God Moves in Mysterious Ways…

Another factoid about Eleanor: she is a Christian, which can be an awkward and rather conflicting thing to be when one is also transgendered…

Among the many painful and depressing details of the Leelah Alcorn tragedy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Leelah_Alcorn), the fact that all Christian involvement in her life led only to depression, bullying, and total lack of empathy was a disillusioning thing for me to witness. In the now-infamous words of Leelah’s mother, “God doesn’t make mistakes,” but my own experience at least informs me that he (or she, or both) either enjoys a weird joke every now and again or (which I would prefer to believe) prefers to challenge the narrow and constricting views that some of her / his / its most devoted followers have somehow come to believe please God more than, for example, simply allowing people who are doing no discernable harm to simply be themselves…

I was, however, also stricken by a great sense of irony, as it was at least partially my transgenderism that led me to Christianity. As I posted earlier, my thesis was on the poet P B Shelley, whom some academics (notably Teddi Chichester Bonca, State University of New York) have considered to have expressed a sense of gender dysphoria in his writings. Shelley, incidentally, was an atheist and a radical in his youth, notably getting thrown out of Oxford University for his controversial pamphlet The Necessity of Atheism (1811). Though his radicalism and his disdain for established forms of religion never abated, he did in later works develop a fascination with the figure of Jesus Christ himself, perceiving him in terms which Bonca emphasises as strikingly feminine…

“In part because of the poet’s own temperamental and even physical affinities with the feminine gender […] Christ’s “womanly” mildness, “amiability,” and passivity strongly appealed to Shelley. […] he never saw Christ simply as a father figure to be toppled or even as a threatening masculine presence. […] In seeing Jesus as a feminine figure, Shelley was responding to a rich theological tradition. First of all there is the key Biblical text in which Jesus presents himself as a feminine – and maternal – figure: “O Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings” (Matthew 23: 37). […] the eighteenth century saw a “movement for the softening of God’s face and the elevation of the suffering Son over the grim Father” […]. And the Son’s suffering, and his love, was presented throughout the hymns and sermons of the period in overtly feminine terms.” (pp. 19-20)

Bonca, Shelley’s Mirrors of Love (SUNY Press, 1999)

All of which strongly appealed to my young imagination in a way nothing else I had ever heard on the subject of organised religion had ever moved me. There were later influences of even greater import (C S Lewis especially, who has been a huge influence on me both artistic and spiritual), but that notion of a “feminine” Christ made me feel uplifted: a tiny spark of metaphysical empathy in the lonely existence of a very repressed transgendered woman…

And so it was that the very fact of my being transgendered led me to Christianity. I trust any of Leelah’s so-called Christian therapists (questionable on both counts) reading this blog (as if) can appreciate the irony of that…

mirrors

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