Gender variance in spirituality

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This article mentions cases of religious teachings being used as justification to oppress, abuse, or kill gender variant people and other minorities. It also tells religious stories that contain sex, rape, self-harm, suicide, and violence. Nudity in art.; if you are not comfortable with reading about this kind of topic, we suggest you take a step back.

Gender variance in spirituality is about the views that spiritual traditions have toward people who are gender variant. It is also about gender variant figures within those spiritual traditions. Gender variance has always existed. Spirituality has often been part of how individuals and cultures have expressed or regulated that variance.

First, some definitions: "Gender variant" is shorthand for gender that doesn't conform to one's assigned gender in one's culture, and differs from that of the gender binary. Gender variance includes those who are transgender, gender non-conforming, and nonbinary, reflecting that historical figures used different words for these. "Spirituality" is a category that includes organized religions, as well as paths that are not centrally organized or defined as religions, but are nonetheless spiritual. In religious and folklore studies, the word "mythology" means a religious story, such as one about deities and miracles. In this field of study, "mythology" doesn't mean that the story is untrue or less valid than others.

Scholars differ in how to categorize world spiritualities into a taxonomy or other system of organization. In this article, the following categories of spiritualities are organized first alphabetically, by continent or region, and then by religion or culture. This is with two exceptions, which are ordered differently in this list: Abrahamic religions, which originated in the Levant region of Asia, but are best understood as having developed worldwide, and are at the beginning of the list only for alphabetical reasons; and fictional spiritualities, which did not historically develop anywhere on a real-world map, and so are explored after the rest of the article.

Abrahamic religions

Originating from southwest Asia and spreading worldwide, the Abrahamic religions include Judaism, Christianity, Islam, the Bahá'í Faith, Rastafarianism, and others. They have certain teachings in common, particularly the belief in one God, specifically Jehovah, the God of Abraham.


Views about gender variance in Judaism

Some relevant Wikipedia articles:

The six genders in classical Judaism

Classical Judaism recognizes six categories of sex/gender, instead of a male/female gender binary. According to Rabbi Elliot Kukla, these six are:[1]

  • Zachar (זָכָר): This term is derived from the word for a pointy sword and refers to a phallus. It is usually translated as “male” in English.
  • Nekeivah (נְקֵבָה): This term is derived from the word for a crevice and probably refers to a vaginal opening. It is usually translated as “female” in English.
  • Androgynos (אַנְדְּרוֹגִינוֹס): A person who has both “male” and “female” sexual characteristics. 149 references in Mishna and Talmud (1st-8th Centuries CE); 350 in classical midrash and Jewish law codes (2nd -16th Centuries CE).
  • Tumtum (טֻומְטוּם): A person whose sexual characteristics are indeterminate or obscured. 181 references in Mishna and Talmud; 335 in classical midrash and Jewish law codes.
  • Ay’lonit (איילונית): A person who is identified as “female” at birth but develops “male” characteristics at puberty and is infertile. 80 references in Mishna and Talmud; 40 in classical midrash and Jewish law codes.
  • Saris (סריס): 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). 156 references in mishna and Talmud; 379 in classical midrash and Jewish law codes.

The above six categories of gender are important to consider whenever considering gender in classical Jewish texts, rather than imagining a gender binary.

Gender variant figures in Judaism

See the above list of figures in Abrahamic religion.

God as a gender variant figure in Judaism

The exact nature of the God of Abraham is much disputed, even within one particular religious sect. God is often thought of as a male patriarch, but there is also a long history of seeing God as partly or entirely other than female or male, or as both.[2] Jehovah's wife and/or female aspect is Shekinah (שכינה‎). This is a Hebrew word meaning "dwelling" or "settling" and denotes the dwelling or settling of the divine presence of God. This term does not occur in the Bible, and is from rabbinic literature.[3] Jewish mystics saw God as having been originally an androgyne, noting that the name "Eve" is derived from "Jehovah".[4]

Adam as a gender variant figure in Judaism
The Tree of Life juxtaposed upon Adam Kadmon, in which Adam is shown as a Primal Androgyne.

Jewish and Christian teachings often interpret the first human, Adam, as having been created as both male and female, before God extracted Eve from him.[5] This is an example of the Primal Androgyne motif.

According to the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria (c. 20 BCE - c. 50 CE), Adam's original form was "original man" or "heavenly man," which was "neither man nor woman," but was rather a spiritual being made "male and female" in the perfect image of God in Genesis 1:27, before being made into physical form from clay in Genesis 2:7, and then even later being separated into Adam and Eve in Genesis 2:21-22. Of the six genders/sexes in classical Judaism, Adam's gender/sex was originally the one called androgynos (אַנְדְּרוֹגִינוֹס).[2][6]

Jewish Gnostics said that dividing this complete human was what made humans mortal, and that if they could be a complete "hermaphrodite" [sic] again, they wouldn't die anymore.[7]

Lilith as a gender variant figure

In Jewish mysticism, Lilith is a supernatural masculine female demon. She isn't included in Genesis, but folklore holds she came to be in Creation, though the story of her origin varies. In one of them, God meant her to be the first human woman, creating her before Eve, as a whole being like Adam, but she refused to be submissive to Adam. She left him, and wanders the world making trouble for humankind forever. Although Lilith is described in feminine language, and gives birth to hundreds of demons, she is considered as having masculine characteristics. Her masculine characteristics are said to be because she was created as a whole male-female being, like Adam. She is said to have thick body hair like a man.[8]

Scholars think Lilith was a goddess or introduced from a neighboring Southwest Asian religion, or that she at least corresponds with some of them.


The below is a more brief summary. For more detail on this subject, please see the main article: gender variance in Christianity.

Views about gender variance in Christianity

Christians have tended to have difficult views of LGBT people. Christians have used certain religious views as motivation behind discrimination and hate crimes against LGBT people. Christian denominations and churches vary in their attitudes toward LGBT people. What views churches do express about LGBT people tend to focus mainly on sexual orientation (lesbian, gay, and bisexual people), and less on gender variance (gender nonconforming, transgender, and nonbinary people). Because this is the nonbinary wiki, this portion of the article will focus wherever possible on Christian views specifically addressing gender variance, rather than sexual orientation.

Gender variance in the Christian Bible

The Christian Bible doesn't specifically mention transgender people, as such.[9] It also doesn't specifically mention nonbinary people, who are one kind of transgender people. Because of this, the Bible doesn't officially condemn transgender or nonbinary people. The absence of such people in the Bible doesn't mean that they were unknown during Biblical times. Classical Judaism itself acknowledged six genders/sexes in texts other than the Bible, and several neighboring cultures also acknowledged genders outside the binary. Some of the following Bible passages can be seen as relevant to transgender and nonbinary people.

Although seven Bible passages have sometimes been thought of as condemning lesbian, gay, or bisexual people, only one passage seems to specifically condemn cross-dressing, and, by extension, transgender people.[10] This is Deuteronomy 22:5, in one of the Hebrew books of law. Christians do not typically observe Judaic law, because Christians believe one of the important things Christ did when he came was fulfill all those laws, so Christians are no longer bound by them (Matthew 5:17; Romans 7:1-7; Galatians 3:25).

Nonetheless, this Biblical law has long been used by Christians to condemn those who cross-dress, and as a foundation for writing various national laws against cross-dressing. In the most famous example of this, historical court records show that the Inquisitors of the Catholic Church cited Deuteronomy 22:5 in the only actual specific charge for which the Church burned 19-year-old Saint Joan of Arc alive at the stake in 1431.[11]

Biblical passages about eunuchs are relevant to nonbinary people, because some nonbinary people have a physical transition that resembles that of a eunuch. In the Bible, "eunuch" can mean many different kinds of people, not just a man who was castrated, some of which Jesus lists in a sermon in Matthew 19:12. In many ancient cultures, "eunuch" was often an umbrella term for people who were intersex, sterile, gay, a "third gender", or otherwise queer. Because of this, any ancient writings about eunuchs can be relevant to LGBT people.

