Bridge Building, Hope, Human Rights, Intersex Activist, Intersex Awareness, Intersex Erasure, Intersex History, Intersex inclusion, Prejudice

An Intersex Gay Transgender Man’s Plea: A Call for Action to All Welcoming Queer and LGBTQ+ Loving Religious Affiliations

This poster was shared from Rainbow Human Rights Community on Facebook.

My message is an urgent call for action to our intersex allies.  Especially if you are a part of any religious affiliation that is adding and lifting up LGBTQ+ people.  As a people, who embrace queerology and ethics, it is imperative that we change the narrative that intersex people are born a disorder, syndrome, or birth defect.  It is an imperative that in order to honor our existence that our cultures stop conflating sex (physiological traits) with gender (identity, which is in our brains and hearts).   As you will soon see, it is also imperative that we all dismantle colonialism and white supremacy because it is this same force that has attempted to erase all intersex people from the planet.  Inclusion is not helpful without dismantling wrong belief that has come from these people in power and control.

I am currently a Master of Divinity Seminarian at Meadville Lombard Theological School.  I was born with Ashkenazi, Castilian, Spanish, and German ancestry.  I was also born intersex, as a result of my Ashkenazi Jewish genes, and raised a girl in error.  As seen here, the prevalence of my intersex variation is high:

“Certain ethnic groups, such as patients of Ashkenazi Jewish and Italian ancestry, are genetically more predisposed to the condition. It has been reported that 1 in 3 Ashkenazi Jews is a carrier of a mutation responsible for non-classical CAH, and 1 in 27 is affected….”[1]

I would live the first forty-six years of my life becoming sicker because of it too.  I would not know I was “intersex” and not a disorder until I saw my first trans man on social media at the age of forty-six, headed to hospice; I was so sick.  I was dying.  I saw I could exist, finally, and had been lied to as a child, taught to be a girl, and greatly harmed with John Money style conversion therapy.  John Money was a Psychologist and Sexologist who believed that a child’s gender and sexual identity could be taught to them.  A theory that conflates sex traits with gender identity and to this day continues to harm intersex children.  He established the John Hopkins Gender Identity Clinic, the first clinic in the United States to perform sexual reassignment surgeries on both infants and adults.[2]

     As I emancipated my true gender identity, I would quickly circle myself with other queer intersex and transgender people; and those who are our true allies.  I would lift myself up by 2015 as one of the first LGBTQIA+ Gender/Intersex Activists. Sadly, the intersex community is fractured due to white supremacy, racism, transphobia, homophobia, and queerphobia; where I have often been rejected.  You see, not all intersex people want to be a part of the Queer Rainbow.  I do not mind calling myself an intersex, trans man, or queer.  I also call myself gay to describe my sexual orientation.  I would assume, from my presence on social media, with intersex support groups and intersex friends, that 50% of the intersex community is LGBTQ, non-binary, or queer in some way and celebrate being a part of the queer rainbow. This means most all intersex people know LGBTQ prejudice too and receive the collateral damage of all that homophobic and transphobic hate, no matter how we label ourselves.

New Words that can help:  Endosex and Cultural Dysphoria

     In order to do these things, I offer a new word, “endosex,” to describe people who are not born with intersex traits.  I will also offer a new concept: culture dysphoria, which shows that it is not our personal problem with gender dysphoria, but a societal problem that has to change to accept our existence, once again, beyond the binary.  I shared in my TEDx Talk Born Intersex: we are human, that I had more human rights to exist in the 1600s than I do today, with the invention of sex/gender being only two: man/endosex male and woman/endosex female.  To this day, many intersex people still call themselves a disorder of sex development (DSD), just like the medical complex wants us to.  Also, to this day, many intersex people live as the wrong gender due to their own inner homophobia and transphobias.  I warn though that not all intersex people who transition from one to the other gender are transgender.  The reason is simple: some of us have our genitals mutilated with nonconsenting, cosmetic, medically unnecessary surgeries as young children.  If an intersex person had nonconsenting genital changing surgery as a child and was unhappy about it as an adult, we would never tell this person they were transgender.  Especially if that person’s gender identity was a man, and they had their phallus surgically removed to appear a female, in error.  There are also intersex women and non-binary people who were surgically violated.  They too could be harmed by being called transgender unless they agree to the word.  

The labels that we call ourselves have to be self-determination only.  As you can see, to be truly welcoming congregations, there is a huge responsibility to listen with care and to never assume one’s sex or gender; and this respect will go far beyond just honoring our required pronouns.  That we have to understand how sometimes it is not our gender dysphoria but culture’s dysphoria that goes against our queer existence.

