Open Mic: A Prolegomena of Transgenderism (pt.ii)


UPDATE: This series is finished. Part 1 can be found here and Part 3 is here.

Yesterday, I started a little miniseries on Transgenderism in response to a question a friend sent me. They were wondering how Christians are supposed to look at this particular issue. I laid out the questions and definitions involved here and asked for feedback (be sure to read all of those comments). Today, I’m talking about a “Prolegomena of Transgenderism”.

Prolegomena” is just a big (but appropriate) word that basically refers to all the things we must keep in mind before trying to answer big questions. For example, in Systematic Theology, Prolegomena is when we lay out the very foundation of our knowledge about the given topics and the presuppositions that will guide us through the rest of the endeavor. That’s what this post is. I want to explore a couple of perspectives that have driven a lot of the answers I’ve seen about this before trying to come to firm conclusions in the next post. So, with all that being said, let’s get started.

Two Lenses by which to Think

Looking at transgender issues from a systematic theology perspective, many people would first turn to Genesis 1:27 which says: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he female he created them.” It seems that gender is unique in that it is more fundamentally inside-out rather than outside-in. Gender, according to this passage is rooted, primarily, in the “image of God” within us. In other words, Gender is an expression of that image and our physical embodiment is meant to be an expression of that gender.

But what if we use a biblical studies approach? Doing so, one has to admit that neither the original writer nor the ancient audience of Genesis would have read that verse and taken it as some sort of ultimate statement about a modern conception of “gender identity/expression”. It was probably a poetic statement in line with the sexual imagery of the poetry of Genesis 1 where the Creator God is creating “mini-Creators” that will continue to fill the earth through “pro-Creation”. There’s only so much we can take from that verse.

The Wrong Way to Approach This

Nearly every problem the Church has ever known can go back to a dualistic view of the world that imagines a huge gulf between material/immaterial, expression/form, accidence/substance, physical/spiritual, earth/heaven and then (often) elevates the spiritual and abstract aspects over and above the physical and material parts of creation, calling us to cast off the material for the sake of some spiritual “ideal”.

I think this is so utterly wrong, damaging, and harmful to theology, the world, and issues of sexuality. All these seemingly separate things actually overlap in very real and profound ways. There’s an almost “transubstantiated”, sacramental aspect to all parts of this life and world. The physical has been made and designed to reflect, hold, contain, partake in, accomplish, and put forward the divine.

So how do we do this with our sense of gender? If there is a mysterious union between our physical and psychological selves, how do we approach those with Transgender issues?

The “liberal” would probably say “God made you a certain way internally. That’s who you are. So try and change your outward self.” The conservative fundamentalist would likely say to them “God made you a certain way physically. That’s who you are. So try and change your internal self.” (That’s the conclusion of this essay by a Christian Ethics professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary sent to me yesterday.)

I don’t think it’s that easy. Both of these are wrong. There’s something much more mysterious, beautiful, and difficult happening in all of us dealing with our sexualities and gender.

The Way Forward?

Any account we try and give as Christians must bear all this in mind and not fall to either extreme. We must take very seriously both our individual personhood and our embodiment, because God has. The Divine Personhood became embodied in order to redeem it and make it worthy and able again to contain the Divine once more.

And while we’re talking the redemption and ushering in of New Creation, let me ask all of you this: when time has ended, creation restored, and we have all received our glorified bodies, what kind of body do you think the Christian Transgendered person will receive? Will their external form finally match the internal, thereby giving them a fuller sense of identity; or will their minds be changed in such a way that they finally feel a harmony with the physical sex they were originally born with in this life?

Tomorrow I’ll give my proposed answers to many of these questions, but like I said, these will reflect where I’m at right now. I’m very willing to be swayed in other directions. I just wanted to write this post to give people a framework. Any answers we try and give must take all of these things into account.

Real hearts, lives, and souls are on the line in this issue and we can’t afford to offer simplistic, naive, knee-jerk “solutions” to the people that need to hear them the most. This does injury, injustice, and insult to the Gospel–a Gospel that promises to adequately address all issues of life and salvation with nuance, care, grace, and sufficiency.