The Bible never condemns anyone for being a eunuch, nor says that becoming a eunuch is a sin, even though being a eunuch made a person subject to Jewish ritual purity laws distinct from those of other men and women. Even though eunuchs were barred from entering the Hebrew congregation and priesthood for ritual purity reasons (Deuteronomy 23:1, Leviticus 21:20), God specifically blesses eunuchs in Isaiah 56:3-5.

The Baptism of the Eunuch, depicting Acts 38. Painting by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1626 CE.

In Acts 8:26-40, Philip baptizes a eunuch, in in disregard of the aforementioned ritual purity laws from Judaic tradition. This is because Peter had visions in which God told him to eat non-kosher meats (Acts 11-17), which meant not to call any person common or unclean (Acts 10:28), so Christians started to baptize gentiles (Acts 10:45-48). The story of the baptism of the eunuch represents that Christianity welcomes all who wish to join it, in full participation. It is relevant to nonbinary people, in that it shows that people who have a gender/sex outside of the binary are welcome in Christianity just as they are. Having an unusual gender/sex is not a sin, and is not something that they need to give up in order to be Christian.

A letter from Saint Paul to the Christian Gauls, in Galatians 3:28, says that the gender binary is merely one more system of oppression that doesn't exist in Christianity: "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." This passage is relevant to nonbinary people, because they identify outside of the gender binary. It's also relevant to all LGBT people, who are treated differently due to how they all relate differently to the gender binary than most, whether by crossing it (in the case of binary transgender people) or loving on the same side of it (in the case of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people).

Gender variant figures in Christianity

In addition to the above list of gender variant figures held in common between Christianity and Judaism, some figures are distinct to Christianity, or are distinctly seen as gender variant in Christianity.

God as a gender variant figure in Christianity
A figurative trinity of God in stained glass in a Catholic parish church in Sierck-les-Bains.

Individual Christian sects can interpret the God of Abraham in different ways. God is often thought of as a male patriarch. However, there is also a long history of seeing God as partly or entirely other than female or male, or as both. Jehovah's wife and/or female aspect is Shekinah.[2] Many Christian sects believe in God as a trinity, having three parts: God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is an abstract entity depicted as a dove that flew down to be born as Jesus, and it is said to be neither male nor female in some traditions. In other words, one aspect of God, the Holy Ghost, is outside of the gender binary, and is nonbinary in certain traditions. The word for “spirit” in Hebrew is considered to be both masculine & feminine and in Greek is considered a neuter noun, but in Latin it is masculine. In general, within Christianity the soul is always considered feminine in relation to God. Within the Christian Hermetic tradition there is a “Luminous Holy Trinity” model which makes use of the Star of David six pointed hexagram. The upward pointing triangle consisting of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is masculine and the downward facing triangle consisting of Mother, Daughter, Holy Soul is feminine.[12] Within the Sophiological tradition of the Russian Orthodox priest Sergius Bulgakov the Mother of God Saint Mary is considered to be the world soul and the “Pneumatophoric hypostasis” of the Holy Spirit.[13]

Gender variant angels in Christianity
Three Archangels and Tobias, painting from 1467 by Francesco Di Giovanni Botticini, of a scene from the deuterocanonical, apochryphal Book of Tobit. From left: Michael, Raphael, Tobias, and Gabriel.

Angels are traditionally described with masculine language, and their names are more often given to masculine people. However, Christianity has traditionally held that all angels are neither male nor female. The reasoning for this is because God created all the angels, so they don't need to reproduce. They are spiritual beings, without the limits of physical bodies. God created Angels as perfectly whole combinations of masculine and feminine characteristics.[14][15] Christian denominations that officially hold the view that all angels are nonbinary include the Catholic church.[14]

Another reason for thinking of angels as genderless is a quotation from Jesus, which has sometimes been taken as mentioning the gender of angels: "For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven." (Matthew 22:30, King James Version) Traditionally, Christianity has taken this passage as further implying that all spiritual beings are genderless or androgynous, even angels and resurrected humans, though some scholars disagree with that interpretation.[16][2]

Gender variant saints in Christianity
Equestrian statue of Jeanne d'Arc by Paul Dubois (Reims). 1896.

Even though the book of Deuteronomy condemned cross-dressing, and medieval Christianity penalized that act, the Church nonetheless canonized as many as twenty-five saints who are known to have cross-dressed or been gender-variant. However, only saints on the female-to-male spectrum have been canonized, whereas any trace of spiritual people on the male-to-female spectrum have been erased from Christian history.[17]

One particularly notable such figure was Saint Joan of Arc (Jeanne D'Arc, or Jehanne) (c. 1412 - 1431). This saint told her ally, Prince Charles, that God had commanded her to exclusively chose to wear masculine dress and hairstyle. After her victory, when she was captured, Henry VI, the King of England, referred to Deuteronomy 22:5 as a reason for the Inquisitors of the Church to condemn her. Her judges claimed they gave her the choice to either give up cross-dressing, to face a sentence of life in prison, or to be executed if she again wore men's clothing. The court records show that cross-dressing, based on Deuteronomy 22:5, was the actual charge for which she was burned alive at the stake. In hir history book, Transgender Warriors, the genderqueer activist Leslie Feinberg (1949 - 2014) argues that the historical evidence shows that this saint was not just a warrior woman who took up armor for practicality, but was transgender, and the court documents about her refer to local peasants' beliefs that her gender variance was sacred in and of itself, which was part of why the Catholic Church saw her as so threatening to its power.[11]

For further reading on this subject, please see the main article: gender variance in Christianity.


Views about gender variance in Islam

Information needed.

Gender variant figures in Islam

Information needed.

Bahá'í Faith

Views about gender variance in Bahá'í Faith

Information needed.

Gender variant figures in Bahá'í Faith

Information needed.


Views about gender variance in Rastafarianism

Information needed.

Gender variant figures in Rastafarianism

Information needed.


Ancient Egyptian (Kemetic) religion

Hapi, an ancient Egyptian god.

Views about gender variance in Kemet

Information needed.

Gender variant figures in Kemet

Gender-variant deities and figures in ancient Egyptian religion:

  • Hapi, god of the Nile River, often depicted as a man with breasts and a fake beard. His transness is often seen as related to his fertility aspects. [18]
  • Shai(male)/Shait(female), who was sometimes portrayed both as male and female. Being the personification of fate, gender was not a concern, and is variable depending on the place and time.
  • Tatenen, androgynous mother or father of the earth. He is a creator deity, being seen as creating the land itself. Because of his status as a creator, he is seen as androgynous. [19]
  • Wadj-wer, sometimes depicted as a pregnant man. He relates to water, the Mediterranian, and fertility, the later aspect likely the reason for the pregnancy. [20]

Other African and African diaspora religions

Views about gender variance in African and African diaspora religions

Information needed.

Gender variant figures in African and African diaspora religions

Information needed.

Gender variant deities in other African and African diaspora religions:

  • Baron Samedi, a dandy who sometimes wears a combination of masculine and feminine clothing at the same time
  • Ghede Nibo, feminine gay man or dandy
  • Obatala (in Brazil: Oxala, in Haiti: Blanc-Dani), both male and female. Creator of humankind. Depending on the story, gave birth to humans by self-fertilizing, or by dividing into a man and woman.
  • Olokun. In the religion of Santeria, Olokun a deity of the ocean posessing both sets of genitals, "who wears very long hair and who lives in the depths of the ocean floor with a great retinue of mermaids and tritons."[21]
  • Legba (Ellegua), usually male, but changes sex in some stories, and is sometimes portrayed by a girl wearing a phallus.
  • Mawu-Lisa, combination of male Mawa and female Lisa
  • Mwari, both male and female
  • Nana-Buluku, in Fon tradition, is creator of the world, a god both male and female. This Creator gave birth to the sun (male Liza) and moon (female Mawu).
  • Pomba Gira, patron of drag queens, might be the female version of Legba.
  • Vondu, a god both male and female



Views about gender variance in Zuni spiritualities

Information needed.

Gender variant figures in Zuni spiritualities

Gender variant figures in Zuni traditions:

  • He'e, a male kachina who wore feminine clothing. He defended his pueblo while wearing a mixture of men’s and women’s clothing, with one side of his hair dressed in the women’s style.
  • Ko'lhamana, a Zuni Two-Spirit kachina who peacefully mediates between different groups of people.

Diné (Navajo)

Views about gender variance in Diné spiritualities

Information needed.

Gender variant figures in Diné spiritualities

Figures in Diné (Navajo) traditions: Note that Navajo traditions include a third gender role, called nadle (Nádleeh), which includes people who are intersex, as well as people in the transgender spectrum.

  • Changing Woman (Ahsonnutli, Estsanatlehi, Asdzą́ą́ Nádleehé) a Diné Two-Spirit deity. She changes to a different age with each season. In the creation epic, she gives birth to heroic twins, fathered by the Sun, who she marries.
  • Turquoise Boy (Ashton nutli, Ashton nadle) a two-spirit person, specifically a feminine man (or in some versions intersex), in the creation story (Diné Bahaneʼ). He helped the people escape the great flood. Later, Turquoise Boy became the sun (Jóhonaaʼéí, The One Who Rules the Day), and then he fathers children with Changing Woman, and marries her. In a different story, Turquoise Boy is instead the child of Changing Woman and the Sun; Changing Woman created him as the first two-spirit person because she couldn't decide whether she wanted a son or a daughter, and decided to make a child who was both.
  • White Shell Girl, a two-spirit person, in this case a masculine woman, in the creation story who helped Turquoise Boy save the people from the flood. She later became the moon (Tłʼéhonaaʼéí, The One Who Rules the Night).


Views about gender variance in Aztec spiritualities

Information needed.

Gender variant figures in Aztec spiritualities

The Aztec god Huehuecoyotl, in the Codex Telleriano-Remensis (16th century).

Figures in Aztec traditions:

  • Huehuecoyotl, an Aztec trickster god who was usually male but sometimes female

Other Native American spiritualities

Views about gender variance in other Native American spiritualities

Information needed.

Gender variant figures in other Native American spiritualities

Figures in traditions of other Native peoples of North America:

  • Coyote, usually male, but changes sex in some stories.
  • Double Woman, in Lakota tradition, appears in a young man's dreams holding out women's tools, and if the dreamer takes these, the dreamer accepts the trans feminine gender role of winkte, meaning "would become woman."[22]
  • Frog Earrings (Toad Earrings), a female spirit in Mandan tradition who appears in people's dreams to tell them to adopt a different gender role.
  • Red Woman (Hicicawia) a spirit in Crow tradition who created two-spirit people.
  • Holy Women, in Hidatsa tradition, appear in people's dreams to tell them to adopt a different gender role.
  • Moon deity, in Omaha tradition, is said to appear in a young person's vision quest or dreams, holding out men's tools in one hand, and women's tools in the other. Which one the dreamer grasps for will determine the dreamer's gender role. For this reason, the Omaha word for a two-spirit person is mexoga, meaning "instructed by the moon." "This type of vision, conferring high status because of instruction from the Moon spirit, was also reported ... among the Winnebagos, Lakotas, Assiniboine, Pawnees, Mandans, and Hidatsas"[23]
  • Nih'a'ca, in Arapaho mythology, was the first person who was two-spirit (haxu'xan). Nih'a'ca is a trans feminine trickster who married the mountain lion.[24]


Hindu and Buddhist religions

Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (Guanshiyin) statue from China, 11th-12th century CE.

