It is always a problem for people who are not “something” to write about that “something”. I am not a transgender person and so I write these posts with trepidation. However, I am not writing to explain what it means to be trans. I have no business doing that. But I can enter the conversation as someone with an education in theology and biology. It seems to me that cisgender people need to do some thinking about biology and theology. That’s what I am doing here. Mainly writing for other cisgender folks who may be quick to dismiss or discredit someone who is different by citing theological or biological reasons.
There are, of course, two creation stories. So you may ask what about the story in Genesis 2 of Adam and Eve? Doesn’t talking about Adam and Eve, male and female, tell us there are only two genders?
The answer is essentially the same interpretive process we use when people say “It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” And actually the answer we gave last week, “This text is not about biology” still applies. And as always, it helps greatly if we read more of the story than just a single verse or two. The first thing to notice is that people are created, and given life by God and cared for by God. This is actually really important because Israel’s creation stories are markedly different the the creation stories of other nations of the time.
God remarks that “It is not good that the human should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” Here it is important to understand that the word translated as “helper”, is used in other places in the Bible as “helper” and most of the time refers to God. “Helper” does not mean a lesser, subordinate being. So all the animals are created and the human does not find a “helper as his partner.” And then we have the creation of Eve.
The point to be made here is when the man says “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.”, this is not equivalent to him saying, “Look ! Here is the only other gender, the person I can have sex with.” The man’s statement is an exclamation of, “Here is another human being! Another being like me!” We know that because this story is part of the naming of the animals where a partner is not found.
So verse 24 “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.”,seems a bit out of place then. It doesn’t fit well with verse 25 and what comes after either. So what is going on here in this verse? It may simply be a comment that human relationships change. People leave their family of origin and begin new families. When we are children our parents are our most important relationship, as we grow up that changes. What is interesting is, that in the ancient world, for the most part men didn’t leave their families, the women left theirs. But we are off topic.
All the discussion here about men and women is focused on kinship and relationship. And it uses the most typical intimate relationship to talk about that, the relationship between men and women. But that doesn’t mean or imply that no other relationships or genders exist. These stories aren’t describing the totality of living beings. You will notice when the man is naming the animals, he doesn’t name anything that lives in water or, evidently the forest. We certainly have names for those creatures. The text doesn’t have to tell us that humans named the octopus in the sea and bear in the forest. That’s not the point. Likewise, the text does not have to describe every type of relationship and gender for them to exist. The point of the text is that meaningful relationships between humans exist.
Similarly to return to Genesis 1, we are told there is land and water. But the text does not tell us about different environments. Mountains, beaches, forests, and prairie are not mentioned. We are also told there is a dome in the sky. Once again, scientific accuracy is not the point. What the text is careful to tell is that God created all of it. Clearly because something is not explicitly named in the text, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
An important question to ask is, “Does the Bible say anything at all about gender non conforming people?” And that is the subject of the next post.