So what do you think? How would you harmonize the tension between the conclusions of systematic theology versus biblical studies? Do you agree that both the Fundamentalist and liberal approaches are inadequate? If so, what “third way” might you propose that might be more nuanced?

[image credit: painting by Istvan Sandorfi]

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22 thoughts on “Open Mic: A Prolegomena of Transgenderism (pt.ii)

  1. Pingback: Open Mic: The Question of Transgenderism (pt.i) « the long way home

  2. Well…..it seems that the issue is again being clouded, as usual my members of the Gay and Lesbian “community” that for reasons that I can only attribute to something akin to megalomania. I will address Heather directly as she is the self designated bearer of “Knowledge and Correct Definitions” according to the LGB Community” of which women of transsexual history are not a part of, nor do we wish to he a part of since we have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in common with them other than basic humanity.

    Now, rather than define “WHAT IS”, I will speak from my own personal and individual experience and understanding. I am a 62 year old heterosexual woman. In 1972, I used modern medicine to TRANS-form my physical body from male to female. I did this with the help of doctors who recognized the obvious fact that I was indeed mentally, psychically and spiritual female and helped to make me whole. No amount of prayer, or psychotherapy, or electric shock treatment was ever going to change that.

    So, for me, a ‘transsexual” is an individual who is IN THE PROCESS of changing SEX. On the other hand, a “transgender” is one who adopts the ROLE, the social trappings, (clothing, mannerisms, etc) of the opposite sex. To put in another way, indelicately if you will, sex is the anotomical physiogamy, (the genitals), while gender is the social or cultural norms associated with those genitals.

    Sadly, in the efforts to understand this phenomenon, others with seemingly related feelings entered the arena and by simple weight of numbers “took over” and dominated the research to fit their own ends, invented the term ‘transgender’ and then conflagated it with a totally distinct term, ‘transsexual’.

    If we can proceed with the understanding that ‘transgenders’ and ‘transsexuals’ are two distinct animals, then we can enter into an intelligent discussion of how organized religions can welcome them into their communities according to the teachings of Christ. (Or..for that matter, Mohammed.

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  3. It is difficult for one who has been ‘persecuted’ by Christian beliefs to be unbiased in their opinion of them, although I am of the belief that nothing one believes in strongly and is beneficial to them is wrong. I only have an issue when those beliefs are pushed on others with alternate beliefs and therefore cause harm.

    I myself was raised Christian, but have since abandoned their practices (i.e. Church, worship, etc.) when I saw how unaccepted myself and my loved ones were. I am not saying that ALL Christians are like this as it depends on so many outlying factors, though it is still hurtful to see their beliefs twisted in such a way. However, I would like to try and respond to this article in a way that is unbiased. (it’s an attempt!) I would also like to apologize to the author for straying off topic when I posted to pt. i.

    Christianity believes that all were created equal, therefore gender should not come into question for a Christian. Humanity in general has made gender an issue, by suppressing women for many years and by criticizing and condemning certain sexuality issues. Although, sexuality would never have become an issue had not humanity begun to look at Gender.

    If all are created equal, then gender should not be the concern of the public, rather the individual themselves have the issue to deal with. Their minds are not connected to the body they have been given and so they feel to understand themselves and others better, they must change the aspect that is in-congruent. The question is: Which part should be changed? The mind or the body?

    http://bible.cc/genesis/1-27.htm In the section labeled Wesley’s Notes, he states “God’s image upon man, consists, In his nature, not that of his body, for God has not a body, but that of his soul. The soul is a spirit, an intelligent, immortal spirit, an active spirit, herein resembling God, the Father of spirits, and the soul of the world.” So I ask: is not our mind our soul? If God has not a body, then why should we expect to have one when we join him? Therefore, in this life the aspect of ourselves in question is our bodies. Before one’s soul can feel complete, it’s surroundings must relay happiness and completion to it. How can one be happy, when their soul feels as though it has been misplaced?

    This concept of body versus soul is also expressed in the idea of reincarnation, although physical re-birth is NOT generally a Christian belief, spiritual rebirth makes appearances. http://www.comparativereligion.com/reincarnation3.html ‘Jesus rejected the idea of physical rebirth and explained man’s need for spiritual rebirth, during this life, in order to be admitted into God’s kingdom in the afterlife.’ This leads me to believe that once the soul/spirit has been made whole, it will then leave it’s physical encasement behind to be with God.

    In my opinion, we must then make every effort to make our spirits feel whole, no matter the effect on our physical selves. I can see where this prospect could be twisted to say that Pedophilia is only following the desires of one’s soul… However, as I aforementioned I believe that aiding one’s soul should NOT be forced on others. As the health of your soul does not affect the health of mine own! So in turn, I suppose I deflect to the neo-pagan belief of as long as it does NOT harm another, do as thou will.

    Phew! That turned out to be a longer rant than I expected! I totally know how you made 3 posts out of this article now! I look forward to reading your next installment!

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  4. I feel I must apologize to Rose Ann as I have unintentionally insulted her. In my community, Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender AND Transexual individuals get lumped together in one group (LBGT) and because of this we stand up for the rights of each! I myself am a lesbian and believe that knowledge is the best defense against ignorance. I have been asked in the past whether being lesbian meant that I wanted to become a boy! It is ignorance such as this that I want to clear up.
    I do NOT believe that what you and others in your situation go through is “wrong.” In fact, I encourage those in the situation to do what feels right to them and them alone!!! NO ONE has the right to tell you who you are supposed to be or how you are supposed to feel and I believe that if you read my last post you will see that I sincerely empathize with the situation.

    I am sorry to anyone who thought that I was demeaning the topic with my other post, it was certainly not intentional, I only wanted to clear up a misunderstanding that I believed was there. I do not presume to know exactly how every Transgender feels, only the few whom I call friends. Also, I live in Newfoundland, Canada, where although sexuality is a bit more accepted throughout my country, gender disparity has NOT received the attention I feel it is due! And my province itself, has very old fashioned beliefs and is a very SMALL community consisting of about 500,000 people. It’s a difficult predicament to be in when one feels you cannot be yourself at home!

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  5. Heather. Thank you for your sincerity and obvious goodwill. I will accept your apology as offered. Even though I was not in anyway insulted, I was a bit irritated and so responded a bit more strongly that might have been appropriate.

    I think the problems of miscommunication arise due to the fact that every individual INTERPRETS what they read or hear through their own individual belief system and personal experiences. I can understand and empathize with your difficulties in being lesbian in a small community.

    I find that, for me, discretion constitutes the greater part of valor. Having lived a full and rewarding life I have just recently ‘come out’ in a very limited way, here in the blogosphere in order to share what I have learned and experienced.

    Now back to the original question of how organized religions might best deal with individuals that exhibit or possess a sexual orientation contrary to the teaching of ‘their’church. I would offer that this would also apply to individuals with ‘gender identities’ that do not conform to the statistical norms or their physical bodies. I will offer these comments with the caveat that the majority of those people who were once transsexual, and have fully transitioned to their target sex, are fully integrated into mainstream society and as a consequence have no difficulty participating in the church or temple of their choice.

    I am an ordained Eucharistic Minister in the Catholic Church. Participating in the Mass and ministering to the sick is one of my greatest joys.
    Did I hide my medical history from my priest and confessor? No. When I entered the ministry I was welcomed like any other Christian woman.

    The difficulty arises when one chooses to make an issue of the facts of one’s past. I am sure if I were to announce, after all these years, that I had once possessed a male body, that there would be some serious difficulties.

    I would be asking for immediate acceptance of an idea, a concept that is poorly understood by not only the health care professionals to whom we turn for help, but by the very people, like me, that have first hand, real life experience. Unfortunately these are the facts in my view today.

    I think I understand that the LGBT community, in their efforts to promulgate greater acceptance and tolerance of those who are different than the majority, is campaigning to alter the publics perceptions and understanding of gender and suggests the existance of a gender “spectrum’.

    While I can clearly see, accept and understand the existence of effeminate men and masculine women, I cannot see how that condition or circumstance makes them any more or less a man or woman. That God created Man, male and female, I can understand. That he allowed some of us to be born with genetic anomolies I can also understand. That we as humans, as Christians or Jews or Buddists or Muslims cannot accept people because they are different is a sad reflection on our abilities to love one another and be at peace with who we are and those around us.