Looking back to the past: there we were born in the image of God too! 

It is sometimes important to go back to the past and look at the ancient religious texts that show that we have existed since the beginning of time.   A time before a white Christian patriarchy came to deny our existence and surgically justify eugenic practices to erase us.   A time before we conflated sex traits with gender identity, and people who were born eunuchs could live as a eunuch and even be celebrated and lifted up by the bible.  Today many Christian theologians, like Megan K DeFranza Ph.D., now believe that the eunuchs born that way describes intersex people. Here is one of my favorite quotes from the bible that gives me back my dignity:

“This is what the Lord says: “Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand, and my righteousness will soon be revealed.  Blessed is the one who does this- the person who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it, and keeps their hands from doing any evil.” Let no foreigner who is bound to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.”  And let no eunuch complain, “I am only a dry tree.” For this is what the Lord says: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast my covenant – to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughter; I will give them an everlasting name that will endure forever.”   Isaiah 56: 1-5

As you can clearly read, God loves intersex people and all the eunuchs.  That we are possibly revered even higher than endosex people.   I believe in my heart that as my sacred contract, as a seminarian, if I continue to do what is right, I too will receive “a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters….”

The Eugenics of Intersex People: all caused by a

White Endosex Cisgender Heterosexual Patriarchal Supremacy

     Throughout time and by the medical complex, we have been given various names to describe our physiology.  Eugenics is alive and well.  It arrives in the form of taking our fertility away if we are born with it; surgically removing our ability to sexually function or orgasm when too young to consent, and by even suggesting that our intersex fetal lives be terminated by abortion.  As a man with a uterus, who gave birth twice with the aid of a c-section, I am pro-choice for the right of a pregnant person to have an abortion.  I am obviously not pro-intersex eugenics because I now know my variation of intersex is often aborted.  We are rarely born now due to many genetic specialist suggesting that the intersex fetus be aborted.  

I hope to prove that in the past, ancient religions celebrated our existence.  So again, we can live proudly and safely, regardless of if an intersex person feels they should join the LGBTQ+ Queer movement(s) or not.  You see, not all of us intersex will be LGBTQ or Queer.  It is my hope I will leave the reader with a profound sense of our right to exist whole and become a part of humanity again.  By the end, I hope to leave a call for action to show, in our churches and across the country, this urgent call for action.  The time is now to help end this eugenic, surgical, and psychiatric attack against intersex people.   Our government and medical complex are not budging when we activists have educated and pleaded with them.  That we need to urgently end this “cultural dysphoria”[3] that is literally killing us due to white supremacy, a patriarchy, endosexism, transphobia, homophobia, queerphobia, and intersex phobia. 

A Message from the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner

Intersex Fact Sheet states:

What does ‘intersex’ mean? 

Intersex people are born with sex characteristics (including genitals, gonads and chromosome patterns) that do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies. 

Intersex is an umbrella term used to describe a wide range of natural bodily variations. In some cases, intersex traits are visible at birth while in others, they are not apparent until puberty. Some chromosomal intersex variations may not be physically apparent at all. 

According to experts, between 0.05% and 1.7% of the population is born with intersex traits – the upper estimate is similar to the number of red haired people. 

Being intersex relates to biological sex characteristics, and is distinct from a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. An intersex person may be straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual or asexual, and may identify as female, male, both or neither. 

Because their bodies are seen as different, intersex children and adults are often stigmatized and subjected to multiple human rights violations, including violations of their rights to health and physical integrity, to be free from torture and ill-treatment, and to equality and non-discrimination. 

Physical integrity 

It has become common practice to subject intersex children to unnecessary surgical and other procedures for the purpose of trying to make their appearance conform to binary sex stereotypes. 

These often irreversible procedures can cause permanent infertility, pain, incontinence, loss of sexual sensation, and lifelong mental suffering, including depression. Regularly performed without the full, free and informed consent of the person concerned, who is frequently too young to be part of the decision-making, these procedures may violate their rights to physical integrity, to be free from torture and ill-treatment, and to live free from harmful practices. 

Such procedures are frequently justified on the basis of cultural and gender norms and discriminatory beliefs about intersex people and their integration into society. 

Discriminatory attitudes can never justify human rights violations, including forced treatment and violations of the right to physical integrity. States have a duty to combat harmful stereotypes and discrimination, rather than reinforcing them. Such procedures may sometimes also be justified on the basis of alleged health benefits, but these are often proposed on the basis of weak evidence and without discussing alternative solutions that protect physical integrity and respect autonomy. 

Unfortunately, such beliefs and societal pressures are often reflected by doctors, as well as parents of intersex children, who may encourage and/or give their agreement to such procedures, despite the lack of medical indication, necessity or urgency, and despite the fact that such procedures may violate human rights standards. Agreement is frequently given in absence of information on the short and long-term consequences of such surgery and lack of contact with peers, including intersex adults and their families. 

Many intersex adults exposed to such surgery as children emphasize the shame and stigma linked to attempts to erase their intersex traits, as well as significant physical and mental suffering, including as a result of extensive and painful scarring. Many also feel that they were forced into sex and gender categories that do not fit them. 

Given their irreversible nature and impact on physical integrity and autonomy, such medically unnecessary, unsolicited surgery or treatment should be prohibited. Intersex children and their families should receive adequate counselling and support, including from peers. 

Discrimination 

Intersex persons are often subjected to discrimination and abuse if it becomes known that they are intersex, or if they are perceived not to conform to gender norms. Anti-discrimination laws do not typically ban discrimination against intersex persons, leaving them vulnerable to discriminatory practices in a range of settings, including access to health services, education, public services, employment and sports. 

Health-care professionals often lack the needed training, knowledge and understanding to take into account the specific health needs of intersex persons, provide appropriate healthcare, and respect the autonomy and rights of intersex persons to physical integrity and health. 

Some intersex people also face barriers and discrimination if they wish to or need to amend sex markers on birth certificates and official documents. 

Intersex athletes face a specific set of obstacles. There have been several cases of female intersex athletes who have been disqualified from sports competitions on the basis of their intersex traits. However, being intersex of itself does not entail better performance, whereas other physical variations that do affect performance, such as height and muscle development, are not subjected to such scrutiny and restrictions. 

Protection and Remedy

Intersex people should be protected from violations of their rights. Whenever such violations occur, they should be investigated and alleged perpetrators prosecuted. Victims should have access to effective remedy, including redress and compensation. 

Intersex people should also be consulted in the development of legislation and policies that impact on their rights. 

Action points 

States:
» Prohibit medically unnecessary surgery and procedures on the sex characteristics of intersex children, protect their physical integrity and respect their autonomy. 

» Ensure that intersex people and their families receive adequate counselling and support, including from peers. 

» Prohibit discrimination on the basis of intersex traits, characteristics or status, including in education, health care, employment, sports and access to public services, and address such discrimination through relevant anti-discrimination initiatives. 

» Ensure that human rights violations against intersex people are investigated and alleged perpetrators prosecuted, and that victims of such violations have access to effective remedy, including redress and compensation. 

» National human rights bodies should research and monitor the human rights situation of intersex people. 

» Enact laws to provide for facilitated procedures to amend sex markers on the birth certificates and official documents of intersex people. 

» Provide health care personnel with training on the health needs and human rights of intersex people and the appropriate advice and care to give to parents and intersex children, being respectful of the intersex person’s autonomy, physical integrity and sex characteristics. 

» Ensure that members of the judiciary, immigration officers, law enforcement, healthcare, education and other officials and personnel are trained to respect and provide equal treatment to intersex persons. 

» Ensure that intersex people and organizations are consulted and participate in the development of research, legislation and policies that impact on their rights. 

Media: 

  • »  Include the voices of intersex people and groups in newspaper, TV and radio coverage.
  • »  Give an objective and balanced picture of intersex people and their human rights concerns.
  • »  Do not make assumptions about the sexual orientation or gender identity of intersex people.

You, your friends, and other individuals can make a difference too: 

  • »  Speak out when you see any form of discrimination or violence against intersex people. 
    • »  Remember that intersex people may have any sexual orientation and gender identity. [4]

I urge you to print this PDF above to distribute and educate others; please go to Free and Equal United Nations for LGBT Equality: https://www.unfe.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/UNFE-Intersex.pdf

