A Radical Reading of Galatians 3:25:29

Galatians 3:25-29

25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.

I have seen the assertion that the identities so important in identity politics are subsumed by our identity in Christ. Someone is not a Jew, they are a child of God who is Jewish. Someone is not a slave, they are a child of God who is in bondage. Someone is not a woman, they are a child of God who is female. Someone is not black, they are a child of God who is of African descent. Someone is not gay, they are a child of God who is attracted to the same gender.

In the Kingdom of God, the ways in which we divide ourselves are overridden because we are in Christ who unites us.

But telling someone “there is no longer Jew nor Greek” does not lift the Roman boot sandal from the necks of the oppressed. Saying “there is no longer slave nor free” does nothing to change the fact that “Abraham’s offspring” is still held in the violence of slavery. Saying “there is no longer male nor female” does not erase the ways in which women are oppressed, othered and systematically devalued. Telling each of these “I don’t give credence to this class division” means that you don’t take seriously the ways in which the members of each class are oppressed.

Likewise, “There is no longer gay nor straight, there is no longer trans nor cis” doesn’t erase the experiences of the queer person whose life is at risk for simply being who they are. They cannot simply say “I’m not gay, I belong to Christ” and suddenly have the reality of their oppression disappeared.

The tendency amongst some to say that in Christ we move past our (previous) identities creates room to erase the experience of the oppressed and hides the need to work on the racism, sexism, heterosexism, transphobia that is at the root of the exclusion of many from having a voice in the Body of Christ. When straight, cis, white men appeal to “There is no longer,” then they run the risk of furthering violence against those who still are.

Paul can be read here as preaching the other side of Jesus’ first recorded sermon in Luke 4:18-19. Walter Brueggemann writes in The Prophetic Imagination (p. 84):

In Luke 4:18-19 he announces that a new age was beginning, but that announcement carries within it a harsh criticism of all those powers and agents of the present order. His message was to the poor, but others kept them poor and benefitted from their poverty. He addressed the captives (which means bonded slaves), but others surely wanted that arrangement unchanged. He named the oppressed, but there are never oppressed without oppressors.

His ministry carried out the threat implicit in these two fundamental announcements. The ministry of Jesus is, of course, criticism that leads to radical dismantling.

If he came to “let the oppressed go free” then he has also come to oppose the oppressor. If Jesus is setting the tone of his entire ministry by speaking to the oppressed, then Paul is speaking to those in the oppressing classes of their participation in the Kingdom of God. Paul is removing the ability of the oppressors to other the oppressed.

The voice of Paul here must be directed at the oppressor, not the oppressed. He must be saying to the men that they can no longer exclude and other women. He must be saying to the slave owner that the category of slave cannot exist in Christ, for if he is speaking to the oppressed, then he is simply allowing for the erasure of their oppression in the eyes of their oppressors. When straight or cis people say “I don’t see you as gay, I see you as my sister. I don’t see you as trans, I see you as my brother,” they don’t do anything to stand with the oppressed, rather they erase the oppressed, saying “The way you fit into my framework is more important than your lived experience.” If Paul is telling the slave “You are no longer a slave,” and not addressing the reality that this offspring of Abraham is held as property of another human, then Paul is not preaching a gospel of freedom for the oppressed, but a perverted gospel that ignores cries for freedom.

My Genderqueer Manifesto

The very first thing I want you to notice is that this is titled My Genderqueer Manifesto. It’s not The Genderqueer Manifesto nor even A Genderqueer Manifesto. This one is mine and no one else’s. Just like my gender(s). And like my gender, I reserve the right to modify it on a whim, to update it to reflect new knowledge, and for it to be completely nonsensical to those outside of my head. Modifications, updates, and other changes may (and likely will) be made without this document ever being updated.

I am genderqueer.

In that big QUILTBAG in which so many of us hang out, you can find me in the Q and the G. G for genderqueer. Q for queer. But not Q for questioning. I’m not questioning. I am the question. My life, my identity, my practices are a big fucking question mark, and I love it that way.

So what’s it mean when I say I’m genderqueer?

  • It means sure, I’m a guy. Except when I’m not.
  • It means sometimes I’m a girl too.
  • It means sometimes I’m neither, or both, or something else entirely.
  • It means I’m rarely a man, and even less often a woman.
  • It means that when I fix a car or build something that I don’t feel manly or like I’m living up to the gender that is assigned to me. It means I’m really more of a tomboy in those moments.
  • It means that I’m not crossdressing when you see me in skirts and makeup. I’m not wearing women’s clothes. I’m wearing my clothes, thank you very much.
  • It means you can refer to me as “he.” Or “she.” Or “ze.” Or any other personal pronoun you prefer. They’ll all be right enough, and I don’t mind any of them. Well, except maybe “it.”
  • It means that my beard is pretty and girly, at least when I want it to be.

