The “Intersexion” of Christianity and Genitalia

Education about the intersex population is sorely lacking in our society. This is primarily due to ignorance, fear, and the perpetual 1950’s mentality that “there are just some things we don’t talk about”. But scientific and medical research is slowly pulling the veil back on a minority group that has been closeted for far too long.

Why is it so taboo? What is it about American gender roles that place such clear-cut boundaries between the sexes? The first question we ask new parents: “is it a boy or girl”? What happens when a newborn’s genitals is neither male nor female? What happens when it’s both? We don’t like to face those questions. We need to know whether to paint the nursery blue or pink. We need to know whether to buy Barbie or G.I. Joe. We need absolutes. But could it be that gender is not as black and white as we once thought?

Science is now proving that intersex conditions are way more vast and varied than we previously knew. This also means that the sex of a person cannot always be determined by the appearance of their genitals. For instance, a person can be born appearing to be completely female, but have XY (male) chromosomes. A person can be born appearing completely male, yet have female reproductive organs on the inside. Some people are even born with cells of both male and female origin, having some cells that are entirely XX, and some cells that are entirely XY.

Sadly, in decades past, the medical community often used secrecy when dealing with intersex cases. There are numerous occurrences when the medical staff “chose” the gender of an intersexed baby by performing surgery without even telling the parents. In instances where the parents were informed, they were urged to make a gender decision immediately so that they could take their new baby home without people asking too many questions. Many parents chose this, because they thought it would protect their child from ridicule and pain. But imagine the confusion and damage that can surface later on as a result of this secrecy.

Unfortunately, the response of many people concerning intersexed individuals goes something like this: “Well, it’s sad for those who are born that way. It’s obviously not natural or what God intended… it’s just a sign that we don’t live in a perfect world. But God will take care of them, because after all… they’re people too. It’s just a good thing that these cases aren’t very common.” Then, said person returns to their life as normal, not giving it much else thought.

But just how common is intersex? Get this: Giving birth to an intersexed baby is just as likely as giving birth to twins. Want to see the stats for yourself? Here is the official information from the Intersex Society of North America. Take some time to peruse their website; it’s informative and comprehensive.

I also highly recommend that you watch the documentary Me, My Sex, and I. It’s one of the most compelling films I’ve seen regarding intersexed individuals, their families, and their experiences. Click here to watch the documentary.

So what do we glean from this information? If intersex conditions are so common, what does that say about God’s creation? Might I suggest that intersex is simply a variation of normal? I believe these gray areas between absolute black and absolute white are important… and they are beautiful. We know that there are references to eunuchs in the Bible. We also know that Jesus said some were born that way, and some were made that way by men (Matthew 19:12). Yet, we never really spend much time on those passages. What did it mean to be a eunuch? Is it comparable to what we know today as intersex? If gender itself is that fluid, then does it support the notion that sexual orientation is as well?I’m interested to hear your thoughts.

11 responses to “The “Intersexion” of Christianity and Genitalia

  1. Good for you, Mandy, bringing this to our attention. It is more common than people think, and it’s important for people to understand that God creates intersexed people for his glory, just as he creates all of us for his glory.

  2. In regards to Mandy’s question, “If gender itself is that fluid, then does it support the notion that sexual orientation is as well?” ABSOLUTELY!! This question is such a good point. It is an exciting realization. God made male and female….humans have made boxes to check, compartments to fit in, and expectations to follow depending on what your genitals look like. Obviously there are people that don’t fit the typical mold physically, and to try and make them look “anatomically correct” takes an act of mutilating them. I do believe that carries over to sexual orientation…and to make someone fit the mold of an orientation of opposite sex is also “mutilating” them on an internal level.

    Why do people ignore this?
    I believe it is fear, it is uncomfortable, it causes one to have to shift in thinking and rearrange what they believe is safe and living by guidelines that provide one with security. It pushes one to have to have more faith….and that seems to be an area of weakness for humans.

