What God Taught Me About Gender.

This blog is part of a series I'm writing while I'm undating the fifteen year old "My Gender Workbook" for Routledge Press. I'm asking for your voice to be included in the spiffy new version, because you are so much more than the first version of the book could have predicted. Every couple of days, I'll be posting a new question for you to ponder. If the question tickles your fancy, by all means please speak to it. Be sure you've read the submission guidelines before you write your answer. Thanks for your help.

Kindly excuse the delay in posting. Nasty flu, now simply a bothersome cold. OK—back to working some gender. Today’s topic has been a big one for me, so I’m going to ask about it in two questions:

How has religion—or absence thereof—impacted your gender?

How has your spiritual path impacted your gender?

Here's where asking those two questions led me:

I was born in 1948 and raised to a teenager in a more or less secular Jewish family. We lit candles on the menorah, which stood on it's own table in front of our Christmas tree. My Bar Mitzvah was not an inspiring leap forward into manhood—it was an annoyance. As to gender—we knew there were strong women in the Old Testament, but nobody talked about them very much. The Judaism I grew up with was focused on the elements of the Old Testament that matched up with 1950's rampant machismo version of misognyny: men were better, more evolved, and more entitled humans than women. That was a given when I was growing up.

After my Bar Mitzvah, I pretty much cut ties with Judaism. If they had known who and what I really was—wanna-be-pretty-girl me? I would have been shunned. No, really. How often do you get to use the word shunned. Well, I would have been. So I lied about my gender for years and years. How about you? How was your gender shaped by the religion you grew up with? Or maybe it was the complete lack of a religion in your life that effected the expression of your gender?

In college, I studied and practiced tarot cards, Zen Buddhism, Alan Watts, and R.D. Laing. But as a stage actor and director, theater became my spiritual path. Gender is a whole lot more flexible in the theater, but back in the sixties, that only meant onstage. I knew there were a lot of boys who went off to live their lives as fabulous girls, but I was too scared to be one of them. It was safer to believe in Stanislavski, Jerzy Grotowski, John Cage, Bertolt Brecht, Peter Brook, and Viola Spolin. For four years, I trained in the methodology of transforming myself into someone else completely. It was heaven—except for my gender quandary. I still couldn’t talk about that. So I lied and said I was a guy at the same time I was learning the mechanics and spirituality it would take to become a girl. Theater was my spirit path. And you? Have you taken a road less travelled on your personal journey of self discovery?

After a year of graduate school, I dove head first into the Church of Scientology, where I stayed for twelve years. That’s a really embarrassing thing for me to tell people—far more difficult than telling strangers I’m an SM femme tranny dyke. Anyway, when I joined Scientology in 1970, they told me it wasn't a religion at all—they insisted that it was an applied religious philosophy. I never joined a religion, and I left Scientology in the early 1980's, just as all the religious trappings were becoming mandatory and more visible.

But here's what hooked me on Scientology: they told me I’m not my body and I’m not my mind. They told me I don’t have a soul—I am a soul, an inconceivably powerful immortal being that nobody had ever conceived of or named before, so they called it a thetan. Americans pronounce it to rhyme with Satan. Scientologists say that thetan comes from the Greek word theta, which they say means pure thought. I believed that we are pure thought—and implicit in that statement is the impossibility of a gendered thetan. It was a cool thing to believe in. Still is. Wait, there’s more.

Scientologists believe that at a certain point in your spiritual development, you can pick your own body next lifetime. Implicit in that was oh my god, I could be a girl next lifetime… if only I get to that spiritual whoopee place they were talking about. And sure enough, it was my gender that got in the way.

Homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny are explicit in the original versions of Scientology's canon. Someone recently told me that after I left the church, it was announced to the hundreds of staff I worked with—all my friends and family—that I liked to wear women’s underwear—and everyone laughed at me. That's exactly what I tried to avoid those twelve years by pretending to be a man. What I never got about Scientology is knowing that thetans really don't have a gender—and living their lives with an unconscious performance of the genders man and woman—why would they get their panties in a twist if I want to consciously mess around with my own gender?

Nowadays, I get my gender, showbiz & spirituality tips from Doctor Who, Mx Justin Vivian Bond, Murray Hill, and Lady Gaga. And that's how religion and spirituality have impacted my gender, and how gender has been my spiritual path. I would sum all that up by saying:

Living with no gender allows me to live with all genders. How do I live with no gender? I look for where gender is, and I go someplace else. Where do I look for gender? It's held tightly in the clenched fists of people who claim to know what's a real man and what's a real woman. I stay far away from them.

Yep, I could squeeze all that into two tweets with hashtags in both.

How about you?

  • Has any revelation of your gender gotten you shamed by your religion?
  • Has your gender effected your decison to attend or not attend services? What cool stuff have you learned from your religion that you can apply to your gender?
  • What religious rules of gender did you obey when you were a little kid?
  • Which rules did you break when you were a little kid, and what happened to you when you broke ‘em? 
  • Has any conscious decision you’ve made about your gender effected your spiritual/religious path? What does that feel like?
  • Have you found yourself a religious and/or spiritual path that accepts and embraces the concepts of transgender and genderqueer? What’s that? How did you come across that one?
  • Does spirituality and/or religion have nothing the fuck to do with your gender, and all this talk has been bullshit or just plain wacky?

The fact that you got this far into the blog tells me you’re the kind of person who might give this stuff more thought. That makes your voice really important in the world. So… please write me some words about you. Your lifetime experience of religion and/or spirituality or lack thereof—how has that entwined with the lifetime experience of gender?

