Friday, June 24, 2005

Here's a question

In a series of comments on Dave Warnock's blog, 42, I have been involved in discussions about gender. Interesting questions on gender inclusivity in translations, gender inclusive language for people, for God and the role of women in the church. I hereby posit a question: How can we see these issues as so very clear cut, black and white, gender inclusive good, gender inclusive bad -- when gender itself is so very -- for lack of a better word, vague?

When I was teaching I had at least two students who were considered "intersex." A better word might be "hermaphodite" but the word used now is "intersex." There are many, many different genetic anomalies that effect sex. And I am not even going to touch the concept of sexual orientation -- just plain old gender.

These include (but are not limited to):
Lyon hypothesis (X-inactivation)
Turner's Syndrome
Bonnevie-Ullrich Syndrome
XXX Syndrone
Klinefelter's Syndrome (including 46XY/47XXY, 47XXY, 48XXYY, 48XXXY, 49XXXXY,XXXY Males)
47XYY Syndrome
Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia
Female pseudohermaphrodites
Male pseudohermaphrodites
True hermaphrodites
pure gonadal dysgenesis (in which the person appears female externally, but is genetically male)
Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (in which there are a host of differing presentations)

There are others. Each of these syndromes is relatively rare, yet there are so many of them that are currently identifiable that it is estimated that up to 1 out of 22 people have a genetic anomaly that will effect gender assignment.* With this information, who is to say? Suppose a person is an outward female who is testosterone intolerant - that is, a male whose switch never turned on. Genetically the person is male. Which of the rules apply? Is this person allowed ministry under, say, Roman Catholicism? Technically, no.

How about a baby who had a "circumcision accident." The family gives the child hormonal treatments to appear female. Later the child decides to discontinue treatment and becomes male. He appears neither male nor female, having no secondary or primary sexual organs. Can he be ordained?

Or the child whose mother took perscription drugs that have skewed sexual characteristics -- and the baby has indetermine sex?

What makes a person female? Male? Absence/presence of secondary or primary sexual organs and characteristics? Self identification -- that is what the person considers themself?

Is the couple in which there is a normally appearing genetic male is married to a female person who is a genetic male a homosexual couple? Remember, until these persons are tested (usually when it is found they cannot conceive), they believe them self to be female, yet they are genetically male.

Discuss among yourselves.

*Statistic comes from the mouth of my OBGYN. I could not verify, but I trust that she knows of what she speaks.

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