Variant Sex and Gender, Religion and Faith
Examining accounts of intersex and transgender in Christian, Jewish and Islamic discourses
This project, directed by Dr Susannah Cornwall, examines accounts of intersex and transgender in religious discourses, predominantly those of the Abrahamic faiths (Christianity, Islam and Judaism). It engages with both textual treatments of individuals with variant sex and gender in Christian, Islamic and Jewish scriptures and legal texts, and with the contemporary experiences of intersex and transgender people of faith.
In a society in which variant sex and gender is increasingly visible in public life, and campaigning groups are seeking for improved legal protection for intersex and transgender people, what are the implications for faith groups, some of whom may know very little about these issues? How might the work of academics researching variant sex and gender in Christianity, Islam and Judaism be made more accessible to faith communities? How might existing support and advocacy groups for intersex and transgender people ensure that their members’ spiritual as well as emotional and physical wellbeing is best promoted?
There has to date been little focused, interdisciplinary and interagency reflection on variant sex and gender, religion and faith. The importance of ensuring that faith communities’ policies and practices (in the areas of liturgy, same-sex marriage, gender and leadership, and scriptural exposition) are informed by a good understanding of the experiences of intersex and transgender people makes such a discussion timely and potentially significant to the ongoing wellbeing of people with variant sex and gender in Britain and beyond. Faith communities have extensive resources for and expertise in promoting good pastoral and spiritual care, but may be less aware of the specific needs of intersex and transgender people. Conversely, intersex and transgender support and advocacy groups do tireless work to provide care and help for intersex and transgender people, and to promote the protection of people with variant sex and gender in law, but may be less equipped to ensure that spirituality, identified as a potentially significant factor for the overall wellbeing of intersex and transgender people, is promoted.
The findings of this research project will be relevant to stakeholders from Christian, Islamic and Jewish faith organizations as they consider issues raised by variant sex and gender in their religious teachings, faith community leadership, and pastoral care practice.