Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Biblical Gender Equality

Although biblical gender equality is not the main subject of this blog, since many bible-based groups require women to submit to men and do not allow them to minister, it may be a good idea to study biblical gender equality as well. Christians for Bible Equality International website contains several good articles on this subject. However, notice that the authors of these articles are not LGBT friendly.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Recovery from Bible Abuse

One of the issues that LGBT ex-cults members of bible-based cults may need to deal with is recovery from Bible abuse directed at them as LGBT people. Since Bible abuse directed at LGBT people in bible-based cults is similar to the one in many Christian churches, literature on these issues addressed to LGBT people who were abused in Christian churches may be helpful, for example:

APA on LGBTI Issues

In the website of American Psychological Association, there are many articles on LGBTI issues. Some of them are:

Clobber Passages

"Clobber passages" are the biblical passages which are often used against LGBT people. However, actually, these passages do not condemn homosexuality and transgenderism. So, LGBT people who left bible-based groups need to learn the proper interpretation of these passages. There are many websites and articles that provide LGBT-affirmative interpretation of them. I will name just some of them:

Recovery of LGBTIQA Ex-Members of Bible-Based Cults

In my opinion, post-cult recovery of LGBTIQA ex-cult members of Bible-based cults, includes two groups of issues:
1) those that are common for all the ex-members of cults;
2) those that are specific for those of them who are LGBTIQA.
In addition, post-cult recovery may include:
1) psychological recovery;
2) spiritual recovery.
Thus, there are four kinds of issues that LGBTIQA ex-cult members of Bible-based cults may need to deal with:
1) psychological issues common for ex-members of cults;
2) spiritual issues common for ex-members of cults;
3) psychological issues common for LGBTIQA ex-members of Bible-based groups;
4) spiritual issues common for LGBTIQA ex-members of Bible-based groups.
LGBIQA people who were involved in Bible-based cults experience similar problems to those who were in fundamentalist and conservative Christian churches which condemn homosexuality, transgenderism, and sometimes intersexuality. Some of them are also not very positive to asexuality.
In principle, spiritual issues may be divided into two groups:
1) those that are related to the need of reinterpreting the Bible;
2) those that are related to personal spiritual life.
In turn, psychological issues also may be divided into two groups:
1) those that are related to the problems of the cult involvement;
2) those that are related to the problems of the post-cult recovery.
Also, in my opinion, in order to deal with the issues of the post-cult recovery, the main need is self-education. Thus, this self-education may include eight subjects:
1) thought reform (also known as mind control or coercive persuasion) and its specifics in different cults;
2) post-cult psychological recovery;
3) biblical hermeneutics and reinterpretation of the biblical passages that were twisted by the cult in order to justify their authoritarian and spiritually abusive teachings;
4) post-cult spiritual recovery;
5) psychology of homosexuality and transgenderism;
6) psychological recovery for LGBTIQA people;
7) LGBT-affirming interpretation of the Bible;
8) spiritual recovery for LGBTIQA people who were in biblically abusive groups.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

LGBTIQA Issues and the Bible

It is not a secret that most Christian and pseudo-Christian groups have very negative attitude toward LGBTIQA people. They believe that this is what the Bible says. However, what does the Bible say about homosexuality, transgenderism (including transsexuality), intersexuality, and asexuality?

Among LGBTIQA continuum, most Bible-based groups have the most positive attitude to asexuality, thought it does not happen always. Many of these groups have that all the people should get married and have some discrimination toward single members. However, in fact, in the Bible, the attitude to asexuality is very positive. Read 1 Corinthians, ch. 7 and 9:5, for example. Even apostle Paul was single.

Intersex people experience more discrimination in Bible-based groups. For example, some groups consider that these people are under God's curse. However, the fact is that the Bible never mentions intersex people. Likewise, it does not mention people of many races and nationalities. Does it mean that they are under God's curse? Of course, not. Some groups even say that intersex people were not created by God. However, in Genesis 1:27, it is said (NIV):
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

This verse does not teach the binary of men and women. It does not say that God created some people men and some people women, although it is how it is commonly understood. In fact, this verse even may imply that all human beings have some male and some female traits which is scientifically correct. For example, both men and women produce testosterone (male sex hormone) and estrogen (female sex hormone), but in different proportions. So, this verse vindicates intersex people rather than condemns them.

