Friday, November 6, 2009

religion and intersex

Today I am going to tread into the dangerous, controversial waters of religion and queer identities, and more specifically intersexuality.

In the Abrahamic religions the trouble starts out in Genesis with the creation of Adam, and then Eve as his companion. This story has been used to justify the subjugation of women and the exclusion of gays (remember the old homophobic chant "Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve?"). This also affects intersexuals because it denies that we exist. If God only made men and women, then hermaphrodites must really be one or the other, and the victim of a deformity. Some Jewish sect believe this is inaccurate, claiming that Adam was a hermaphrodite, poiniting out how the pronouns used for him switch from masculine to feminine.

In Matthew 19:12, Jesus specifically refers to intersexuals, calling them eunuchs born of their mothers womb, as opposed to being castrated. In ancient times enunchs were given important religious, and royal administrative jobs, as well as guarding harams (somewhat simular to two spirit people in Native American cultures, both were also considered to be a third gender, neither male nor female). However Jesus also says eunuchs should not get married, and urges them twoard celibacy.

In Islam, Quranic law provides for the existance of intersexuals, a third gender called khuntsa. They are allowed to live as men or women and could marry men or women. They prayed between the men and women in the Mosque and were required to wear some male and some female clothing. They had all of the rights and most of the obligations of both a Musilm man and Muslim women within their society.

The very existance of intersexuals threatens fundamentalists of most religions since one of their primary goals is ordering and controling sex. Many fundamentalists thus claim intersex is unnatural and contrary to God's will (Ironic since intersexuality is the most physiologically obvious form of queer, there can be absolutly no question as too whether its a choice). They generally support surgery as a way to continue the social construct of dichotomic sex, which they see as a prerequisite for personhood.

In other words religious societies have created spaces and roles for intersexuals, however these positions have been disappeared, and are unlikely to reappear until intersexuals are no longer hidden. Perhaps its time to take a lesson from our past and recognize that intersexuals are also created by God in his image.

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