Friday, July 1, 2016

The Need For a Religious Response To Intersex Realities


To expound upon my recent post about intersex individuals, I find it necessary to address those who choose to use faith tenants to validate a simple sex/gender binary. In fact, many Christians, while defending their strong beliefs about sexual ethics, are simply ignorant of the existence of intersex persons, or they remain content to accept the assumption that everybody is born after the patterns of either Adam or Eve. Any evidence to the contrary is quickly dismissed as anathema.

In truth, gender defenders often ignore the intersex reality because they are frightened of intersex bodies and the threat these bodies pose to long-accepted beliefs of moral sexual behavior. But, the very existence of intersex people is an attack by nature herself on the sex/gender binary. And, it is impossible to deify nature.

Presented with intersex evidence, many Christians choose to reject the findings of science altogether. They do so as they combine their personal prejudice against sexual deviation with their church beliefs that sex must be used solely for procreation within marriage. In a mishmash of understandings about sex and gender, believers become accustomed to judging a variety of genital-related matters as infidelities, abominations, or gifts from God – all with an eye toward distinguishing between proper biblical ethics and immorality,

We must understand that learning about the intersex condition promotes intellectual and emotional empathy. Doesn't a Christian response involve a dedication to understanding and acceptance?

“I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’ rather he will ask, ‘How much love did you put into what you did?'” 

--Mother Teresa

Should not we use the same ethics whether a person is intersex, trans, both, or neither? Intersex cases invalidate nearly every argument against transgenderism. In fact, intersex and trans people are common allies in a struggle against the worldview of the gender binary where sex is equivalent to gender and any violation of the sex/gender binary is sin.

I believe the faith-based community must face that the issues concerning sex and gender are so complex with so many variations that it is virtually impossible to make one theologically sound argument about gender and sexual orientation.

Megan K. DeFranza -- Christian theologian, liberal arts educator, and visiting researcher at the Boston University School of Theology -- says, “I try to explain that intersex persons are like everyone else. They don’t fit neatly into a box or a particular party line. Some live happily within the binary sex/gender framework, others do not. Some want to challenge traditional sexual ethics, others do not. Some identify with LGBTQ perspectives, others do not.”

DeFranze describes her work as a theologian...

“The first time I was scheduled to speak publicly about intersex was at a Christian conference on gender equality. The title of my talk was 'Gender Construction in Society and Church: What We Can Learn from the Intersexed.' I was a young doctoral student, eager to share what I was learning, but I almost didn’t get to give my presentation. Once the program was announced a senior Bible scholar wrote the executive director to have my workshop cancelled. He insisted there is 'nothing we can learn from the intersexed.'

Embroiled in the battle over gay ordination in his denomination, he didn’t want me muddying the waters, confusing the troops.

“I like to think of myself as a bridge builder rather than a culture warrior. I do a lot of work to help the “sides” talk to and hear one another — dialing down fear, facilitating dialogue, working for peace.

“It was at another conference, when I was doing just that, where I was warned about the dangers of bridge building.

“I was familiar with the adage: 'The problem with being a bridge is that you get walked on from both sides.' But this warning was different. This man was a Vietnam Vet. He had worked in the prison system. He had not been 'on board' with my workshop when I began the day before. But his heart had softened. He was beginning to move past his black and white categories into the complexity of a world created in color.

He said, 'I want to pray for you because I know that in war, bridges are the first targets to be taken out.'

“He prayed for protection, wisdom, courage — all of which I needed. My tears fell freely as he laid hands on my shoulders.”

(Megan K. DeFranza. “Bridge Building in a War Zone: Sex Difference in Christian Theology.” June 17, 2015.)

God bless Christian leaders like Megan DeFranza as they employ love and intellect to bridge understandings so crucial to promoting the good of all human beings. It is a very difficult job. I pray those who target her work take the time and effort to reconsider nature and all the realities they should not ignore.


No comments: