Esther Brownsmith, a professor at the University of Dayton, a Catholic institution in Ohio, stirred debate when she suggested that the Bible upholds the notion of fluid gender identities. The controversial discourse comes in response to Ohio lawmakers’ move to override the governor’s veto on a bill that bans biological males from female sports events and limits gender-transition treatments for minors. Brownsmith takes examples from religious texts, including biblical figures who “crossed gender boundaries,” to uphold gender transitions.
In an opinion piece penned for the Dayton Daily News, Brownsmith argued that scripture and trans rights do not conflict. She stressed that religious scripture emphasizes supporting the most at-risk societal members, and trans individuals are among society’s most vulnerable. However, she noted that her views diverge from the Catholic Church, which, as per the Genesis chapter in the Bible, advocates the concept of two sexes – male and female.
As a scholar in the Hebrew Bible, Brownsmith will helm a Lent series at a local Episcopalian church centered on biblical narratives of diverse sexual and gender identities, with sessions on topics such as “Joseph and the Rainbow Princess Dress” and “Imagining a Genderfluid God.” The University of Dayton said it “respects the academic freedom of its faculty and students as it fosters an environment of inclusion.”