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.