I know this is a lot to think about—that's why I asked two questions: it means you can take two tweets (280 characters that include hashtag #mngw) to answer each question. That's a total of 560 characters that includes #mngw four times. Fair? Alright then, please do tweet away, my darlings. Or put some comments on this page. Be brave, remember to breathe, and always go for the cheap laugh.

Kiss kiss

Auntie Kate

Reminder: You can answer in the comments section of this blog, but Twitter is the very best way to respond. Response length, wherever you do it, is maximum 280 characters, two tweels. Your tweets do NOT have to be addressed to me, but DO remember to put the hashtag #MNGW on ALL your tweets about this or any other gender-y thing that might pop into your adorable li'l head.



  1. As a mostly closeted bisexual man attracted to the gender binary, my conservative Mennonite childhood told me God was a He and anything but heterosexuality was a sin. In high school and university, I learned that not all Mennonites were so judgmental. In the end, I’m still a faithful Mennonite who thinks of the Trinity as He, She, Neuter. I believe we are created in God’s image, and since that includes all genders and sexes, everyone can refer to God using which label they prefer. #MNGW

  2. Jake, you filled my heart with that comment. Thank you, and bless you. xo Auntie K

  3. As a mostly straight woman/female, the thing I struggled with in my Protestant upbringing was the church’s apparent loathing of women, and their ongoing conflict over homosexuality. I’m female and a lot of my friends are gay. It makes me feel like I’m not welcome in their churches, but I was taught that Jesus loves all of us, regardless of gender and sexuality (thanks Mum!)#MNGW

  4. I came out as a transman in seminary. I though they would throw me out, but they named me and blessed me and taught me that Love holds me in all my beautiful genderfulness.

  5. Hi Auntie Kate, you’re a bright light and a beautiful presence. I’m a seminary student and my gender is pretty non-exciting. I’m a heterosexual woman. But I identify with your struggle in feeling like a “real woman”, because I’m not what our society tells me to be. I’m not tall, not thin, I don’t have huge round boobs, a tiny waist, perfect skin, and pouty lips… In the eyes of most men, I’m invisible. So am I even a real woman? Or just something ugly and outside? Luckily, I believe that God loves me even when the world doesn’t.

  6. I am a female feminist genderqueer and I was raised a strict Roman Catholic. As a girl, the Virgin Mary was the ideal woman I was to emulate. For years I tried to be society’s and Catholicism’s perfect woman so hard it nearly killed me when I developed anorexia nervosa. I’ve found my place within third-wave feminism and that is my religion, I suppose. I identify as genderqueer because the gender binary just feels so oppressive to me and feminism has been so liberating for me in that they don’t say things like “women are naturally x” because I’m not usually what biologists and geneticists claim is “natural” for my assigned sex. But screw them and their patriarchal gender binary. I’m Kimi and I deserve the freedom to choose everything about my life.

  7. i dont think i am not a female feminist and i was raised with no religion. But i think women should have equal right to men

  8. I am a female and I live with and am married to a nonsurgical transgender MTF. Religion has tore my family apart, My children and family do not speak to me because of my partner. I hate organized religion

  9. i’m male on the outside, female, male, other, on the inside, and living closeted. i’ve dealt with this all my life and Christianity didn’t help a bit. i’m a yogi now, and yoga helps a little because our souls are supposed to be genderless. But yoga and hinduism certainly differentiated women from men historically. i worship the divine with a female name to offset the masculine bias about the divine i was raised with. After reading the second “outlaws” I had a dream where i beat up the bullies who used to torture me in school. Not nonviolent, but better than autoviolent. Yoga as a whole has helped me to explore and play with gender within myself and know that next time around I can be a woman if i like.

  10. um, i just discovered the word transgender on spring break over a month a go. i thought i was just a pervert. i grew up thinking that i was only one. my faith is Baptist and i found out what i was doing, thinking i was a boy and imagining kissing girls, was wrong. i was about ten when that happened 1st time. i told my best friend, a girl, i wanted to grow up to be a man. i saw her a few years ago, she asked if I’m gay while i was on the job. 🙁 i told her no, i am just waiting for the man God made for me. now i realize i’ve been doing all sorts of transmale things, binding, standing in front of a toilet wishing myself to somehow urinate out my clit as a penis, praying i would wake up a boy, asking my grandma to buy me mens shirts, etc…all the way back t pre-puberty. now i am bring to deal with this realization i am a man, just stuck on inside, i bind daily and wear only menswear and briefs, at home a prosthetic penis and worn it in public twice, and am having issues dealing with my religion. it feels strange to be in church. I’m scared what may happen, what if i get dysphoria so strong i start on T and they notice! i always believed the Bible 100%, but could they have interpreted it wrong? if not, am i ultra-sinning now that i have come out to 3 people? i can’t bear to wear female stuff ever again! can i never get married to a man, now i realize i really do like women? where the church teachings had mostly comforted me, this moral issue is really a struggle for me, i want to do right, what is it? i want to be a good example, and feel shame. i also want to become more and more male, is that a sin? I’m still not out, but I’m heading for university in 2 months and will have a female roomy. what kind of person will i become? i wish i knew me. i just know i would like to be able to be just David.

  11. Kathy/David, there are other denominations besides Baptist. Keep looking until you find a church that accepts you just the way you are.
    Other people are walking this path too:

  12. I guess this info is totally unique.

  13. I found out in the Holy book that there are two human creatures made – a boy and a girl. No more in between. So, I firmly believe that God will not allow lesbian and gays because the scripture says will not lie or are not subject for alteration.

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