Views about gender variance in Hinduism and Buddhism

Information needed.

Gender variant figures in Hinduism and Buddhism

Figures that are gender variant or patrons of gender variant people:

  • Avalokiteśvara, a male bodhisattva, sometimes shown as an androgynous man, who can appear in a form of any gender
    • Kwanyin (Guanyin, Kannon), originally a male bodhisattva (derived from Avalokiteśvara) who was reinterpreted as female or androgynous. There are only hypotheses about how and why this happened.
  • Purusha, a primal androgynous deity. The word also refers to a complex concept within Hinduism. [25]
  • Ardhanarisvara (aspect of male Shiva, with female consort Parvati, Deva, Shakti, or Uma), both male and female in one body.[26] Patron of gay people, intersex people, and transgender people
  • Bahuchara Mata, goddess, patron of Hijra, who are members of a trans feminine nonbinary gender role.[27]
  • Indra, who cursed a king to become a woman[28]. The king was Bhangashvana in the ancient Indian epic, the Mahabharata. The king ended up with "two sets of sons—those who called him ‘Father’ and those who called him ‘Mother.’ Indra caused the two sets of children to fight and kill each other. When Bhangashvana pleaded for mercy, Indra asked which set of sons he would like back. ‘Those who call me mother,’ said Bhangashvana. When asked whether he wanted a male body or a female one, he replied, ‘A female one, so that I can get more pleasure.’”[29]
  • Iravan (Iravat, Iravant, Aravan), patron of hijra.
  • Samba, who became a woman and gave birth
  • Shikhandi (Śikhaṇḍī, Shikandi, Srikhandi), a warrior in the ancient Indian epic Mahabharata, who was born a girl and lived as a man. He was destined for military victory. He married a woman, but she rejected him when she found out that he was a trans man. Shikhandi contemplated responding to this with suicide,[30] but instead made himself fully physically male by trading his sex with Sthunakarna,[31] a forest spirit (a yaksha) who wanted to become a woman.[32]


Ming dynasty figurine of Lan Caihe. Circa 1510 CE.

Views about gender variance in Taoism

Information needed.

Gender variant figures in Taoism

Gender-variant figures in Taoism:

  • Lan Caihe (Lan Ts'ai-ho), one of the eight Taoist immortals, whose gender has never been agreed upon. Lan Caihe could appear as-- or be interpreted as-- a boy, girl, old man, old woman, or anything.

Levant spiritualities

The Levant is an area of western Asia, which is popularly called the middle East, including the Fertile Crescent, where the earliest civilizations developed. Culturally, the Levant can also spread into north-eastern Africa, and even southern parts of Europe, due to easy trade and travel across the Mediterranean Sea. The Abrahamic family of religions also originated in the Levant.

Views about gender variance in Levant spiritualities

Information needed.

Gender variant figures in Levant spiritualities

Gender-variant deities and patrons of gender variance in Levant spiritualities:

  • Enki, a Sumerian male god and creator. He has been referenced to have both male and female aspects, but these seem to largely relate to fertility, or his place in a per-patriarchal society.
  • Inanna, a Sumerian goddess who was described in some hymns as both male and female, and whose worship included ritual cross-dressing. Some more recent translations indicate that "ritual cross dressing" might have been mistranslated, the passages instead referring to a sect of trans priestesses. She was also indicated to have domain over transitioning gender, "To turn a man into a woman and a woman into a man are yours, Inana." [33]
  • Zurvan, a Zoroastrian primal deity of time who is grammatically represented as genderless.

