How to Read the Bible, Part II

Someone forwarded an email recently that made me think again about how we read the Bible.  It began like this:

On her radio show, Dr. Laura Schlesinger (a popular conservative radio talk show host in the USA) said that homosexuality is an abomination according to the Bible (Leviticus 18:22), and cannot be condoned under any circumstance.  The following response is an open letter to Dr.  Laura, penned by James M. Kauffman, Ed.D.

Dear Dr. Laura:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination… end of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s Laws and how to follow them.

1. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination (Lev. 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality.  I don’t agree. Can you settle this?  Are there ‘degrees’ of abomination?

2. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify?  Why can’t I own Canadians?

3. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do youthink would be a fair price for her?

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev. 1:9. The problem is my neighbors.  They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

There are more examples, but I think the writer has made his tongue-in-cheek point, which is that since many of the Old Testament laws no longer apply, it is ludicrous to insist that this one—concerning homosexuality—does.  But here’s my point: I believe it is just as wrong to reject the parts of the Bible you don’t agree with as it is to quote only the few verses that agree with you, and there are people on each side of this argument who do both.   I believe there is a better way, and that is to ask of every part of the Bible (even the difficult ones): “What is God trying to say to us through these words?”

With that in mind we might look at Leviticus 18:22 differently.  Instead of saying, “That settles it: homosexuality is a sin,” or saying, “That just goes to show that the Bible is old-fashioned and outdated,” we might learn to ask, “What is God trying to say to us through a law like this?  How do these words reveal themselves as God’s Word?” 

That’s when the conversation gets interesting, or, more hopefully, that’s when it becomes a conversation instead of an argument.  Instead of simply stating, “It is an abomination for a man to lie with a man as with a woman,” we begin to ask, “Why is it an abomination?  What does God find abominable?  Is it the act itself, or is it the idea that sex is meant for procreation and homosexual activity is not procreative?  Was this sort of thing common in that time and place?  Was it common in other cultures?  Was God trying to create a culture that was different from the culture of Israel’s neighbors?  Was that the point?”

Do you see what I mean?  In asking such questions of Scripture we begin to take it seriously, we begin to listen carefully to what God was saying then and there (exegesis) and consider how it might apply here and now (hermeneutics).  

When I led a Bible study on Old Testament Law for the young adults at my last church I asked them to think of it as “people-making literature,” and challenged them to imagine what kind of people would be made by following those laws.  They were surprised to learn how many of the laws were about caring for neighbors, and strangers, and donkeys (yes, donkeys*), and began to see that following these laws could result in a nation of remarkably compassionate people.  They wondered if that was what God meant when he said to Israel, “You shall be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Lev. 19:2).  They wondered if holiness was God’s word for compassion (as Jesus implies in Luke 6:36).

As you can see, we had some interesting conversations about Old Testament Law, far more interesting than standing on opposite sides of the room shouting at each other about homosexuality (although our study could have easily gone that way; there were people on both sides of that issue).  Instead we tried to look for the underlying principles beneath the surface of all those laws.  We tried to listen for God’s Word as it came to us through those words.  Again and again we asked the question:

“What is God trying to say to us?”

—————————————-
*Exodus 23:5 is a good example: “When you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden and you would hold back from setting it free, you must help to set it free.”

29 thoughts on “How to Read the Bible, Part II

  1. What a wonderfully thought provoking post! I am so thankful to be a faithful follower of your ponderings, find you to be such a blessing to our church, and absolutely love the courage you show to go where others fear to tred! If you were a different sex, I’d say,”You go, Girl!”

  2. What is God saying to us about homosexuality in Levticus 18:22? It seems that homosexuality and abortion seem to be the two subjects in America that keep our country’s leaders from focusing on what is important for our country overall. Or in my chosen party anyway.

  3. Once again, it is easier to ‘pick and choose’ proof texts to go with your already determined position than it is to listen to each other and do hard exegesis. As usual, be careful when listening to the person who has all the answers and has God neatly packed in a box.

  4. David,
    If our country’s leaders were focused on what is important; they probably wouldn’t be politicians 🙂

  5. Thank you, Jim! This is my favorite blog discussion so far and I think it should be “required reading” 😉

    I would like to take a course/class in “Exegesis and Hermeneutics” with focus on the New Testament, but in the meantime, I’ll continue with the “How To” book you recommended.

    Love all of the previous comments! Hope this discussion will keep going like the Energizer bunny!

  6. “From the pages of Our Daily Bread (RBC Ministries)
    Doubting God
    READ: Genesis 3:1-6
    Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above. –James 1:17When Satan tempted Eve, he did so by enticing her to doubt God’s character. He told Eve, “God knows that in the day you eat of [the forbidden fruit] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5).

    Satan was implying, “God has a hidden agenda, and it is an evil one.” The devil knew that once Eve doubted the goodness of God, the temptation would work.

    We may not think we doubt God. But when events happen in our lives that make us question Him, that’s exactly what we do. We seldom stop believing in Him, but we do stop believing in His goodness. And that is a faith-poisoning idea!

    John Greenleaf Whittier knew that at the center of trust is a confidence in God’s goodness. He wrote:

    I see the wrong that round me lies,

    I feel the guilt within,

    I hear, with groan and travail cries,

    The world confess its sin.

    Yet, in the maddening maze of things,

    And tossed by storm and flood,

    To one fixed trust my spirit clings:

    I know that God is good!

    Never doubt God’s goodness. Even when our trials seem beyond our understanding, we can trust God to give us perfect gifts (Jas. 1:17). — Haddon W. Robinson

    Don’t put a question mark where God has put a period.”

    Jim, homosexual behavior IS a sin just the same as heterosexual adultery and fornication. If anyone tries to say otherwise, they are involved with “cafeteria theology”. Our nation and world would be far better off if medical science was to be freed from political interference and the cause or causes of homosexuality (gay,lesbian, bisexual and transgender desires) discovered. And I would be willing to bet you dollars to donuts that somewhere along the line abuse of some sort is involved somehow. Anyway, I say again, the Bible clearly tells me that God loves us all, dearly, beyond anything we could ask or even imagine, yet there are certain BEHAVIORS which God does not want us to practice. Homosexual behavior, adultery, fornication are among these. I realize that you won’t publish this, however, I felt that I should respectfully submit it to you. May God bless and guide you. Respectfully, Marshall

  7. At the end of the day we are all God’s children. And I hope you did not make that bet Marshall because I have encountered many friends who have been very open about their lives and relationships and at no point did they ever mention abuse in their past. I have no explanation for being a homosexual. I don’t believe there is a simple answer. I am not God and I do not judge and by no means can anyone throw the first stone. I was taught to love, accept, respect and I personally teach my children to never spit up because it always comes right back down to you. God Bless Everyone!!!

  8. Marshall – gambling is a sin: lead me not into temptation!

    A picture is worth a thousand words:

    People attracted to men have one pattern of neuro-anatomy; people attracted to women another.

    HeM = Heterosexual Man, HoW = Homosexual woman etc.

    Such patterns have been detected in children, long before puberty. Long before they have any concept of “sex” or “sexual orientation”.

    There’s also Male-to-Female Transsexuals Have Female Neuron Numbers in a Limbic Nucleus by Kruijver et al:
    —-quote—
    The number of SOM neurons in the BSTc of heterosexual men (32.9 ± 3.0 x 103) was 71% higher than that in heterosexual women (19.2 ± 2.5 x 103), whereas the number of neurons in heterosexual and homosexual men (34.6 ± 3.4 x 103) was similar. The BSTc number of neurons was 81% higher in homosexual men than in heterosexual women. The number of neurons in the BSTc of male-to-female transsexuals was similar to that of females (19.6 ± 3.3 x 103). In addition, the neuron number of the FMT (the single female to male transsexual) was clearly in the male range. The number of neurons in transsexuals was 40% lower than that found in the heterosexual reference males and 44% lower than that found in the homosexual males.

    There seemed to be no clear difference in the BSTc number of neurons between early onset and late-onset transsexuals, indicating that their smaller number of neurons is related to the gender identity per se rather than to the age at which it became apparent.
    —unquote—

    This means that different parts of the brain are associated with cross-gendered sexuality, and cross-gendered gender identity. In some parts of the brain, heterosexual men and lesbian women share one pattern, and homosexual men and heterosexual women the other. In other parts, all men regardless of sexual orientation share one pattern, and women share the other. It is in at least one area like this that transsexual women (ie those born looking male) share the female pattern, and transsexual men the male one.

    Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity are different.

