Friday, February 5, 2016

Sex Difference in Christian Theology: Male, Female, and Intersex in the Image of God by Megan K. DeFranza

Like any good book on theology should, this book brings the reader one step closer to God even as they learn more about I in LGBTQIA. (For the uninitiated, here's what I learnt from the author: "Intersex" is a term used to describe persons who do not fit into standard medical descriptions of male or female. It is not a diagnosis but an umbrella concept used to cover a wide range of variations in sex development. Many intersex conditions result in ambiguous genitalia, either at birth or throughout the life course of the individual; however, not all intersex conditions are indicated by genital inspection.)

Megan DeFranza has written a well-researched (The bibliography is 19 pages long and every chapter is chockful of footnotes) and very educational book on the intersex. She attempts to also weave in theology to help us understand where intersex people fit in if God created "male and female" in His image and likeness.

Chapter 1 is an interesting introduction to the topic with lots of medical definitions because those who are intersex are on a spectrum. 

Chapter 2 is on eunuchs in the Bible, a type of intersex that is recorded in Scripture and the historical context they are found in.

Chapter 3 is a woefully long chapter on the history of intersex in the Classical Period, Modern Period and Postmodern Period that I was glad to be done reading (it was so dry, cos you know, history), but which Megan put it in to please her history professor (This was kinda like her thesis for her PhD).

Chapter 4, 5, and 6 explored theological anthropology in the postmodern period and is when things get exciting. I really enjoyed reading the second part and kept posting photos of various parts of the text on Instagram, spamming my befuddled readers with choice passages. 

Here is sample of something I posted:

"Secure sex, gender, and sexual identities can be just as much a stumbling block to transformation in the image of Christ as ambiguous identities. Whatever the identity, it must be placed under the scrutiny of the Scriptures by the help of the Spirit so that we may discern what must be put to death and what must be cultivated."

Very interesting, is it not?

What I found most striking was the fact that the presence of a third gender was common knowledge in the past but is sadly absent in the present day. Doctors reinforce the gender binary by operating on babies who grow up to sometimes experience severe dysphoria. This could have been prevented if surgery wasn't an option and doctors weren't so presumptuous. After all, before surgery was invented these kids just developed naturally and chose their preferred gender at puberty or beyond.

I spoke to a paediatrician and she told me that it is essential for parents to know the gender of the kid at birth or they'll experience unease. I told her I understood where she was coming from. But when I explained that they grow up to experience gender dysphoria, she had no reply.

I especially loved the second half of the book that explored theology together with the intersex and it's something I'll have to read again soon. There is so much to unpack and I'm afraid I'll overwhelm you if I begin to expound on it here in this review if you've not read the first part of the book.

If you're interested in this, you can get it at Book Depository with free shipping or Amazon if that's what you prefer.


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