Presentation on theme: "THE REVD DR CHRISTINA BEARDSLEY HEAD OF MULTI-FAITH CHAPLAINCY, CHELSEA & WESTMINSTER HOSPITAL, LONDON, UK ‘THE LEGAL STATUS OF TRANSSEXUAL AND TRANSGENDER."— Presentation transcript:
THE REVD DR CHRISTINA BEARDSLEY HEAD OF MULTI-FAITH CHAPLAINCY, CHELSEA & WESTMINSTER HOSPITAL, LONDON, UK ‘THE LEGAL STATUS OF TRANSSEXUAL AND TRANSGENDER PERSONS’ CONFERENCE, 6-7 SEPTEMBER 2013, CENTRE FOR MEDICAL ETHICS AND LAW, THE UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG. Metamorphosis & (trans)migration: spiritual aspects of gender transition
1: Introduction [IMAGE of figure crossing river on stepping stones] What is meant by gender transition? The terms will always seem awkward/inappropriate/ imprecise compared to the person’s lived experience
Gender Transition [IMAGE of a ‘time line’ for transition including Preparation, Real Life Experience, Transition at Work, & post Transition stages] It may be inappropriate to speak of ‘changing’ gender but the effects of the process can be life-changing, life-enhancing and …. spiritually significant If all goes well, a negative spirituality is superseded by a positive spirituality
Chris Dowd’s research 2013 ‘Several.... felt that their gender variance and their struggles to become themselves had been an important part of their spiritual journey. It had led them to places spiritually that they would not have found without the struggles they had experienced and the questions that they had to answer.’ (UK doctoral research project based on interviews with 12 transgender people)
spirituality [IMAGE of spirituality as search for personal truth: ‘Who am I?’ ‘How do I make a difference?’ ‘Is there something more?’ The focus in this lecture is on spirituality rather than religion
Spirituality and religion [IMAGE of Wordle illustrating the range of meaning of spirituality] Spirituality embraces generic qualities like meaning, value, transcendence, connectedness, hope, purpose (Swinton 2001-2006: 36-38 ) In religion spirituality takes specific forms
Metamorphosis & Migration [IMAGE of a human male in a diving pose whose spine has metamorphosed into a reptilian shape; image of a herd of migrating animals] Two metaphors to illustrate and illuminate the spiritual dimensions of gender transition: Metamorphosis – has ancient & modern resonances Migration – already used for gender transition Both metaphors relate to the person who is the subject of the concluding case study
2. Athens & Jerusalem [Book cover of the book entitles When Athens meets Jerusalem: An Introduction to Classical & Christian Thought by John Mark Reynolds] Rationale for beginning with classical mythology Paucity of biblical material: ‘there is general acceptance that there are no biblical texts that can be seen as addressing transsexualism as such’ (House of Bishops 2003: 228) Also, the correlation of biblical revelation and classical philosophy and art in Christian theology & culture
Diana & Actaeon – ancient & modern [IMAGE of Titian’s painting of Actaeon disturbing Diana and her maidens bathing; image of a playful modern photographic reconstruction] Ovid’s poem Metamorphoses has been a portmanteau of classical mythology for generations Its stories were immortalised in works of art like Titian’s great ‘Poesie’ canvases, painted for King Philip II of Spain, and in much European literature
The Death of Actaeon (detail) by Titian [IMAGE of ‘The Death of Actaeon’ by Titian] Actaeon, transformed into a stag, is devoured by his own hounds as punishment for disturbing Diana’s toilet Christian approaches to transsexual people that ignore the imaginative and mythological are likely to perceive them as a problem
3. Metamorphosis [IMAGE of a young woman who has emerged from a white cocoon]
Ovid by Luca Signorelli [IMAGE of the poet Ovid]
‘My mind is bent to tell of bodies changed into new forms’ (Ovid, 1997, Book I, ll 1-2) [Book cover of Ovid’s Metamorphoses with young woman turning into a tree] Metamorphoses, the Greek title of Ovid’s Latin poem, means changes of form It begins with creation and is dynamic and ‘evolutionary’ The opening words are in the heading of this slide
Biblical metamorphoses [IMAGE of biblical transformations: Lot’s wife; Aaron’s rod; water into wine] Unlike the Bible, people in Ovid’s poem transform into animals, birds, trees and inanimate objects They also change sex …
Tiresias – modern Japanese image [IMAGE of Tiresias] Tiresias, the most famous example, changes from male to female and back again
Iphis [IMAGEof Iphis & Ianthe captioned ‘Ianthe did not suspect that Iphis was a girl’] Camille Paglia (1991) describes Iphis as ‘a girl raised as a boy who falls in love with another girl and is relieved of her suffering by being changed into a man.’ But transition is not a heterosexual resolution of same- sex attraction Iphis’s story sounds like a modern trans man’s narrative That narrative can often raise particular spiritual issues
The Golden Ass by Apuleius [IMAGE of Lucius, the hero of Apuleius’s Latin novel – a man who has been transformed into a donkey] The notion of being ‘trapped in the wrong’ body, criticised philosophically in relation to transsexual people, has a long history as a literary trope – The Golden Ass, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream In Ovid’s poem Io, turned into an heifer, is troubled by her voice – as trans people can be. Her father laments the loss of grandchildren – as trans people’s parents can do
Io saved by Mercury [IMAGE of Io - her ‘minder’ Argon asleep - about to be transformed back from heifer to human by Mercury] Io’s relief and satisfaction resembles trans people’s accounts of transition as the emerging of their ‘true’ or congruent physical identity: ‘No trace of the heifer is left in her save only the fair whiteness of her body’ (Book I l 743).
