left biblioblography: THE THIRD GENDER - THE SEXUAL TRILEMMA OF THEOLOGY

Sunday, February 11, 2007

THE THIRD GENDER - THE SEXUAL TRILEMMA OF THEOLOGY

One of my favorite tactics, when I argue online with a theist about the civil right issue of gay marriage , is to hit them with 'What about intersexuals? Who do they get to marry?'

Finally, one of them started asking cogent questions (the usual response is a 'fum-fah, sputter sputter, ummmm' sorta thing), such as how many actually exist, are there any studies about this, etc.

I recall many years ago, reading in a Taoist book (the title eludes me for the nonce) about how the ancient Taoists actually considered the intersexual a sort of holy creature, being composed of equal amounts of Yin and Yang.

I think this speaks to the constant badgering that those of us hear when debating this hot topic ('one man/one woman paradigm', you know the drill, and if you don't? You'll hear it soon enough, trust you me).

Thus, armed with a mission, the Internet, and an inquiring mind (no, not that of the tabloid variety, thanks much!), I went net-fishing.

Caught a few prizes along the way, to boot.

Here is an entry (and this is South Asia alone):

Hijra -

"In the culture of the Indian subcontinent a hijra (also known by a number of different names and romanised spellings) is usually considered a member of "the third sex" — neither man nor woman. Most are physically male or intersex, but some are female. Hijras usually refer to themselves as female at the language level, and usually dress as women. Census data does not exist, but estimates range from 50,000 to 5,000,000 in India alone.

Although they are usually referred to in English as "eunuchs", relatively few have any genital modifications.[1] A third gender has existed in the subcontinent from the earliest records, and was clearly acknowledged in Vedic culture, throughout the history of Hinduism, as well as in the royal courts of Islamic rulers."

Wow. And of course, thanks to gender-phobia, many of them are forced into prostitution, and are harshly mistreated in their own country. Gee, that sounds familiar, doesn't it?

I will skip over the Kathoeys of Thailand, as they tend to have cosmetic surgery to become the third gender.

There's not a whole lot of information about the Winkte of the Native American, except that they were held in high esteem. There's even less about the Berdache.

The Arabian Khanith is apparently a transgendered (transvestitic) individual, but not hermaphroditic. The Roman Galli were priests who voluntarilly castrated themselves (brrhhh!!), and thus do not fall into this category.

For the interested reader, there's more at Wikipedia.

For an interesting article concerning self-impregnation by these individuals, see here.

Are there censuses being done? I'm making an educated guess here, but from what I've learned (about this country as well as information about others), I have the distinct impression that these folks aren't volunteering a whole lot of the time, for obvious reasons. Gender discrimination, outcasting, you know, all those wonderful things that mark the religious as a rule.

All the research having been done, it is then incumbent on us as moral beings, to approach the question: what about these individuals? It doesn't matter if there are 5 million or just five individuals. The theist (usually those of the 'the way gawd made them' variety too, I have no doubt) will do an about-face and trumpet for elective/cosmetic surgery on the child (which doesn't usually take very well: as I understand it, this accounts for a large percentile of the folks who want 'corrective' surgery later in life, i.e., a sex change).

I feel this subject puts the theologian on further shaky ground. For one thing, how would a theist judge this? Is this the Devil's doing, or God's? How do they choose? Would these 'aberrations' (that's sarcasm, by the way) qualify as a miracle? Could it be that this is actually the true image of their deity...not male, nor female, but a combination of the two? Was Plato closer to the mark, in his Symposium? And how does free will factor into this? Does the child, when grown into an adult, get the option to reverse the gender choice? If not, why not?

Is it best to kow-tow to the opinion of the majority? Is that the Christian God's will? What happened to 'His ways are mysterious, a wonder to behold'? And if no surgery is performed, then who on earth do they get to marry? While I'm guessing that one set of genitalia will take precedence over another, there may be the individual who has fully functioning sets of both - what then? Are they doomed to a life of loneliness, prostitution, deemed as 'less than human', making the odd porn film here and there? Relegated to the dim, gloomy gutters of humanity, consigned to the status of circus freak (a more terrible form of 'schadenfreude' I cannot imagine), resigned to the pointed finger, the whispered palm, viewed as something less than human?

Mind you this: I'm not blaming religion for the phenomenon of xenophobia. That's a part of the feral processes that we inherited from evolution. But somehow, religion tends to reinforce this territorial inclination in the human animal. 'Conform!' they cry, waving that evil grimoire of theirs. 'Leper, outcast, unclean!' they bellow from the pulpits, from the rooftops. Somehow, religion tends to shear away their empathy for all except those in their inner circle. While there may be some who view the issue I present here with the compassion they are called upon to display, they are by far in the minority. Prove me wrong on this, please.

The world shall be a better place, when we stop regarding what is different as evil - no harm, no foul. When the whisper of old ghosts who never were have no sway in the world of the living, the breathing, in short: reality.

Till the next post, then.

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7 comments:

beepbeepitsme said...

Religions have always had issues with sexuality which is why they have great difficulty in coming to grips with any sexual or physical orientation outside their prescribed belief.

Personally, I think the reason that religions are like this is because procreation means economic and political power. The more followers you can breed, the more powerful the religious construct becomes.

Krystalline Apostate said...

BBIM - I think it's primarily Western religions that have control issues coming out the yinyang (IAMOS).

karen said...

What a moral dilemma it would be to be the parent of a baby born with two sets of genetalia. I can see the natural inclination to want to make the baby more "normal," but how on earth to pick which sex it should be?
What if you make the wrong choice?

And if you don't eliminate one outward aspect of sexuality, how do you raise the child? Especially in a western society.

As for those who've made it to adulthood intact, I'd say they should marry whomsoever is understanding enough to love them as they are, be it man, woman or another of the "third sex".

The sheer numbers of possibilities in India alone amazed me. I wouldn't have thought it to be as common an occurance.

Very interesting post. And I didn't even get into any of the religious brouhaha on the subject.

Krystalline Apostate said...

Hi Karen.
I recently saw a post by a lady who's son/daughter was intersexual. She was pissed, boy howdy! Seems the child ran across a helluva lot of homophobia.
Most xtians would (as per my debate on the NGB) stipulate that 1 of the sets have got to go. 'Majority rule' & all that.
I am unclear as to how many of the Indian stats would qualify as being ambiguous in the matter, as I've observed before: they probably don't volunteer the info.
It's 1 of those subjects the religious would like to make monochromatic, when it is anything but.

karen said...

KA
I just took the time to read the entire discourse on that blog you linked to. Quite an interesting convo.
Willa's story was indeed heartbreaking, and illustrates the problems I asked about. I certainly hope the healing continues for her family.

Anonymous said...

Hi, just a quick question.
When did intersexual, with this meaning, replace hermaphrodite?

It seems to me that using intersexual in this manner could sow confusion, given its more common meaning and usage.

As for who they marry or have sex with, well like the rest of us I guess someone who loves them and whom they love.

Krystalline Apostate said...

Hi anonymous.
It hasn't really replaced it (& there are other synonyms as well), but the h. term is used by the porn industry as a synonym for TS.
As for who they marry or have sex with, well like the rest of us I guess someone who loves them and whom they love.
Hear, hear.