Most Bible-based groups teach that transgender people, including transsexuals, live in serious sin. They are often excommunicated. Although most Christians believe that transgender people sin, the Bible practically does not mention them. The only verse that can be applied to both MTF and FTM transsexuals is Deuteronomy 22:5 (NIV):
A woman must not wear men's clothing, nor a man wear women's clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this.

It is quite interesting that most Christians completely neglect the whole chapter 22 of Deuteronomy, but believe that v. 5 should be practiced. Interesting, why do they think this way? Deuteronomy was written for Israelites and is a part of Jewish law. There are many different hypotheses why this commandment was prescribed to Israelites. It may be that cross-dressing was a part of pagan rituals or that men or women cross-dressed in order to get some privileges or avoid some duties. There are no indications that this verse should be observed now or applied to transsexuals or cross-dressers.

There are also attempts to apply some other Old Testament verses to MTF transsexuals, for example, Deuteronomy 23:1 (NASB):
No one who is emasculated or has his male organ cut off shall enter the assembly of the LORD.

Then, what about men who lost their genitalia because of an accident? This verse does not say anything about the reasons why genitalia were cut off. This verse was written for Old Testament Israelites, not for Christians.

Regarding gays and lesbians, again, most Christians are sure that their behavior is sinful. Apparently, the Bible does condemn homosexuality. However, in fact, it is a matter of traditional interpretation of the Bible rather than what the Bible really says. It is quite remarkable that sometimes Christians had to change their interpretations of the Bible when they contradicted science. For example, in the past, Christians believed that the Bible teaches that the sun goes around the earth and resisted Galileo's and Copernicus'. Later, Christians admitted that they were correct and had to change their interpretation of the Bible. Christians also used to believe that the universe was created in literal 6 days and it happened 6,000 years ago. Most modern Christians do not believe it because it contradict science. There were invented many interpretations of Genesis, ch. 1.

Most Christians believe that Sodom was destroyed because of the inhabitants' homosexuality and draw this conclusion from their attempt to rape Lot's guests. However, raping is obviously evil whether it is homosexual or heterosexual. The Bible does not say that Sodomites' sin was homosexuality.

There are some other Old Testament verses that are used against gays and lesbians, for example, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 (NIV):
You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination. (18:22)
If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them. (20:13)

However, how many Christians believe that all the other verses in these chapters should be observes, such as 18:19 that prohibits sexual contacts during periods or 20:9 and 10 which say that people who curse their parents or commit adultery should be put to death? Again, these commandments were given to Israelites, not to Christians.

Romans 1:26-27 are also often used in order to condemn homosexuality:
26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural,
27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. (NIV)

However, the problem with these verses is that for gays and lesbians homosexuality is natural and heterosexuality is unnatural.

Thus, the Bible does not condemn LGBTIQA people, even though Christians do.

Monday, November 23, 2009

LGBTIQA Definitions

The acronym LGBTIQA stands for:
1) "L" - lesbians;
2) "G" - gays;
3) "B" - bisexuals;
4) "T" - transgender people;
5) "I" - intersex people;
6) "Q" - queer and questioning people;
7) "A" - asexual people and allies.

There are three different issues which are included into LGBTIQA spectrum:
1) sexual orientation;
2) gender identity;
3) intersex conditions.

1. Sexual orientation
It is romantic and sexual attraction to people of the opposite sex, of the same sex, or to both. It is commonly accepted that people may have one of the three sexual orientations:
1) heterosexual orientation (straight people) - attraction to the opposite sex;
2) homosexual orientation (gays and lesbians) - attraction to the same sex;
3) bisexual orientation - attraction to both sexes.

Some people have other sexual orientation, for example:
1) asexual orientation - attraction to neither sex;
2) pansexual orientation - attraction to all the sexes (including attraction to transgender and intersex people);
3) polysexual orientation - attraction to many sexes, but not to all.

People whose sexual orientation does not perfectly fit into straight, gay/lesbian, or bi sometimes consider themselves queer.

Many asexual people consider asexuality as the fourth sexual orientation - attraction to neither sex. However, asexual people are not a homogeneous group and there are many diversity among asexual people themselves. Some asexual people do not have any romantic and sexual attraction at all while some of them have only romantic relationships without sex. In this case, they may be romantically attracted to the opposite sex, the same sex, both sexes, and so on. So, in the case of asexual people, there is a difference between their sexual orientation and their romantic orientation.

