Home History 5 saints that reveal the shocking historical past of transgender acceptance in early Christianity

5 saints that reveal the shocking historical past of transgender acceptance in early Christianity

5 saints that reveal the shocking historical past of transgender acceptance in early Christianity
BRISTOW, VIRGINIA - APRIL 26, 2015: Stained glass window depicting five Benedictine female saints, Saints Hildegard, Walburga, Scholastica, Mechtild, and Gertrude, located at St. Benedict Monastery

BRISTOW, VIRGINIA – APRIL 26, 2015: Stained glass window depicting 5 Benedictine feminine saints, Saints Hildegard, Walburga, Scholastica, Mechtild, and Gertrude, situated at St. Benedict MonasteryPicture: Shutterstock

The previous yr has seen a surprising rise in assaults on the LGBTQ+ group, and transgender People have been a selected focus of conservatives and far-right extremists. Protection in mainstream media retailers has solely exacerbated what has grow to be a veritable ethical panic by pointing to a supposed rise within the variety of younger folks figuring out as trans or nonbinary.

However the reality, as anybody with even an off-the-cuff information of historical past will acknowledge, is that transgender folks have at all times existed, throughout centuries and cultures. And that apparently features a shocking and underacknowledged variety of early Christian saints.

In a 2020 essay for The Advocate, College of California, Irvine, professor of artwork historical past Roland Betancourt writes that “from the fifth to the ninth century, plenty of saints’ lives composed throughout the Greek-speaking Mediterranean element the lives of people assigned feminine at beginning who for a number of various causes selected to stay out their grownup lives as males in monasteries.”

In his effort to “pull again the curtain on the uncared for historical past of transgender tales and literatures in early Christianity,” Betancourt name-checks a number of of those saints. These are a number of of their tales:

Saint Perpetua

Betancourt writes that “the night time earlier than her execution, the early-third century Christian martyr Perpetua had a dream about her impending demise” through which she noticed herself remodeled into a person. The account comes from Passio sanctarum Perpetuae et Felicitatis (The Ardour of Saints Perpetua and Felicity), believed to be written by Perpetua herself. “My garments have been stripped off, and instantly I used to be a person,” Perpetua writes of the imaginative and prescient. Betancourt questions the notion that that is merely a sign of “a misogynist sample of thought that understood the betterment of the female by a metamorphosis into the qualities of the masculine when discussing non secular ascent.”


Betancourt additionally factors to the Legend of Hilaria. Thought-about a piece of fiction, the story nonetheless led to Hilaria being acknowledged as a saint. Because the story goes, Hilaria was born the daughter of the Roman emperor Zeno. At 18, she disguises herself as a person and travels to Egypt the place she lives out the remainder of her life as a monk often called Hilarion.


Much like the Legend of Hilaria, the story of “Marina the Monk” tells of a younger lady who lives her life as a monk. Reasonably than be married off, Marina convinces her rich father to permit her to hitch him when he offers away all his cash and joins a monastery. She shaves her head and takes the title Marinos. Marinos was later falsely accused of fathering a toddler with an innkeeper’s daughter. Pressured to go away the monastery, Marinos raised the kid. Marinos and the kid have been later accepted again into the monastery, the place they endured harsh penalties. It was solely after Marinos’s demise that it was found that he couldn’t have fathered the kid.


This story parallels that of “Marina the Monk.” Euphrosyne of Alexandria was born the daughter of a rich household however rejected marriage in favor of the monastic life. At concerning the age of 13, Euphrosyne’s household was visited by a monk who suggested her to disguise herself as a person as a way to lead a lifetime of celibacy and asceticism. Euphrosyne later shaved her head and was accepted right into a monastery, claiming to be a eunuch. Taking the title Smaragdus, she lived the remainder of her days as a monk.


The sixth-century saint Athanasia was married to a different saint, Andronicus. After the deaths of their two kids, Athanasia dreamed of St. Justin Martyr who instructed her to decorate as a monk. The couple then gave away their wealth and set out for Alexandria, the place they parted methods. They met once more 12 years later, however Andronicus didn’t acknowledge his partner, who was dressed as a person and had taken the title Athanasius. They continued to journey collectively as monks and later shared a cell in a monastery, the place they died inside days of one another.


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