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Lilacs

The whole park smells wonderful. I love the scent of lilacs. The timing is perfect this year; there are thousands of them in bloom.

I walk along the path to the greenhouse. I always like to see what’s growing in there. Lost in the pleasure of the warm spring air and the beauty of life bursting before me, I almost run into the people coming the other way.

“Oh, excuse me,” I say.

But as I go to pass them, I get a good look at one of the men. He sees me too, and his face morphs into a puzzled expression. “I’m sorry,” he says, hesitation tugging at his voice, “but you look familiar.”

I study him for a moment, and then it registers. “Oh my god. Jay Weingart? It’s me, Shel Harrison.”

He smiles. “How long has it been? More than ten years.”

Thirteen, I want to say. Nearly thirteen years since you left.

“You look really…different,” Jay comments.

I’m sure that I do. My hair is much longer, for one thing, and I wear makeup now. I’ve given up hiding my body under overly large t-shirts with rock band logos. I do a lot of things I never would have done back then, including having uncomfortable run-ins with old boyfriends.

There are three other people with him. The girl with honey brown hair and eyes the color of the ocean in winter can’t be anyone else but his daughter. Her face is sweet and honest. She smiles shyly. The other man looks familiar, but I can’t place him. Actually, he resembles no one so much as Mr. Clean. He is entirely bald, although it looks more like he shaves his head that way to hide his receding hairline. He’s compact and muscular. I can see a tattoo peeking out of his shirt sleeve, but I can’t tell what it is. There’s also a slender black-haired girl who stands to the side as though she would prefer not to be noticed.

“I don’t think you’ve ever met my daughter, Alison,” Jay’s saying. He puts his hand on the brown-haired girl’s shoulder, pressing down slightly in affection. “This is Bill.” He gestures to the other man without giving any further context for This-Is-Bill. He doesn’t tell me the black-haired girl’s name.

I feel the lump pressing on my throat. Forcing a smile, I nod politely. I swallow, hard. “Nice to meet you,” I say.

“Likewise,” he says, extending a hand.  He arches an eyebrow, and I can tell he knows—or thinks he knows—something about me.

“Bill graduated a couple years ahead of us. I don’t know if you remember him.”

Ah, now the familiarity made sense. But he’d had hair back then. I think I make a non-committal sort of noise.

“How’s Julie?” I ask.

Jay shrugs casually. “Fine, I suppose.”

“You suppose?” I glance at Jay’s wedding band.

He notices. “We’ve been divorced for a long time. Julie lives in California. I haven’t seen her in years.”

Ah, remarried, then. I desperately want to get out of this awkward conversation. I make some excuse about needing to be on my way. Jay cheerfully waves over his shoulder as the three of them continue on the path.

I no longer feel much like looking in the greenhouse. My insides feel stretched. I wander through the park, trying not to think, without much success.

He acted as if nothing had ever happened. As if we were never more than old classmates. As if he didn’t remember all those days spent fooling around in his bedroom after school when his parents were still at work. As if it was insignificant making each other feel good and pretending, just for a little while, that we were free.

Thirteen years since he’d told me Julie was pregnant. He said he planned to “do the right thing” and marry her. Back then, I thought he was cheating on me with her. It turned out I was his dirty little secret. And now where is she? He’s married to someone else. Someone who should have been me but never could have been.

I was so sure I was over him before today. But as I walk, my hands deep in my pockets, I think maybe I’m not. Except that I’m not in love with him; I’m only in love with the memory of us. But why, oh why, can’t I get those eyes out of my mind?

I stop along the path to listen to a group of musicians. They’re playing a familiar folk song, one I like. Only one other person is listening—an old man sitting on the bench across the path from them.

There are two women and two men. One of the women is playing the violin. She has the longest hair I’ve ever seen; it’s down past her hips, hanging in dark waves that ripple as she fiddles. The other woman plays hand drums and the two men are playing guitar and some kind of pipes.

