Saturday, October 25, 2008


One of the things that I rarely talk about when it comes to GLBT issues is that "T," mainly because I don't feel qualified at all to speak about it. It's not an issue I've ever dealt with, nor can I think of any experience I've had that would really be parallel to it. I also haven't researched it in any significant way, so quite simply I keep my mouth shut about it unless I'm asking a question. (This, incidentally, is the way that some Christians and/or conservatives should try to approach homosexuality; it would certainly cut down on rude, ignorant, and unhelpful comments).

Having said all that, I do find transsexual (is that even the right term?) issues to be interesting. I shouldn't need to point this out, but they are an entirely separate set of issues from homosexuality. A gay man doesn't want to be a woman and a lesbian doesn't want to be a man. It's hard for people to get that through their heads sometimes, but there it is. I've known a trans woman online who was still married to her wife after transitioning from male to female, and I've also met a trans man in real life who dates women. It's confusing, I know, and at least for me, when I come across something confusing, I don't want to make judgments about it until I learn more about it.

Some Christians would tell me that there's nothing to be confused about; that there are only two genders and you're stuck with the one you're born with, and I'd be inclined to agree with them initially. I certainly am not sure that dangerous and invasive surgery is appropriate for anyone, and if living as the opposite sex means carrying on relations with a member of the same sex, well, I personally just consider that homosexuality, and we all know where I stand on that.

But, alas, it is not that simple. We'd like to say that there are simply two genders, but really, there aren't. Some people are born in with in an intersexed condition (more inaccurately referred to as a hermaphroditic condition). They have both male and female genitalia, and assigning a gender -- something that is black and white for most people -- is not for them. I'm really treading into unknown waters here, and all this is from what I've looked up.

In Western societies, people have often taken the liberty of assigning intersexed children a gender, but very often they assign the wrong one. I looked up English biographer Lady Colin Campbell, who was assigned to be male but, after realizing something was wrong, had gender reassignment surgery to become a female. In developing nations like Indonesia, intersexed individuals don't have the luxury of those types of procedures, and live out their lives as neither male nor female, but in between (this is the subject of the National Geographic clip at the end of the post). Even the first recipient of sex reassignment surgery, Lili Elbe, was revealed after death to have had rudimentary female organs in her body.

I don't know about you, but for me, that raises a ton of questions as a Christian. What should the church's response be to intersexed individuals? We have such rigid gender roles and have built entire theologies around them. And should we reexamine attitudes towards transsexual individuals? Like I said, someone like Lili Elbe looked to be anatomically male before she transitioned, and only after her death was she revealed to have been intersexed. I understand this post is more about me raising questions than anything else. I'm usually the one to give opinions, but this is somewhere I'm just not qualified. I would like people to raise opinions, though. What should the conservative Christian's response be?

No comments: