The Book of Genesis is the first book of the Old Testament, and details the creation of the universe, the world, mankind, and everything else, as well as containing many of the oldest records of the faith. Genesis 1:27 gets right to the point when it says:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female he created them. (King James Version)
The first thing which comes to mind is “what about intersex persons?” A significant number of intersex persons have either a serious hormonal condition which leads to a “man” with a female body (Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome), mixes of male and female DNA (mosaics), and those who have truly two sets of functioning genitals. As a result of this intersex conundrum, it appears prima facie that we are left with two choices:
- God makes mistakes, or
- The men who attempted to capture the word of God onto papyrus made a mistake.
Some Christian “scientists” try to obfuscate this issue by claiming that every intersex person has a majority of maleness or femaleness within them. Indeed, one Christian writer has gone so far as to suggest:
“Even though the physical abnormalities of ambiguous genitalia might on the surface put into question one’s real gender, there are medical diagnostic procedures available that have been effectively used, though some of them still controversial, in helping to distinguish an intersexed individual’s true sexual identity. Some of the diagnostic procedures include a pelvic ultrasound, chromosomal analysis, a genitourethrogram (looks at the urethra and vagina if present) and exploratory surgery.” (O’ Clock)
Even “exploratory surgery.” The mind boggles. Furthermore, not a single one of these diagnostic techniques existed prior to the 19th century, leaving one to wonder how intersex persons would have been treated by this author for the 1,800 years after Christ was born. I suppose they could just murder the intersex person (as was frequently done) and perform an autopsy. Or worse, a vivisection.
And some wonder why transgender persons fear some religious adherents.
So we are left with a statement in Genesis 1:27 which is either unworkable or else in error. Or even still, Christians could resolve themselves that “it was true at the time, but things changed.” After all, (most) Christians no longer follow many of the laws in Deuteronomy and Leviticus, so are we to assume that the Bible was wrong? Or rather, that God intends for mankind to change and grow and – dare I say it – evolve whilst on his earth?
Some Christian scholars are happy to accept that intersex people exist and do not violate “God’s plan,” but at the same time maintain that for everyone who does not have a physical difference which impacts their gender, there are only two poles – male and female – and no spectrum of genders between them (called “the primacy of the physical”). (Savage) However, as I have spent considerable time researching, transsexuality appears to be the result of hormonal or other changes in the fetal brain during development, where there is a physical birth defect of a mismatch between the genitals and the brain which must manage them. In effect, all transgender persons could therefore be considered “intersex” and thus satisfy the Christian scholarly grouping of “male/female/other.”
Still others wonder about the third part of the verse: “male and female he created them,” and whether that implies that God in fact is a being beyond gender, which contains aspects which can be grouped together to be “male,” and other aspects which can be grouped together to be “female.” Gregory of Nyssa held that on that basis and the basis of Galatians 3:28 (q.v.) that the original creations of God had no physical differences in sex. (Savage)
Some also point to Genesis 1:28 (the immediately following verse) as important for transsexuals:
And God blessed them, and God said unto then, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (King James Version)
Strictly speaking, some argue that since transsexuals purposefully sterilize themselves, they are not being fruitful and multiplying on the earth. Those who argue this haven’t really thought this through, as many places in the Bible it’s mentioned that celibacy and even virginity are valued, and indeed there are entire branches of Christianity which demand celibacy of their priesthood, and monasteries and convents are filled with celibate humans who are (presumably) accepted by God. Moreover, this verse would indicate that those who are sterile from birth are somehow in violation of this implied directive of God.
More progressive readers of the Bible take this verse to mean that in general our society should advance in these ways, but not necessarily every single individual person.
O’Clock, James W. “Human Sexuality – Anything Goes?” Understanding the Issues and Developing a Strategic Christian Response (Fall 2008, revised October 2011).
Savage, Helen “Changing Sex? : Transsexuality and Christian Theology” Durham Theses, Durham University, 2006. Diss, Department of Theology and Religion, University of Durham.