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  6. It appears that the post I referred to in my last comment didn’t get published, although I have no idea why or how, so I suppose I will have to try and duplicate it… Wish me luck!

    I was raised Christian myself, but have since given up the practice of this religion since in my experience, it tends to get twisted to suit the followers’ own personal beliefs, as so many religions do. I therefore have no definitive belief system to name however I believe that as long as one’s beliefs do not cause harm to another, they are good. In saying that, I am going to try to respond to the above article in an unbiased way.

    Christianity believes that we are all created equal. In that, gender is NOT a religious concern. Humanity made gender a concern when it lowered the status of women below men and concerned themselves with another’s sexuality, but Christianity is supposed to believe that we are all alike. So I pose this question, what aspect of everyone is alike? We have diverse cultures and not one person on this earth (save for identical twins) shares the same DNA. We do not ‘look’ alike. So then, how are we the same?

    http://biblecommenter.com/genesis/1-27.htm In the section called Wesley’s Notes, he says ‘God’s image upon man, consists, In his nature, not that of his body, for God has not a body, but that of his soul. The soul is a spirit, an intelligent, immortal spirit, an active spirit, herein resembling God, the Father of spirits, and the soul of the world.’ If God has no body, why do we believe that we will have a physical presence when we are before him? I believe that our minds represent our souls. This aspect of ourselves is what will be judged before God and we must do right by our souls to be let into the kingdom of heaven.

    In the concept on reincarnation this subject is touched on, that even though our bodies may die, our spirits continue to be reborn until such a time as we are whole enough to see the almighty. With that said, I believe that we must cater to our own souls and not the beliefs of others, so that when we are put before God, OUR souls are whole.

    If we are all the same, religions should see past the visible differences to our common desire to be as we’re supposed to feel before God. It speaks to the truth of the matter, that gender is a ‘human’ concern, not a religious one. The main precepts behind MOST religions is that your beliefs should not harm another. As long as this is so, you may believe what you like really.

    With Transgenders, I believe the decisions are between them and their doctors. Therapists have to approve them for surgeries and if their therapists say that they are truly suffering from gender disparity, then who is the church to argue? The church should really only be concerned about the souls of it’s followers, their physical appearance should NOT be in question! How is one to heal their soul if the one treatment is denied them? In essence the church would be condemning God’s children for a mistake not of their own making.

    Honestly, this is not as well written as the last one I had, but seeing as I had to rewrite it, it will suffice. I hope that my point is understood and that there is no more confusion in what my feelings are in the matter.

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  7. Hello heather0609

    In Paul’s first post on this subject I offered Professor Jan Wålinder’s (1969) definition of transsexualism. To repeat – it was this:

    1. A sense of belonging to the opposite sex, of having been born into the wrong sex, of being one of nature’s extant errors.

    2. A sense of estrangement with one s own body; all indications of sex differentiation are considered as afflictions and repugnant.

    3. A strong desire to resemble physically the opposite sex via therapy including surgery.

    4. A desire to be accepted in the community as belonging to the opposite sex.

    Professor Walinder’s definition is a painfully accurate description of an experience that is a part of the life of classical transsexuals from their first conscious awareness of self. Fulfilling point 4 is not (as you have suggested) sufficient in and of itself to define somebody as having this condition.

    Professor Wålinder’s definition fell out of favour solely due to John Money’s duplicity over the outcome of the Reimer case. It was not the definition that was wrong. It was John Money. And if you, or any body else, truly want to get an understanding of this condition then you can only do so by comprehending Professor Walinder: not by following John Money.

    In Paul’s first post I placed links to the David Reimer case and avoided making any commentary. I hope that people will follow those and draw their own conclusions regarding the validity of transgenderism as a concept.

    I also put two links up to papers dealing with the sex-gender distinction. Rose Anne is perfectly correct in her description. Conflating the two is a sure-fire path to misunderstanding. Transsexualism is not about changing social gender roles: it is about resolving a terrible incongruity between the brain and the body.

    As to transiting social gender roles – more than 90% of social gender roles are learned behaviors. You may draw your own conclusions from that. I really want to avoid the taint of TG gender politics in the hope that Paul and his readers will be free to draw their own conclusions according to their own world view.

    I wish them all well in that.

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  8. While it’s nice that there are those among the gays and lesbians who might care about the transsexual issue, part of the problem people born with this condition face is specifically because it has been conflated with the gay and lesbian movement. This debilitating birth condition has no more to do with gays and lesbians than does spina bifida or cleft palate.

    There is no connection between transgender or transsexual except that some among the “transgender” crowd, transgender being a chosen belief system, choose to “identify” as transsexual. To one born this way, it sounds as ridiculous as saying I “identify” as having a sixth toe.

    Due to the utter obliteration of the real transsexual issue from the discourse, nobody knows that there is such a thing as a physiological transsexual state of being present at birth. It has somehow become melded in with gays and lesbians by people who call themselves “transgender”. I find this mischaracterization highly offensive.

    Gays and lesbians have no insight into this condition, just as someone born “normal” has no insight into being born different. They should not speak for people that are outside of their experience. The sooner this issue is separated from the gay and lesbian world, the better. We will all be better off.

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  9. First – my thanks for trying to deal with this in accordance with Matthew 22:23-40, and 1 Corinthians 13. That’s unfortunately rare,

    Second – if I may, I’d like to confine my remarks to transsexuality rather than transgender. The latter has too many controversial definitions, usually defined by well-meaning people who are neither.

    Please read the contents of the URLs that you’ve already been given. They’re important, and germane.

    The assertion has been made that transsexuality has a biological causation. While this is not universally accepted yet, the mountain of evidence that it is is overwhelming, the evidence that would contradict that theory completely non-existent.

    What *is* the biological causation? The sound-byte, grossly over-simplified and wrong in detail but correct in the main, is “female brain in male body.”.

    See for example:

    Garcia-Falgueras A, Swaab DF. A sex difference in the hypothamaic uncinate nucleus: relationship to gender identity. Brain 2008;131:3132-3146

    Kruijver FP, Zhou JN, Pool CW, Hofman MA, Gooren LJ, Swaab DF. Male-to-female transsexuals have female neuron numbers in a limbic nucleus. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2000;85:2034-2041

    To name but two of hundreds of papers on the subject. Those two are online, and so are many others.

    We’re not sure why a (mostly) cross-sexed brain universally leads to a cross-sexed sex identity – the gnosis that one is male or female – just that observations have yet to find an exception in thousands of cases.

    So rather than talking about “inner” vs “outer” sex from a metaphysical view, one can look upon it as a straight anatomical question. Such people are Intersexed, born with bodies neither wholly male nor wholly female.

    Now there have been many theological debates about what sex such Intersexed people “really” are. The Babylonian Talmud has much on the subject of “TumTum” vs “Androgenous” – the latter being described in Koin as “Malakoi” – “soft” or “effeminate men” and anathematised (e.g in 1 Cor. 6:9-10). The former being described as “eunuchs born from their mothers womb” (Matthew 19:12, first line) – and whose “real” sex can be discovered *by surgery*.

    John Boswell’s Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (Appendix Two) has a translation of Peter Cantor’s De vitio sodomitico — or On Sodomy (d. 1192 AD). Here’s the excerpt on hermaphrodites (or as we’d call them now, intersexuals) :

    The Lord formed man from the slime of the earth on the plan of Damascus, later fashioning woman from his rib in Eden. Thus in considering the formation of woman, lest any should believe they would be hermaphrodites, he stated, “Male and female created he them,” as if to say, “There will not be intercourse of men with men or women with women, but only of men with women and vice versa.” For this reason the church allows a hermaphrodite — that is, someone with the organs of both sexes, capable of either active or passive functions — to use the organ by which (s)he is most aroused or the one which (s)he is more susceptible.

    If (s)he is more active [literally, “lustful], (s)he may wed as a man, but if (s)he is more passive, (s)he may marry as a woman. If; however, (s)he should fail with one organ, the use of the other can never be permitted, but (s)he must be perpetually celibate to avoid any similarity to the role inversion of sodomy, which is detested by God.

    Peter Cantor was very down on Homosexuality as you can see.. An Arch Conservative even by C12 standards. Yet in this case he’s positively Liberal – such people are whatever sex they say they are, as long as they’re consistent about it.

