Acts 26 page

The Ambiguous Ones (Acts 8:26-39)

Rev Megan MoreRev. Megan More is clergy-on-staff at Metropolitan Community Church Valley in North Hollywood, Calif. She also sits on the Transgender Service Providers Network Panel and the Interfaith LGBT Clergy Counsel of Los Angeles County. This sermon was delivered by Rev. More on August 3, 2013. Rev. More’s sermons are archived on video at www.ustream.tv/user/mcclive.

 A woman shall not wear that which belongs to a man nor a man that which belongs to a woman for this is an abomination in the sight of God.

This passage [from] Deuteronomy 22:5 was written nearly 2,800 years ago. Now I ask you, just how different was the clothing between men and women than? I mean, did women wear high heels and men wear loafers? How about a nice pencil skirt as opposed to jeans? What about a nice lace blouse compared to a button-down dress shirt? In truth, the differences were nothing more than what adornments one might add to a robe and sandals. In other words, does this infamous passage from Deuteronomy have anything to do with being transgendered? No. Not in the slightest. And if you look at the passage before and after [this one], it doesn’t even fit. 22:4 talks about helping your neighbor if their ox or ass has fallen off the road, and 22:6 is about respecting a birds’ nest with eggs in it.

But they do all relate to responsibilities and duties in society.

Now, there are several interpretations, but each is far removed from the face value used so often as a weapon of hate, and most involve women primarily and her ability to usurp a man’s role, such as being a warrior or gaining an education while disguised as a man. The flip side of this, concerning men, was a warning not to disguise themselves as women either to avoid masculine responsibilities, such as being a warrior, or to sneak into the women’s quarters to have sex. As you can see, this has nothing to do with being transgendered, or even being a cross dresser.

So much for that hate passage.

So what do those who hate transgenders have left? Not much, really. But what they always avoid is Esther and Isaiah and Matthew, and most important, the Book of Acts. Now, let me give you some background here. The Bible does not use terms such as transgender or cross dresser, since those terms are very modern, and not in the vocabulary of somebody living 2,000 to 2,800 years ago. Likewise, the word homosexual is not in scripture either, since it was coined until the 19th century by Sigmund Freud. In fact, homosexuality wasn’t a concept 2,000 years ago. Same-sex relationships were a cultural norm back then.

But I deviate a bit. I want to talk about the word eunuch. While this term sounds a abit harsh, it is in truth a valid Biblical term for someone who is transgender/transsexual. Jesus covers this very well in Matthew 19:12 when he says:

“For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by other, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”

You see, Jesus doesn’t even have a problem with transgenders. But what about God? Well, that brings me to the reading.

Philip, one of the original 12, finds himself on the road to Gaza from Jerusalem, where he encounters Ethiopian eunuch. This is not just any Ethiopian eunuch, either. This one is the treasurer to the queen and an emissary. Now, I must note here also that eunuchs were special people in many ways, especially in the Bible. They were high ranking officials in noble and royal households, they were the guardians of the family and children and also the harems. They were respected, loyal and faithful, and the Bible points this out over and over again.

So here we have this Ethiopian. Scripture says he’s reading a scroll from Isaiah, and is having trouble figuring it out. It concerns a prophecy about Jesus. And lo and behold, there is Philip. Well, Philip joins the eunuch, teaching him about Jesus, and there on the road to Gaza, he converts this eunuch to the Christian faith. It is important to note here that Paul’s ministry has not started yet, and it is Paul who goes out amongst the Gentiles, not the Jews. But this Ethiopian is not a Jew either. He’s a black African, and heathen. But he has just been converted into a follower of Christ Jesus on the power of Philip’s teachings and the book of Isaiah. What comes next is important to remember. As soon as they come to a pool of water in the stream by the road, the eunuch asks to be baptized into the Christian faith. Not Jewish mind you, but Christian. They would probably have to skip the “Jewish” element anyway, since circumcising a eunuch might be problematic.

This is the first recorded happening in the New Testament of a non-Jew being baptized, but not just any non-Jew. He’s black. He’s also a eunuch, in other words, transgender/transsexual. And yet, in this modern world, extremists, using the very same Bible as the rest of us, have been totally ignoring this entire passage and have declared that transgenders are sinners and evil because God said so. Really? Where? If transgenders were so evil, why is Acts 8 even in the Bible? This was not a matter of repentance for sins, either. This was not a conditional action. This was an open welcome into the Christian family, welcomed by God.

But the damage from churches has been done. For far too long, primarily from men, and often from the pulpit, a flood of hate and fear has been pointed towards transgenders, in total opposition to scripture. Why? It’s because transgenders violate the code. They blur the lines between male and female, man and woman. They are ambiguous in a structured binary world. But the world isn’t binary. The natural world, as well as humanity, is very much a part of nature and is anything but binary. In fact, there are species of animals that will change their sex from one to the other if the local population is out of balance. Boy frogs, for example can change into girl frogs. But people? Imagine an all-male military when suddenly half the men turn into women.