I hum the tune softly, closing my eyes. My parents used to bring me to some music festival when I was a kid. There would be all these people, playing and singing, making music together. We would camp there for most of a week. The park musicians are playing one of my mother’s favorites.

The song ends. I open my eyes to find the musicians smiling at me. The guitar player catches my eye and winks. I feel my face heating up.

“You sing?” he asks.

“I used to,” I admit. I wasn’t bad. I don’t know why I gave it up. Real life, I suppose.

He mentions a song. “You know that one?”

“Yeah, my parents used to sing that one all the time,” I say.

“Well, come on then, we could use a voice,” Guitar Guy says.

Feeling self-conscious, I join them. Guitar Guy is still watching me, his face unreadable. I can feel my heart rate increasing.

He tilts his head to the side and gives me a smirk. “What’s your name?”

“Shel. Shel Harrison.”

“Well, Shel Shel Harrison, you ready?”

And suddenly, I think maybe I am.

Betting on It

Author’s Note: This story takes place in roughly the same “world” as several other ones on this blog.  They’re not entirely related (that is, the same characters don’t necessarily appear in every story), but in my head, they all live in the same general location.  Just thought you’d like to know.

This story is included in the Creative Buzz Hop.  The theme for the week is “gender.”  To participate, visit Muses from the Deep or PenPaperPad and add your voice.

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It all started with a bet.

Tyler could never remember later whose idea it really was. It might have been Matty’s because he’d had a ginormous crush on Justine starting in fourth grade. Or it might have been Justine’s; she liked to see Tyler and Matty squirm. It might even have been Tyler’s—a stupid reaction to stupid Matty’s stupid teasing.

It didn’t really matter anyway.

The only important thing was that six days into the school year, Tyler was sitting in the top row of the bleachers in the Old Gym (which hadn’t been “old” since 1962) waiting his turn to try out for the seventh grade cheerleading squad. Matty was on his right and Justine was on his left. Somehow, it didn’t make him feel any better.

If he went through with it, he got eight dollars and Matty’s copy of Super Mario Zombies, and Justine would find out if Carly Dunbar liked him, liked him. If he didn’t, he had to make copies of his social studies notes for a week—for both Matty and Justine, neither of whom appreciated Mr. Connolly’s habit of outlining the whole text book.

Tyler sighed. There was nothing for it. He had no intention of losing this bet; he cared far less about the winnings than his pride. Anyway, it wasn’t as though he couldn’t do it. Tyler was pretty sure he stood a better chance than half the girls. He’d taken several years of gymnastics until his parents decided it was too expensive. At that point, he switched to hip-hop. That was considered respectable, though Tyler always secretly wished he’d been allowed to take some of the other dance classes. That was the fun part about being a preacher’s kid in a not-so-big town; there was pressure on his dad to make sure he grew up right. There was no way he was going to tell his father that he’d tried out for cheerleading—especially if he didn’t make it.

After suffering through several out-of-sync routines, the coach finally called Tyler’s name. There were a lot of poorly-concealed snickers. Even the coach looked like she thought Tyler wasn’t serious. He performed the skills she asked for and watched her make checks on her clipboard, her eyebrows slowly climbing her forehead. She dismissed him with an “I’ll let you know” and moved on to the next person.

“You so owe me,” Tyler said when they were out of the gym.

“Whatever.” Matty was scowling. “I didn’t think you’d actually do it. I was looking forward to sleeping through Connolly’s class.”

“You wish. Just think, now you can play Super Mario Zombies at my house.”

***

Two weeks later, Tyler was standing in Coach Pepper’s office, fiddling with his backpack while she talked.

“…just don’t see how it’s possible,” she was saying. “I mean, we don’t have a uniform for you or anything. I appreciate what you’re trying to do, Tyler, but this isn’t going to work out. I’m sorry.”

Wait just a minute. Was Coach Pepper really saying Tyler couldn’t be on the squad because he was a boy? “Coach, that’s not fair! It’s discrimination.”

She glared at him. “Boys can’t have everything. Some things just naturally belong to the girls.”

He let his mouth hang open for ten seconds before he turned and marched out. No way was he going to stand for this. People staged protests all the time, right? Why not for keeping boys off the cheer squad? Time to take some action.

Without telling his parents.

That turned out to be easier said than done. By the time Tyler had organized a protest at the first soccer home game, put on one of the mini-skirt uniforms, passed out fliers at every lunch period (earning two detentions for cutting class), and called the local paper, his parents were well and truly informed.

Tyler was unprepared for the media circus that ensued. Apparently, the tiny town of Morton Ponds hadn’t seen this much excitement since the high school baseball team won the state championship back in the early eighties. Everyone took sides, including most of the teachers—and Tyler’s own family.

It didn’t help that every single one of them had an opinion. Helen thought he was attention-seeking. Charlotte said she was proud of him for sticking The Patriarchy in the eye, whatever that meant. His parents said they would support him, but it didn’t sound entirely sincere. Only Colby said he was staying out of it.

When all was said and done, Coach Pepper was forced to accept boys on the cheer squad, provided they could demonstrate the skill level she expected. There was a big press conference, and Tyler had to make a speech about how wrong it was to keep kids from doing what they wanted just because they were the “wrong” gender. He didn’t know how to answer the question about whether girls should play football; Morton Ponds didn’t even have a football team.

Afterward, Colby took Tyler out for ice cream. Colby was pretty cool, for a college guy. They sat outside the Dairy Queen eating Dilly Bars and not actually talking. That was okay with Tyler; he didn’t have anything else to say. Eventually, they tossed their sticks and got back in Colby’s car.

“Well, at least you made the team,” Colby finally said.

“Um.”

Colby glanced at Tyler. “What?”

“I didn’t actually want to be a cheerleader. I just wanted Matty’s copy of Super Mario Zombies.”

For six heartbeats, Colby said nothing. Then he roared with laughter, buckled his seat belt, and drove them both home.

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For those of you heading to SS in a couple of weeks (you know who you are), I’m auctioning a collection of stories that includes Betting on It and several others from this blog as well as a few new ones.

Being the Girl

I’m continuing my countdown to the official launch of A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans.  (I know; I’m like a kid at Christmas.  I’ve been looking forward to this book ever since I first read about it.)  Since I can’t offer a full review (having yet to finish the book), I will sustain you with other topics related to womanhood (Biblical or otherwise) until then.  Today: Our obsession with gender roles.

Have you ever experienced that awkward moment when someone asks, “So, are you the girl in your relationship”?  Yeah, me neither.  See, that’s because for most of us heterosexual cis-women, that question doesn’t even make sense.  Well, okay, I think I’d rather be thought of as a woman than as a girl, since I’m an adult.  But otherwise, I can’t think of a single time when I’ve been asked such a stupid question.

On the other hand, I can think of plenty of times when people have thought it was appropriate to ask me that question about my friends.

I’m not kidding.  I have a disproportionate number of non-het and non-cis friends for someone of my religious background.  For whatever reason, on more than one occasion and regarding more than one friend or family member, I have been asked which of my friends represented “the girl” in their relationships.  This usually happens after I’ve introduced them to someone, say, at a party.

What the heck is the obsession with figuring out what presumed gender roles a couple takes on?  I mean, when I’m with my friends and family, I don’t waste my precious minutes with them contemplating a) what their “roles” are in their relationship or b) whether or not they even have them.  I’m actually not sure why I should care.  Even back in my pre-ally days I never considered that sort of thing.

What surprises me even more is that it’s often people who don’t seem themselves to conform to strict gender-based societal norms who ask such nosy/inappropriate questions.  One of my less Hollywood-style-feminine friends suggested that her lesbian friend’s preferences for dresses must mean that she’s the “girl” in her relationship with her partner.  Resisting the temptation to ask whether this friend’s husband is the “girl” in their relationship, I politely suggested that I didn’t think that was the way it worked—both of them are women, not girls, and they are not role-playing at 1950s husband and wife.