    I wish we were as enlightened now as we were back then, in this one area.

    It gets more complicated than that though. If you think there’s a simple theological answer, please view the story at this link:
    http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/12/17/gaza.gender.id/

    I’m no Christian. I’m intersexed though, and in a way that (like these boys and men) effectively means I’m transsexual. I used to look male. I now look female. That this was (as in the CNN story) due to a natural change rather than therapeutic intervention is immaterial. And like them, I needed some surgery to reconstruct what was a bit of a genital mess after the change, no matter how normal the rest of the body looked.

    I picked the name “Zoe” at age 10. I knew what sex I was, even if the world didn’t, and compelled me to acquiesce. The change came as a relief beyond measure, like release from a death camp.

    I try to follow Isaiah 56:3-5. Not that I’m Christian, nor Jewish (except by a legal technicality of no consequence). I also try to follow the 4 vows of the Boddhisattva for that matter, and the only religious symbol I wear is that of the Invisible Pink Unicorn – as I consider any belief in any deity to be exactly as well founded as belief in Her (may Her holy hooves never be shod). I’d be Atheist except that I lack enough faith for that.

    I think it would be the height of arrogance for me to tell Christians what they should or should not do. I’ll only point out the facts, the consequences, and what their own scripture says on the subject.

    And point out the basis for the whole law. Matthew 22:35-40 – Love God, Be Kind. I consider the first optional, or possibly an inescapable consequence of the second.

    BTW Jesus was quoting a famous and revered Pharisaic scholar with that one.

    “Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a

    Once there was a gentile who came before Shammai, and said to him: “Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot. Shammai pushed him aside with the measuring stick he was holding. The same fellow came before Hillel, and Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it.”

    Clever of Him to answer a Pharisee with that one. He was amazingly learned.

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  10. Zoe,

    I must object to the following non-sequitur as the basis for conflagating intersexed as trans-sexed…..”We’re not sure why a (mostly) cross-sexed brain universally leads to a cross-sexed sex identity – the gnosis that one is male or female – just that observations have yet to find an exception in thousands of cases.

    So rather than talking about “inner” vs “outer” sex from a metaphysical view, one can look upon it as a straight anatomical question. Such people are Intersexed, born with bodies neither wholly male nor wholly female.”

    Sorry Zoe. Not all transexxual people are intersexed and not all intersexed are transsexual. Again, these are two very different animals. Much like Lions and Tigers and my cat Boswell are all waaaaay different.

    There may be some related etiologies, (see: http://www.intersexualite.org/P-DES-10-04.html), BUT INTERSEXED IS NOT TRANSSEXUAL IS NOT TRANSGENDER.

    Let us Pleeeease try to keep this simple and not mix things up by tossing in new terminology like “crossed-sex”. That term may apply to inter-sexed, but I think it muddies the waters by trying to apply it to transsexual individuals.

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  11. Hello everyone

    Perhaps I can help out here?

    Intersex people are people who, as individuals, have genetic, hormonal and physical features that may be thought to be typical of both male and female at once. That is, we may be thought of as being male with female features, female with male features, or indeed no clearly defined sexual features at all.

    As a rough rule of thumb the term “intersex” is applied to individuals whose reproductive or anatomical sex is compromised.

    Intersex individuals are often subjected to complicated surgical procedures when very young. These surgeries are known as pediatric gender assignments and are performed in the belief that they are a necessary component of identity development. According to current theory, when the genitalia and the sex of rearing are congruent young babies will mature forming a matching ‘gender identity’.

    You will find some discussion of this theory in the URL’s I gave you to the David Reimer case.

    According to the world’s largest Intersex network, Organization Intersex International (OII), approximately thirty per cent of all gender assignments are rejected by their recipients in adolescence or adulthood.

    For more information please visit OII Australia:

    http://oiiaustralia.com/faq/

    or, OII-NZ:

    http://intersex-nz.blogspot.com/

    You can follow a radiating set of links to every country where OII maintains a presence from these two sites.

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  12. The lines should be made clear and uncrossable, if only for politics’ sake.

