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Adult Ed: Sexual Ethics

03/15/2023 12:32:40 PM


During class on Sunday, I kept searching for a citation in The Sacred Encounter and was having trouble finding it. After class, I found it in the chapter "Sex, Love, and the Androgynos" by Rabbi Elliot Kukla, who was the first openly transgender student to be ordained by Hebrew Union College.
Kukla starts his chapter with an excerpt from Mishnah Bikurim 4:1-2: An androgynos is in some respects legally equivalent to men, and in some respects legally equivalent to women, and in some respects legally equivalent to men and women, and in some respects legally equivalent to neither men nor women. In what ways is the androgynos legally equivalent to men? The androgynos conveys impurity with white (penile discharge) like men, dresses like men, and marries but is not taken in marriage like men.
Here is a My Jewish Learning article about the gender/sex variations in the Talmud:
Kukla really only talks about the androgynos and briefly mentions the tumtum in his chapter in Sacred Encounter. He also quotes a talmudic passage that cites the androgynos as the real meaning behind Leviticus 18:22. How could a man lie with another man in the same way one would lie with a woman? This must be the androgynos, a man with a vagina! Therefore we know that androgynos must marry women. I can't find a straightforward answer about the tumtumim, but it seems that again if there is doubt, we skew toward masculinization, so the tumtum also marries women. For the aylonit and saris, people assigned one gender at birth but later display sex characteristics of another gender, they marry according to the gender displayed post-puberty, when the betrothal and marriage take place.
Of course, if we dismantle heteronormative expectations of marriage along with our new readings of the text that show all the ways Leviticus 18 and the story of Sodom are not really prohibitions of homosexuality, then none of that really matters. But I think it's impressive that the Talmud bothered to acknowledge and categorize trans, intersex, and otherwise gender non-conforming people as fully integrated members of the community even 1500-2000 years ago. 
The recording of class is also on our YouTube channel, for those who missed it.
Tue, July 23 2024 17 Tammuz 5784