Registering intersex

What sex would you say the baptismal candidate was?

What sex would you say the baptismal candidate was?

Very soon in Germany it will be possible to register a child as being of indeterminate gender—neither male nor female, but indeterminate.

Off you go to the Register Office. You have to say whether the little darling is male or female. No problem usually. But occasionally it’s fraught: the little darling’s gender is ambiguous because the anatomy of the nether regions is neither one thing nor the other. Usually, surgery is soon done to ‘regularize’ the situation. Making the baby look like a female is the easiest thing to do for the obvious reason that it’s easier to chop things off than stick things on. (This can lead to psychological problems later when, for example, the person grows up feeling like a male, yet having no dangly bits.)

Being neither one thing nor the other, or having bits of both, means intersex. This is a natural phenomenon. It’s not something the baby chooses, and certainly not something parents choose. They are, doubtless, in shock and perplexity. But the fact is that sometimes, more often than we recognize or admit, nature goes awry.

I know, I’ve blogged about this stuff before, here and here. The German initiative means I’m doing it again. There will be some delicious issues for the institutional church. It’s full of rules. If we say marriage is between man and woman, then we have to define man and woman. If we say ordinands have to be heterosexual, then we have to lay down criteria of maleness and femaleness. If only men may be ordained, how will manhood be assessed? Is it an absence of some things or a presence of others? If it’s a chromosomal thing, then what will assessors do about chromosomal anomalies? It seems to me that none of the church’s rules can be enforced. If it’s not possible to enforce them, there’s no point having them.

You may say I’m being silly. Perhaps you think that the institutional church is on the way out, and that what the churches say or do is irrelevant. You might be right. But if you think that the church could be, should be, and basically is, a force for good in the world, then it does matter. The trouble is that the churches generally are run by people who seem blind to what biology has to tell us about the human condition, and who tend to look backwards rather than forwards. A biological Galileo saga in the making.

Biologically, legal recognition of intersex is long overdue.

Click here for more about the development of sexuality.

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