  9. To Karen and Zoe – very interesting posts! I understand what you are saying. While a heterosexual, and not engaged in any other behaviors other than being a faithful husband, I too have had many insights into those who have homosexual desires as well as other desires. And please know, I have great compassion for these people. What I am trying to “get at” is that I feel that medical science, our nation and other nations are doing “gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals”(or whatever the preferred terms are – no disrespect intended) a great disservice by not attempting to finally determine conclusively exactly WHAT it is that causes people to have these desires. Right now, it is all rather “nebulous” and there is still a huge amount of debate. For one example, I had shared with Jim an article by a psychiatry professor who disagrees with some of the things you submitted (just objectively speaking for illustrative purposes, not arguing).Medical science seems to be making HUGE strides in various areas of study but nobody has yet totally “nailed down” these sexual orientation issues. And, even when their causes are eventually conclusively determined, unless a new religion is founded, we (or, at least, I cannot) change the Jewish and Christian religions regarding what God has said. God has made it very plain, in the Bible, that God loves us all dearly yet there are certain BEHAVIORS of which, for reasons which may be known only unto God until we are in heaven, God does NOT approve. Until then, I can only have faith in God and trust in God as well as trust in God’s Word. May God bless and guide us all. AMEN!

  10. Hi Marshall.

    What causes some theologians to have cranial implosions are cases like this:
    http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/12/17/gaza.gender.id/

    While dichogamy – an apparent “natural sex change” – is far more common amongst amphibia and fish than mammals, it does happen rarely to mammals too. Including humans.

    Too fairly common mutations, leading to 5alpha-reductase-2 deficiency (5alpha-RD-2) and 17beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase-3 deficiency (17beta-HSD-3) occur in the guman genome sometimes. That leads to male pseudohermaphroditism.

    Female pseudohermaphroditism can happen too, from a variety of causes, but is much, much rarer. Perhaps 1%.

    Are such people heterosexual by definition? Or homosexual by definition? Or are they expected to change who they’re attracted to as their bodies change? A surprising number do, by the way, about 1 in 3, when the changed hormonal mix re-wires an essentially asexual or bisexual baseline. Some go from being apparently lesbian to being apparently gay – but most remain apparently straight throughout.

  11. Howdy Zoe! That was a fascinating article! I hadn’t been aware of that particular situation, however, I was previously aware of the condition and had attended college with a person who was born with the female appearing genitals, however, I seem to recall that the genetics were male. In the case of the young people mentioned in your article, that is a very complex situation. On the other hand, a person I worked with a few years ago, who was born a male, decided that he should be a female. He, had the male genes yet had the surgery to cosmetically change himself to appear as a female and this despite being married. Things that trouble me about these matters is that first, while there are some rare occurances of genetic abnormalities, some, I would guess most transsexuals do have either the male or female genes. Having the surgery, which is very risky – the person I worked with had to be in intensive care a LONG time after having the surgery – doesn’t change the genetics. Due to it’s great risks, I personally feel that a halt should be delared and such surgery not done again until such time as research clears up these matters (the “whys”). By the way, the article I shared with Jim can be found at http://www.livingchurch.org/news/news-updates/2010/1/26/dr-paul-mchugh-there-is-no-gay-gene. If you can access it (and if Jim publishes this ;>), I’d be interested in your opinion. Thanks! May God bless you!

  12. The surgery doesn’t change the genetics. Except…. well, there’s cases like these:

    A 46,XY mother who developed as a normal woman underwent spontaneous puberty, reached menarche, menstruated regularly, experienced two unassisted pregnancies, and gave birth to a 46,XY daughter with complete gonadal dysgenesis

    – J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008 Jan;93(1):182-9.

    So much for the “XY chromosomes means you’re really male” theory. There’s no such thing as a “male gene”, merely genes that make being male more likely. Usually far more likely, but never certain.

    It’s true that the surgery is risky. All surgery is, and this is no exception. People have died in surgery; others are left paralysed, or have to wear colostomy bags. It’s nearly as risky as having your appendix out in fact. But the cure rate is higher, about 98%, vs appendectomy’s 95%.

    The mortality rate without surgery is similar too. About 50% of people who need surgery will die if they don’t have it, after years of misery and gradual neural dysfunction.

    I’m familiar with Dr McHugh’s eccentric views, you’ll find them in his book “Psychiatric misadventures”, and in articles in various religious journals (such as the conservative catholic journal “First Things”). As stated in his book, he started with the axiom that transsexuality has to be a psychiatric illness, based on his religious and political beliefs, then went on to design an experiment to prove this. For example, a trans woman who is a successful lawyer before and after surgery is a “failure”, because being a lawyer is not a “gender-appropriate” profession for a woman . A secretary or beautician would be acceptable though. His views are perhaps a little on the conservative side there.

