thanks to colonialism, India isn’t kind to their “third gender” members anymore—but it means our kind have existed at some point since forever. Even their gods blessed us.

Do I defend or agree with any of this? In modern times, in our own country, no. I’m not going to judge a people from another time and place through the lens of my own experience, or the lens of the values I’ve come to embody. What I will say, is, if we were a people where survival was of utmost concern, we wouldn’t have the time to dissect and engage in identity politics. If a woman wasn’t good with kids but good in the fields, the guy in charge would put her in the fields and make sure she wasn’t harrassed by other men. If a guy wasn’t as strong and not attracted to women, the patriarch would have no problem having that guy guard or work with the women.

We have people in this country, whom I often dub “Bible thumpers”, who want to turn our country into a Judeo-Xian theocracy. Even if they could use the democratic process to try and outlaw sex changes, those laws don’t apply to us who already underwent one, thanks to Article 1, Section 9, Clause 3 (federal laws) and Article 1, Section 10 (state laws), which prohibit the passing ex post facto laws. And even if they could successfully pass a law, there are “religious” groups like the Satanic Temple who would challenge such laws as such would violate their beliefs, and that transsexuals are entitled to bodily autonomy and access to sex change therapies, while LGBs are entitled to relationship and marital rights just like straight couples.

Maybe they can learn from Orthodox Jews, who are slowly accepting transsexual individuals.

As anyone respectful, I abide by this: when I invite you over, let me know if you have observances I should be aware of, and I will do what I can to take them into consideration. When I am invited by you to your place, of course I will adhere, to the best of my ability, to whatever you need me to follow. If knowing I changed my sex bothers you, and our interaction is not obligatory, let us leave and be in peace; if we need to interact, I will do it as a man, not a woman. Your faith requires you to follow its rules, not me.

I don’t think the big guy upstairs really cares at day’s end what we are, just that we act with love and compassion.

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