Answering issues about gender abnormalities

I promised to address this since Dr. P, a medical practitioner and minister, brought it to our attention. I’m sure everyone knows I am not a medical doctor, have not studied genetics or biology and neither have I knowingly ministered to anyone who was born with physical impairments which may cause confusion as to appropriate sexual expression.  Thus, this post will not address “feelings”, but rather sexual expression of persons  born with medically verified gender abnormalities.

My noted deficiencies, however,  don’t prevent me as a preacher of the gospel to search out what the Bible possibly says about such conditions and help instruct the contemporary church on dealing with these issues righteously. We are called to open our eyes and, with the Word of God as a guide, discuss these issues. People exist with all type of maladies, both spiritual and natural,  and I am fully convinced that God has given us a word for them. But it does require carefully searching God’s truths.

The “world” is already ahead of us in openly discussing this issue and  I can tell you that like most things, they have  arrived at ungodly solutions.

Here’s Dr. P’s comment and question:

One question that I do have is inspired by what I’ve seen as a practitioner: What of trans-sexuals? You do not openly support homosexuality as defined in the modern genetic sense, but what of individuals who are born with ambiguous genitalia, hormonal imbalances, and external(plainly visible) features that suggest that they could be either male or female? Is their sexual orientation (even when there might not be any objective way to define them as male or female) wrong/right based on how they may LOOK?? What of a person born with BOTH male and female features?

First, let’s look at the various conditions individuals face in terms of determining their sex and sexuality.

1. People born with dual sex organs (hermaphrodites or intersexed)

2. People born with higher levels of xy chromosomes which do not specifically match their physical gender

3. People born with no sexual organs, but have a specific gender appearance

There may be more I am not aware of.

What’s normal?

In the context of this discussion, let’s establish what is normal.  Normal should be defined as the end result being a person with no physical abnormalities.  The process of fertilization and sexual assignment God created is almost lottery like in terms of whether one is born male or female.  Basically, the male  sperm cells contain one of two types of sex chromosomes which are X or Y. The female’s eggs  contain only the X sex chromosome.  By design, it is the man’s  sperm cell which determines the gender of an individual. If a sperm cell containing an X chromosome fertilizes an egg, the child will be female. If the sperm cell contains a Y chromosome the child will be a male. But sometimes, due to a number of possible actions, and a person’s gender is not so clear cut. No, God didnt make a mistake, but something did go wrong.

What’s sin?

The major issue in the Christian context is are any of the mentioned genetic abnormalities sinful? If we can be honest, all abnormalities of life —even in nature— are the indirect result of sin’s devastating impact on all things.  While abnormality itself is not sin, it is a reminder that sin has affected all things, but in time our hope is gain complete redemption from its effects. The apostle Paul seemed to be saying this in Romans 8:22:

For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

To be clear, all persons, normal and abnormal are born sinners with overpowering desires to go against the will of God. Author Fred Johnson, Phd has written an excellent book called Toward Conformity to the Image of Christ.  The book explores the broader incidences of genetic abnormalities as a result of what he calls “total depravity”. You can read it here.

Dr. P asked specifically about transsexuals (transgenders, transvestites, et al) so let’s revisist that briefly. None of these categories are to be included with those with genetic abnormalities, because they have surgically altered the genitals or changed their physical appearance to resemble the opposite gender. Transgenders have no real, observable physical abnormalities.  In addition, there exists no credible empirical evidence that transgendered people are “born that way”.  Their confusion exists overwhelmingly in their minds, thus it becomes a psychological issue, not a physical one.   I’m quite sure progay/trans geneticists would argue that people without genetic training are clueless as how to determine what is a valid genetic abnormality.  We do not purport to have such knowledge, but we are qualified to contest any science which conflicts with the teaching of scripture. This appears to be one of those situations.  There’s a strong condemnation in scripture of altering one’s appearance to attract members of the same gender due to its ties to cultic idolatry and sexual perversion.  Because scripture views psychological issues as source areas of potential sin or demonic influence, we must believe that these individuals can and should be delivered by the power of Christ. Post salvation counseling should be encouraged to resolve further emotional, relational and sexual issues. We covered some of the issues with the church and transgenderism in this post. You can also read about this gcm abberation of  scripture which claims Jesus instructed the disciples to talk to a transsexual man.

But “intersexed” people  do have real, observable physical abnormalites. I would not term this sexual orientation but sexual differentation.  Orientation, as applied to homosexuality, is only perceived to be real, differentation is real.  This does not exempt them from sin, nor does it exempt them from the need to receive Christ and be saved from sin. It does, however, present a complex set of unique issues that  for the most part should be kept private (with professional guidance) as long as those lifestyle choices arent sinful.

For example if a person is born with dual, functioning genitalia, they cannot use either in fornication. They cannot use this abnormality as an occasion to have sexual relations with both male and female. They must choose a gender (whichever they feel most “comfortable” as) and live accordingly. If I am not mistaken hermaphadites can choose surgery to give them the gender they feel most comfortable as.  Again, I am using this as an example to illustrate that such individuals cannot use their abnormalities as justification for sin no more than a  person born with down syndrome’s can use it as justification to rob a bank.

How should the church treat such people?

The short answer is the same as it should treat all people. Im not aware of that many people who would announce to the church that they were born with one testicle or that although they appear as a woman, they actually were born with male genitalia. In my opinion this is an intensely private matter which the church should leave up to the individual to resolve in terms of lifestyle. If a person revealed this to their pastor because it is causing considerable emotional/psychological upheaval, the pastor should handle the situation with the utmost privacy and refer the individual to appropriate professionals.

Yes, the church is going to haveto deal with these issues, and I think the most important priority is to determine who is in what category (genetic, nongenetic) and apply the principles of scripture maturely.

Your comments, corrections and questions are welcome. Thanks to Dr. P for bringing this to our attention!

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18 thoughts on “Answering issues about gender abnormalities

  1. Pingback: Medicelles Blog
  2. GCM,

    Excellent post!!! Thank you so much for having the courage and sensitivity to post on this subject.

    Sexuality, sexual development, gender identity, etc…. is much more than many of us have ever imagined if we’ve never studied the subject(s). The role that physical factors ( i.e. hormones, chemical reactions) play in our sexual development but the functioning of our brains is something that most of us our woefully ignorant about. I have brought this subject up with many of my Christian friends and unfortunately have been met with mostly blank stares.

    It would do us well as Chrisians to become more learned about this subject and delve a little deeper than the obvious conclusion of homosexuality is a sin. For instance, I often pose the question as to what makes a person a homosexual — is it same sex attraction or is it sexual activity with the same sex? Or can a celibate person who is attracted to the same sex serve in ministry just as a celibate person who is attracted to the opposite sex serve in ministry? How does a parent(s) determine the sexual/gender identity of a child born with both male and female genitalia when the child is just an infant — before the child can even walk or talk let alone entered puberty when sexual development begins?

    It’s these kinds of questions/dilemnas that I think we have to deal with and attempt to answer in order to be really honest about this issue and authentic in our positions.

    Thanks again for your post……looking forward to a great discussion……

  3. CiCi thanks for your comments. The questions exist so we might as well go ahead and do our best to answer them, amen?

    You mentioned some of your friends blank stares. Most folk cant even discuss homosexuality in a way that actually brings enlightenment, so this is a little ahead of our time.

    But I hope others will add their opinion if I have misstated anything.

    Blessings,

  4. Pastor,
    Great commentary!

    Question:
    Are there any validated testimonies of people born with gender abnormalities that GOD healed or GOD used a surgeon to fix the abnormality…and that person was able to live a normal productive Christian life…Of course, normal meaning non-homosexual/non-freak? There are probably people out there that fit this, but for the sake of privacy and not having people judge them…they are silent???

  5. Enoch,

    Unfortunately, I have not read any testimonies such as the ones that you speak of although, that does not mean that they do not exist.

    The accounts that I have read of intersexed individuals have been very tragic indeed. Many of the parents of children who are born intersexed are pressured by their doctors to “choose” one sex or the other for their child during infancy because of the ease of the physical ease of the ‘corrective surgery ‘ if it’s performed at this time. However, the parents’ dilemna is that they really have no way of knowing which sex the child will identify with as they develop.

    So, many of these children after having been physically altered to be one sex end identifying with the other sex as they develop as children as well as go through puberty. Sometimes they are prescribed hormones (male or female) in order to help them physically develop into the sex that they were surgically “assigned” as infants, however, this usually just leads to more problems.

    The parents then feel guilty because they feel they have caused their child to suffer even more since they are the ones who consented to the surgery. But, what choice did they really have in a society such as ours? How would anyone raise a child that is intersexed? How would you answer the question when you have a baby “is it a boy or a girl” when as far as you can tell he/she is both ……or maybe neither (totally)?

    And is it really kind or helful to call a person a “freak” when they were truly born that way?

  6. So what’s your opinion on the intersex people. I know a lot of trans people are trying to co-opt the intersex and claim their intersex is the same as trans.

    GCMW: I’ve said just about all I need to say in this post.

  7. It’s not quite correct to say that Transsexuals have no detectable physical Intersex condition.

    See:
    A sex difference in the hypothalamic uncinate nucleus: relationship to gender identity by A. Garcia-Falgueras A and D.F. Swaab.
    Male-to-female transsexuals show sex-atypical hypothalamus activation when smelling odorous steroids. by Berglund et al
    Male–to–female transsexuals have female neuron numbers in a limbic nucleus. by Kruijver et al
    A sex difference in the human brain and its relation to transsexuality. by Zhou et al
    An Examination of the use of fMRT for diagnosing Transsexuality (in German, ArzteZeitung 2006)

    I’ll quote from that last: “Radiologists can now confirm what transsexuals report – that they feel “trapped in the wrong body” – on the basis of the activation of the brain when presented with erotic stimuli. There is obviously a biological correlation with the subjective feelings.”

    GCMW: This is what I would call extreme pandering by scientists who stand to profit from the deep spiritual confusion of these people. Its like doctors ordering mass doses of ritalin to children who only need structure and discipline.

  8. Are there any validated testimonies of people born with gender abnormalities that GOD healed or GOD used a surgeon to fix the abnormality…and that person was able to live a normal productive Christian life…Of course, normal meaning non-homosexual/non-freak?

    I’m not a Christian – I lack faith.

    I’m also one of the handful of cases not currently explainable by medical science, where the transsexuality I’d lived with for 47 years was cured by my body changing.

    Not completely. No male to female change can be complete, the female reproductive system is far more complex than the male one, and people who get such a “natural sex change” are always sterile in their female form, and infertile or sterile in the male one. A surgeon had to be quite creative to deal with the resultant mess, re-plumbing my urinary tract and removing atrophied glands that were pre-cancerous.

    For 47 years I tried to be the best Man any woman could be. Out of cowardice, I did not, I could not, bring myself to transition. It would harm the love of my life, the woman I had fallen in love with and made a solemn vow to cleave to in sickness and in health. It would do incalculable harm to my son (whose conception took technical help – I only looked normal, I was diagnosed as an Intersexed male in 1985) . It would dishonour my family. Better to hide in a male role that was a lie than to be seen as a Freak, and a Pervert, a “deviant:”.

    My life was unending horror, but I counted my blessings. I wasn’t quadraplegic, nor blind. I had it easy compared to some. And I could still “win”, if only by helping others. My life was in the toilet, but I could help others for whom there was some hope. I tried to be a decent human being first and foremost, regardless of male or female.

    Then in 2005 my body started changing, and as a result, I had thousands of dollars of sophisticated tests. Ultrasounds, MRI scans, gene tests, the works, not the simple physical I’d had in 1985. And I was re-diagnosed as a *severely* Intersexed woman. By then, my appearance had changed so much that a male social role was impossible, even had I been able to continue.

    Why me? Why did I get such a miraculous release? I’m not even a believer. So many more deserve it more than I!

  9. GLCW – the problem is that these are empirical results. Testable by anyone. Replicatable. No matter what the political or religious beliefs of the testers.

    One may argue about the meaning, but to accuse others of intellectual dishonesty with no evidence is bearing false witness. You have accused others of “extreme pandering by scientists who stand to profit ” and have adduced no evidence whatsoever in support of this uncharitable claim.

    Until as late as 2005, it was possible to argue that all the results gained so far were atypical, that sample sizes were too small for confidence. That the conclusions were only true on the balance of probabilities, and not proven beyond reasonable doubt. But since then, the sample sizes have greatly increased, and no neurologist now disputes these claims, any more than any astronomer disputes the existence of the moons of Jupiter.

    Every single experiment that has been performed has had the same results. These are teams in Sweden, Switzerland, Holland, Germany, Italy, and Australia all working independantly from each other. The results have appeared after peer-review in such publications as Nature, and PsychoNeuroEndocrinology, and the Journal of Endocrinal Obstetrics, not in political tracts or journals on philosophy.

    I note that my comment about 5ARD and 17BHDD has been unapproved. Fair enough, your blog, your rules. But I refer you to “Gender change in 46,XY persons with 5alpha-reductase-2 deficiency and 17beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase-3 deficiency” by Cohen-Ketternis and “17β-Hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase-3 deficiency: A rare endocrine cause of male-to-female sex reversal” by Bertelloni et al. Just Google “5ARD” or “guavedoches” the name for the condition in the Dominican Republic, where it affects 1 in 90 of the population.