It occurs to me that this is part of what bothers so many people about anything that isn’t heterosexual or cis.  I think it might be at the root of why so many strong women are often referred to as “bitchy,” “shrill,” or “emotional.”  Those are all things that challenge our long-established notions about what it means to be women.  Sometimes, we feel we have to know who’s the girl because we want to revert to something we can understand, something familiar.

How about we make some effort to become more comfortable with the unfamiliar?  I appreciate my friends who fail to conform to anyone else’s idea of what they ought to be or do.  It makes me feel far less of a failure at being a “real” woman when I see that non-conforming women are successful, happy, and fulfilled in who they are.  One day, we can let go of the notion that there are only two ways of being—”boy” or “girl”—and accept that there’s a whole lot more variety than that, even among those of us who consider ourselves entirely straight and cis.

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Be sure to check out the essay contest here on the blog, and don’t forget to order your copy of A Year of Biblical Womanhood!

The Breastfeeding Father

This is part of a synchroblog on the topic of Queer Theology. You can visit Anarchist Reverend’s blog for more posts on the theme. The synchroblog subject is “The Queer God.”

I have always found it difficult to relate to the image of God as Father. I don’t have an especially healthy relationship with my earthly father, and could not make the leap to an understanding of a “better” heavenly one. Nor have I found it easy to relate to God as Mother, though I was close with my own until her passing. Perhaps that is because God as Mother is often only about nurturing and care giving, neither of which I associate with myself as a mother (or even mothers generally).

As I spent time contemplating what I would write for this synchroblog, I realized that I’ve been locked into binary thinking about who God is (or even could be). I began to imagine something different about God: A God who isn’t binary. One who is not either Father or Mother, but both, and neither, and everything in between, all at once. I noticed that there is a growing trend to identify God in pronoun form not as He, but as They. It’s fitting for a God who Themselves identified in the plural, right from the beginning.

This is a God who spoke into the uninhabited Earth and said, “Let us create people in Our image.” God cannot be contained in a singular pronoun, neither a He nor a She, and God cannot contain this image in merely male or merely female created beings.

This is a God who inspired his Apostle Paul to write that there are neither male nor female in Christ. No longer must we be constrained by the bodies with which we were born in order to relate to God, to love and be loved by the Creator.

This is a God who calls Philip to teach and baptize a eunuch, that the Good News might be spread further. The message isn’t only for people who fit the prescribed roles and bodies dictated by societal norms.

This is a God who is a breastfeeding father—called Father by Jesus, but likened to a nursing mother by the psalmist.

The idea of God as Father/Male permeates all our religious thinking. It’s in our hymns, our scripted prayers, our conversation. Sometimes, we might compare God to a mother for instructional purposes. Other times we liken the Holy Spirit to God’s “female” aspect. But in all things, we still hold tight to the image that God is our version of Male/Masculine.

This is not the true God. I want to hold the picture of the non-binary God in my heart, the picture of God that transcends cultural expectations and boundaries. Not a God who is sometimes fatherly and sometimes motherly, but always and inextricably all.

We, in our human limitations, can only experience this in part. But God, in the form of the breastfeeding father, is fully, completely whole. And it is good.

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Here are the other posts in the synchroblog:

the Anarchist Reverend shares his thoughts on the Queer Christ over on the Camp Osiris blog.

Peterson Toscano shares “The Lost Gospel of Thaddeus.”

Shirley-Anne McMillan writes about Mother Christ.

Adam Rao shares why he is not participating in today’s synchroblog.

Kaya Oakes writes about God, the Father/Mother.

Brian Gerald Murphy talks about A God Bigger Than Boxes.

Clattering Bones writes about The Queer God.

Daniel Storrs-Kostakis writes writes about An Icon of God.

Jack Springald writes about Avalokitesvara and queering gender.

Amaryah Shaye Armstrong writes about Inclusion and the Rhetoric of Seduction.

That which makes us men (and women)

Wilhelm von Gloeden (1856-1931), Sicilian dress (a boy disguised as a girl). Taormina, circa 1895.

