The history of transgender people is a long and fascinating one. They have a place in the history of nearly every culture on our planet. I would like to take just a few minutes to discuss this subject, because it is truly essential to a proper understanding of Goddess religion in the ancient world, and also because it remains such a controversial topic in our present society.
As we know, recorded history began around 3000 BCE, in Egypt and Iraq. If we examine some of the oldest surviving documents from that period, we find references to transgender persons serving as clergy in various Goddess temples. Moreover, linguists tell us that the official titles of such persons are not in any Proto-Indo-European dialect, but rather derive from the much older (indigenous) languages of the region. In other words, transgender people held positions of authority in religious institutions prior to the Kurgan invasion, and long before the start of recorded history.
Moving forward in time, we find that the absorption of Goddess religion into Kurganized societies carried with it an acceptance of transgender persons, in various spiritual roles. For example, they often served as intermediaries between the common people and deity. They were believed to be able to access a complex metaphysical universe, and in some cases receive prophetic communications from deity, and foretell the future. In addition, they often functioned as teachers or cared for the sick.
Goddess religion is by far the oldest known form of human spirituality, having evolved from such Neolithic beginnings as were found at Catal Hoyuk. The goddess Cybele, in particular, seems to have remained most true to the original concept, being a "stand-alone" deity, and not merely a member of some large pantheon... and it is rather interesting to note that the religion of Cybele also contained the highest percentage of transgender clergy. We even have evidence to the effect that some of the Sibyls were themselves transgender.
Clearly, transgender persons have played a very significant role in ancient religions... especially those connected with the primordial Goddess. What is really quite amazing is how consistently they have been found in that role, in other cultures scattered around the planet. For example, in many Native American cultures transgender people were referred to as "Two Spirits" , and commonly functioned as teachers, healers, and foretellers of the future.
The positive social role which transgender people once played came to a sudden and tragic end, once the Christians attained political power. Part of their violent assault on the other religions involved doing everything possible to discredit them. Since many of the Goddess temples contained transgender clergy, they created the myth that transgenderism was unnatural and evil, and that transgender people were promiscuous, prostitutes, beggars, etc. This served as a convenient excuse to murder them... and not suprisingly, many of these unfounded accusations continue to cause serious problems for gender-variant people today.
In addition, many Christian historians deliberately portrayed transgender people as eunuchs, in order to furthur alienate them from society. Of course a eunuch is a masculine man who has simply been castrated. The transgender Priestesses of Cybele (and other Goddess religions) clearly were not eunuchs. They wore women's clothing, jewelry and perfume, styled their hair, used female names, and lived as women in every possible way. Some of them were voluntarily castrated, but many were not.
In general, historical accounts concerning transgender persons in the ancient world, and especially concerning their role as clergy of the various Goddess religions, are extremely inaccurate and offensive. They serve only to perpetuate the most hateful and harmful sort of stereotypes... just as their Christian authors intended.
Fortunately, recent work by many doctors and psychologists, as well as a more enlightened attitude among the general population, has improved our understanding and acceptance of transgender people... and in addition, unbiased historical research is now enabling us to gain some excellent insights into their true heritage of community service in the ancient world.