The Reality of Intersexuality

Last spring I received an e-mail from John, a non-gay survivor of the ex-gay movement. He suggested that looking into Intersexuality might be helpful in the discussion around the nature of sexuality and the faith struggle.

He writes,

I’m not sure if you know anything about intersexuals, as very few Americans are intersexuals, and even the GLBT movement is often unaware of this unique chromosonal makeup.

I think for many people, particularly fundamentalist gays struggling to come out of the movement, this information might really help, since whatever the right may think about gays, there is no way they can claim intersexuals aren’t born that way – though unfortunately, there is now talk on the religious right about the ‘radical hermaphrodite agenda’ (yes, I kid you not.).

This info might de-progam some heteros on the right, too, since they will see that issues of gender aren’t black and white (It helped convert Brian Mclaren, the liberal evangelical theologian, to liberalism, for instance.)

Ten Misconceptions about Intersex
Organisation Intersex International (English)
Internationell Förening för Intersexuella (Swedish)
The Self is Infinitely More Than the Sum of Bodily Parts
Poems, stories and other works by those in the Intersex Community

I also found a recent article published on a Presbyterian website that seeks to educate the church. More Light on Intersex

So how can the reality of Intersexuality help those who struggle with same-sex attractions and sexual differences to embrace themselves? Let’s discuss.

This post has 18 Comments

  1. Anna HP on December 11, 2006 at 6:07 pm

    Correct me if I am wrong cause I am sick and feverish and I might have misunderstood something but as I understand it, intersexuality would help those who struggle with same-sex attractions in the way of “hey, I am part male, it isn´t “my fault” I like women”. But if you have a problem with your attraction could you excuse it with this?

    I know that I am naive and my coming-out process was very smooth. Hey I am a lesbian, that explains it,cool and that was about it. I don´t know what it is like to be GLBT and have a problem with it but I find it sad that people have to look away from who they are to be content with themselves. Like find a reason or an explanation or a solution to a problem …

  2. Elliot on December 11, 2006 at 11:36 pm

    My question is: What is a non-gay survivor of the ex-gay movement?

    I understand Intersexuality pretty well. I’ve known someone who was Intersex. It’s pretty confusing.

  3. Anna HP on December 12, 2006 at 7:27 am

    A very good question Elliot!
    My guess, a person living a life in constant battle with themselves. And what kind of life or solution is that?

    ps! I am now a proud member of .. my old blog-website had so many techincal issues I got tired of it .. 🙂

  4. Anna HP on December 12, 2006 at 7:28 am

    A very good question Elliot!
    My guess, a person living a life in constant battle with themselves. And what kind of life or solution is that?

    ps! I am now a proud member of .. my old blog-website had so many techincal issues I got tired of it .. 🙂

  5. Anna HP on December 12, 2006 at 7:37 am

    A very good question Elliot!
    My guess, a person living a life in constant battle with themselves. And what kind of life or solution is that?

    ps! I am now a proud member of .. my old blog-website had so many techincal issues I got tired of it .. 🙂

  6. Anna HP on December 12, 2006 at 7:50 am

    Oh .. sorry, all I got was error-messages *blushes*

  7. Daniel C on December 12, 2006 at 8:46 am

    Sorry, again, but I do not agree Peterson.
    What is this obesession with the biological reason as if it would help people to accept things?
    In Europe there was a terrible obsession of the biological 50 years ago, called racism. They did wanna change too, but as it were biological – instead of terrible homo nomo halfwayhouse – they had concentrationcamps and racebiological institute where they sterilised people.

    Cause – there is a fundamental danger with this sort of argumentation – perhaps the westerns sickness. Our will to find the real truth about mankind, and to act “natural”. And -this is the thing – to act even more natural than nature itself. The nature suddenly becomes some kind of mysterious force, wich has rules wich we could break (instead of the real laws of nature, that are not laws but just unbreakable).

    Scientists, doctors and worried mothers and pedagogs have studied the reason why people are homosexual for about 100 years and I seen it all when it comes to explanation.
    But they all have it wrong!
    1. The question is: why are people heterosexual? Why not study that as if it where a sickness as homosexual has been study for a long time? Ofcourse that have been studied but allways in relation to the “pervert” as if there were some natural REAL genes, or some natural REAL way of growing up. They are all illuded..

    2. There is no difference between gays and straight! We do not have other genes, we are not special in anyway. NOTHING separate me from other human beeings in some mysterious fashion. Except that I have same-sex attraction.
    And there is NOTHING that makes me more alike other gays and lesbs than other human beings. Except that I have same-sex attraction.

