intersexuality in the mishnah

“In the Mishnah, Rabbi Yosi makes the radical statement: “androgynos bria bifnei atzma hu / the androgynos he is a created being of her own.” This Hebrew phrase blends male and female pronouns to poetically express the complexity of the androgynos’ identity. The term bri’a b’ifnei atzmah is a classical Jewish legal term for exceptionality. This term is an acknowledgement that not all of creation can be understood within binary categories. It recognizes the possibility that uniqueness can burst through the walls that demarcate our society. The Hebrew word bria (created being) explicitly refers to divine formation; hence this term also reminds us that all bodies are created in the image of God. People can’t always be easily defined; they can only be seen and respected, and their lives made holy. This Jewish approach allows for genders beyond male and female. It opens up space in society for every body. And it protects those who live in the places in between.”

– “Created by the Hand of Heaven: A Jewish Approach to Intersexuality” by Rabbi Elliot Rose Kukla and Reuben Zellman

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“Six recognized genders in Old Israel”

Zachar: Usually translated as “male” in English.
Nekevah: Usually translated as “female” in English.
Androgynos: A person who has both “male” and “female” sexual characteristics. [Source: 149 references in Mishna and Talmud (1st-8th Centuries CE); 350 in classical midrash and Jewish law codes (2nd -16th Centuries CE).]
Tumtum: A person whose sexual characteristics are indeterminate or obscured. [Source: 181 references in Mishna and Talmud; 335 in classical midrash and Jewish law codes.]
Ay’lonit: A person who is identified as “female” at birth but develops “male” characteristics at puberty and is infertile. [Source: 80 references in Mishna and Talmud; 40 in classical midrash and Jewish law codes.]
Saris: A person who is identified as “male” at birth but develops “female” characteristics as puberty and/or is lacking a penis. A saris can be “naturally” a saris (saris hamah), or become one through human intervention (saris adam).  [Source: 156 references in mishna and Talmud; 379 in
classical midrash and Jewish law codes.]

Source:  Classical Jewish Terms for Gender Diversity by Rabbi Elliot Kukla, 2006

Our Sages non-judgmentally explore the role of intersex people in regards to many facets of ritual and civil law such as circumcision, redemption, oath-taking and menstruation.

The midrash, in Bereshit Rabah, posits that Adam, the first human being, was actually an androgynos. While in the Babylonian Talmud (Yevamot 64a-64b) the radical claim is made that Abraham and Sarah were tumtumim, gender non-conforming people. According to our tradition the first human being and the first Jews were gender outlaws. This teaches us that it is those that transgress the apparently rigid lines of Judaism that have caused the tradition to grow.

Rabbi Elliot Kukla, Parashat Vayechi: Beyond Stick Figures

nativepeopleproblems.tumblr.com: “Like look, the first man was intersex. The first Jews were intersex. Fuck people who say religions are transphobic and intersexist when they really mean that western christianity is transphobic and intersexist.”