Human Sexual Diversity 

and All of Us Being Born in the Image of God

The Ancient Babylonian Epic of Creation Story, the Enuma Elish (c.1700-1200BCE, predates Moses) is one of the first creation stories known to this planet.  These stories are found on seven tablets discovered by an English archaeologist Austen Henry Layard in 1849.  In my own words, I will share from my heart the first story of Adam and Eve.  In short, in this Ancient Babylonian creation story, The Anunnaki Deities are born of Apsu (freshwater God), and Tidmat (saltwater goddess), and their children would be The Anunnaki (deities).  The Anunnaki would then create the first human being.  The words are very similar to that which we can read in Genesis (in which Moses is the authorship of in Genesis 1 1400-1200 BCE).  They would name the first human “Adam,” too.  This person was created “Androgynos,” and this meant they were both male and female in their sex traits.  To create Eve The Anunnaki cut Adam into two equal halves.  One side is male/man, the other female/woman.  They would name her Eve.  Thus, the Enuma Elish attempted to tell this world to treat man and woman as equals and not the patriarchal stories of the bible.  Eve coming from Adam’s rib and being created subordinate to serve man was not the original message to this Earth.  The Anunnaki would create these two with fertility, and to be treated equally, so that they could populate the Earth with people to care for the Earth and all its animals.   

As time went on, Israel shared that the original Israelite people should only worship one God. Genesis argues why the God of Israel is superior to Babylon and all its Gods. As read in Exodus 20:2 You shall have no other Gods beside me.  Most do not realize this, but the original Israelites accepted The Anunnaki and were Henotheistic.  Their message was that only one God should be worshiped.  Nevertheless, they noticed that with the birth of babies, more than male and female were being born. 

      If we look at the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis, it says got created us male and female.  It does not state male or female.  My intersex activist friend, Sally Gross, who died in 2014, suggests:

 “…that although many people appeal to Genesis 1:27 to “prove” that people were designed to be male or female, it can also be interpreted as suggesting that all humans are (or were, in the primal creation) both male and female.  Gross also discusses rabbinic glosses of other Hebrew Bible texts, noting a tradition surrounding Abraham’s and Sarah’s putative intersex status.  This she argues, makes clear that intersex need not be understood as somehow alien or other to the Bible’s picture of human sex.”[5]

In the bible, many people do not realize it yet, but some of us intersex people were known as “the eunuch born that way.”   There are three types of eunuchs in the bible.  Those who become eunuch at the hands of others.  Those who become eunuch with their own action, and then there are those of us born that way.  Which would now be some people born with intersex traits of male and female, but without testicles.  When this quote below says a “dry tree” as an intersex man, I assume they are talking about a penis that is not capable of urinating from the tip (hypospadias), possibly a phallus or phallo-clitoris, or possibly referring to infertility (no external testicles or gonads).  

The colonialization of America and the 

Erasure of Indigenous Intersex and Transgender People

Upon the arrival of the first explorers to what we now know as the United States, they estimated that over ten million Indigenous people[6] lived on this land.  According to a Census, as of 1900, the number had dropped down to 300,000 people, with the population growing back somewhat in modern times.  The book Spectrum of Sex… describes a horrible recount of what happens next to what we now call intersex and transgender people:

“The European explorers, armed with murderous priests, began a systemic execution of those in the neither male nor female groups.  The executions of these communities, such as the Nadleehi and Dilbaa (and their children) within my people, the Navajo, were used to successfully instill fear of intersex and trans people.  Navajo culture and language has traditionally recognized four genders:  Asdzaan, Hastiin, Nadleehi and Dilbaa.”[7]  

Note: Please be mindful that we do not know if they were referring to sex traits or gender identity, but will assume they were also talking about sex traits since they are visible to the eye at our birth. Once again, we see the conflation of sex and gender causing confusion to our readers.

From what I can decipher, it is believed that the Nadleehi, would have been those with physical intersex traits, and the others would now be labeled lesbian, gay, transgender, or non-binary with today’s labels.  To this day, indigenous intersex people are forced into a heteronormative male or female-only recognition of their sex and gender, with many being assigned wrong, sometimes surgically, and violated psychologically in so doing.  As you can see, just like the Ancient Talmud of Judaism, they too had a way to describe human sexual diversity that were honored by our indigenous people.  An obvious great threat to colonizers, driven by Christianity and what they felt were savages and an abomination.     

 I have also investigated other cultures because I know ancient Hinduism also lifted up more than male/man and female/woman with their deities: Shiva and Ardhanarishvara, which to me shows that there was a reason to honor such gods.  A sign to me that we were walking around since the beginning of time, too.  To this day, intersex, eunuchs, and transgender people are known as Hijra, Aravani, Aruvani, and Jogappa, in India.  Some call this “third gender,” which you now can see is highly problematic since “gender” has sadly become a bucket term that conflates sex (physiological sex traits) with gender (identity in our hearts and brains).   In India, some of these “third gender” people prefer to call themselves Kinnar or Kinner, referring to the mythological beings that excel at song and dance.   Before white British colonialization, these people were lifted up in India and revered as a part of human diversity. Now, due to colonialization and a white patriarchy, they are cast down, and most live in poverty and are marginalized terribly.   As you can see, many different worldwide words describe human diversity, sex traits, and gender variations.  When referring to other cultures, it is very important that we retain their language and never impose our western labels onto other cultures.  