Kafka The Metamorphosis [IMAGE of Kafka’s head and image of Kafka’s head with insect body] Kafka’s novel - the most famous modern exposition of the concept Depicts an involuntary transformation – Gregor Samsa becomes ‘a monstrous insect’. Recent interpretations suggest Gregor’s metamorphosis is a feminisation of sorts: no longer the bread winner, and removed from public view – characteristics of older stereotypes of masculinity – even his voice assumes a higher register (Glover & Kaplan 2009: 111)
Edward Watson’s metamorphosis [IMAGES of dancer Edward Watson in the ballet version of Kafka’s Metamorphosis] The pleasure Gregor feels in his ‘new’ body has been noted. In Arthur Pita’s dance-theatre adaptation the contortions of the semi-naked dancer Edward Watson, whose white body is gradually covered in dark oil, conveys this sensual, animal enjoyment of Gregor’s metamorphosis. Gender transition often requires a shift of attention to bodily needs and feelings; being ‘at home in one’s own skin’ is a familiar post-transition catchphrase.
Metamorphosis & the family [IMAGESof dancer Edward Watson as Gregor with his sister & mother; image of Gregor (as insect) in bed ‘surrounded’ by the calls of his family] Gregor’s family reject him, not just because of the physical changes but because he is unable to work and to support them financially Transition too can entail loss of family & employment leading to deep soul searching Overwhelmed, some people chose the role of victim, others become gender warriors (Feinberg 1997)
‘Unconscious’ factors [IMAGE of female in flagrante with giant insect] Like Gregor’s transformation, gender transition can cause massive upheaval compared to the routine and order of the trans person’s former life, and has a momentum of its own, often experienced as irresistible and inevitable. Gregor’s bourgeois family resists, afraid of the animal, the primitive, the unconscious.
4. (Trans)migration [IMAGE of birds in formation against the background of the moon]
Transmigration of souls [IMAGE of a bust of Pythagoras; image of the transmigration of souls] In the final book of Metamorphoses, Ovid has Pythagoras expound the doctrine of the transmigration of souls, or reincarnation Though held by many religions, reincarnation is not a Christian doctrine However, the image used in the poem is of wider application, including to gender transition:
Pythagoras on the transmigration of souls in Ovid’s poem [IMAGE of wax marked with a seal] ‘And, as the pliant wax is stamped with new designs, does not remain as it was before nor preserve the same form, but is still the selfsame wax, so do I teach that the soul is ever the same, though it passes into ever- changing bodies.’ (Book XV, ll 169-70) [Gender] change is one of form rather than essence. My punning reference to (trans)migration is to emphasise that the metaphor of migration, which follows, is about a soul journey as much as bodies in motion.
5. Migration [IMAGE of book cover of Exceptional People: How Migration Shaped Our world and Will Define Our Future by Ian Goldin, Geoffrey Cameron & Meera Balarajan]
Exodus & Migration [IMAGE of the biblical Exodus; IMAGE of the Chinese character for migrate] Migration as a biblical image & its ambiguity in the Bible – a paradigm of liberation but also (in the settlement of Israel) controversial: issues of displacement, cultural assimilation & ethnic cleansing The growth of migration in the modern world & the reaction Migration as a well-established metaphor of gender transition:
Dave King (2003) ‘Both gender and geographical migrants often see themselves as beginning a new life; social membership and identity has to be reworked and negotiated; a new way of life has to be learnt; the old one has to be left behind. Migrants of both kinds are often regarded as undesirable and threatening; the legitimacy of settlement in the new country/gender may be denied; the granting of citizenship and other rights may be refused. The consequence may be that the migrant permanently occupies a position of marginality rather than full integration.’