We should never do that though. We should never confuse those people in power with our disobedience to the code. After all, men are supposed to men, act like men and look like men. The same applies to women. It says so in Deuteronomy, right?

Wrong. Transgenders are what they are, a valued and viable creation of a God who adores diversity, in spite of the fears of people who must have everything in binary.

So transgenders have struggled, living in shadows and fear, terrified of hateful violence by ignorant people who lash out in their own hate. For this reason, we now commemorate November 20th as Transgender Day of Remembrance, for all the transgenders and transsexuals who have been murdered each year, or who have taken their own lives in despair. And why are they killed? They are killed because they refuse to live their lives as dictated by somebody else who probably could care less anyway. They refused to be forced into an existence that is not theirs. Even Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, not because she heard voices. Those were declared real. She died because she refused to dress like a woman. She defied the code.

Every human being is given certain gifts in life, God-given, if you will. For some it is art, or music or writing. Others might have an aptitude for science, teaching, even politics. For some it might be acting and entertaining, or even ministry. But those talents or gifts are just a part of who and what we are. How we express those gifts are equally important.

Even being transgendered is a gift. It opens a person up to two worlds, not just one. In fact, in non-Western societies, such as Native American tribes or the culture of India, the Two Spirit and Hijras are considered very special people. The Two Spirits, for example, were warriors and shamans, tribal leasders, visionaries and wise women. Those who identified as such were highly respected in their tribes, and still are today.

So where did Christians go so terribly wrong? Why the fear and hate? The damage done has been severe also. How many transgenders, even those living in hiding and fear, were driven from their home churches because of the hate and ignorance of pastors and priests? How many have come to fear and hate both church and God as a result, blaming God for what humankind has done?? And because of that negative attitude, how many families have literally thrown their children out into the streets, shunned and dismissed them, because they are born transgendered?

You see, being transgendered is not a choice. What do you do with your life is the only choice there is. You can remain in hiding, but for how long? And at what cost? Many who are forced to live that half-life do so at great peril, often facing depression, madness, and often even suicide in their despair. For others, they come out of the proverbial closet to face a hostile world, risking everything they know and everyone they love, and also risking bodily harm or death at the hands of others. Many others end up alone, with nobody to love or to love them back. Even children, tossed out by vengeful parents, end up on the streets, in the sex trade and vulnerable to violence, abuse, drugs, and also death. But there are those lucky ones who avoid that, and so find useful lives, beat the odds, if you will, and rise about hate and violence.

This does not have to be if people only learned what Jesus kept saying over and over again: Love. Love your neighbor as yourself. Be compassionate as God is compassionate. Welcome the stranger. If God can accept the transgender, why can’t people who claim to be Christians? In light of medical science toda, it is accepted that transgenders are born as they are, with a female brain and male body, or male brain and female body, and all they want is to live a life that provide balance. For some that means surgery. For others, it just means living as their brain dictates, in the gender expression of choice. They are no different than that Ethiopian eunuch, accepting Christ into his life and being baptized into the faith, a faith, I might add, that has kept Ethiopia a Christian nation, even when encroached by Islam, for 2,000 years.

So, what do we do as Christians? What are we called to do with the transgenders in our midst? We love the, and we respect them, as the individuals they are. We accept them at face value, in whatever gender expression they feel most normal as. It is the humane thing to do. After all, are we not told to “do unto others as we would have them do unto is”? Should we not treat others as we wish to be treated? Who wants to be treated with hate and anger and violence? Who wants to be assaulted and beaten and killed, just for being who they are?

Transgenders seek the same things anybody else seeks: to live a happy and fulfilling and productive life, free from oppression and discrimination. They wish to live with respect and dignity. As Christians, in fact, as people of all faiths, that is something we all desire, and we should be open and ready to provide that to others as well.

It is true, transgenders are ambiguous. They are not binary or easily pigeonholed into convenient slots for quick labeling. They are diverse and varied. Get used to it. God has—or why would God keep providing more and more into society? Maybe, just maybe, transgenders are here for a reason, to remind people that God does adore diversity in all elements of creation, including human beings, and we should delight in that variation. Maybe, just maybe, transgenders are here because God wants it, and who are we to dispute God? After all, since God is all spirit, both male and female, and everything in between, aren’t transgenders maybe just a bit more like God than we might think?

So, as the [song from the musical La Cage aux Folles] says:

It’s my world that I want to have a little pride in. My world, and it’s not a place I have to hide in. Life’s not worth a damn ‘till you can say, Hey, World, I am what I am.

0 Posted on August 11, 2013 by Stephen Dolainski · 1 comment

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  1. christopher gaynor
    - Reply

    Thank you Megan. I cherish my transgendered friends. My life has been greatly enriched by them and I would have it no other way. One friend in particular, Billie Two Feathers is my comrade and a sister Vietnam combat veteran (Airborne Ranger, can’t get more butch than that!) and is a human being of rare gifts. So world, get used to it, indeed!

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