    The main difference in real-world terms between intersex and everything else is the very early intervention into the baby’s/child’s life of the medical establishment. Regardless of physical cause or reality, the actions and interactions of a person’s life are what counts. If you did not experience this shaping by medical and psychological authorities, often with a scalpel, then you are not traditionally “intersex” in the sense most people understand it.

    Similary, if you do not experience the symptoms of transsexualism as outlined by Wallinder in PJ’s posts, you are not transsexual. Scientists are currently isolating the true biological cause(s) of the transsexual syndrome, and it is only a matter of time before there is a good understanding. It is almost certain to be a completely dichotomous phenomenon, there is no “spectrum” in this particular condition. Trying to interject a scale here is meaningless; if you do not experience the symptoms and do not feel the need to act, then the issue is moot.

    A good question to ask might be: If you take transsexual and intersex out of “transgender”, what is left? What IS transgender?
    This should be the first thing anyone asks before they try to form an opinion or policy on the subject. If you can dissect it your conclusions will have a much stronger foundation.

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  13. I tend to agree with Aria on this. If we can accept that transsexuals are different from the intersexed and that neither is transgender, then we are left with slightly less complicated yet still “tri-cotomous” question….How does/will organized religions deal with/relate to “these three different types” of people? I would also point out the the question of sexual orientation, while a totally different subject, is also something that religions have traditionally been asked to offer an opinion on.

    I would suggest that they will do so according to their own consciences and personal principles and doctrines. That some religions may or may not have confronted these questions in light of this current discussion or current studies, (science), is what in my opinion makes this discussion so valuable. We have here a forum where those of different faiths and belief systems can address the facts or the evidence of an issue, discuss them and then draw their own conclusions.

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  14. Pingback: Blog Closed for the Day Due to Weather (reading assignments attached) « the long way home

  15. Rose Anne –

    I think that all we have is a semantic difference here.

    IF (and you may not agree with this definition) you define “Intersex” as having a body anatomically neither wholly stereotypically male nor wholly stereotypically female… a definition both OII and the UK Intersex Association would accept…and IF (again you may not agree with this definition), the brain is part of the body… THEN Transsexuality is just as much an Intersex condition as, say, mosaic Klinefelter syndrome.

    Under Spanish law, and based on the neurological studies, Transsexuality (BUT NOT TRANSGENDERISM) is just another Intersex condition.

    In Australia, as far back as 2003, Transsexuality (BUT NOT TRANSGEDERISM) was deemed to be (on the balance of probability) an Intersex condition.

    See judgment in Re Kevin:
    At paragraph [272]: ‘In my view the evidence demonstrates (at least on the balance of probabilities) that the characteristics of transsexuals are as much “biological” as those of people thought of as inter-sex’.

    Finally, there’s seminar S10 at the American Psychiatric Association annual meeting in 2009:

    S10. The Neurobiological Evidence for Transgenderism
    1. Brain Gender Identity Prof. Sidney W. Ecker, M.D.
    2. Transsexuality as an Intersex Condition Prof Milton Diamond, Ph.D.

    Now one can argue that a cross-sexed neuro-anatomy is fundamentally different from a cross-sexed urino-genital anatomy, or a cross-sexed endocrinal anatomy, or a cross-sexed chromosomal anatomy, or… you get the idea.

    You can say that while Transsexuality is “as much “biological” as … intersex” without it actually being an Intersex condition as such. Similarly, it can be treated from a medical viewpoint “as an Intersex condition” without it actually being an Intersex condition. Whatever. I won’t argue semantics there.

    I’ve gotten my point across, and the labelling doesn’t matter, so I’ll agree to accept yours,.in order to further discussion from a common ground. It may be more useful from a practical viewpoint to treat them as separate issues, regardless of my pedantic views anyway.

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  16. Again, these are two very different animals. Much like Lions and Tigers and my cat Boswell are all waaaaay different.

    But all Felines nevertheless.

    From a practical viewpoint, I do agree that it might be wise not to have a Siberian Tiger sleeping on your bed at night, and in that regard, treating them differently from your feline owner (I have a cat too – Schroedinger – so I know my place) is probably prudent.

