This is our truth, tell us yours
Content note for extreme transphobia on the linked to leaflet.
Yesterday it was saddening, but not surprising, to hear that terfs were spreading their hate at Reclaim the Night London. More concerned with the genitals some women were born with than making the streets safe for all women the leaflet they were distributing was full of lies, hate and anger. Another hate group, Object, were actually invited to speak. It seems for Reclaim the Night organisers having speakers who spit at sex workers, who threaten their jobs, who speak of sex workers in dehumanizing and insulting terms, fit with a movement that grew out of feminists standing with sex workers as the Yorkshire Ripper spread terror on the streets of Leeds.
Recently I wrote my views on a Christian response to sex work. After reading the leaflet produced by the terfs yesterday I wondered what the Christian response to transphobia and transmisogny should be. I am someone who likes to believe their faith is biblically based. It matters because so many of the oppressions the Church has been party to have come from reinterpreting or ignoring the Bible. It is my belief that only by understanding the words of Christ as the radical, and revolutionary, teachings they were intended to be, can we live as He wants us too.
The New Testament does not mention non cis people. The Old Testament does have a prohibition against transvestism, leading to some sects like the Brethen to still have a prohibition against women wearing trousers.However for many Christians, myself included, the laws of the Levites are seen as part of our past. Despite what many may think the New Testament has little to say about sexual relationships, and Jesus had precisely nothing to say about it. The closest he comes is when he tells the law givers of his day that divorce was only allowed because they were “hard hearted.”Even this though tells us something of what he did care about. divorce was initiated by men, and left women without a means of support in a patriarchal society. In describing the desire for it as “hard hearted” it seems that this imbalance, and oppression, is what is being criticised. He could have said lustful, or greedy, or any other number of terms. He instead chose a term denoting lack of compassion for others.
In all his dealings with women Jesus is non judgemental and compassionate. At all times he seems to be aware of their lower status and indeed ignores the many rules and traditions which kept women subservient and oppressed. One story in particular comes to mind.
Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”
22 Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.”And the woman was healed at that moment
The woman was legally unclean, an outcast from her own society. Even being in the crowd was breaking the law since she could accidentally touch someone and render them unclean. She had suffered like this for 12 years, her own body bringing her nothing but pain, and penury. Doctors had failed her, and with nothing but her life to lose she reaches out for healing. Jesus could have condemned her, reported her, rushed off to perform the ritual cleansing the law demanded. Instead he comforts and heals her.
This was not, as far as we know, a trans woman. It was however a woman who society had turned its back on, who was suffering, who would have been used to the experience of hate. Christs response was clear, and unequivocal, he is here for her too.
If we need further proof of the response a Christian should have to hate, to transphobia, then I think we only need turn to my favourite verses of the New Testament.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
Read that line again ” what soever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” All too often Christians have interpreted the idea of who is “least” literally. Helping the prisoner, inviting in strangers, clothing the savages. Just like the healing of the woman though this is about walking with those who society sees as an outcast, not stopping to see if it will make us unclean, damage our reputation, cause us problems with our peer group.
When we ask what the Christian response to transphobia is we must ask who are the modern outcasts, who is looked down on by society, who suffers because of unjust laws. I think the answer is clear.