Over the weekend, I read two blog posts, both of which contained phrases that made me cringe a little.  Overall, I liked the posts.  I thought both writers had good things to say.  So my desire is not to be critical of the bloggers or their opinions.  And I do understand the place they were coming from, given the fact that it’s really hard to think outside a small circle of personal experience.  I also want to be sensitive to this issue of privilege, especially after turning my critical eye on a fellow blogger for how she treated the problem.

But here it is: Both blog posts had obviously cisnormative bias in their writing.  Probably unintentionally so.

In the first, About a Boy, Meg Lawton talks with her son about the harsh words used against him at school.  It is otherwise a beautiful, wise, gentle post both about the nurturing of our children and about the feelings we as parents experience when our children are hurting.  But it contained the unfortunate phrase,

The only thing that makes you a boy, is your penis.

The second post was The church is not feminised – blow your noses on your man sized tissues and get over yourselves!  The blogger, Jenny, writes about the tendency of some men (ahem) to complain that the church has been emasculated.  I don’t entirely agree with her theology, but she makes a good point:  Since men still have the bulk of power in the church, they can’t complain about it becoming “feminized.”  This post, too, had a phrase that bothered me:

If you have a penis you’re a man.

Not to sound like I’m obsessed with penises, but what the heck, people?

Neither of the statements made by these bloggers is strictly true.  Certainly, it’s true most of the time.  But not all.  It isn’t the penis that makes one a man.  There is more than one reason a man might not have a penis, and more than one reason a person with a penis might not be a man.

As I said, I can entirely understand the bias of the writers.  In their experience, the people around them are likely to be cisgender, and they are probably unaware of anyone whose medical condition necessitated the removal of the penis.  They probably don’t know (or don’t think they know) anyone intersexed.  So of course they are going to speak from that perspective.  And in the case of the first post, Ms Lawton was also dealing with how to help her non-gender-conforming children process the world around them, which in itself is admirable.

In reading these posts, it occurred to me that I don’t have any idea what makes us men or women.  Obviously, I personally don’t believe it’s the presence or absence of certain genitalia.  Nor do I think it has anything to do with our interests.  I have two non-conforming children, yet both of them (at least at this point) seem pretty clear that their outsides match their insides in terms of gender.  So what does make us men or women or both or neither?

I don’t think I could tell you, even for myself.  Because I’ve never had to struggle with this personally, I’ve never even had to think about it.  I am the possessor of breasts and a uterus; I also just feel like a woman.  Yet I wouldn’t be any less of one if I lost my breasts or uterus to cancer.  I might miss those parts, but not because I had suddenly become a man without them.

It’s probably something worth considering, especially if I want to be able to understand how others think and feel.  It’s worth figuring out why I feel so distinctly womanly, in the same way it was worth thinking about why I feel attracted only to men.  (I think this exercise is worth it for any area of our lives in which we differ from someone else, in order to better understand their experiences.)

If anyone wants to chime in, feel free.  When you think about your masculinity/femininity, what makes you feel that way?  Is it just a matter of “knowing” who you are, or is there something specific?

Silence or Dialogue? Or Both?

I’m all for respectful dialogue.  I really am.  It may not seem like it, since I spend a good part of my time blogging about the unfortunate ways the Church behaves.  But in “real life,” I do engage in regular conversations wherein I don’t necessarily agree with the other people.  Believe it or not, as progressive as I am, this occurs on both sides of the aisle.

But there are times when I think it’s necessary for Christians to just plain shut the hell up.  When we have a different view of whether or not something is moral, and the other party is not a Christian, we need to leave well enough alone.  In fact, this is what the Bible tells us to do.

Next Friday, April 20, is GLSEN’s Day of Silence.  This is an opportunity for people to come together in solidarity against anti-LGBT bullying.  Please keep that in mind: This is not the “Day of Yay! Let’s All Be Gay!” or the “Day of Making Those Religious Jerks Pay for What They’ve Done to Us” or the “Day of Teaching Our Kids How Gay Sex Works.”  It’s about standing up against hate crimes.  (Please read the GLSEN site.  Trust me.)

