LGBTQ+ and religion

Here are a few things I’ve come across recently on the topic of religion and LGBTQ+ issues:

1. A statement signed by some 300 prominent Muslim scholars and clerics titled “Navigating Differences: Clarifying Sexual and Gender Ethics in Islam” interprets the Quran as asserting that “God explicitly condemns sexual relations with the same sex”; and further, that “as a general rule, Islam strictly prohibits medical procedures intended to change the sex of healthy individuals, regardless of whether such procedures are termed gender ‘affirming’ or ‘confirming.'” While acknowledging that there are Muslims who interpret the Quran as fully supportive of LGBTQ+ rights, these Muslim scholars and clerics say that public schools should not force their Muslim children to hear any messages that support what they call “LGBTQ ideology.” These Muslim scholars and clerics join many conservative/evangelical Christians, many Orthodox Jews, and many other religious subgroups in saying that their religion does not affirm LGBTQ+ rights.

2. Three social science scholars realized that U.S. research on LGBTQ+ and religion tends to focus on the attitudes of non-LGBTQ+ people towards LGBTQ+ persons. But there isn’t much social science research on how LGBTQ+ persons themselves relate to religion. So last month, they did a survey of LGBTQ+ persons to ask them about their relation to religion. While they admit that their survey is not representative, the results are still of interest:

“Our findings suggest that the relationships LGBTQ+ people have with religion are more complicated than most media headlines portray. Many LGBTQ+ people are religious… 36% of participants report a religious affiliation; about the same percentage say they attend religious services at least once a year…. A full 80% of survey respondents were raised religious. Of those who no longer identify religiously, nearly 1 in 3 say they nonetheless continue to feel a connection to their religious heritage.”

Let’s hope this preliminary survey eventually leads to published research on this topic.

3. Sarah Imhoff, professor of religious studies at Indiana University, has written an essay for The Conversation titled “Nonbinary genders beyond ‘male’ and ‘female’ would have been no surprise to ancient rabbis.” She says in part:

“As a scholar of Judaism and gender, I find that people across the political spectrum often assume religion must be inherently conservative and unchanging when it comes to sex and gender. They imagine that religions have always embraced a world in which there are only men and women. But for Judaism – and for many other religious traditions, too – history shows that’s just not true.”

My favorite part of this essay is when Imhoff points to interpretations by ancient rabbis, found in the Jewish Midrash, where Genesis 1:27 is interpreted to mean that the first human created by God was both male and female — not exactly what we today would call transgender, but definitely a human who did not have binary gender.