|Posted on January 13, 2012 at 2:30 PM|
By Gary Konecky
One of the richest and most fascinating areas of our existence is gender and gender identity.
The rabbis of the mishnah (completed in the year 189 CE) explored this area of human existence in all its richness. The rabbis of the Talmud (completed in the year 475 CE) explored this area of human existence in all its richness. These rabbis did not shy away from transgendered and intersexed individuals. An entire chapter of the mishnah and much of the Talmud discussed the tumtum (a person of indeterminate gender) and the androgynous (hermaphrodite). As far as I can tell, the reason the rabbis spent a lot of time dealing with the tumtum and androgynous is because they are members of the community, possibly unique members of the community, and the goal was to integrate them into the community in a way that accommodated their differences.
Unfortunately, the society we live in seems to focus not on the vast richness of those who are different, but instead seems to demand a rigid conformity to society’s ideas of male and female. Anyone not meeting those ideas of gender, gender identity, and gender roles (including sexual orientation) is discriminated against and sometimes actively persecuted. One need only look at the waves of recent teen suicides to understand the cost of society’s demanded gender conformity.
It seems we cannot be bothered to do that which the rabbis of preceding generations did. Worse, we have religious leaders today who demand that people be tortured with reparative therapy or conversion therapy because of their sexual orientation. Reparative therapy or conversion therapy is widely discredited and is frowned upon by legitimate mental health organizations in the United States. This barbaric “therapy” has been linked to depression and suicide, and it can be best described as willful medical malpractice.
Then there are the followers of these hateful clerics, people who actively act out their hate and bigotry every day. Then we have their religious organizations that scream how they are discriminated against whenever anyone stands up for one of the victims of their hate, their bigotry and their persecution, persecution based solely on gender, gender identity and sexual orientation.
Today, we have doctors with no understanding of gender and gender identity. Today, we have doctors who think they can just charge in with a knife, do some fancy surgery, and make the tumtum or androgynous whatever they want him or her to be, not what G-d created them as and wished them to be, but what the doctor wants them to be. And the victims of these doctors then have to spend the rest of their lives not living as G-d created them, but as some arrogant doctor made them.
Therefore, I am forced to ask; are we as a society moving forward, or are we moving backward? Have we learned anything in the years since 189CE and 475CE or have we forgotten the things that were known so many years ago?