    That his single experiment has never had its results replicated (despite numerous attempts), nor a single case of a “psychiatric cure” having been reported in 60 years of trying, with over 100,000 patients (and some 50,000 deaths) , he attributes to us “not trying hard enough”. Such a cure has to exist, axiomatically.

    Apart from the Kennedy experiment in 1979, under his auspices, which was immediately criticised for its numerous glaringly obvious flaws, he’s never had anything published in a medical journal on this subject. Much as few platygean articles are in astronomy journals these days.

    Although an expert psychiatrist in the field of addiction, he’s never actually treated a transsexual patient. As such, he is exactly as qualified to comment on the subject as an Ear Nose and Throat specialist is qualified to comment on neurosurgery.

    One thing he does get right: he’s against the surgical assignation of a convenient sex to a newborn with ambiguous genitalia. The surgeons should wait till the child tells us what sex they are – though Dr McHugh attributes (literally) supernatural powers to the chromosomes instead . Unfortunately, should the patient be surgically assigned an arbitrary sex, and should they object to that later, he has to deem them “mentally ill” in accordance with his politico-religious views. The inconsistency is obvious.

  13. Zoe, I am enjoying your awesome posts and I figure that you probably have an earned doctorate in your field! Yes, ma’am, I surely do! ;> Even so, kindlyand respectfully speaking, I would have to question the “cure rate”. I guess it kind of depends on one’s definition of “cure”, respectfully speaking. The transsexual with whom I worked, mentioned above, did have the surgery, however, I don’t know that I would personally feel the person’s quality of life to be a “cure” based on what the person said and I hasten to add that as one who feels supportive of women in any field (including President of the United States, when that eventually happens, and so forth) I would disagree with Dr. McHugh on that point about appropriate careers for women and so forth. As a sort of example for what I am about to say, I also have in mind my twin brother who was born without a right ear (we have participated in the VCU twin study project over the years, by the way). Back in the ’50s, after we were born, surgeons tried to start constructing a right ear for my brother, intending to eventually construct an ear canal as well. This caused a lot of physical scaring and some emotional “scaring” as well. Fast forward to recent years when modern medical imaging technology found that the previous work was fruitless because he has no inner ear structures at all in that ear. Point being is that, in my humble opinion, medical science may sometimes, um, let the cart get a bit a head of the horse, so to speak. Medical science seems to me to need to put the transgender surgery “on hold”, do much more scientific investigation to find out EXACTLY what causes the homosexual and transgender desires and then come to a much better informed decision about how to proceed in conference with legal and political authorities and after educating the general public about the findings. Even then some social change takes time and cannot be forced through since we are not a totalitarian society like, for instance, China or North Korea, and we also must leave room for religious belief which, in our society, is a right and cannot be legislated. Meanwhile, again, Zoe, you are a very impressive writer! May God bless you!

  14. Hi Marshall,

    No, I’m still working on my doctorate. And my PhD will be in Genetic Algorithms and Evolutionary Computation. I’m a Rocket Scientist, sometime Naval Combat System Designer, and Safety-Critical systems Engineer.

    I’ve had to become an internationally recognised expert on the Science of Sex and Gender simply to deal with my own unusual medical issues. And consequent legal issues. And even more consequent theological issues.

    Unlike Amanda Simpson, whose career trajectory, while similar in some ways, has been more political, and involved being a Test Pilot rather than working on submarines.

    I really must get some paper qualifications in sex and gender science though. It’s embarrassing to be called on by professors of medicine and psychology to give talks to their students, when all my degrees are in computing and science communication, and I’m entirely self-taught.

    People like me have unusual neuro-anatomy, that gives us certain talents – compared with many like me, I’m strictly second-rate intellectually

    See http://aebrain.blogspot.com/2010/01/four-extraordinary-women.html

    Not third-rate. Just not in their league. Only one National Award for Engineering Excellence, and although my blog is being archived by the Australian National Library’s PANDORA system as of “lasting cultural value” and of “national significance”… the bar’s pretty low.

    Thanks for the compliments, BTW, you’ve been most generous. My friend Christine Daniels was twice the writer I am, all her colleagues agreed. But after rejection by her family, she complied with their demands to de-transition in order to win back their love. And to cut off all communication with her supportive church and friends. That was a year ago.

