I recently submitted a scholarly paper for review about generational trauma in the Book of Genesis, in the Hebrew Bible. Anyone who has ever read Genesis is aware that we are taught to revere the main characters in the book. Yet, if we read the book closely, that just does not make sense.
A husband who sells his wife into sex slavery. A father who exiles his wife and son, then tries to sacrifice his other son. The “sacrificed” son who then copies what his father did. His wife and their younger son conspire to steal his blessing. That son, Jacob, steals his father-in-law’s flocks. Jacob’s sons conspire to kill, but eventually kidnap and sell into slavery their brother Joseph, while they do many other horrible things. Their sister Dina, unaware of the risks, walks into a trap, and is taken advantage of by a smooth talker, or raped, depending on which commentaries you read.
This reads like a night-time soap opera! And this is biblical text. What is going on here?
After the Holocaust, the field of generational trauma was developed. Survivors didn’t talk about their experiences, but it was noted that their offspring showed signs of trauma, even when they had not experienced direct trauma themselves. If that trauma was not addressed, it could be transmitted to the third generation, etc.
We have been aware of PTSD in various forms since WWI, with “shell shock” and its other names. But it wasn’t studied with any intensity until the post Viet Nam/Desert Storm era. Then we began to really understand PTSD. This is about the same time that third generation survivors – people my age, started showing trauma signs.
In my paper, I took these seemingly random and disastrous events, and put them within a framework. Each generation had experienced trauma. That trauma had not been treated and it was transmitted to the next generation. That generation in Genesis experienced more trauma and so on.
By reading Genesis with this lens, we are able to gain an important understanding of this book. We are also able to gain an important pastoral tool. In my research paper, I show the implications of this knowledge in treating survivors of generational trauma in historically oppressed communities such as Black and Indigenous communities in the US.
But friends, the trans community fits this mold as well. I know quite a number of trans/NB folx who have trans/NB offspring. Quite frankly, I have yet to meet a trans person who does NOT have cPTSD, and for most of us, it remains present to some level or other. So, for those of us who have kiddos, we are at risk of transmitting this trauma to our kiddos as well, whether we are aware of it or not.
Complicating this, as the NTDS details all too well is the denial of adequate mental healthcare for trans/NB folx in the US. Thus, it is really difficult for many of us to get our trauma into remission. And for those who are both trans/NB AND BIPOC? The trauma load is almost unbearable.
So what do we do? First of all, we can’t give up hope. Now that we know this is an issue, we can deal with it. If you are the trans/NB parent of a trans/NB kiddo, then watch your kiddo for signs of trauma. If they show ANY signs at all, get them help ASAP. Whether it’s at the Center, the Crisis Center, or if you are fortunate enough to have insurance, your doctor, you MUST act. Your life and your child’s life depend on this.
I have struggled to find meaning and value in Genesis for many years. I know others have as well. I hope this offers some people meaning and hope, and I hope you will take this lesson to heart.