Romantic orientations:
1) aromantic: lack of romantic attraction towards anyone;
2) biromantic: romantic attraction towards males and females;
3) heteroromantic: romantic attraction towards person(s) of a different gender;
4) homoromantic: romantic attraction towards person(s) of the same gender;
5) panromantic: romantic attraction towards person(s) of every gender;
6) polyromantic: romantic attraction towards multiple, but not all, genders.
There are also other romantic orientations.

Besides asexual people (those who do not feel a need in sex with any other people) and sexual people (who have this need), there are also demisexual and some other people who are between them (they may act either way at different times or situations or have lower need for sex than sexual people).

2. Gender identity
It is how a person feels of themselves: whether he or she is a man, a woman, both, or neither. Here, there is a difference between sex and gender. Sex is biological, gender is psychological. Person's gender and gender identity are related. Gender identity may or may not match a person's biological sex. Thus, there are two main groups of people depending on their gender identities:
1) cisgender people - those whose gender identity and biological sex match one another;
2) transgender people - those whose gender identity and biological sex do not match one another.

Many transgender people identify themselves with the opposite sex. However, there are also genderqueer people who identify themselves as both men and women (bigender), as neither men nor women (agender), as a third gender, and so on.

Transgender people who have strong transgender feelings and feel strong discomfort of being of the wrong biological sex (gender dysphoria) are commonly known as transsexuals. They often pursue gender transition. Physical transition includes cross-sex hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgeries. Transsexuals who are biologically males, but psychologically females are called MTF (male-to-female) transsexuals or transwomen. Transsexuals who are biologically females, but psychologically males are called FTM (female-to-male) transsexuals or transmen.

Transgender people who have less strong feelings may feel comfortable with their biological sex and occasionally wear clothes of the opposite sex. These people are known as crossdressers (the word "transvestites" is usually considered by them as pejorative).

A person should be addressed according to their gender, not their sex. Thus, a transwoman (MTF transsexual) should be addressed as a woman and a transman (FTM transsexual) should be addressed as a man. It may be more complicated to address genderqueer people. It is better to avoid pronouns at all or to ask a genderqueer person how to address them.

Transgender and genderqueer people as well as cisgender people may have any sexual orientation. However, transgender people, especially transsexuals, attracted to the same biological sex may consider themselves straight while those attracted to the opposite biological sex my consider themselves gays/lesbians.

3. Intersex conditions
Some people have physical characteristics (primarily and/or secondary) of both sexes. These conditions may include: chromosome disorders, atypical genitalia or reproductive organs, overproduction or underproduction of sex-related hormones. There are around 100 different intersex conditions.

In the past, intersex conditions were classified according to intersex people's inner reproductive organs as:
1) "true hermaphroditism" (having both ovary (ovaries) and testicle(s) or gonads that are partially testicles and partially ovaries regardless of genitalia);
2) "male pseudohermaphroditism" (having only testicles and atypical or female-looking genitalia);
3) "female pseudohermaphroditism" (having only ovaries and atypical or male-looking genitalia).

This classification is considered outdated now. Intersex conditions include much more variations than "true hermaphroditism" and "pseudo-hermaphroditism." The word "hermaphrodite" is considered pejorative and incorrect.

Intersex people as well as non-intersex people may have any sexual orientation and gender identity. In many cases, they consider themselves ether men or women, though some of them consider themselves both or neither. Thus, a person may be intersex and consider themselves transgender or genderqueer at the same time.

Many intersex people undergo sex assignment surgery and/or hormone therapy in childhood in order to make them as close as possible to either men or women. However, in many cases, intersex people's gender identity does not match the sex they were made into. So, they often transition to another sex, passing through a similar process to transsexuals.

Intersex conditions are obviously biological issues. Although sexual orientation and gender identity are mainly psychological issues, there are evidences that they are caused by brain wiring. Transsexuals have brain structure of the sex they identify themselves with. Gays and lesbians have brain structure different from straight people. There are also hypotheses that sexual orientation and gender identity may depend on genetics. Thus, they probably have a biological basis.

Sexual orientation and gender identity are not a matter of choice and cannot be changed. It can be compared to being right- or left-handed. Whether a person is right- or left-handed is determined by the brain structure and is not a choice. In Western cultures, it is considered normal to be left-handed. However, in some cultures it is not so. In some cultures, left-handed children are taught to use right hand when they write, eat, and do other things. It sometimes causes a serious distress in children. After years of practice, they are able to do many things with their right hand, but it is still more natural for them to use their left hand and they are still unable to do some things with their right hand. When people who have non-straight sexual orientation or gender identity are taught to behave in the "proper" way, it causes even stronger distress and the results are even less satisfactory.