What Do We Really Know About Gender Identification or “Normal” Sexual Orientation?

One of the difficulties of all people is distinguishing “what is” from “what is not.”  Our expectations of others are often determined by our assumptions about them or their situation.  Sexuality and issues of gender are so personal to each of us that our judgments of others in such matters are often more reflective of our own sense of security or insecurity about who we are and confusion about what is our business and what is not.

In 2009, the gold medal won by Caster Semenya in the women’s 800 meter race in Berlin was challenged on the basis of what others claimed was her “intersex conditions:”  that she was not a woman, and therefore had an unfair advantage in obtaining her gold medal.  See http://sports.yahoo.com/olympics/blog/fourth_place_medal/post/Semenya-withdraws-from-race-amidst-gender-questi?urn=oly-188930

For an engaging discussion of the common view that gender is easily identified, see http://www.spectacle.org/1209/swazo.html . Dr. Swazo wryly notes the circumstantial nature of the inquiry: “The medical subjectivation of Semenya itself unavoidably and irrevocably introduces her to a prospect of sustained gender dysphoria, when otherwise Semenya would be quite “herself” as before the ruckus elicited from Berlin.”  In that commentary, he  addresses whether intersex conditions, from a competitive posture, makes that competition with other “normal” women  unfair.  He notes the unfair treatment of Caster Semenya and concludes, “There is no injustice done when nature itself makes Semenya a woman manly, though nurture makes her a woman pure and simple.”

As an introduction to a study of what the Bible and other Christian “authorities” have said about sexual orientation and gender, I ask, “What do we really know about another’s gender, sexual orientation or what is “normal” in their unknown special circumstances?

If we are going to make judgments that are fair and appropriate, I suggest that we assure at least two conditions: (1) fair knowledge of the conditions and circumstance of the act or thing that is being judged, and (2) the right to judge that circumstance (i.e. it is a matter that directly effects us or that we have a social duty or right to judge).

Perhaps to illustrate this, let me suggest, as I had previously in a post in my initial blog, Heal Our Church:

A person who is blessed by God to be a hermaphrodite (both male and female physical characteristics), or has a genetic makeup of an extra X chromosome as in XXY or XXXY, or is XY male but is androgen insensitive and therefore has the default physical appearance of a female, doesn’t fit our common assignments of what is gender or what is the normal relationship between male and female. (Now within the last observation lies an interesting question for me: if the XY male who is androgen insensitive and therefore has a female body falls in love with a woman who has XX genetics, are they homosexuals or heterosexuals?) If it is confusing for you, imagine what it is like for the GLBT individual. Who are we to judge another person for the way they relate sexually with others just because it is different for them than for us and we can’t pinpoint a physical explanation of the difference. We would do well to recognize that we are the only one who can determine what God’s gift of gender and sexuality is for us.

Discussion:

What are your reactions to the story of Caster?

What can we expect of its impact on Caster?

Imagine you were Caster’s parents at her birth.

Whose business is it to determine her sex?  Parents at birth?  Child when an adult?

“Discuss:

Former IAAF medical commission chairman Arne Ljungqvist cautioned that a person’s gender is not always easy to define.”

“’There is no simple, single lab test that can tell if you are a man or a woman. It is not black and white,’” Ljungqvist told The Associated Press.

What about her later photoshoot to demonstrate that she is in fact a beautiful woman?  If she is genetically a male despite all physical appearances, what does that make her in this photo shoot?

The IAAF will make its determination for purposes of international sports competition.  How fair would it be for society to use that decision as a basis for its social determination?

Let us Open our Hearts, Minds and Doors to our community, and be enriched by its diverse experience of the divine.

Robert Wheeler

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What Do We Really Know About Gender Identification or “Normal” Sexual Orientation?

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