The Voice of Jewish Trans Man Rabbi

Thankfully, YouTube and other social media platforms have become a powerful way to change culture and educate people against the false binary rhetoric of many churches, some in the government and some in the medical complex.  Who continue to pathologize human diversity and do catastrophic harm.  I appreciated seeing this outreach on social media from Trans Man Rabbi Elliot Kukla, who shares on his TransTorah YouTube channel: 

“There is a text from the Mishnah which is the very earliest layer of what becomes Jewish law, from like the first or second century.  So it’s like a 2000-year-old text, and they’re talking about the TumTum, which is one of the genders beyond male or female in Jewish classical texts. So not everyone realizes but there are actually six genders and Judaism.  Male and female, and then there are four other genders beyond the binary.  In this conversation about the Tumtum, there being a conversation between the two rabbis, and they’re saying in some ways TumTum is like a man in some ways that TumTum is like a woman, and then there is one rabbi that comes in with the opinion and says actually he is a created being of her own.  A beautiful mixed grammar and is also referring to the TumTum as just a just a completely unique being in God’s image. It really speaks to me for myself, but really for all humans…one of the blessings for me having worked as a trans ordained rabbi….that this text is a beautiful example that the rabbis were seeing this as well.”  www.transtorah.org [8]

To Become Truly Welcoming Congregations

     To truly be welcoming congregations, I believe that we need to reclaim and rework traditions from our Ancient People, who did not erase us, and to create collective healing for the intersex community and truly create healing for a society that also needs this liberation.   The system that exists right now, due to colonization and white supremacy, is not working.   We also need to see the urgency to dismantle the wrong belief that there are only two endosex male/man and endosex female/woman; that our congregations need to add one more statement in every welcome:  we honor everyone regardless of their “sex traits.”   We must go beyond gender and dare to enter the taboo verbiage that mentions our genitals, reproductive systems, and chromosomes. We literally need to dismantle this binary force that has attempted to erase intersex people.  Our intersex salvation is our liberation.  This is our planet too.  My plea to you:  

“This is our future that our intersex births be celebrated again.  This is our future that my world becomes your world and that your world can now become our world.  That what’s between the legs stops being the determining factor of our gender identity, whom we should love, and how we should all dress.  That each and every one of us gets the self-determination over our own gender identity and that we can all become equal.  This is our future that this gender binary ideal end.  That the truth be told now.  No one should feel like they don’t belong to their own world.  Help us end cultural dysphoria.  We exist!  We are real! And yes, we are human!”[9]  


Sources:

[1] Maria G. Voglatzi, MD. And Dix P. Poppas, M.D. “Fact Sheet: The Comprehensive Center for Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH)” Weill Cornell Medical College, PDF: https://www.nyp.org/pdf/komansky/NC-CAH_Adolescents_and_Adults.pdf

[2] Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia. “John Money” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Money

[3] TEDxJacksonville, “TEDxJacksonville Born Intersex: we are human!” Written by Anunnaki Marquez, November 29, 2018, on YouTube,  http://bit.ly/TEDxMxAnunnakiRayMarquez

[4] United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, 
“United Nations Intersex Fact Sheet,” United Nations for LGBT Equality, https://www.unfe.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/UNFE-Intersex.pdf

[5]   Susannah Cornwall, Intersex Theology and the Bible, Troubling Bodies in Church, Texts, and Society (United States, New York, NY,  Palgrave MacMillan, 2015). Page 12.

[6] Maria Neto, Ph.D. and Hida Viloria. The Spectrum of Sex: The Science of Male, Female and Intersex (London and Philadelphia, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, Hatchette Books, 2017).  Page 33

[7] Ibid Page 33

[8] Rabbi Eliot Kukla, “Judaism Has How Many Genders?,” TransTorah, YouTube, July 16, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWcYzulXW1U  

[9] TEDxJacksonville, “TEDxJacksonville Born Intersex: we are human!” Written by Anunnaki Marquez, November 29, 2018, on YouTube,  http://bit.ly/TEDxMxAnunnakiRayMarquez

Note: This blog was written first as a Term Paper for my Meadville Lombard Theology Seminary for my Queer Theology and Ethic Class; Summer Term of 2022. I want to thank our professor, Dr. Elyse Ambrose, for helping educate me and helping me become a better activist.

~.V.~

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