A passport to... [IMAGE of a UK passport] In the UK the passport is a key identity document and can be changed following legal name change The new passport, like any passport, not only facilitates the initial crossing of the gender boundary, but also states unequivocally the gender ‘nation’ to which one belongs, consolidating one’s gender identity. A ceremony often accompanies change of nationality Some trans people ask for a ceremony to mark transition
Transition Rite UK Name changes in the Bible indicate or precipitate personal growth Christianity recognises the spiritual import of changing one’s name In 2013 a local parish church in the UK publicly celebrated a rite for trans woman Susan Musgrove to mark the completion of her transition.
Colonisation [IMAGE of personified versions of European nations tugging at a map of Africa] Colonisation as the most contentious term The accusation of colonisation & the exclusion of trans women from women only spaces because of their male socialisation Resistance to this on the grounds of the intersecting nature of oppression E.g. in January 2012, the Cutting Edge Consortium, a UK collaborative of faith and secular organisations formed to combat homophobia and trans phobia, especially in religious organisations, held a Women’s Group Public Meeting in central London entitled ‘Feminism, Faith & LBGTQ Women: Is Anybody Listening?’ The invitation was [see next slide]
6. Metamorphosis & migration: case study [IMAGE of deer on a mountain top with rainbow)
Sonia/David Burgess [IMAGES of David; IMGAES of Sonia] Sonia was a friend – spirituality brought us together We both belonged to Sibyls, Christian spirituality for transgender people David was ‘the finest immigration lawyer of his generation’ & had represented trans people at the European Court of Human Rights, but Sonia did not speak of these things to her trans friends Few of David’s work colleagues had met Sonia Sonia’s gender history and transition were fairly typical for someone of her age in the UK
Sonia [IMAGES of David, Sonia and the stages of the butterfly’s development] In 2010 her friend Ian Baker felt that Sonia had finally found ‘a resolution of what had obsessed or troubled’ her from the beginning, adding, in a phrase worthy of Ovid, ‘I think he was in his chrysalis stage for a long time, and I think Sonia was the butterfly that emerged.’ Her care for her mentally ill murderer and the issue of boundaries - trans people and the liminal (Cornwall 2009:16)
Forgiveness & fullness [IMAGE of Nina Kanagasingham; IMAGE of Sonia with her daughter] Chris Dowd’s study notes the theme of forgiveness in trans people’s narratives Sonia’s spirituality lives on in her children, who said at the trial: ‘This was not what our father wanted. She was trying to help Nina. Ideally we would like Nina to recognise the harm she has done to so many lives, but we hope that she can one day reach such a place so she can live life in fullness as our father would have wanted.’
Sonia as inspiration [IMAGE of David/Sonia Burgess as LGB&T History month Hero]
Bibliography Cornwall, S., 2009. ‘Apophasis and Ambiguity: The “Unknowingness of Transgender’, in M. Althaus-Reid & Lisa Isherwood, (eds.), Trans/formations, London: SCM Day, E., http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2011/jan/09/david-burgess- sonia-lawyer-deathhttp://www.theguardian.com/uk/2011/jan/09/david-burgess- sonia-lawyer-death Dowd, C., 2013, unpublished doctoral research into trans people and spirituality Feinberg L., 1997 Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to RuPaul, Boston: Beacon Press Glover, D. & C. Kaplan. 2009. Genders, 2 nd Edition, Abingdon: Routledge
Bibliography 2 House of Bishops 2003 Some issues in human sexuality: A guide to the debate. A discussion document from the House of Bishops’ Group on ‘Issues in Human Sexuality’ London: Church House Publishing. King, D.,(2003), ‘Gender Migration: A Sociological Analysis (or The Leaving of Liverpool)’, Sexualities, 6(2): 173-194. Ovid 1997, 1984 Metamorphoses Harvard University Press Paglia, C., 1991 Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nerfertiti to Emily Dickinson, London: Penguin Swinton, J., 2001/2006, Spirituality and Mental Health Care: Rediscovering a ‘Forgotten’ Dimension, London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers