What do Christians Have to Say About Mixed Gender?

One issue that is rarely discussed by Christians is the very real fact that some human beings are born with disorders of sex development: mixed genders. Most of the time, it’s up to the parents to choose a gender (with medical advice) for these babies, and, sometimes, they choose incorrectly. Intersex individuals really don’t have a choice. They really are born this way. The LGBT community has a vested interest in conflating homosexuality and transvestitism (both of which involve an identity of choice) with intersexuality (an identity of nature), so homosexuals and cross-dressers often pretend that they are invisibly or psychologically intersex (I was a woman born in a man’s body, My attraction gene was switched, etc.). Because of this co-opting by the homosexual and transvestite community, many Christians treat people of mixed gender as if they are morally corrupt or perverted. Sadly, this lack of understanding and compassion on our part often drives intersex individuals right into the arms of the LGBT community.

Leftists usually create rules on the basis of exceptions (e.g., Everyone should have free access to abortion or you’re being insensitive to rape victims.), but this doesn’t mean that Christians can ignore or cast out the exceptional. So, what do Christians have to say about intersexual conditions? Here’s a question you may not have considered: Should people with mixed gender be allowed to get married? You might ask, What if the person who married that woman wasn’t really “supposed” to be a man? This is just one of many strange questions that can arise in the orbit of this discussion. The mixed gender issue is not an easy one to address because it’s not merely an “issue”… it’s living, breathing people who are often treated very badly by Christians, and we need to know how to minister to their unique needs. So one of the first things we need to remedy is our ignorance of their condition.

Along those lines, I read a thought-provoking and insightful novel recently that addresses mixed gender questions from a Christian perspective. Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite, by Lianne Simon, follows the struggles, doubts, temptations, and redemption of a young person born with Mixed Gonadal Dysgenesis, a disorder of sex development that resulted in the formation of one testis and one ovary—and no clear gender at birth. The story begins with Jameson, a young man in college trying very hard to be a real boy. His parents, under the advice of Jameson’s first doctor, are under the impression that Jameson was meant to be male. But Jameson, as desperately as he wants to please his parents, has never felt like a boy. Later, further testing reveals that Jameson should have been raised as a girl: Jamie. The story then follows Jamie’s difficult journey to find her true identity in Christ.

Though the story is fictional, Mrs. Simon drew from ten years of ministering to mixed gender children and their families in order to construct a believable narrative. You can probably imagine the psychological fracturing, family tensions, sexual confusion, and religious doubts that could develop in such a situation. Mrs. Simon explores these complications with an eye for detail and an unwavering candidness that I found extremely refreshing. So many Christian stories are vague and general when it comes to the harsher realities of our fallen existence—this is counter-productive: a small fall makes for a small salvation. Removing the thorns from our stories just makes the obviously prearranged “redemption” feel hollow. Confessions adeptly avoids that pitfall, courageously and concretely unpacking Jamie’s world as it really is. Because of this, the book has a bittersweet, and at times even sublime, character that is sorely lacking from most of the contemporary Christian literature I’ve read.

The author, understandably, had a difficult time getting a Christian publisher to even look at the novel. Most Christians don’t talk about sex at all, much less the areas of sexuality that deviate from the norm.  This book, like this issue, is challenging in many ways. It requires us to step out of our comfort zone. The temptation is to look at what isn’t like us and say, That’s gross. And I think, as Christians, this is never right. Jesus was God Incarnate, right? Of all people who could have said, Ewww! about our condition, it would have been He. Even the purest, most lovely of us is deformed compared to His perfection. I think we need to remember this when we are dealing with troubled people, especially if their troubles are no fault of their own. But even when they are, we’ve got to cultivate a heart of competent compassion. Never winking at sin, yes, but always ready to give an account of our hope. I think it would be helpful for Christians, and especially Christian pastors, to read Mrs. Simon’s book and learn to minister to people with mixed gender, or other gender and sexuality struggles, with greater understanding, transparency, and compassion.