If Jesus ever came to North Carolina and needed to use the public restroom, I wonder which bathroom he would use? The answer might seem simple because, after all, Jesus was born as a male. But was he? If we are to accept that Jesus was born of a virgin, then Jesus’ gender becomes a bit more complicated. Physically, we know Jesus was male. Scripture tells us he was circumcised (Lk 2:21). We also know he was crucified naked (Jn. 19:23-24) a common Roman tactic to increase his humiliation and vulnerability.
Christians believe Jesus is the ultimate reflection of God, so is God also male? Centuries of European art has taught, normalized and legitimized how to see the Divine. Think of Michelangelo’s renowned mural The Creation of Adam (1512) in the Sistine Chapel, where God is depicted as a buff older white male. Hence, we seldom think when we refer to God as a He, and in fact for many, not using a male pronoun would seem at best strange, at worst blasphemous. But if we insist God is male, then does God possess the ultimate signification of maleness, a penis? And if so, why would God need a penis?
Insisting on the maleness of God ignores the times God is depicted in feminine language; for example, as a mother who would not forget the child from her womb suckling her breast (Is. 49:15) or as giving birth to Israel (Deut. 32:18). These images do not mean God lactates or has a vagina; they are simply metaphors to help us better comprehend aspects of the deity. God is no more She than God is He, for God is beyond gender. This might explain why the Hebrew text (and the Quran for that matter) forbids making any images of God (something Christians have ignored), least we gender the image of Deity, and in the process make gods out of men, or as Mary Daily would remind us: “If God is male, then the male is God” (Beyond God the Father: Toward a Philosophy of Woman’s Liberation).
Unlike the gods of the surrounding Canaanite neighbors, the Hebrew God — Yahweh — has no genitalia. If the gods of the people surrounding the Hebrews were female they were depicted with large, pendulous breasts, broad hips, and prominently featured vaginas. Male god statuettes usually were depicted with large, protruding and erect penises. Even though this was the norm for fertility gods, the god of the Hebrews, who was also responsible for creating and sustaining all that has life, had neither breasts nor a penis. The revolutionary concept of the Hebrew god is that this God is neither male nor female and thus is male and female. God may be beyond gender; nevertheless, the image of Jesus is male. But if Jesus is a liberator for all, then how does the materiality of his body engender liberation for non-males, especially when we consider the oppressiveness of patriarchy?
We are told God dispatched a messenger named Gabriel to the town of Nazareth to inform a young teenaged virgin she would soon be with child: “You have found favor in the eyes of God. You will conceive and give birth to a child, and you will call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the son of the Most High. The Lord your God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will forever rule over Jacob’s descendants, his reign will know no end” (Lk. 1:26-35). Central to Christian thought is the virginal conception. Yet this assertion has lead biologist Edward Kessel to draw very interesting conclusions concerning Christ’s androgynous identity due to his parthenogenetic birth.
Males have XY chromosomes, while women have XX chromosomes. Upon conception, each parent contributes one of their chromosomes to the fetus. Women only have an X chromosome to contribute while the male can contribute either an X or a Y chromosome. If the man contributes his X chromosome, then the fetus will develop into a girl because it has the combined XX chromosomes. If, however, the man contributes his Y chromosome, then the fetus will develop into a boy because it has the XY chromosomes. The Spirit, responsible for coming on top of Mary which lead to conception, has consistently been understood throughout Scripture as feminine. Both the Hebrew word (ruah) and the Greek word (pneuma) for Spirit are female gendered. So if there is no human male figure with a XY chromosome involved in Mary’s conception, then Jesus cannot contain a Y chromosome required to determine male identity. The literal acceptance of Jesus’ virginal conception would conclude he cannot biologically be a male, although he obviously was physically a male as attested to by his crucifixion, and much earlier, his circumcision (Edward L. Kessel, “A Proposed Biological Interpretation of the Virgin Birth,” Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation [September, 1983]).
So if Jesus needs to use a public bathroom in North Carolina, which bathroom would Jesus use? If indeed Jesus has XX chromosomes (the gender identity of female) yet occupies a male body, can we ask if Jesus is intersexual? Did Jesus experience a gender identity (XX) inconsistent with their gender assignment (XY) at birth? Could the real problem be a Eurocentric ideology which has imposed a rigid binary gender understanding (either male or female) on culture, including how we read the biblical text? Many other cultures are not so binary, making room for sexual identities beyond simple binaries.
When we consider centuries of Christian theology which taught a Jesus who is the exact imprint of God’s very being (He. 1:3), we can begin to better appreciate the inclusiveness of Genesis 1:27, where: “God created humanity in God’s image, in God’s image God created them, male and female God created them.” Both male and female and everything in between and beyond find their worth and dignity in the image of God fully revealed in the intersexuality of Jesus. If all this is true, then I would assume Jesus would use whichever bathroom he believes is in accordance with their internal gender identity — and so should you.