Australia and Oceania

Views about gender variance in Australian and Oceanian spiritualities

Information needed.

Gender variant figures in Australian and Oceanian spiritualities

Gender-variant deities and patrons of gender variance:

  • Ungud, Australian aboriginal rainbow serpent god, androgynous


Greco-Roman religions

Eros as a winged androgyne. Red-figured kantharos, Italy, 320 to 310 BCE.

Also called Classical religion, the ancient Greek (Hellenistic) and Roman religions featured mythology about the many gods, goddesses, and supernatural heroes. Although these are often seen as dead religions, the Classical deities are still worshiped today by Hellenistic Pagans.

Views about gender variance in Greco-Roman religions

Gender variant figures in Greco-Roman religions

Gender variant deities and patrons of gender variance in Greco-Roman religions:

  • Greek mythology with Phrygian origins described Agdistis, who was both male and female. The other gods feared the power of this complete being, and so castrated Agdistis, removing Agdistis's penis. From their blood sprang a tree that bore either almonds or pomegranates, depending on the version of the story, but both of these fruits symbolize the vulva and womb. The fruit of it fertilized Nana, who gave birth to Attis. Agdistis brought chaos to the wedding of Attis, so that Attis went mad, castrated himself, and died. In dismay, Agdistis asked the gods to preserve Attis's body, and founded a festival in his honor. There are several very different versions of the story of Agdistis, but basic events remain similar.[34] In some versions, Agdistis a relation or aspect of the goddess Cybele.
  • Aphrodite had transgender aspects. Servius said, "There is in Cyprus an image...with the body and dress of a woman, but with a scepter and the sex of a man, which they call Aphroditus, and to which the men sacrifice in a female dress and the women in a masculine one."[35] This can be seen as the presence of transgender priests and priestess, as the Romans often had antagonistic views towards androgyny. This deity was depicted as a woman with a penis, often lifting her skirt to reveal her penis.
  • Venus, the Roman counterpart to Aphrodite, also had gender variant aspects.Venus Barbata, an aspect of the goddess Venus, grew a beard and dressed as a man in order to court a gay man. This deity was patron of sex workers and of socially taboo love and sex, particularly homosexuality.[36] Her followers included men who dressed as women, and she’s said to have turned some men into women.
  • Cybele, a goddess who was in some interpretations both male and female. Her priestesses were trans-feminine eunuchs called Gallae.
  • Dionysus is a deity of wine, madness, vegetation, pleasure, and frenzy. His tradition is broadly reaching, so accounts do not agree on aspects of his gender. However, some popular accounts agree on certain aspects of his gender. Dionysus, by most accounts, was raised by nymphs on Mt. Nysa. There, he was raised as a woman. [37] In most traditions, he is seen as effeminate, and sometimes is seen as changing gender. [38]
  • Hermaphroditus was a Greek deity who was both male and female, who was shown in art as a beautiful woman with a penis. One version of this deity's origin was that Hermes (the messenger god) united with Aphrodite (the goddess of love) to become Hermaphroditus.[39] Another story said instead that Hermaphroditus was originally the beautiful male son of Hermes and Aphrodite. The lake nymph Salmacis raped him, wishing them to never separate again, so the gods made them one being. The gods also granted the victim's wish that anyone who bathed in that lake would lose their virility.[40] This is the origin of the word "hermaphrodite.".
  • Pales, a Roman shepherd deity seen as male, female, or multiple deities at different times.

