As a Christians and as a gay individual, understanding God’s will on gender and sexuality is absolutely relevant. This has been studied by philosophers and scholars for thousands of years, and it still is. We Christians based our ideologies on Scripture, and Scripture speak significantly on the topic. Although is important to understand that we can’t jump to conclusions rapidly; many parts of Scripture today are not taken literally because they were never meant to be. So we must always be opened minded to God’s revelation as we try to rightly divide the Word.
In my studies of Scripture and human sexuality, I have come to the conclusion that the basis of most Christian ideologies regarding gender and sexuality are primarily focused on the Creation narrative. When God created Adam and Eve, not only humankind came to be, but with them gender and sexuality came to be as well. This is how the book of Genesis describes the dawn of human history:
27 So God created humankindin his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1: 27)
Many perhaps have heard and even used the phrase: It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. In Latin America the play of words can’t be made so usually most people that oppose gay marriage simply quote Scripture directly: “God created male and female, not two males, nor two females.” Although there are some passages in the Bible that speak negatively regarding homosexuality, the primary basis to reject homosexuality for many Christians lays on Genesis 1. They claim that God created one man and one woman, and as such God made clear what His design for human sexuality is. Homosexuality then falls outside God’s design and is therefore sinful.
As a Christian I grew up with this theology, and a believer of the Bible, I found that it was clear that homosexuality, indeed, fell out of God’s design. Because God creates people either male or female, and it has been as such since the beginning, then homosexuality is clearly out of God’s design. This argument has been the foundation of anti-gay theology for thousands of years, but for thousands of years it has been based on a false premise: human beings can only be either male or female, and nothing in between.
This premise is false.
It’s important to make it clear that I’m not saying Scripture is false. Indeed, God did create two humans in the beginning, and one was male and the other female. This is unquestionable. The premise that is false is the idea that human beings can only belong to one sex or the other, a premise that many people still hold today. In my school, we would buy the books we were going to use for each year (so the school didn’t gave us the books just for one year, instead they belonged to us completely). Before I begun 9th grade, I bought the books a couple of days before class begun, and usually sat down to read the ones I found more interestingly, mainly those about history and biology.
I found that day about the existence of intersex individuals. The book touched the topic for barely a couple of pages, but it still deeply intrigued me. I had never heard about intersex individuals before. As far as I was concerned, every single person in the world is either male or female, and that such thing is determined since the moment the sperm fertilizes the egg. However, we live in a complex world, and things can get very complicated. Intersex is a variation in sex characteristics including chromosomes, gonads, or genitals that do not allow an individual to be distinctly identified as male or female.
There are many intersex conditions. In some cases a person is born with ambiguous genitals. Sometimes, the person has genitals that clearly belong to one sex, but genetically and internally speaking, they have characteristics of the other sex. It sounds strange, but it’s more common than most people think. One interesting condition is called Androgen insensitivity syndrome. This is a condition that results in the partial or complete inability of the cell to respond to androgens (male hormones). The unresponsiveness of the cell to the presence of androgenic hormones can impair or prevent the masculinization of male genitalia in the developing fetus, as well as the development of male secondary sexual characteristics at puberty. If a baby with XY chromosomes (genetically male) has this syndrome, it will develop as a girl, because his body doesn’t respond to male hormones. As such, he will develop a vagina and a vulva, but he won’t have ovaries, because he doesn’t have the other X chromosome, instead he may have testes.
A person with this syndrome will develop as a woman, so externally she will look female. And many girls with this syndrome feel as females, not males. However, they have testes and their chromosomes indicate that they are male. This is just one of the many conditions under that intersex umbrella. Besides people with intersex conditions, there are people with Gender Identity Disorder. This people are what many know today as transgender: people that feel discontent with the gender they were assigned at birth, so many try to behave, dress and eventually transition to an individual of the opposite sex. To many people this may seem strange, and even a defiance to the natural order. However, newer evidence shows that genetic variation, hormones, and differences in brain functioning and brain structures provide evidence for the symptoms associated with Gender Identity Disorder. So it’s not just a psychological issue most of the time, it’s something that happens biologically and completely involuntarily.
Scripture doesn’t give a direct answer to this issue. These conditions have existed for millennia, but where not understood at the time Scripture was written. However, Scripture does mention the existence of eunuchs. Eunuchs were men that were castrated, used by Kings to attend their consorts and concubines. Not all eunuchs were castrated men; this term was sometimes used to refer to men that had deformed or mutilated genitalia, or men that were not interested in sex, now known as asexual people. Jesus mentions them in Matthew 19: 11-12:
11 But he said to them, “Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”
It is unclear if the Lord was speaking of intersex people, transgender people, or even gay people. What is clear, however, is that the Lord acknowledges the existence of people, that sexually speaking, fall out of the norm.
This conditions don’t deny the reality of Scripture, but they do show us that the premise that there only exist either male or female individuals is false, and as such not an ideal premise to understand and interpret Scriptures, in order to understand God’s will on sexuality and gender roles. But despite this, many people still use this premise as a basis to understand Scripture, and expectedly they fail to address these issues correctly. Homosexuality is no different; those who believe homosexuality to be a sin don’t have a problem with the race or feelings of the people involved. The main issue boils down to gender. But as Scripture and nature have shown, there is space for variation. It’s true that God created male and female in the beginning, but this doesn’t mean that any variation to this model is necessarily a sin, and this includes homosexuality.
I believe it is imperative for us Christians to revisit our understanding of gender and sex in Scripture, in order to understand God’s will on people that are not clearly heterosexual or, clearly male or female. This must be done soon, but in a way that is compassionate and loving to us LGBTI people.
These are some resources I recommend for starters:
Intersex article on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intersex
Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome article in Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Androgen_insensitivity_syndrome
ISNA (Intersex Society of North America): http://www.isna.org/
This is interesting. Vincent, I appreciate how thoroughly you research your perspective on this divisive matter!
Your reference to Matthew piqued my curiosity enough to go and read it for myself. To lend context and further emphasis, the context of the passages you referenced actually spans Matthew 19:3-12, where the religious leaders of the day approach Jesus and try to corner him on straight marriage/divorce. As usual, they get more than they bargain for when Jesus says (paraphrasing), “God puts men and women together in marriage, and unless there’s sexual sin involved they should not be separated. That said, not every man will marry – There are dudes without junk or preference, either by choice, royal decree, or birth, and they are by no means obligated to marry a woman.”
I wasn’t intending for this to be a rebuttal of your points, but I think I may have found something.
I think Jesus probably addresses the issue almost as directly as we can ask for. He tells us what God wants marriage to be, and he tells us to whom it does not have to apply.
This could possibly be God’s clearest message on sexuality in the New Testament.