Unfortunately, Focus on the Family seems to believe that this is a great opportunity to make sure that everyone knows what Christians think about sexuality and gender issues, with their own uninformed beliefs at the forefront.  (Please don’t get me started on what I think of Focus on the Family.  Just…no.  Because then I might tell you, and believe me, it won’t be pretty.)

On April 19, FoF is calling for a Day of Dialogue.  I suppose (grudgingly) that on the surface, this doesn’t sound like a horrible idea.  But there are multiple problems with it.

First, from the web site:

The bad news is that the need for God’s hope has never been greater—especially in our public schools, many of which have increasingly delved into promoting controversial sexual topics to students, such as homosexuality, transgenderism and gay marriage. All too often, this occurs in a way that is extremely disrespectful of parental rights and students’ religious freedoms. Many times it creates a pressure-cooker situation for Christian students since this promotion often occurs without parental knowledge or permission—and only one point of view is allowed, while others are disparaged.

I want to scream and rip my hair out at the roots every time I hear someone complain that our “rights” as Christians are being taken away.  Not only that, this is the most uninformed garbage I’ve seen in a long time.  So what if schools are (finally) addressing these taboo topics?  It’s about freakin’ time.  No one is “promoting” anything.  No one is telling you or your kids to stop believing whatever you want about what the Bible says.  What schools are, and should be, saying is that your kids can’t bully LGBT classmates.  They’re also saying that even though your religious sensibilities view it as sin, not everyone feels that way, and your religious views do not have a place in the classroom curriculum.

Second, FoF appears not to understand the real purpose of the Day of Silence.  Someone should inform them.  There is no “gay agenda” being promoted here, other than the desire to be viewed as a person and not as a “condition.”  Let me repeat, this is about bullying.

Third, FoF certainly does have an agenda.  Specific religious beliefs do not belong in public school, period.  That includes promotion of limited ideas about gender identity and expression.  I am not in any way saying that male and female are equivalent or interchangeable.  But FoF seems to be confused about what it really means to be transgendered.  (Which is an entire post of its own, so I won’t get into that here.)  The material provided by FoF is limited to a very narrow set of beliefs, leaving out subsets even of Evangelical Christians who might tend to agree otherwise, if the definitions weren’t so specific.

Fourth, this is not Biblical.  When non-Christians don’t agree with our morality, we need to leave them alone.  This isn’t the way to bring people to Christ.  FoF’s idea that Jesus made it his mission to speak the truth fails to note that he was speaking the truth to his own people.  He wasn’t going around telling the Roman Gentiles the “truth.”  In the same way, we need to save sharing the finer points for after someone has become a believer.  If Christians want to dialogue with other Christians about their views on the Day of Silence or LGBT issues generally, no problem.  But it’s not appropriate for a non-Christian audience.  That means it’s not appropriate at school, as religious debate among people of the same faith really has no place there.

Finally, I am ready to pummel the next person to make it sound like the LGBT community is ruining morality for our country.  Seriously, that’s being done quite nicely by non-LGBT folks.  Honestly, why pick on this one thing?  How come we don’t have a Day of Dialogue for Christians to express Biblical views on divorce or greed or racism (three issues addressed by Jesus himself)?  Those are far more important issues with far more dire consequences for everyone.

If you or your kids want to participate in this Day of Dialogue, that’s your right.  You do, in fact, still have free speech, last I checked.  But I would encourage you to take a different approach.  Rather than taking this conversation into the school and unleashing your views on non-Christians, why not make space for it in and among our churches?  I don’t mean standing up and announcing your views and correlating Bible texts, then sitting down feeling satisfied that you’ve cleared things up.  I mean that churches with different views on the issue ought to talk about it.  We ought to discuss how we read the text and why, and what the consequences of our interpretation might be (on both sides).  If we are truly mature people of faith, we should be able to do this respectfully.  Keeping our doctrinal differences internal is not only the Biblical way to handle it, it’s also much more grace-filled.

