Recognizes Judaism as being non-binary genders
A binary system with no bisexuality
From Debora Antmann
I finished the last sentence when I noticed: “This is not a column text!” Rather, it is a factual text, an overview of one of the often forgotten treasures of Judaism. Because what many people do not know - by the way, neither do many Jews: Judaism knows six genders. The idea of bisexuality, which is now considered the global norm, is the result of colonialism and has suppressed or destroyed all alternative ideas and realities of gender. This is also the case with the Jewish theory of gender, which dealt with the reality of gender diversity differently than Christian logic, which dominates the understanding of gender today. While Christianity simply ignores any existence beyond male and female, Judaism has chosen a different approach that is just as binary, but not based on bisexuality. But let's start from the beginning:
Six genders are an integral part of the Jewish tradition.
The two that are the least surprising are Zachar / זָכָר - male and Nekeivah / נְקֵבָה - female. In addition, Judaism knows Androgynos / אַנְדְּרוֹגִינוֹס, Tumtum / טֻומְטוּם, Ay’lonit / איילונית and Saris / סריס.
Androgynos we would translate as inter * from a feminist perspective today. The definitions of androgynos vary slightly depending on the text and many, perhaps most of them, are highly problematic. In summary, androgynos is understood to mean a person who has both “male” and “female” sexual characteristics.
Tumult also describes an inter * person. Here, too, the explanations and standards of what being tumult means are not unproblematic. Basically, a person is described who has no "uniqueness".
Ay’lonit is described as a person who was assigned the gender “female” at birth, but who identifies himself as a man or a man, lives as a man or a man, or is a man or a man. A trans * person (ftm) is described. However, here, too, the explanations differ from quite passable and quite compatible for some trans * people to absolutely shitty and highly biological.
Saris also describes a trans * reality (mtf) and describes people who were classified as “male” at birth but who identify themselves as women or women, live as women or women, are women or women. As with Ay’lonit, there is a range of descriptions that range from very passable to highly problematic.
It is already noticeable that Judaism is unfortunately not Queertopia either. Any descriptions are based on "male" and "female" or phallus and not a phallus. Dealing with gender is far from being in line with any (queer) feminist ideal. Nevertheless: The recognition of genders beyond male and female means for many people that they exist and are intended. That their existence is not a deviation, but justified, legitimate and (divinely) provided. For many people this means that they (continue to) have their place in the churches and are recognized. They can exist because they exist and because they are allowed to exist. In contrast to the bisexuality propagated by Christianity, their existence is not negated.
And androgynos, Tumtum, Ay’lonit and Saris appear not only as a marginal note, but repeatedly in the important texts, in the holy scriptures - endowed with rights and duties. Androgynos is mentioned 49 times in the Mishnah and Talmud and 350 times in the classical Midrash and the Jewish laws. Tumtum 181 times in Mishnah and Talmud and 335 times in the classical Midrash and den and the Jewish laws. Ay’lonit 80 and 40 times and saris 156 and 379 times. The numbers are the EXPLICIT mentions. Androgynos and Ay’lonit, for example, appear implicitly even more frequently. With a view to rights and obligations, social positions are also shifting compared to the Christian present. Androgynos and Ay’loni have the same rights and obligations as cis men, while Tumtum and Saris are legally equated with cis women. This shifts the hegemonic hierarchies and power relations.
At least in theory, because Zachar and Nekeivah remain the most frequently and naturally mentioned genders, also in Judaism, which makes it clear that here, too, male and female remain the norm. Nevertheless, with a view to the canon of duties and rights in Judaism, the current real power relations that read there are shifting
1. (cis) men (existent)
2. (cis) women (existent)
(Also big gap)
3. Trans * and Inter * people (nonexistent)
To a society in which (as I said, purely theoretically) the break of two-sexes does not automatically lead to being deprivileged:
1. Zachar, Androgynos, Ay’loni
2. Nekeivah, Tumtum, Saris
I don't want to say that this is better, but it shows that even a binary gender system doesn't have to be bisexual. By dividing into “rights and duties like men” and “rights and duties like women”, Judaism also remains in a binary system in the assignment of social roles of the different genders, yet it recognizes and supports the existence of more than two genders half even with the rights of the privileged cis men.
And although Nekeivah and Zachar remain the norm, androgynos with Genesis 1: 26-27 - one of the two creation stories - plays a particularly important role in the Jewish tradition. Genesis 1: 26-27 is the story of "Adam and Eve". Most of us have learned at some point that according to the Bible, the first person in the world was a man named Adam. Which is nothing but a subsequent twist. Because Adam is just the Hebrew word for human. Instead of looking at the smoothly ironed translations and transcriptions of the Bible into the Hebrew “original text”, we see that adam - human being is never described as zachar - masculine, but that by changing the pronouns and repeatedly speaking of adam - human being in the majority, which suggests that the first man was androgynous.
And that is not, or not just, the interpretation of modern feminists, but an interpretation that was very common from the beginning - especially before colonialism made bisexuality the global norm. The first human was androgynous and not a man. This makes it particularly ironic / perfidious when Fundis try to argue with Adam and Eve to prove bisexuality, since this creation story is (theological) proof of the opposite. This striking and important ambiguity in the description of the (biblical) first man in the world and the erasure by Christians in the addendum in the sense of bisexuality is only one of many examples that show that the so-called Old Testament is not to be equated with that Jewish Tanakh. But I digress.
I promise a classic running text for the next time - snippy, easy to digest and with glitter sprinkles on top.
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