So what does it not mean when I say that I’m genderqueer?

  • It does not mean that I want to start taking hormones or have my body surgically modified. Some genderqueer people do. That’s cool. It’s not for me.
  • It does not mean that I’m under any obligation to make my identity apparent to others. Most days I’ll be in slacks or jeans and a button down. You’ll likely not actively notice anything about my gender.
  • It does not have any bearing on my sexual orientation. I’m mostly attracted to women, and also to other genderqueer folks. I’m sometimes attracted to guys. None of that has anything to do with my gender identity nor with my gender expression. I’m just omnomsexual.1
  • It does not mean that I feel I was born in the wrong body. I fit my body perfectly. I am my body. My gender and my body are inseparable, but that doesn’t mean that I let others assignation of gender to my body limit me.

I notice that my expression of gender varies along with where I am on the extraversion/introversion spectrum. The more extraverted I am, the more stereotypically feminine I am likely to appear. The more introverted I am, the more stereotypically guy my appearance will be.

Usually.

But no matter my expression, I am always genderqueer.

Even when you can’t see my queerness, it is there. It is who I am. It is how I am. Forget that if you prefer. My queerness is not your responsibility, and it does not need your recognition. But forget it at the risk of failing to see and understand me.

Queer is a territory of tension, defined against the dominant narrative of white-hetero-monogamous-patriarchy, but also by an affinity with all who are marginalized, otherized and oppressed. Queer is the abnormal, the strange, the dangerous. Queer involves our sexuality and our gender, but so much more. It is our desire and fantasies and more still. Queer is the cohesion of everything in conflict with the heterosexual capitalist world. Queer is a total rejection of the regime of the Normal.

Toward The Queerest Insurrection

I refuse to let myself be managed and policed and limited by narrow, binary gender. I am both/and/neither/nor. I am “Yes, ma’am,” “Yes, sir,” and “I don’t know what to call you.”

I am a walking, talking, living, breathing question mark exploding every binary that tries to catch me.


1) Omnomsexual. adj. Involving, related to, or characterized by a sexual propensity for people who are nommy; of or involving sexual activity with a person or people who are nommy, or between individuals who are nommy.

I have a consent fetish

A couple of the fetishes on my FetLife fetish list are things like consent, yes means yes and only yes means yes. These are big deals to me. In fact, they’re probably my only dealbreaker fetishes. I suppose that makes consent the only true fetish I’ve got. It is the one thing I absolutely must have in order to play with someone.

Because of this consent fetish, there may be a long time between expressing interest in someone and actually playing with them. Before I can do anything, I have to feel comfortable that the consent that’s given is fully informed and enthusiastic. That means talking about what consent means to us, talking about what exactly we do and do not want to do, talking about values, desires, expectations, demands. It means making sure that consent is not just an absence of “no,” but the enthusiastic presence of “yes.”

This can make things complicated. It means I won’t play with anyone who can’t or won’t have an open, direct conversation about what they want and need. It means that if someone prefers to communicate in hints and flirtations to the exclusion of directness, we’re not going to be able to do anything together.

Consent, to me, is so much more than negotiating and honoring safewords. It’s about getting to a point where I trust the negotiations are free from coercion. It’s about trusting that if consent changes or is revoked in the midst of a scene, that such will be communicated.

I see a world around me in which consent is not valued. Some people are socialized to accept that things are taken from them and others are socialized to take. Some are told to never say “No” and others are told to never take “no” for an answer. Women are often expected to, among other things, rebuff sexual advances even if they welcome them, and to welcome them even if they do not want them. We’re surrounded by a million cultural forces telling us what we should do, bending our will. Because of this, consent is a goal to reach under quite strained circumstances. If I’m going to tie you up, spank you, set you on fire, fuck you or engage in any other such delights, I need to know that the “Yes” I get from you is a yes that you mean, not one that you have given under duress, or because you’re expected to, or because you just figure you oughta. That’s what I mean by “Only yes means yes.”

It often feels to me that, despite all the focus kinksters put on consent and negotiation, there’s very little addressing how to do those things without coercion. Kinky settings can often lead to an expectation of availability. Just look at how many submissive women have to say things like “I’m a submissive, not your submissive.” There’s an expectation amongst enough folks that if you’re at a party, at a munch, on FetLife, open about being kinky, that you’re fair game because, hey, you can always say “No,” right? None of that takes into account social pressures, the conditioning that some people have to say “Yes,” the subtle ways that people can be coerced, or the effects of an expectation of availability. That’s why I like “only yes means yes” as a starting point. It’s not enough that someone can say no, that they can reject advances, that they can use their safeword if they need to. A panic button isn’t enough for me to call a situation consensual.