What do you think—are we ready to move forward and “reason together”?

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If you can handle commenting here while honoring the dignity of the other readers, feel free to share your thoughts.  Due to the controversial nature of the topic, I reserve the right to remove posts that are inflammatory or bullying in nature.

Using Science and the Bible as a Double-Edged Sword

I am constantly amazed by the way some conservative Christians like to pick and choose which scientific discoveries they believe.  I understand that some say where the Bible and science diverge, we should go with the Bible.  Except when they don’t.  Or when the Bible is silent on the subject.  Or when it suits their purposes.

Some examples of when we’re supposed to Revile Scientists as Evil Atheists Bent on Destroying Our Faith:

-Evolution
-Global warming
-Anything involving sex

When we’re supposed to Hail Scientists as Great Supporters of What We Already Knew:

-Genetics
-Technology

The funny thing is, there are things we take for granted when it comes to science and how it interacts with faith.  For example, when the Bible says the sun stood still, that used to be something to take literally.  It was shocking and scandalous to think that Earth revolves around the sun.  Nowadays, we simply fit our reading of Scripture into what we’ve learned.  Most people would say that particular phrase isn’t strictly literal.  It looks, from our perspective, as though it’s the sun moving.  So our brains read the text as saying that it appeared that the sun stood still.

As I mentioned, we’re supposed to support scientific discoveries when it comes to genetics.  This includes the generally accepted formula of XX = female, XY = male.  No exceptions.  Unless, of course, there are.  It is a fact that just those letters alone can result in multiple variations, with extra chromosomes.  Not only that, even with the standard codes, there can be physiologic (internal and external biology) variations.

When I was pregnant with our first child, and the ultrasound revealed that it was a boy, I started thinking about this.  I was in graduate school, taking a class on human sexuality.  We watched a film on gender identity and gender expression which featured several different scenarios.  There were transpeople (one man and one woman) and a woman who had been born with both sets of genitals but whose parents had chosen to have her male anatomy surgically removed (which left her very confused later on).

I started thinking about what we would do if our child were born with both male and female anatomy.  Would we opt to remove one set?  Which one?  What if he/she regretted it later?  I wondered what we would do if we had raised him as a boy, but he was really a girl—with or without both sets of genitals.  Would we support transitioning?  At what age?

I’m sure that much of my musing was hormone-induced, but I’ve never forgotten it.  At this point, I have two kids who give every indication that they are internally consistent with their external bits.  But what if they weren’t?  All I’ve ever heard from other Christians is that they would need therapy to “make” their internal feelings match their genetic code and their physical bodies.  I’ve just never quite understood why.  I’ve never been clear on why it couldn’t be the other way around.

We’re so quick to jump on the anti-science bandwagon when we think it goes against a literal reading of the Bible.  Why are we so eager to accept science, even when the Bible is silent on the subject?  Yes, I’m aware that there’s a verse about men not wearing women’s clothes (though none about women in men’s clothes, interestingly).  So how come we can eat shrimp, but not cross-dress?  And how about the fact that transpeople aren’t merely cross-dressers?  The Bible gives no guidance on that.

The real issue, for me, is that too many people are willing to dismiss transpeople as crazy, misguided, or just plain strange.  What’s odd about the fact that I’m not so willing is that I don’t know even one single transperson in real life.  I met one transwoman, once, and it was right before she transitioned.  But I’m not okay with waving people aside and making assumptions about others.  And I’m not willing to use a single aspect of science to discredit the very real experiences of people who could be my friends, neighbors, and co-workers.  I’m not even sure I got this blog post right, but I’m open to learning, in the interest of treating all humans with dignity.

If you’re ready to begin to understand people, even those who seem very different from you, good.  Read some books.  Read some articles.  Do some research.  Try to look at things from someone else’s point of view.  And if your heart shatters like glass in the process, so much the better.