We know what the second and third examples are. The is the most typical example of a eunuch. Many scholars pretend that is the only kind of eunuch there was -- men who were castrated. The third kind is the one we most think of when we think of priests -- celibates. But the first kind is less clear. Traditionalists say that Jesus was talking about men who were born with birth defects like hermaphrodites. Simple, case closed. No need to look for any approval of gay men from Jesus here.10His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.
11But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.
12For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.
But the thing is, Jesus is hardly the only ancient source that discussed differing categories of eunuchs including "born eunuchs" or "natural eunuchs." So, we have more to go on other than the traditionalists' hyperventilating explanations of this passage.
To hear the traditionalists speak to this passage, it is like they want to end the discussion as quickly as possible before someone suggests, "could a gay man be a 'born eunuch.'
Well, what was a born eunuch?
Here is a description of a born eunuch according to the Babylonian talmud:First a "born eunuch" would not appear to be someone who is incapable of reproduction, so a birth defect involving the genitals would not seem to be an explanation:
But a born eunuch, according to the Rabbis, is capable of propagating and is allowed to bestow, on his wife, the right of eating the heave offering. Only a born eunuch, who is a priest, can confer upon his wife, the right of eating terumah.
Now, almost everything here seems more like superstition than fact. Just as any out group is defined through myth. I mean no one takes a bath in the winter and doesn't have steam rise off their skin. But note that one way to identify a born eunuch is NOT to check the genitals. Thus, we are not talking about men with deformed genitals.R. Joseph said: It must have been such a saris [eunuch] 6 of whom I heard Ammi saying. 'He who is afflicted from birth...’ Our Rabbis taught: Who is a congenital saris [a born eunuch]? 13 Any person who is twenty years of age and has not produced two pubic hairs. 14 And even if he produced them afterwards he is deemed to be a saris [born eunuch] in all respects. And these are his characteristics: He has no beard, his hair is lank, and his skin is smooth. R. Simeon b. Gamaliel said in the name of R. Judah b. Jair: 15 Any person whose urine produces no froth; some say: He who urinates without forming an arch; some say: He whose semen is watery; and some say: He whose urine does not ferment. Others say: He whose body does not steam after bathing in the winter season. R. Simeon b. Eleazar said: 15 He whose voice is abnormal so that one cannot distinguish whether it is that of a man or of a woman.
Clement of Alexandria said of burn Eunuchs:
So, now we know that "born eunuchs" were seen as not being attracted to women -- to the point of being repulsed by them.And their explanation of this saying is roughly as follows: Some men, from their birth, have a natural sense of repulsion from a woman; and those who are naturally so constituted do well not to marry.” [a woman]. - Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata, III. I.
So let's look at another source, Gregory of Nazianzus:
For the good which is by nature is not a subject of merit; that which is the result of purpose is laudable... Since then, natural chastity is not meritorious [being born with a natural sense of repulsion from a woman or without lust for a woman, through no choice of your own, is not meritorious], I demand something else from the eunuchs. Do not go a whoring in respect of the Godhead. Having been wedded to Christ [he is speaking to saved eunuchs-gay people who have trusted Jesus Christ], do not dishonour Christ.”
Gregory is saying that eunuchs by nature shouldn't be proud because they are not attracted to women, because it wasn't their choice to abstain from women; they were made that way. But he does, interestingly enough, accuse them of "whoring!" Now, if you have no interest in women, how could you be whoring? Umm, it must be with -- can we say it?
No, not yet.
Let's go to another source:
Quintus Curtius reports that "365 concubines, the same number as Darius had had, filled [Alexander the Great's] palace, attended by herds of eunuchs, also accustomed to being used like women."79The final piece in the puzzle is to prove that eunuchs enjoyed sex with men, and so were not entirely unacquainted with lust as Jerome implied or unwilling to perform sexual intercourse as Clement put it.
The Kamasutra has an entire chapter on klibas seducing men to allow them to perform oral sex on them. In fact, "klibas get particular enjoyment from oral sex, as well as their livelihood."71
A Sumerian list of dream omens from the seventh century BCE states that "if a man submits himself sexually to males [in a dream], like an assinnu he will develop a strong yearning to be a sex object for other males [in waking life]."72 This association between eunuchs and passive homosexuality may be why the Middle Assyrian Laws make being rendered a saris the punishment for male passive homosexuality.73 Another of the omens predicts that "if a man has sexual intercourse with an assinnu, for a whole year the deprivations which beset him will disappear." The next omen repeats the prediction for when a man has intercourse with a girsequ,74 the term for eunuch mentioned in the Code of Hammurabi.75
Without calling Alexander a eunuch, his Roman biographer of the fourth-century CE said he "scorned sensual pleasures to such an extent that his mother was anxious lest he might be unable to beget offspring,"80 and there seems to have been some doubt expressed as to his eligibility for the Macedonian throne.81 In other words, Alexander may have been a natural eunuch. He had two passionate love affairs in his short life, both with men. The first was with his childhood friend and later general, Hephaiston, to whom he felt so close that he told the Persian queen: "This man too is Alexander."82 The second was the defeated Persian king's lover Bagoas, "a eunuch of remarkable beauty and in the very flower of boyhood, who had been loved by Darius and was afterward to be loved by Alexander."83 Bagoas, "who won the regard of Alexander by submitting his body"84 for sex, convinced Alexander to execute a certain Persian chieftain who had insulted Bagoas by calling him a harlot. This chieftain had asserted that it was "not the Persian custom to marry males who were feminized by being screwed."85
The Jewish historian Josephus told of the problems King Herod had with his closest eunuch companions, of whom he was "very fond on account of their beauty."89 The king's son Alexander was continually plotting against him, and Josephus reported that "someone told the king that these eunuchs had been corrupted by Alexander ... with a great deal of money. And when they were asked about it, they admitted the association [with Alexander] and [that] sex [was involved], but they were not aware of any mischief aimed at the father."90Aelian, a third-century Greek rhetorician, recounts the beautiful story of the sorrow of a Persian king for a beloved eunuch who died: "He had been the most handsome and attractive man in Asia. He ended his days still a youth, emerging from childhood, and the king was said to be greatly in love with him. As a result, he lamented bitterly and was in great distress; there was a public mourning throughout Asia as a gesture to the king from all his subjects."100 Aelian's description recalled a similar mourning by the Roman empreror Hadrian, who had erected statues of his beautiful lover Antinous throughout the empire after his death. Some of these statues still exist
Sounds pretty solid: Born eunuchs were (1) not deformed in any way that would prevent them from procreating, (2) they were seen as being repulsed by women (un-attracted to them), but they (3) did engage sexually with men.
Okay, maybe that doesn't satisfy you.
Here is a stereotype of a born eunuch, who do we hold that same stereotype about today?
Those who are born when these are rising are always involved in luxury and lust. They are always drenched in perfumes, given to too much wine drinking, impudent in speech, so that in banquets and love-making they attack their companions with a sarcastic wit. They are addicted to all crimes of passion and are the kind who raise laughter by their biting tongues. 2. They will always be well-groomed and well dressed. They twist their hair in ringlets and often present a fictitious appearance by using another's hair. They soften their whole body with various cosmetics; pull out their body hair and wear clothes in the likeness of women; they walk softly on their tip-toes. 3. But the desire for flattery torments them; they seek it so constantly that they think that from flattery they attain virtue and good fortune. They will always be in love, or pretend that they are, and it pains them that they were born men.