Other gender variant figures and myths:

  • Caeneus (also called Caenus, Caenis, or Kaineus) was a mighty warrior who had been divinely changed from a woman to a man. When Caeneus was female, the god Poseidon had raped him, and then offered a wish. Caeneus wished to become a man with the power of being impenetrable by anything, so that he could never be raped again in any way. As a result, Caenus also became supernaturally invulnerable to being penetrated by any weapon, such as swords and arrows. A centaur found out Caeneus's secrets, and so mocked him, and then defeated Caeneus by burying him under logs and boulders.[41]
  • Tiresias (Teiresias), a man who was changed to a woman for several years and back again. He settled a dispute between Zeus and Hera about whether men or women experience more pleasure during sex. He said women did, which angered Hera, so she blinded him. To make up for it, Zeus gave Tiresias the power of prophesy. Some consider Tiresias to have those powers because of having experienced life as a man and as a woman.[42]
  • Iphis is the son of Ligdus and Telethusa, a couple who was poor, and could not afford a dowry if they were to have a girl. If a girl was born, she was to be killed. The goddess Isis advised Telethusa to keep her child, regardless of the gender. Though born "female", Telethusa raised Iphis as a man. When Iphis became older and fell in love, he prayed to Isis for help, and was able to have a body that matched his gender perception. [43]
Art of Hermaphroditus, Aphroditus, or figures believed by historians to be them
Other gender-variant figures from Greek and Roman mythology

Norse religion

Loki dressing Thor, the thunder god, in feminine clothing. Illustration by Carl Larsson and Gunnar Forssell in the Poetic Edda, 1893.

Views about gender variance in Norse religion

Information needed.

Gender variant figures in Norse

Gender-variant deities in Norse religion:

  • Friga, usually female, but sometimes both male and female
  • Loki (Loke, Loge, Loptr, Hveðrungr), usually male, a shapeshifter who became female and gave birth on occasion. He transformed into a mare to birth Sleipnir, an eight-legged horse that became the swift steed of the god Odin.
  • Odin as Jalkr, usually male, but in one story was a eunuch in feminine clothing in order to study women's mysteries.[44]

Other European spiritual traditions

Views about gender variance in other European spiritual traditions

Information needed.

Gender variant figures in other European spiritual traditions

Figures from other European spiritual traditions include:

  • Baphomet, a primal androgyne said by the mystic Eliphas Lévi (1810-1875) to have been worshiped by the Knights Templar. This primal androgyne is an alchemical allegorical figure, made of a mixture of human (female and male) and animal features, representing the spiritual and physical realms, with a flame over its head representing enlightenment. This is the figure on the Tarot card called "The Devil," but it's debatable whether it's synonymous with the devil.

Fictional spiritualities

Some spiritual traditions that were made up for use in a fictional story refer to gender-variance, transgender people, and nonbinary people. Fiction can be helpful for speculating about different ways that people could think about gender variance than has happened in real-world history. In real life, some Pagans and magicians choose to include deities and practices of fictional origin in their spiritual practices.

Views about gender variance in fictional spiritualities

Information needed.

Gender variant figures in fictional spiritualities

Spiritual gender-variant figures from fiction include:

  • Kyprioth, a trickster god in the fictional Tortallan culture, in the fantasy novels by Tamora Pierce (Bloodhound and Trickster’s Choice.) Kyprioth is a transgender man, and makes people be born transgender by touching them in the womb.

See also

Further reading

  • Omnigender: A Trans-religious Approach, by Virginia Ramey Mollenkott


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  4. Barbara Walker, A Woman’s Dictionary, p. 195-196.
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  6. Louis Ginzberg, "Adam Kadmon." Jewish Encyclopedia. 1906. Online version retrieved May 2, 2019.
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  9. "Transgender." Hope Remains.
  10. Shannon Kearns, "Transgender and Christian?" Queer Theology. Retrieved April 30, 2019.
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  15. Evelyn Dorothy Oliver, "Angels A to Z." Page 156. Accessed via Google Books:
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  41. Michael Hernandez, “Exploring FTM mythology, part 1: Raising Caeneus.”
  42. Raven Kaldera, Hermaphrodeities, p. 238-239.
  43. Ovid, Metamorphoses
  44. Raven Kaldera, Hermaphrodeities, p. 160.