Lianne wrote a letter to her PCA pastor after the denomination deliberated over signing the Nashville Statement, another Anti-LGBT document which skates over intersex people’s experiences. A few weeks ago it was the Congregation for Catholic Education with its statement. This weekend, the PCA.
We at Intersex and Faith have our work cut out for us. Please consider becoming a regular donor to Intersex and Faith to make it possible for us to free up time to respond to these religious leaders and to complete our curriculum for churches to help church leaders listen to the stories of intersex people of faith, some like Lianne, from their own denominations.
Last night, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America passed Overture 4, by which they endorsed the Nashville Statement, a document written by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
Article VI of the Nashville Statement says that those born with a “physical disorder of sex development” (i.e. intersex),
“should embrace their biological sex insofar as it may be known.”
Article V states, in part,
“We deny that physical anomalies or psychological conditions nullify the God-appointed link between biological sex and self-conception as male or female.”
If self-conception (i.e. gender identity) can play no role, then how does one determine which sex an intersex person is to embrace?
Dr. Denny Burk, the president of CBMW, and one of the primary authors of the Nashville Statement, reduces sex to the presence or absence of a Y chromosome,
An infant with Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome is born with female external genitalia and has testes in her abdomen, which, if left in place, will give her a feminizing puberty. She could live her entire life without knowing she has XY chromosomes. How is it Biblical to consider her male rather than a barren woman?
Medical studies suggest that the most reliable way of determining the gender of an intersex child is to wait until they’re old enough to speak and then ask them. Historically, the Church expected intersex people, when old enough, to choose either male or female. That’s what I did. My body’s intersex. I have Mixed Gonadal Dysgenesis. I was born with a mix of ovarian and testicular tissue. But some of my cells have a Y chromosome, so Dr. Burk, CBMW, the Nashville Statement—and perhaps now the PCA—would consider me male.
I’ve met hundreds of people with differences of sex development. Understand this—your Nashville Statement drives intersex people away from the Gospel. 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 your precious binary vision of sex. When you say that we should embrace our sex insofar as it may be known, what we hear is that you approve of the things being done to us to coerce our bodies and our genders.
The PCA General Assembly also passed Overture 42, which establishes a study committee on sexuality. The PCA could clarify their stand on intersex and distance themselves from the approach taken by CBMW. It is rare, however, for Christians who issue pronouncements regarding intersex to actually listen to us before they speak.
If you discover that the reason your teenage daughter hasn’t gotten her period yet is that she has testes in her abdomen rather than ovaries and uterus, will your church insist that she’s really male? Often, the most serious issue for parents isn’t having a child whose sex is ambiguous; it’s maintaining a relationship with a church that doesn’t understand the issues they face.
Intersex and Faith’s mission is to help communities of faith minister to those born with a body outside the male-female binary. Our documentary, Stories of Intersex and Faith addresses how some people reconcile their faith with having a body that’s not entirely male or female. Our small-group curriculum is in beta test.
What if the doctors aren’t sure whether your newborn is male or female? Then contact us. We’ll help you find other parents of similar faith who also have an intersex child.
Rather than suggesting that an intersex child’s sex or gender be coerced based on the presence or absence of a Y chromosome, why not join us in helping those with a difference of sex development to thrive within the PCA?
I’m female in the eyes of God’s law. I hope to remain in good standing with Faith Presbyterian and the PCA.