(The following was written for presentation as part of a local Unitarian Universalist service celebrating the 2020 Transgender Day of Visibility. The opening directly quotes from a previous blog entry, so should look familiar to anyone who's read that.)
It's been about two years, now, since one branch of a major Christian church justified its anti-transgender stance with an official statement bearing a name that referenced Genesis 1:27, as though this were not only an obvious and natural conclusion from the text of the verse, but the only conclusion possible.
As the verse reads in the New International Version: "So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them."
"And" should be such a simple word.
Particularly for something written in a time when women were often considered little, if at all, better than property, that verse from Genesis makes a fascinating assertion. The image of God is not the sole domain of the male, nor, for that matter, of the female. Neither masculine nor feminine is better or more Godly. The man cannot say to the woman that he is more favored of God, nor the woman say to the man that nothing of God is in him. All are part of God's creation and exhibit facets of God's nature.
Created "in the image of God... male and female". Not only does this put both on the same level, it seems an unavoidable conclusion that the image of God is therefore neither purely male nor purely female, that this is a God who is both and neither. Why should those created in that image have to be purely one or the other?
But that isn't what not only religious groups, but also culture and media have for many years shown us. Schoolchildren are divided up into boys on one side, girls on the other. A popular book asserts that "Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus". Facilities are labeled "ladies" or "gentlemen". Paperwork often demands an "M" or an "F", even when it's completely irrelevant. Stores keep women's clothes over here and men's clothes over there, as though they were intrinsically incompatible. Seldom is there any hint that these might not be rigid, eternal, unchangeable certainties, much less that there could be anything between or beyond them.
So perhaps it's not so strange that I can remember being in high school with a fuzzy not-really-understanding that there were "normal" people over here, and "the gays" over there. I knew I liked girls too much to be one of "the gays" (which was just about all I knew about what that even meant), and even if boys sometimes sparked my interest, too, I also had a vague cultural-awareness sort of sense that "the gay" was best avoided. So I mostly tried not to think about the idea that I might not be "normal", either, because what else was there? And If I developed a certain fascination with things like unisex names, or fiction that involved people magically changing sex, or wondering how my life would be different if I had been born a girl, surely it didn't mean anything in particular, but was nothing more than idle curiosity from a mind bored with the tedium of schoolwork.
The media has generally gotten somewhat better since then, but even now, a lot of "representation" is still stuck on the idea that if you're not toeing the gender line, then you're either dead or working the street corners or trying to trick people for malicious reasons, or, at best, you're a punchline. Even attempts to be more respectful and speak to transgender people as people have an unfortunate tendency to get uncomfortably focused on the state of people's genitalia—which, to paraphrase John Oliver, is, medically speaking, none of anyone else's business. And, as with so many other topics, journalists are often so eager to avoid taking sides that they'll put verifiable facts, legitimate scientific studies, and real people's safety and wellbeing on the same footing as fanciful speculation, extremist propaganda, and baseless fearmongering.
The Internet, although it can amplify the worst voices, also allows others to be heard. For instance, I'm reading a webcomic by a trans author with characters that include a trans girl who's gone full time after moving and changing schools, a trans man who is her therapist, at least one lesbian, several people who are bisexual, a gay boy who likes to wear dresses and be pretty now and then, one girl who's pansexual, another who's described as asexual and homoromantic, someone else who's genderfluid and usually uses they/them pronouns, an intersex girl who was raised as a boy, a trans boy who's just starting to figure that out, a boy who might be gay or bi and is both curious and terrified to find out, and various authority figures and family members who run the gamut from supportive to confused to indifferent to openly hostile. Another webcomic, in a more sci-fi/fantasy genre involving transformation technology and magic, includes characters such as one with form-changing spells who strikes me as bigender and recently used the description "gender-casual", a female duplicate of an originally male character who has described herself as homoromantic and bisexual, a part-alien shapeshifter who's most likely demisexual and agender, a transformation enthusiast who has been confirmed as genderfluid, and someone who finds people of all genders attractive and appreciates sexuality between other people but is repulsed by the idea of being personally involved—and is there even a word for that? (ETA: of course there is)
But you're not likely to find nearly so much visible diversity unless you deliberately seek it out. Most of these concepts still aren't really out there in the public consciousness, much less taken for granted. And, ideally, they should be, if for no other reason than making sure that everyone knows they don't have to try to force themselves into this box or that box. There's no single standard that everyone has to live up to, and no preset path that everyone has to follow. There's just people being who they are as well as they can manage in the circumstances available to them.