    All of the papers I quoted are available online, usually through PubMed, so you can critique the methodology involved yourself. There are no secrets, the whole issue is open for anyone regardless of philosophical belief to view, and point out any flaws in the experimental setup, methodology, or conclusions.

    You may also read them in Libraries, the Bertollini article for example is in Gynecological Endocrinology, Volume 22, Issue 9 September 2006 , pages 488 – 494. Not exactly some hotbed of liberal political thought pursuing a pre-determined political agenda.

    Ignoring these issues, and ignoring the Theological conundra they pose, won’t make them go away.

    In the light of this, I implore you to reconsider your remarks. By all means check the publications for yourself. I would be most grateful if you *do* have any contradictory evidence if you’d be kind enough to refer me to it.

  10. Zoe, perhaps you have mistaken my intent. It isnt to make any issues with gender confusion go away or ignore. Had we wanted to ignore, it would have been simple enough not to even write about the subject in the first place.

    My goal is to defend the scriptures and offer biblical instruction to those who struggle with gender confusion. I noted the oberservable, biological issues that are applicable to the discussion and provided my best opinion based on an honest understanding of what the bible says about personal sexual behavior.

    This is a discussion with a decidedly biblical context, so there is no science, scientist, experiement or study which can supercede biblical instruction on sexual conduct. That’s my position.

    You seem to be stating that science has given some of these conditions which are mostly mental issues a blanket excuse to multilate their bodies.

    There is nothing extreme about stating scientists are pandering for dollars. Since when did the science community become the panecea for integrity? The bible nor God operate like people. People are prone to error and intentional fault. Including their tests. You trust human tests and experients to detemine right living, I dont. Lets just be real clear on that.

  11. The morality is separate from the science. Science can make no claim as to what right action is. All it can do is give a “best guess” as to the facts, and to inform moral philosophers as to what the situation appears to be.

    It is up to the theologians to decide, based on those facts, what the right course of action should be.

    The evidence is that transsexual people suffer a form of Intersex. That is, where the body, including the central nervous system, is neither wholly male nor wholly female in form. There are literally hundreds of different intersex conditions, and what may be moral for some may be immoral for others.

    Example: Assuming homosexual behaviour is sinful, one has to determine whether someone with a particular Intersex condition is male, female, or a “eunuch born of their mothers womb” within the meaning of the first clause of Matthew 19;12.

    Sex can be determined on the basis of several biological criteria:
    1. Genitalia – primary sex characteristics
    2. Secondary sex characteristics
    3. Endocrine (Hormonal) balance
    4. Genes, either XX vs XY, or presence/absence of SrY complex
    5. Neuroanatomy, sexually dimorphic development of the brain.

    Example: For women with CAIS – complete androgen insensitivity syndrome – they have cellular receptors insensitive to the male sex hormone, testosterone, and have had since long before birth,
    So going through here:
    1. Underdeveloped but unambiguously female genitalia. They have no cervix, womb or ovaries though.
    2. VERY female, more so than most, as they have not a trace of masculinity in their skeletal or muscular structure. Supermodels.
    3, Underdeveloped male, but the testosterone may as well not be there, it has no effect. They cannot be masculinised.
    4. 46xy usually found only in males.
    5. VERY female neurology, as testosterone has no effect. They have female minds.

    Such people have always been regarded as “barren females”, and until recently, were indistinguishable (apart from their extreme beauty) from other women. They always identify as females.

    Example : Kleinfelter syndrome (47xxy)
    1. Usually underdeveloped male, sterile or infertile. Sometimes fully developed and fertile female.
    2. Underdeveloped male usually, but rarely normally female.
    3. Ambiguous: testosterone therapy can masculinise them.
    4. 47xxy, ambiguous, right in the middle.
    5. Usually male, but sometimes female, and that has no systematic relationship to the degree of masculinisation of the rest of the body.

    Those are the facts as best we know them. Now whether such people should always be put in one category, always be put in another, or have their case independently assessed is another matter.

    Stating that scientists pander for dollars is exactly as extreme as stating that baptist clergy are rapists and child abusers and catholic clergy are pedophiles. Some are, but the majority not only are not, but that kind of behaviour is the antithesis of what they believe in.

    As regards human fallibility, I think we are of like mind. My point is though that without any actual evidence that someone is “pandering” to any particular cause, with no evidence of any financial link between their results and their funding, then the accusation qualifies as bearing false witness. Not deliberately so, and not maliciously so, but perhaps carelessly so.

    My thanks for allowing my reply to stand, by the way. I expected it, because my strong impression of you is one of intellectual honesty. It was also because of that intellectual honesty that I was surprised at your accusations. They were completely out of keeping with the main article, which I thought showed considerable insight, and more importantly, charity.

  12. From the post:

    “transsexuals (transgenders, transvestites, et al) so let’s revisist that briefly. None of these categories are to be included with those with genetic abnormalities, because they have surgically altered the genitals or changed their physical appearance to resemble the opposite gender. Transgenders have no real, observable physical abnormalities. In addition, there exists no credible empirical evidence that transgendered people are “born that way”. Their confusion exists overwhelmingly in their minds, thus it becomes a psychological issue, not a physical one. ”

    That explains my position and I havent seen anything youve written which would cause me to rethink that. You may be arguing a moot point in relation to the post.

    Yes I believe the scientists you are citing are pandering for dollars. You call it extreme because you believe the opposite. Youre entitled to it seeing as how you havent proved me wrong with evidence.

    The more pressing issue is are you saved and do you know Jesus Christ? All of this amounts to dung if your soul is not right with the Lord.

  13. I’m no Christian, as i lack faith. I did make a solemn vow to see my son raised in the Catholic faith though.

    My philosophy can be summarised as 1 Corinthians 13.

    Transsexuality is completely different from transvestitism, despite superficial similarities. You are conflating several different concepts, most of whom have no evidence of any non-psychological component, and one which has no evidence of any psychological component, only a physical one.

    It’s like saying that all religion is hokum, as neither islam, shinto, nor wicca have biblical authority. Islam, shinto, wicca and Christianity are not the same things, despite (for example) Islam and Christianity sharing some superficial similarities – names of prophets etc. For that matter, Christianity itself comes in many variations: Moldavian, Copt, Marian, Mennonite, Exclusive Brethren, etc.

    Please consult your friend Dr P on this one, he can fill you in on the differences between Transsexuals, Fetishistic Transvestites, Crossdressers, Draq Queens etc.

    Only Transsexuality, or “Harry Benjamin Syndrome” (HBS) has a proven physical basis. I personally believe that it’s likely crossdressing does too, but as there have been no studies this remains a conjecture. It would be logical, and fit a known pattern, but only measurements can say what is true. Hence the only use for this conjecture is as a guide to future research, to try to disprove the hypothesis.

    While I regard the Bible (including some apocrypha discarded since Nicea) as a good moral authority, and an excellent guide to history (especially the apocrypha) , as a guide to biology and cosmology… not so much. As a Rocket Scientist, the concept of stars being fixed to a metal hemisphere dividing the waters above from the waters below, and inset with the windows of heaven from which rain comes really doesn’t work very well. I consider bible literalism, which means that the earth is flat, to be heretical (as does the Catholic Church). Obviously I do not follow 1 Timothy 2:11-12 or I could not be writing this.

    You believe that these scientists are “pandering for dollars”. May I please ask why? What is the evidence that led to this belief? Belief without evidence is valueless: belief that blackens the name of other people without evidence is bearing false witness.

  14. GCM,
    Zoe is one of those people who like to pander her brand of science and thinking. One of them is that Zoe likes to tell people that intersex and trans are the same thing and Zoe is one of those people who like to put the intersex people in the same category as trans people. The fact is that trans people listen to what Zoe says and Zoe claims to be an expert in the intersex community. The fact is that Zoe has not medical training and is not an expert in the intersex community. So I would not believe what Zoe says and what Zoe tells you is a lie

  15. GCM,
    as someone who is pure intersex, I’m not happy when you have transgender people and people like Zoe who think that intersex people are the same as trans. You should take a look at Zoe’s blog and see what She writes about intersex and what she writes about intersex, will make intersex people puke

  16. kamo, Im pretty much done with this discussion. I have looked at Zoe’s blog and it is confusing to say the least.

    I maintain there is a marked difference between biological intersexed people (real, observable gender issues) and so-called transgenders (psychological issues.)

    Zoe’s remarks will remain as will yours but I dont have much more to add to it. If you want to refute them, be concise and to the point.

  17. GCM,
    Thanks. I just wanted to say that because I’m intersex, I just don’t like how Zoe goes around the net telling people that intersex people are the same as trans people and what Zoe dose, is hurting intersex people like me.

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