Intersex Awareness Day 2017

As Dr. Suegee Tamar-Mattis says in this short video: "Educating everyone is the most important thing you can do."

Help us spread the word by sharing this video with those you know. 

If you want to introduce Christians to intersex you may want to share with them this podcast interview in which Megan DeFranza talks with Dr. Peter Enns and Jarad Byas at "The Bible for Normal People." 

Thanks for helping us make the world, and our faith communities, safer and welcoming to all.

 

Barren Women and the Nashville Statement

Intersex & Faith, Inc. recently completed a survey of more than 100 of the signatories of the Nashville Statement, asking for clarification of Article 6, especially the call for intersex people to, "embrace their biological sex insofar as it may be known."

Historically, doctors have castrated us, surgically assigned us a sex, given us hormones, told us lies, kept secrets from us, and caused us to live in shame—all in the name of their binary vision of sex. So it was easy for some of us to conclude that Article 6 called on us to embrace the evil being done to us.

None of the signatories who responded agreed with that reading. None appeared to be in favor of childhood genital surgeries. In fact, Dr. Denny Burk, one of the architects of the Nashville Statement, opposes them.

Regarding the treatment of intersex cases, we received a variety of replies. Most either said they didn't have enough experience with intersex, or that individual cases merited deeper consideration than a set of rules would allow.

The largest group, however, referred us to the writings of Dr. Burk who appears to reduce the diversity of biological sex to the presence or absence of a Y chromosome.

We included a short questionnaire with our survey. It's available online here. The first question deals with Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome:

"Your sixteen-year-old daughter Connie’s a godly young woman. She’s healthy but never got her period. A specialist says that she has Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome. Although externally she’s a typical female, she has XY chromosomes, and testes in her abdomen rather than ovaries and uterus."

Dr. Denny Burk, on his website (about halfway down the page in the comment section) addresses AIS:

"With AIS, there is an XY chromosomal make-up and the internal organs are still male. It is the external reproductive features that are malformed. This is a tragic, difficult condition, and those who experience it are in need of our compassion, love, and understanding. But that doesn't preclude us from helping them see that they are essentially male in spite of ambiguities in external features."

In his book, What is the Meaning of Sex?, on page 81, Dr. Burk appears to suggest that anyone born with a vagina but with XY chromosomes should be considered male.

"Try to determine as soon as possible the chromosomal makeup of the child. If there is a Y chromosome present, that would strongly militate against raising the child as a female, regardless of the apperance of the genitals or other secondary sex characteristics."

This is certainly different than the commonly-accepted Biblical view or the historical view of the Church regarding how to determine a person's sex. We believe that biblical authors would have identified a woman with CAIS as female, as a barren woman.

Barren women are usually infertile for biological reasons. Often, that is an intersex condition such as Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome. It is only recently that the technology became available to determine karyotype (i.e. XX or XY).

A woman with Swyer Syndrome would have a functional vagina and uterus, but no gonads (or penis). Using IVF and a donor egg, some have carried a baby to term. Yet it appears that Dr. Burk--and some of the signatories of the Nashville Statement--would still consider her male because she has a Y chromosome. Again, the Bible would consider her female--a barren woman.

With the continuing debate over the ethics of transgender treatment, I'm astounded that any conservative Christians would take the position that someone born with a vagina and no penis is male, regardless of their genetics.

If you're a Christian and you or your child is intersex, please contact Intersex & Faith and/or liannesimon@yahoo.com.

Florida, Massachusetts, and Arizona

It's a busy summer for us at Intersex and Faith!

Megan and Paul flew to Florida to interview intersex activist, Anunnaki Ray and his family. We are continually amazed by the courage, kindness, and generosity of our interviewees. While in town, we were also able to interview members of Anunnaki's faith congregation, a skeptic turned supporter whom he met on opposing sides of a Human Rights Ordinance debate, and Dr. Judi Herring whose TED talk "Gender Bound" introduces her advocacy for intersex people and reform of medical protocols. We can't wait to share their stories with you!

On June 29th, Megan and Paul hosted a fundraiser in Salem, MA, to launch our IndieGoGo campaign. It was amazing to see around 100 people coming out to CinemaSalem to learn about our project. The encouraging feedback we received (and continue receiving) gives us hope and courage to keep doing what we are doing.

Megan, Lianne, and Paul are heading to Phoenix, AZ, July 13-16 to lead two workshops at the AISDSD Annual Conference (AISDSD = Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome and Differences of Sex Development). In one session we'll be sharing excerpts from the documentary-in-progress discussion how faith relates to intersex experiences. In the second we are leading a workshop entitled "Finding Your Voice" with Cecelia MacDonald (whose TED talk you can watch here).

We'll be making other trips this summer to try and finish all of our shooting so that we can begin the editing process and continue to apply for grants and approach major donors to bring this project to YOU as soon as humanly possible. Thanks for your support!

Baltimore, Boston, and Colorado Springs

We have been busy the last few months getting the momentum rolling on the documentary. 

On December 1, Paul Van Ness of Cinema Salem hosted a fundraiser and screening of our new trailer. (Watch it HERE if you miss it!) Friends and colleagues turned out to support and donate. Thank you to our many supporters. Here are some of the things we have been able to do because you gave:

In December we flew Marissa up from Baltimore to Boston to film for a few days. Marissa was born at Brigham and Women's Hospital and had several early surgeries (as an infant and toddler) at Boston Children's Hospital. She shares her story of the trauma of follow-up doctor visits and how her life was turned around after she connected with other intersex people through AIS-DSD (Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome - Differences of Sex Development Support Group) and InterAct. Raised a conservative Christian, she is trying to find her way back to church and wonders what churches will welcome her as an intersex woman.

In January we interviewed the Executive Director of InterAct, Kimberly Zieslemann, who shared how her own medical records had been hidden from her as a child and teen. Kimberly and her colleagues work to protect the rights of intersex people in the hopes that non-medically necessary surgeries will one day only be performed on those old enough to consent.

Over the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, we flew to Colorado to film interviews with Megan, an intersex teen, along with her parents, pastor and youth pastor. Megan shares about finding out about her differences of sex development as a teenager and how it is shaping her faith and their family. While there, we were generously housed by a relative of one of our supporters so we could keep our costs down in the process.

We are working on paring down hours of footage to a 20 minute video for a conference Megan is helping to host at Boston University Feb. 24-26. Follow this link for more information about the conference. Friday's screening will be open to the public and free of charge.

To all of our donors:  THANK YOU for putting us on the path to educating the wider public about intersex people, their presence in our faith communities, and their need for legal protections and welcome among us.  

We still need help in our fundraising efforts, so please share about our work and connect us to those you think would support this project.

To make sure you don't miss our updates, join our mailing list HERE.

Thanks friends,

Megan DeFranza

 

Megan DeFranza with Marissa at Boston Logan Airport

Megan DeFranza with Marissa at Boston Logan Airport

Paul Van Ness filming Megan's interview with Megan

Paul Van Ness filming Megan's interview with Megan

Hanging out with Megan's family in Colorado Springs

Hanging out with Megan's family in Colorado Springs

Paul capturing Colorado landscape

Paul capturing Colorado landscape

From Portland, Maine, to Los Angeles, CA

We have had a very busy Autumn.

In September, the Bangor Theological Seminary Center brought us to Portland, Maine, to give a public lecture on the University of New England campus. This was followed by a half-day workshop for pastors, priests, and Christians leaders.

This past weekend in October, the Reformation Project brought us out to Los Angeles to serve as keynote speakers at their annual conference on LGBT inclusion. Many there, while passionate about including people who don’t fit into the typical patterns of love or gender expression, had never heard an intersex Christian tell their story. She was rewarded with a standing ovation.

 

 

 

While in town, Azusa Pacific University asked us to train some of their students, from their social work, psychology, and pastoral care programs, on how they can come alongside those for whom sex does not develop along typical pathways.

These have been days of rich conversations, eager and thoughtful learning, and encouragement for the work we are doing.

The majority of people we talk to have never heard of intersex or Differences of Sex Development (DSDs) so thinking about how human sex diversity challenges the ways in which many of us were taught to read the Bible is new to many. But when they start to read Genesis in a way that fits with the grand story of God’s love for the whole world, not for only a special few… Let me tell you… We heard more than a few “Amens!” from our audiences.

What a joy it is to meet Christians who truly care, who are willing to learn, who are eager to make the world a safer and more welcoming place for all God’s children.

Thanks to all of you who came and encouraged us and a special thanks to those who donated to our documentary project. We can’t do this work without your support!

Gratefully,

Megan and Lianne

Welcome & How we began

Welcome you to our new site where we can share with you some of the work we are doing together. 

Lianne found Megan on FaceBook back when Megan was working on her doctoral dissertation--the document that would eventually become her book, Sex Difference in Christian Theology: Male, Female, and Intersex in the Image of God. Lianne lamented the fact that she had yet to find theological resources about intersex that she could feel comfortable and confident sharing with her conservative pastor. She was hoping Megan's work would provide part of that solution. Meanwhile Megan was glad to find someone willing to read three hundred pages and give feedback on her developing ideas. 

Lianne had been active in education, advocacy, and support for years long before we met. She is an active blogger and founder of xyTurners, a support group for children with Mixed Gonadal Dysgenesis, some of whom had treatment induced gender dysphoria. Finding stories to be a powerful medium she wrote Confessions of a Teenage Hermaprodite, a fictionalized account of and intersex boy growing up in a conservative Christian family. Lianne has gone on to publish another novel, A Proper Young Ladythe story of a girl with AIS (Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome) coming to terms with her own identity, her desires for love and family.

For several years we communicated via email until an opportunity arose to speak together at the Wild Goose Festival, in Hot Springs, NC, in August of 2013. There, in the rain and humidity under a small white tent by the river Lianne shared some of her story of growing up intersex, finding faith in Jesus, and eventually, finally,  integrating both of these aspects of her identity. Megan recounted how Christians have historically read the Bible in ways that marginalize intersex persons and then suggested alternative—we think better—ways of interpreting the Bible. Thus our partnership began.

Now we speak together, and write, and are collaborating on new ways to get the message out, the message that Christian faith does not need to marginalize those who do not fit neatly into the categories of "Son of Adam" or "Daughter of Eve." We believe all of our churches and communities of faith can be places where all of God's children are safe and all are welcome.

We hope you'll join us.