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  17. I can and will agree to this since it makes sense…..”You can say that Transsexuality is “as much “biological” as … “intersex” without it actually being an Intersex condition as such.” But then birds are as much biological as bees.

    THis I am starting to have problems with…”Similarly, it can be treated from a medical viewpoint “as an Intersex condition” without it actually being an Intersex condition.” …… as I can see no logic in treating a broken arm (bone), if it is my LEG (bone) that is broken.

    As for this…”Now one can argue that a cross-sexed neuro-anatomy is fundamentally different from a cross-sexed urino-genital anatomy, or a cross-sexed endocrinal anatomy, or a cross-sexed chromosomal anatomy, or… you get the idea”……well, perhaps I get the idea that I HATE semantic arguements because they serve no useful purpose.

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  18. While it’s great that all commentators are talking and discussing the finer points between transsexual and transgender, I feel the comments are again getting off course from what the author originally questioned all of us.

    I would like to look at “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he female he created them.” in Genesis 1:27. If we look at this literally, it would seem the Bible is saying there is only male and female. However, it isn’t until later Genesis 2:18 that it mentions that “Man” is alone and thus God made him a “helper comparable to him.” This eventually leads to 2:22 where the rib is taken from Adam and “woman is born” so to say.

    I feel it would be a mistake to solely rely on passage 1:27 as a hard and fast rule that there is only “male” and “female.” For Adam was alone and it concerned God enough to create “woman.” Prior to this passage, I feel if we look deeper, it would mean that Adam had the both qualities of male and female for God, I do not believe is exclusively “male” but rather comprised of both “male” and “female” qualities. Thus, god created “man” that had qualities of both “genders.”

    I also feel that some of the problems facing many Christians these days is taking strictly literal interpretations of Bible passages to fit their own ends. I believe if said Christians took time to deeply reflect on passages and applied it to their lives, a different viewpoint would develop.

    Further more, I do agree in principle that both extreme vies between the liberal and fundamentalist view in “fixing” either the internal or external realities is wrong in so much as they are both extremes. However, they both have valid points if took in moderation and some type of “middle way” between the two was achieved.
    A good analogy was actually famously used by the Buddha 2500 years ago using a string instrument as a reference for the middle way. Over tighten the string too much and it breaks and have the string too loose and it will not make a sound.

    How this relates to “trans” issues is that to ignore the exterior issues (such as physical transformation via hormone therapy and surgeries) to focus only on the interior does not help. Likewise to only focus on the exterior and neglect the spiritual side poses its own challenges and difficulties for certain individuals.

    One of the problems I see with many Christians is that they seem to believe there is only one correct answer to all the problems. If there was one true Christian way, where are there so many divisions on what Christ’s real intention was? Why do Baptists, Catholics, Prodestants et al fight and bicker amonsts themselves? How can there be a sure answer on anything?

    From personal experience, external focus has been necessary and it has nothing to do with the type of sex I can have. I am truly happier than I ever have been in my life. However, I am also not neglecting my internal development through getting closer to God (whatever that 3 letter word really means for God is beyond all comprehension that our simple human minds and brains can conceive.)

    Walking the middle road between the two extremes is not easy at all and at any point it is easy to get caught up on either end of the spectrum between”liberal” and “fundamental.”

    I challenge all the liberal and fundamental Christians to this question: “Have you really met Jesus?” It’s a literal question though I don’t mean”physically” met Jesus.

    If you have been touched by Jesus in an actual meeting with him…you would understand something more profound than you could imagine. As a result – the desire to exclude others, to reject others – Trans or not would never enter your mind. You would understand on a deep profound level what Jesus taught.

    Jesus did not teach exclusion and hatred.

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  19. Pingback: Open Mic: A Theology of Transgenderism? (pt.iii) « the long way home

  20. Paul,

    Youy last entry intimated that you still feel that organized religions will continue to experience problems of acceptence. Does this not fly directly into the face of Christ, Our Savior’s teachings?

    To quote Zoe Suzanna…

    “If you have been touched by Jesus in an actual meeting with him…you would understand something more profound than you could imagine. As a result – the desire to exclude others, to reject others – Trans or not would never enter your mind. You would understand on a deep profound level what Jesus taught.

    Jesus did not teach exclusion and hatred.”

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