State Of Grace is a series that explores the intersection of human rights, sexuality, and faith. Host Grace Baldridge dives into controversial societal realities that Americans face everyday and how to navigate the modern world while remaining faithful. This week Grace explores where faith and gender intersects and identities can conflict and coincide. Watch this episode of State Of Grace to better understand faith in relation to gender.
Tattooed on my left arm are the words, “Lean not on your own understanding.” It’s a quote from the book of Proverbs and a reminder to humble myself before the many things I do not know. Christian doctrine about gender was one such thing. I know that Christianity has not typically affirmed people who exist outside of a rigid gender binary. In fact, when it comes to the condemnation of trans or non-binary people, the loudest voices are often those of believers.
But this vitriol always felt so antithetical to the example set by Jesus in the Gospels. And in my personal experience, I felt the furthest from God when my gender presentation was at its most conventional. I was so concerned with making everyone else comfortable, I stifled my longing to understand the person God made me to be. And to be honest, I’m still figuring out exactly who that person is. I know I’m closer today as I’ve embraced a more butch/masc presentation, but the jury is still out on specifics. And that’s okay.
What I learned from my time with a Hebrew Bible scholar in New York was that scripture originally referenced God not by the masculine or feminine, but with the plural. And a core tenant of Christian theology is the belief that all of us were made in the image of God. So why do so many Christians struggle to extend any love or compassion to the spectrum of identities that exist well beyond the gender binary? Isn’t it silly to limit the creator of the universe to a Western, puritanical understanding of gender?
How someone experiences their gender will vary so greatly from person to person. How that gender correlates, or not, to a religious identity is something else entirely. I’m surprised by how often people on the internet feel comfortable to make presumptions about or debate the life of a stranger. Maybe I shouldn’t be. What we do know is that Jesus called his disciples to love the least among us, the downtrodden, and the outcasts. So, if your capacity to love others is contingent on their gender remaining inside societal margins, whom do you serve?