The Bible supports the idea that individuals can change their gender, according to a Catholic university professor in Ohio.
University of Dayton professor Esther Brownsmith listed “a few of the ways that scripture portrays gender as a colorful spectrum, not a rigid binary,” in response to a vote Wednesday by Ohio lawmakers to override the governor’s recent veto of a bill that prohibits biological males from competing in women’s sports and restricts sex-change treatments for minors.
She claimed Joseph was one of many people in the Bible who “crossed gender boundaries,” saying, “Deborah led an army, Mordecai breast-fed his cousin Esther, and Daniel was probably a eunuch.”
“Even God is sometimes described with feminine language, as a midwife or nursing mother,” she wrote in an opinion piece published in the Dayton Daily News on Thursday in which she identified herself as a Christian. “Yes, the Bible was written in a patriarchal time, but it recognizes that people reimagined and reshaped their gender identities back then—just like they do today.”
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Brownsmith continued to explain her belief that the Bible supports gender transitions as an urgent matter in society.
“As a professor of Hebrew Bible at the University of Dayton, I believe that scripture and trans rights are not at odds. To the contrary: the Bible calls for us to support society’s most vulnerable members, and that call has rarely been more urgent,” she wrote.
“Most Americans agree that religion should not dictate public policy, but these proposed rules are rooted in ingrained religious biases about gender roles,” she added. “Those biases are unethical and unbiblical. Our trans neighbors are radiant gifts of God, just like Joseph and Deborah, and they are terrified by our government trying to legislate them out of existence.”
The Catholic Church, in contrast, teaches that in the Bible there are two sexes as laid out by the first chapter of Genesis which states, “God created man in his own image (…) male and female he created them,” according to a Vatican document.
Brownsmith also sited the Genesis verse in her call to support “gender-affirming,” “lifegiving health care,” but did not include the part specifying “male and female.”
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Brownsmith is the author of Gendered Violence in Biblical Narrative: The Devouring Metaphor and is working on a “monograph on the book of Esther that reads it in the light of fan fiction studies, queer theory and affect theory,” according to her bio on the university’s website.
She will also teach a series at a local Episcopalian church during Lent that will “seek out biblical stories of people who range across the spectrum of gender and sexuality.” The series will include sessions on “Joseph and the Rainbow Princess Dress,” “Redefining Masculinity with Daniel the Eunuch” “‘Whither Thou Goes’: Ruth’s Sapphic Steadfastness” “The Non-Binary Wisdom of Mordecai and Qohelet” and “Imagining a Genderfluid God.”
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The University of Dayton did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.