    When I once brought up the reality of “intersex” individuals to a minister, his response was “tough, to bad for them.” In other words, he wanted to ignore it. I dream that some day the answer would be, “That must be difficult for an individual in our society, how can we make life easier for them and how can we show support and love?” I like that answer. Can more people respond that way?

    As a Christian, it does not scare me that people are born different. It excites me. It provides us with more opportunity to show love and acceptance. It provides us with opportunity to turn what seems different into something that is not different but more beautiful than what we ever could have expected.

    God, the creator of all that is beautiful, please continue to teach us. Please educate us. Please provide brave souls to share their stories and may we have ears that truly listen. Please continue to shine your light on this topic that gets squished and shoved and hidden. May your spirit continue to reveal Truth. May we develop eyes that see the beauty in what appears to be different and unusual. Please surprise us with insight that provides hope for individuals who feel stuck in a world that wants to cut squares in order to put them in a round holes. I beg you to heal those who have already been hurt. Thank you for your everlasting love and mercy as we continue to learn.

  3. You said – “Might I suggest that intersex is simply a variation of normal? I believe these gray areas between absolute black and absolute white are important… and they are beautiful.”
    I think you need to do a little more research on intersexual conditions. They are not “good.” The actual people who experience them have to deal with surgeries, emotional pain, and health problems. I doubt you would find very many actual intersex people claiming to find their condition beautiful. Similarly, those born with other bodily deformities usually don’t find them beautiful or enjoyable either.

    • Yes, it’s true some of these people experience significant emotional trauma. However, I believe the emotional scars they bear are brought on by society’s views of what is “normal”. It’s our fault, as a society, to make them feel as though they ought to fit into any “box”.

      Additionally, I propose that we should not even use the word “deformity” to refer to intersex individuals. That is precisely the mindset that perpetuates fear and ill-education in our society. Sure, it is a “condition”… but we have to ask ourselves how is it that so many people have this “condition”? And who are we to tell them they need to undergo surgery to change themselves? I think there ought to be a law where there can be no surgical procedures performed until the child is of age and can make his or her own decision (as long as their condition is not life-threatening).

      • Last night I could not sleep due to left over fireworks from the neighbors and due to THIS topic!

        Education, education, education! This is why we all need to be educated so that we can avoid causing more emotional trauma. It is already hard enough for people who have health problems due to bodily deformities. They are still beautiful people who deserve so much more than hiding their burdens or looking at them with pity. As a society we ought to learn how to lift them up and how to support their needs. Making them pick the “male” box or the “female” box is a disservice. We don’t think about it when we check the “male” or “female” box on applications, but what about someone whose gender is not clearly defined…..well, this simple action that should take more than a second probably brings up emotional baggage and pain.

        We need to be educated and we need to NOT ignore the reality of all this! Based on the documentary that was posted, people are able to overcome the trauma of how this use to be handled. So lets listen to those voices. There is something to learn from them. I’m confident that Jesus would answer our questions about checking boxes with an action of loving those who are different.

  4. Thank you, Josha. Very insightful. I couldn’t agree more!

    I would be interested to hear from any intersex readers who would be comfortable sharing their experiences. (You can remain anonymous if you wish.) How do you view your condition? What would you like to say to someone who has no understanding of intersex conditions? Do you feel as though you need to change in order to have a productive life in our society? If you are a person of faith, how has this affected you?

    Consider this an open invitation to discuss any aspect of this topic!

  5. it mostly don’t scare anyone untill it comes to sexual/romantic relationship and marriage . many christians opinion i read in the net said that these people basically design not to marry thus have no right to marry. so sad.

  6. http://harvestdaysblog.wordpress.com/2013/11/26/my-christian-life-with-ais-androgen-insensitivity-syndrome/

    This is my story as a Christian who suffers from an intersex condition known as PAIS (Partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome)

    • Your story touched me more than I can say. Thank you so much for sharing it here. I’ve already sent it to a few people who I think would benefit from hearing your story. Would it be alright with you if I share it on this blog as well?

  7. Anything to bring love and comfort – I’m all for that!

  8. Pingback: My Christian life with AIS – An Intersex condition | Coming Out Christian

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s