Sunday, February 17, 2019

Transgender Icons: Queer Christian Images of Marinos the Monk


"The One Who Saves the Soul
Is Like the One Who Created It"

The Vita of Marinos the Monk
______________________________
______________________________

Assignment Overview

In this exercise, the seminar will produce a series of icons of St. Marinos the Monk based a variety of attributes that characterize saints: Imago Dei, Imitatio Christi, Christus Medicus, Baptism, and Sainthood. These traits all have corresponding qualities in the lives of transgender people in general: authenticity, living your best lives, service to the community, transition, and remembrance. 
By focusing on these traits, this assignment eschews debates at to whether St. Marinos the Monk is a man (he lived as a man), transgender (he lived a transitioned life from his youth to his death), should be called transgender because he did not use the word (he wouldn't use any of our words, given that he did not speak English), or if he can be holy and transgender at the same time (he is a trans saint). I have addressed these considerations have been made in other posts and forthcoming peer-reviewed articles. Thus they may be reviewed in a lecture. This assignment challenges students to engage not in skepticism but in celebration. How might a trans life be honored as sainted?

By focusing on these positive traits, this exercise turns students away from the testing and skeptical tone that dominates cisgender society and the grim and negative tone that tends to surround queer allies when discussing transgender lives. The Vita of St. Marinos the Monk testify to the positivity and virtues of a trans life as much as they recounting anti-trans prejudices. A few of these negative prejudices include the tendency among hagiographers, icon makers, translators and scholars to deadname as well as misgender Marinos the Monk. He was known as a male, a monk, during life and this should be respected. He called himself Marinos and this should be respected. Additionally, the inability of local early Christian communities to recognize and name trans identities testifies to the ingrained ignorance and dominance of cisgender mindsets. Had society been more aware and accepting, Marinos might have been able to come out during his life instead of after his death. All these negative circumstances may be considered but at the center of the story is Marinos the Monk, a figure of positive traits that overcame these conditions to live a sainted trans life.

The task of assignment is to create an image with a name, a description -- write, St. Marinos the Monk, Patron Saint of [Fill in the Blank] -- and then provide a summary based on close reading the text alongside additional research. These icons will be made in small groups and then shared with the rest of the class.


______________________________
______________________________

Sample Groups

Group 1: St. Marinos the Monk
 and the Imago Dei


Consider the argument between Marinos and his father. Although it seems as though he is calling on his father to save his soul by letting him also join the monastery, take a moment to ponder how Marinos himself might be living out his Imago Dei: saving his soul by transitioning into the image of a monk God made him to be. By affirming his gender (monk), how might Marinos be like the one who created him to be a monk?


"Father, do you wish to save your own soul and see mine destroyed? Do you not know what the Lord says That the good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep?" And again she said <to him>, "The one who saves the soul is like the one who created it?"


Terms to research: Imago Dei, living authentically, suicide rate for transgender youths.

Group 2: St. Marinos the Monk
and Baptism

Consider the argument between Marinos and his father. How does Marinos's father misunderstand his trans son's gender? How does living authentically as a monk answer Marinos's father's concerns? How is transitioning and taking monk's vows like baptism?

"Child what am I to do with you? You are a female, and I desire to enter a monastery. How then can you remain with me? For it is through the members of your sex that the devil wages war on the servants of God."

To which his daughter responded, "Not so, my lord, for I shall not enter <the monastery> as you say, but I shall first cut off the hair of my head, and clothe myself like a man, and then enter the mastery with you."


Terms to research: baptism, becoming a monk, monk's habits, coming out to your parents as transgender, gender versus sexuality, asexuality, abstinence and chastity.

Group 3: St. Marinos the Monk
and Imitatio Christi

Consider the ways in which Marinos is living his best life after he is able to transition. How does living an authentic life make one more successful as your work, relationships, and even prayer? How does the comment about Marinos being an eunuch relate to early Christian and medieval understandings of transgender?

"Day by day, the child advanced in all the virtues, in obedience, in humility, and in much asceticism. After she lived thus for a few years in the monastery, <some of the monks> considered her to be a eunuch, for she was beardless and of delicate voice. Others considered that <this condition> was instead the result of her great asceticism, for she partook of food only every second day."



Terms to research: authentic lives, best lives, eunuchs, gender euphoria.

Group 4: St. Marinos the Monk
and Christus Medicus

Consider Marinos's ability to heal with his touch. How does the Monk's authentic life serve to heal others beyond having miraculous powers? How might his authenticity, trans identity, perseverance and sainthood (being set apart) serve to heal who encounter him?

"Eventually it came to pass that her father died, by <Mary, remaining in the monastery>,<continued> to progress in asceticism and in obedience so that she received from God the gift of healing those who were troubled by demons. For if she placed her hand upon the sick, they were immediately healed."

Terms to research: Imitatio Christi, gender dysphoria, gender euphoria, Christus Medicus.

Group 5: Marinos the Monk
and Sainthood

Consider the reaction of Marinos's community after discovering he was trans after death. How does the Superior's reactions mirror those of friends and family after an oppressed transgender person dies? How does death feed into advocacy? Is there a critique to give communities that are better at mourning the dead than helping the living?

"Drawing near and seeing <for himself>, the <superior> cast himself down at her feet, and with many tears cried out, "Forgive me, for I have sinned against you. I shall lie dead here at your holy feet until such time as I hear forgiveness for all the wrongs that I have done you."


..."The superior thereupon send <word> to the innkeeper to come and see him. When he arrived, the superior said to him, "Marinos is dead."... "You must repent, brother, for you have sinned before God. You also incited me by your words, and for your sake I also sinned."

Terms to research: ally, advocate, transgender day of remembrance, deadnames, suicide rate for transgender people, homicide rate for transgender people.

______________________________
______________________________

Starter Questions


1) What core concept did your group examine? How did you translate the theological term into current English? What are other words you consider?

2) How does your passage demonstrate the principles of the concept? In what ways does it address transgender life? In what ways does it address gender Christian life?


3) How did your group visualize the concept and passage? What associations and images are you using to translate the trans Christian sainthood?

______________________________
______________________________

No comments:

Post a Comment