Beyond the Binaries — Center for Action and Contemplation
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Beyond the Binaries

The Holiness of Human Sexuality

Beyond the Binaries
Thursday, June 10, 2021

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of Godthrough faith,for all of you who were baptized into Christhave clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free,nor is there male and female,for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26–28)

Regular contemplative practice allows us to maintain some measure of nondualism whenever we are asked to move beyond our comfortable binaries. It seems that everything we put in a neat and tidy package must eventually be allowed to come undone, including our understanding of our bodies, gender, and attraction. This awareness, too, is a part of God’s incarnation in Christ! In this passage, transgender and Christian author Austen Hartke dialogues with Lynn Young, who identifies as non-binary, Native American, and Christian, about the significance of this passage from Galatians.

One of the many ways I’ve tried to explain my gender journey to people who don’t get it is to say that, as I began to really dig into it and explore it and find the meaningful points for me, I felt like I was given this dirty floor and a toothbrush. As I started to scrub this floor I started seeing things, and as things were revealed, it turned out that this floor was an amazing mosaic, even though each piece by itself didn’t seem to be anything in particular. None of those pieces are unimportant because they all have to exist together to create the whole picture. So I’ve arrived at this place of knowing myself as a Two Spirit person, and that Two Spirit [1] is my gender. There’s a feminine part of me, and a masculine part of me, and there are also parts of me that are so intertwined that are both of those and then some, and they don’t have a name that fits within European gender constructs. . . .

We have all these shards of identity in us, whether it’s our sexuality, our gender, our faith, our age, our cultural identity, our personal trauma histories—all of those things that are part of who we are combine to create our whole identity. I’m not just one piece—I’m not just the Christian, or just the Native person, or just Two Spirit, or just the survivor, or just the grandma—that small piece isn’t me; only the whole reflects who I am. I am all of this.

Austen continues:

So what was Paul thinking about these different pieces of our identity when he penned Galatians 3:28? And what does this verse mean for our understanding of gender? Was Paul saying that gender was no longer important—that through our baptism in Christ our gender identities were all erased or irrelevant? I very much doubt it. What Paul said about gender in this verse was revolutionary in that it confirmed that there was no patriarchy or misogyny in God’s new kingdom; it broke down the barriers between genders and between people of different genders and God. . . .

References:
[1] The term “Two Spirit” (also written two-spirit) was first coined by Native Americans and members of the First Nations tribes of Canada back in 1990 to create a cohesive English term for Native sexualities and gender identities that have existed in multiple tribes for centuries. Though it originally served as a Native-specific identifier for gay and lesbian individuals, it soon broadened to include Native transgender people and those with gender expressions that didn’t fit their cultural norms. From Hartke, 162.

Austen Hartke, Transforming: The Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians (Westminster John Knox Press: 2018), 162, 163–164.

Story from Our Community:
Richard Rohr’s writings have helped me understand better the mystic I “sensed” in myself. Through Fr. Richard’s writings I have found parts of my religious heritage are worth maintaining, but parts are not. I think we have lingered far too long in excluding others—racism, anti-Semitism, anti-gay, anti-Muslim, anti-anything we don’t understand or like. God does not exclude, ever. “Be still and know….” Listen with open hearts, open minds, and the silence tunes out “noise.” Thank you, CAC.
—Anne T.

Image credit: Jenna Keiper, Impressions (detail), 2020, photograph, Bellingham.
Image inspiration: In its rainbow of colors, human sexuality can be many things: delicate, powerful, mysterious, beautiful. How might we foster a healthy relationship with the holy gift of sexuality?
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