    3. Understand that humans are complex people. There are no clear awnser for why we are who we are, cause of the uniq way that we are. We could find awnser in a larger structure – of power – opression – unjustice (well, I am a socialist. I will not deny that. And suddenly people stopped reading 😉 ). But when looking down into each and every individual you will be illuded by the complexity and the experience wich all could differ so much between people. There is not ONE AWNSER FIT THEM ALL.

    And i refuse to have people seeking the roots of my gayness, cause I am satisfied with me the way that I am. And those who still asks the question should look into themselves and on the structure of the society and ask themselves why we are compelled to ask that very question.

    Hmm.. this was a long awnser. Hope I made some sence.

  8. Willie Hewes on December 12, 2006 at 10:22 am

    Interestingly, my workplace firewall blocks all these links. It doesn’t generally do that for sites that aren’t about people in their underwear or something. Hm…

    The intersex factor is interesting because the ex-gay movement is very preoccupied with fitting people into defined gender roles. If you’re a man, you have to be manly, fix cars, watch football, and love women. If you’re a woman, you should be womanly, wear make up, sit there being pretty and worship a man.

    Anti gay and trans attacks are all wrapped up in these narrow gender roles and the feeling that ‘men just shouldn’t act like that’ (or women). So what happens if your body is both male and female, or both in part, or something in between?

    The sensible answer is that you can pick what role you want to play, and actually, we can all do that because gender roles are just roles, and what bits we have is a pretty minor thing. We should be able to behave in whatever way makes us feel authentic and happy. (I imagine this is roughly what the radical hermaphrodite agenda is like.)

    The ex-gay answer, I imagine, is that you need to choose what you are and be that completely, because there is no in between. Nature made some kind of horrible mistake by making you intersex and you need to correct it. It’s like being born with only one arm.

    And that’s how you can be a non-gay survivor of the ex-gay movement, I guess. You just spend all your time getting cut up by the edges of the pigeonholes that just don’t fit you. They need to you to be either a man or a woman because anything that threatens the clearly drawn boundaries between the sexes threatens the powerstructure that has been built on that, and that is an abomination in the eyes of the patriarchy.

    OK, wow, I didn’t realise I was going to end up invoking the p-word when I started writing this comment, but there you are. That’s my theory. And now I’m off to watch some football.

  9. Anonymous on December 12, 2006 at 1:49 pm

    I agree that nature arguments are usually neither neccessary nor helpful. Such arguments endorse the idea that there is a “natural” and “Unnatural” way of beingliving, an idea that is both biologically and philosophically false.
    But I do think that if one wishes to help recovering ex-fundamentalists, both gay and straight, knowledge of intersexuality is a useful, albeit limited tool, because it allows these people to know that the dichotomous definition of gender that fundamentalism sets up is simply false.


  10. Anonymous on December 12, 2006 at 2:22 pm

    Peterson, thanks for posting this stuff. I’m not sure if it will help any ex-fundamentalists, but it is worth a shot.

    And Anna, to a certain extent I do understand what you are saying. But I think for many ex-fundamentalists, both gay and straight, the only way to get them out of fundamentalist biological paradigms is to show them that these paradigms are faulty to begin with, that there is no binary opposition between male and female, gay and straight, etc.

    I am heterosexual, so I have never had to experience homophobia first hand. However, growing up in the evangelical movement, I did experience what one might call ‘mentalphobia’. You see, I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Among many fundamenalists, mental illness, like homosexuality is considered a sin. People told me that “no one is born that way”, that I had a “sinful lifestyle”, that OCD is a result of “personal choice”. Only the Bible verses used to condemn me were different (even then, not always).
    It took me years to escape that kind of bigoted religous groupthink. Years, too, to realize how similar fundamentalist anti-LGBT rhetoric is to there rhetoric about the mentally ill. So, I can only speak from experience. Yes, I agree the whole nature vs. nurture argument is irrelevant. Being a gay or lesbian, like being Obsessive Compulsive, is right simply because it is right. There is no need to morally justify it. But for some people coming out of fundamentalism, particularly gays, lesbians, and the mentally ill, the only way to defeat these “nature” paradigms is to confront them head on, and defeat them. At least, that is what I had to do. Finding out about the biological nature of mental illness brought me an enormous amount of peace, as it deconstructed the fundamentalist assumptions with which I had been raised. Perhaps knowledge of intersexuality can help my fellow ex-fundamentalists who are trying to come to terms with their own sexuality. I do not know, but I think it is worth a try.
    I don’t know if I am a survivor so much of reparative therapy, as I am a survivor of a reparative therapist. You see, I used to go to a Christian college, until I was forced out of it by the administration. A number of factors were involved in the administration forcing me out, but foremost of these was the fact that I was adamently pro-gay rights and also adamentally mentally ill. Though we can not prove this, it is my family’s belief that my college therapist (a nationally known reparative therapist of whom you probably know)illegally released my mental health information to the school administration, in order to give them ‘dirt’ on me (which did not really work, because there was no dirt to be had). That is my story.
    Sorry for the length of this entry, and I apologize if I said anything wrong.


  11. E on December 12, 2006 at 4:21 pm

    John hit it on the head – it’s not about proving that homosexuality is biological, but about making one aware of the flaws in the reasoning used by conservative Christians to condemn gay and transsexual individuals.

    It was a breakthrough for me to come to the realization that the existence of even one intersexed individual brings down the elaborate theology of gender roles that they have built on Genesis 1:27 (“male and female He created them”) like a house of cards.

  12. Daniel C on December 12, 2006 at 4:38 pm

    Well.. I just guess that I refuse to believe that some people have to go through “steps” in the process of seeing whats going on around you.
    That everything is floating (including the biological) is perhaps good. Intersexuality is intresting in many ways, and the swedish homepage are being “promoted” by perhaps one of the better swedish scientist in gender and social science – Sara Edenheim.
    So as a concept of breaking down the view of gender as fixed categories it is great (there is also a link to her master-exam wich is in Swedish however). But in what way it has something to do with WHY people are gay?
    I just refuse to understand why people should be considered dumb and that we have to fool them with knowledge that we (or atleast I) don’t even believe in our(my)selves.

    It’s not nearly a matter of education. It’s a matter of honesty!

  13. alex resare on December 12, 2006 at 5:44 pm

    Intersexuality do not give us anwers on homosexuality hows and whys. What it does is that it gives more color to the questions around gender and identity issues and that helps when I speak with Christians that sees homosexuality as a rebelious choice for effemenite men who don’t have learned how to be real men.

    There are so many who still thinks that there are two kinds of persons, men and woman and that evern man are one way and ever woman another. They often beleve that God created everyone that way.

    To speak about intersexuality helps to give nuances to that misunderstanding

  14. Anonymous on December 12, 2006 at 6:28 pm

    Alex is right. Intersexuality does not give an answer on the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of homosexuality. What it does do is deconstruct those views that seek to marginalize homosexuality into something monstrous.
    I don’t think that we are seeing people as dumb by giving them information on intersexuality. It is just a fact of life that fundamentalists are not often exposed to certain types of information – hence how so many fundamentalists can believe in creationism. And often fundie organizations make this worse by deliberately spreading misinformation. So, I think we would not be treating ex-fundamentalists as dumb, just lacking in certain information that others have had greater access to.

  15. Daniel C on December 12, 2006 at 7:18 pm

    OK! Got it.. 🙂
    Daniel out.

  16. alex resare on December 12, 2006 at 10:30 pm

    I don’t think fundamentalists are dumb. They are often very smart but just as you say, they have been exposed to their own information. I still mostly identify myself to one of the fundamentalists, not because I agree with them but just because of the kind of information I was exposing myself to.

    This spring I took a geology class and was so fascinated with geology. I was raised to be a creationist and had always heard Church laughing to the evolutionists and their agenda trying to get us to question God. I was 26 yrs. old when I first realized that there is pretty much safe to say that the earth is older then a couple of thousand years. I was honestly surprised and I am not close to dumb. I just drew a common conciliation that mislead me. The conciliation that wanting to do the right thing and trusting in God is the same thing as understand things the right way and being lead by God. I saw the honest longing for divine knowledge my fellow Christians had and mistook it for divine knowledge.

    I think that it is very uncommon for many fundamentalists to deliberately spreading misinformation. But the ones that does that can do so much harm using others trust.

  17. Anonymous on December 13, 2006 at 1:32 am

    Peterson, good connecting with you again. I don’t know what I can ad to this discussion, but as someone who was born intersexed, neither completely male, nor female maybe I can answer one person’s question on the non-gay survivor of the ex-gay movement. Being intersexed, not acutally male, but affectionally and sexually attracted to males, I grew up identifying as a gay male until I later understood that not really being male meant I couldn’t actually be a homosexual unless I was attracted only to other intersexed people. I think this is what John, the intersexed non-gay survivor of the ex-gay movement was wanting to say. I became caught up in the ex-gay movement myself through a succession of events. I dealt with those people from various organizations for five years until my intersex status was revealed and then they dropped me like a hot potato because I could not be controlled by their religiously birthed psuedo psychology. If it will help anybody, I will leave my website. Warm regards!

  18. grace on December 15, 2006 at 1:18 am

    ok…i’m not even beginning to get into the intersexuality thing…but…where do you stand on Brian McClaren? Just curious….I read all his stuff. 🙂

    love ya!

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