So I may go slow. I’ll likely ask very specific questions. I’ll assume that if we come to a consensual arrangement, that the consent is specific to that time, that place and those specified activities. Instead of saying “If you’re not comfortable tell me, and we’ll stop,” I’ll say something like “Are you comfortable with insert specific thing?” and I’ll stop unless I get a clearly affirmative answer.

Some folks think that asking for permission isn’t sexy. I think that it’s what makes what comes next sexy. You know how many times I’ve asked “Can I kiss you?” I’ve not yet had anyone who didn’t appreciate being asked. You think it’s not sexy to get a bottom’s permission before each new thing? You whisper in someone’s ear “I want to do X to you. Do you want that?” and have them repeat back to you what they want you to do and then tell me that’s not hot.

I spent most of my formative young adult years in an emotionally abusive relationship. I had to learn a lot of this shit the hard way, and I know I hurt some folks along the way in doing so. This is what it takes for me to be happy. This is what it takes for me to trust that someone’s yes is undoubtedly a yes. This is the best understanding I can get of what it means to negotiate the things we do when we live in a world infused at every turn by patriarchy, by kyriarchy. I love playing with power, but when power is so unbalanced in the world, and so abused, it takes a very serious, deep approach to consent for me to play with power in a safe, useful, respectful and feminist way.

My name is Gabe and… I’m racist

Hi. My name is Gabe and… I’m racist.

It’s true. It’s not something I’m proud of, and it’s something I work against, but I don’t think I’ll ever be free of it. It. Look at that. “free of it.” I don’t even like saying what it is.

I don’t think I’ll ever be free of my own racism.

There. I said it.

For me, and I’d wager for most white people, racism doesn’t just go away. You can be aware of it and try to keep it in check. You can break the patterns of racist behavior when you notice them, but you can’t just turn them off. At best you can be in recovery. We’re talking some 12-step “It’s been 7 hours since my last racist thought” kind of shit. And even though I can’t think of one off the top of my head, I don’t doubt that it’s been less than 7 hours.

I’m a recovering racist.

It’s one of the reasons I get so pissed off when I see white people saying “I’m not racist.” I tend to see that in one of two ways. The first is immediately before or after saying something racist, like the old woman who lives across the street from me who yesterday said she didn’t want to talk to one of her neighbors “because they’re black, and you just never know who has a gun these days.” In that context it’s easy to spot that “I’m not racist” means exactly the opposite. The other way I see it used is during a critique of racism in something that the white person likes or identifies with. “You say this song/movie/video/book is racist, but I love this song and I’m not racist, so there!” That one may not be as obvious an admission of racism, but it’s a damn fine example of derailing. It’s stopping the critique and trying to refocus it on the fine, upstanding, not at all racist person who said it.

And I’m just as guilty of this shit as the next person.

See, our whole culture is shot through with racism. It was in the air I breathed as a child. It was in the stories I read, the shows I watched, the behaviors of those all around me, and now it’s in me. It’s one of my own little demons, one of my own original sins, inside me for as long as I’ve had consciousness.

I’m a racist. Now that I’m aware of that and working on my own recovery I can try to get on with the work of being anti-racist.

I’m thankful that I’m not alone in this. Once I realized that dealing with my own racism is akin to being in recovery from it, I just knew that someone smarter than me had to have thought of it too. Luckily I was right. damali ayo has even written a wonderful piece called “The 12 White Steps” (link is to a PDF). Give it a read. Then read it again. Then, if you’re so inclined, print a copy and stick it to your bathroom mirror, on the wall next to your desk, anywhere you’ll see it over and over. If you don’t want to open the PDF, you can read the short version of each step here.

  1. Admit you have a race
  2. Accept that there is a higher understanding that can restore you to sanity
  3. Realize you don’t know it all
  4. ‘Fess up
  5. Own your legacy
  6. Move beyond your ABCs
  7. Make racism a white issue
  8. Bite the bullet
  9. Share the cookies
  10. Go the distance
  11. Teach your children well
  12. Recruit, recruit, recruit

My name is Gabe and I’m racist. I’ll be fighting that my whole life. Fight with me.

More on temple building

As a follow up to my previous post on building temples, I offer this, The Politics of Pentecost Versus the Religion of Empire.

That the Occupy Movement will not introduce the commonwealth of God announced by Jesus does not stifle my enthusiasm. In a totalitarian corporate capitalist order we must seek to create fissures and occupy spaces that can then be widened into “temporary theonomous zones” where true human life can be renewed and flourish once again. In this way the parallels between the Occupy Movement and the early churches are worthy of comparison.

Emphasis added.