Religion, Faith & Spirituality on Sex, Gender & Sexuality

The intersection with sex, gender and sexuality, of religion, faith, and spirituality is an issue for many people, both those feeling oppressed or repressed by them, or also trying to celebrate or adhere to a faith whilst still expressing their sexual and/or gender identity, or being female in a world that generally accepts equal rights for women, yet their religion may not agree.

In the 19th century some parts of Christianity were at the forefront of equality and ending slavery, for instance, advocating the rights of women, but now that state and society seem to be ahead of spiritual faiths on equality it is now religions that are behind the times on diversity issues such as sex, gender and sexuality.

Some interpretations of Islam (e.g., tribal Sharia law) still stone female adulterers on paltry evidence yet let off male rapists unless there are multiple witnesses to the victim’s abuse. Gay men are thrown off rooftops by Islamic State yet trans Muslims can end up accepted in other, even conservative, Islamic countries.

Mosques, commonly, like some Jewish synagogues and extreme Brethren churches, still segregate men from women, don’t allow women to speak or go about uncovered. Aren’t most religions male-founded and dominated and thus part of the patriarchy? Should women be free to choose separation and/or subjugation as a religious freedom of choice? How do we regard it, if it is imposed not chosen, and breaches of it are punished?

As the UEA debates religion in May, we ask some similar questions as to whether religion, faith and/or spirituality can be a force for change and good on questions of sex, gender and sexuality, or whether they are the ones needing reforming.

Discussion event in Norwich, Tuesday 5th April, 6.30pm, Millennium Library

UEA Debate on Religion

Is Religion a force for good? Should ISIS be considered Muslim?

Abortion

Woman’s Hour interviews two Christians on their attitudes to abortion. Recently, a Northern Ireland woman was prosecuted for having an abortion, which would not have happened in the rest of the UK.

Segregation

LSE Islamic Society has recently held a segregated Muslim dinner by sex, keeping men and women apart.

Headscarves

Even non-Muslim Air France stewardesses are now required to wear headscarves and cover upon arrival from any flights to Iran. Two Iranian women were recently fined a month’s wages each for having “bad hijabs“.

“Not that 7th-century scripture can justify the practice, but wearing a hijab isn’t mandated anywhere in the Koran. Forcing women to wear a curtain — curtain being the literal meaning of hijab in Arabic — is a political act cooked up by nasty, regressive old men, not some time-honoured religious imperative.” – Robert Crampton, The Times

The difference should be whether, wearing anything from headscarf to hijab or burka, the covering-up is by free choice rather than male/divine mandate.

Waria Muslims in Indonesia

Indonesia is profoundly traditional and conservative in terms of Islamic observance yet pockets of diversity exist such as the freedom some waria (assigned male at birth transwomen and/or crossdressed gay men) have to express their Muslim faith without harassment or condemnation.

“Everyone has the right to observe their religion in their own way (…) According to the Qur’an, we are not allowed to classify people based on economic, social, political, gender or theological values”

Femicide

“It is because they are women and they are Yazidis that they are sold and murdered [by Isis]. What they are experiencing is femicide.”

Foot washing

A Roman Catholic edict suggests that women are not worthy or equal to men or representative of humanity to have their feet washed by a male priest during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday.

Queer Bible

Is the answer a queer rewriting of the Bible?

“I want to make an inclusive, celebratory space within the text that undoes the implicit sexism, misogyny, heterosexism, hierarchical oppression, slut-shaming, etc. and reconstitutes the feminine, the queer, the outcast, the strange.”

Evangelicals on Transgender

A documentary called “Did God give me the Wrong Body?” seeks to give an evangelical Christian response to transgender people.

“Biblical Christians hold that ‘sex change’ surgery desecrates a body made in the image of God…A painful operation cannot solve the mental dysfunction…left with a mutilated body, but the internal conflicts remain.” – Christian Institute

Non-Binary & Trans Youth

The Free Church of Scotland has condemned SNP moves to accept non-binary gender and extend trans self-identification to 16 & 17 year olds:

“It is a policy that will bring untold disaster and harm upon Scotland’s children,” – Free Kirk moderator, Rev David Robertson

Self-Identified Gender revolution, a social or surgical trans & non-binary construct?

The Norfolk Gender & Sexuality (GAS) Discussion Group meets at the Norwich Forum Library, 6.30pm Feb 2, to debate “Self-Identified Gender revolution, a social or surgical trans & non-binary construct?”. (Facebook event)

After an extensive inquiry the UK government is considering extending full protection to gender identity as well as the existing protected characteristic of gender reassignment and bringing in an Irish styled self-declaration of gender statement. It ‘may’ also being to degender official documents including passports by adding options like ‘other’ or removing gender altogether.

International sports bodies, like the IOC, are also easing the requirements for trans athletes to compete under their identified-gender subject to low testosterone levels that may still exceed that of a natal woman.

Will this create a gender free-for-all with more backlash from the Daily Mail, Jeremy Clarkson, and Germaine Greer? Last month Clarkson accused parents of poisoning the minds of young trans kids by supporting their gender identity ‘delusions’.

Meanwhile ‘trans‘ (Collins English Dictionary) and ‘identity‘ (Dictionary.com), along with singular ‘they‘ (American Dialect Society) were all declared words of the 2015 by various social word watchers. The Washington Post updated its style guide to include ‘they‘ for people not identifying male or female. The New York Times and UK Parliament now accept Mx as an honorific title and the OED has added it to the dictionary.

The transgender tipping point has become a trans landslide with more trans in film and TV roles and portrayals. There is also an emerging non-binary gender revolution in fashion, goods, and identity. Will this increased trans visibility ease society’s acceptance or create yet more criticism from trans-exclusionary radical feminists and tabloid columnists, some of whom are are oddly united on this.

Is this the beginning of self-declared gender or the end of gender itself as having any meaning at all? Is gender a construct, or can it now be surgically and verbally constructed without any lived experience?

Government Transgender Report

http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/women-and-equalities-committee/news-parliament-2015/transgender-inquiry-report-published-15-16/

Maria Miller interview on Trans inequalities

http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2016/01/14/maria-miller-the-law-the-nhs-and-public-services-are-all-letting-trans-people-down/

International Olympic Committee on Trans Athletes

http://www.outsports.com/2016/1/21/10812404/transgender-ioc-policy-new-olympics
http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/columnists/article4676154.ece

Jeremy Clarkson criticises parents of trans kids

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/jeremy-clarksons-comments-about-transgender-people-stir-controversy-sunday-times-a6831096.html
http://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/490259/Jeremy-Clarkson-Amazon-Prime-Transgender-kids-Zoe-Gill-Pierce

2015 year of transgender visibility

http://www.katyjon.com/2015-year-of-transgender-visibility-voice-and-vulnerability/

Word of the Year

‘Transgender’ word of the year
http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2015/11/05/transgender-named-as-2015-word-of-the-year/

‘Identity’ word of the year
http://blog.dictionary.com/identity/

Singular ‘they’ word of the year
http://www.americandialect.org/2015-word-of-the-year-is-singular-they
http://uk.businessinsider.com/the-word-they-named-2015-word-of-the-year-2016-1
http://www.poynter.org/2015/the-washington-post-will-allow-singular-they/387542/

Mx enters the mainstream

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/03/insider/mx-did-the-times-adopt-a-new-transgender-courtesy-title.html