Monday, April 19, 2010

Marina The Monk - A Lebanese female saint who lived as a male monk

Qannoubine Valley, the region in which
 Marina lived as a monk
Photocredit: Dees99's photostream
I couldn't let this pass without blogging about it. They always tell us about the indemnity of gender segregation, but apparently, Marina couldn't care less, she lived her life as a male monk, and not only did she not get the world order to collapse, but she was also declared as a Saint.

Being a girl from the North of Lebanon, I was always familiar with the name of Saint Marina. Her Transgender-like behavior was never really highlighted, but it was also not a secret. You see in our traditional rural culture, gender is evident but it's ok to cross the boundary if you have a reason to. Marina wanted to stay with her father, since he was too young to live without him, her only remaining family.

The funny twist of the story is that apparently, a young woman was so infatuated by Marina the Monk that she seduced him/her. Maybe because of Marina's androgynous charm, or because she had already slept with someone against whom she couldn't raise her voice. In any case, her attempts failed so out of spite she accused Marina of seducing her. Marina faced the accusation with silence, even though she could have revealed her biological gender to save herself. But she didn't, she preferred to take the blame over revealing her biological gender.

As a result she spent the rest of her life raising the child (who was not hers), isolated in the wilderness, begging for food and working like a mule. This lifestyle is the typical Maronite Saint behavior, hence her being declared a Saint.

I never heard an official explanation to Marina's silence. It could be that she craved to raise the child, or to live away from anyone. It could also be that she did not want the woman who seduced her to be exposed as a "town slut" and "vicious liar".

Or maybe she worried that revealing her gender meant that the other monks would for ever hate and despise her for lying to them, we all know how sexually frustrated men get when they know that a woman managed to pass as a man and they never suspected it.

Or even yet, it could be that Marina felt comfortable identifying as a man, dressing, speaking, and interacting as one. And by raising this kid alone she was able to relive her childhood with her father.... who knows?

But what I do know is that a psychology student in Lebanon wanted to do her Thesis on Marina, as a Transgender example, with some religious and psychological spices added to it. Her request was rejected of course, after all, she is a student at USJ (Université Saint Joseph), and modernized, urbanized Christians are less open about discussing gender or acknowledging its exceptions than their ancestors.

For more information about Marina the Monk: Saint Marina the Monk, by the Maronite Institute


deema said...

This is such a cool post. So growing up, did you hear the whole story about the girl accusing Marina of impregnating her, or was that something you discovered later on? girl falling in love with Marina and accusing her of impregnating her?

Pazuzu said...

LoL, we never really thought about it as kids, we just knew that marina was a saint, I remembering reading in a brief (a very brief brief), that she disguised herself as a boy to go with her dad. Other than that we didnt really think about it :P that's what's so cool about her story