    Families rarely forgive. So she was left completely alone, unable to try transition again, and still rejected. She ate her gun a few weeks ago. As we all knew she would if she didn’t re-transition, but hoped against hope that she’d be the exception.

    (contd)

  15. I don’t think you realise what a 50% death rate means if surgery is unobtainable. Or just how bad the suffering is.

    Here’s specialist Anne Vitale on the subject, at http://www.avitale.com/TherapeuticErrors.htm

    Secondly, “Dysphoria,” defined by Marriam-Webster’s Collegiate dictionary as “a state of feeling unwell or unhappy,” or in the American College Dictionary as “a state of dissatisfaction, anxiety, restlessness, or fidgeting” is simply too soft a word to describe the angst most clinicians see on intake with this population. At best it may be an apt descriptor for individuals who, despite strong evidence to the contrary, are making an extraordinary effort to convince themselves that they are sex/gender congruent. These individuals make life decisions such as getting married and having children not only because they may find it appealing to have a spouse and have children but with the added hope that this activity will ease or erase their obsessive cross gender thoughts. Although there may be instances where these special efforts succeed, (i.e. the incongruity is mild) the more likely outcome is a realization they have actually made matters worse. Typically, at time of presentation these individuals report that either their lives are in ruin, or they are very afraid that if their gender variant condition was to become known they would loose all that they cherish and be ostracized from family, friends and the ability to support themselves. High anxiety and deep depression with concurrent suicide ideation is common. One of the most extreme cases I have treated was that of a 50 year old genetic male, married and the father of 3 grown children with an international reputation as a scientist who reported to me that the reason he finally sought out treatment for his gender issues was because the number of times he found himself curled up in the corner of his office in the fetal position muffling his cry was increasing. That is not dysphoria, that is pure misery.

    My remark on that :

    Been there, done that. Not more than once every few months though, I was still functional enough not to transition. It’s when it happens every week, then every day, then every few hours that functioning in society becomes impossible. I wasn’t nearly at that stage. I just hoped I’d die soon, before I got there.

    It’s not that one is unhappy: for that’s a constant. It’s when you can’t actually function that it’s “transition or die”.

    It’s neurological. The female-pattern cellular receptors when bathed in a male hormonal mix become dysfunctional in certain ways. You can reliably predict the rate at which your mind is rotting. Knowing that the depression you have is just biochemical, not “you” at all, helps. But it doesn’t stop the tears, nor the sobs, and they get in the way when you’re trying to work. You just hope for a merciful heart-attack, cancer or other stress-related illness to carry you off before it gets *really* bad.

    If you’re really lucky, and in the military (as so many are, often special forces or other high-risk areas), you get to give your life for something worth dying for. Saving others, or saving your country. Something that would give meaning to the whole thing.

    Transition – including surgery – doesn’t solve all your problems. In fact, it only solves one, and creates a thousand others. But that one… is a biggie.

    Technically, I’m not Transsexual, but Intersexed. That could be why my symptoms were so mild compared to others.

    After transition – we get a gift. A “pearl beyond price”. So many others have no idea how good it is to have a body that feels normal, natural, right. They have it as a birthright, and don’t realise how lucky they are.

    It gives us strength to deal with the thousand new problems, and the grief over those of us who fall by the wayside. We cry, grieve, and move on, helping the next, doing what we can for others not as fortunate.

    Anyway, so while it would be good in the best of all possible worlds to hold off, don’t perform surgery until we know more…. the price of doing that is too terrible to contemplate.

    Think about it – don’t you think that medics would be doing this if the situation wasn’t truly desperate? Most patients go overseas now, it’s a highly technically specialised area, and surgeons can make far more money doing other, easier work. Those that do do it are often the most skilled surgeons in any area, and do it for more than mere money.

  16. Re DADT:

    Oh, we got rid of that over a decade ago. Reading the various concerns and dire predictions of Doom is like going back in time 15 years. The same things were said here, sometimes even more vehemently.

    It was a non-issue. We do do things a little differently from Canada and the UK though: trans people don’t transition in place in the armed forces. They are (temporarily) discharged, get treatment, then re-join with no loss of seniority. They just get new uniforms, and often a new posting. Especially if they’re in the SASR (Special Forces). Not because it’s Men Only, but because few can still pass the physical fitness tests, which are the same for everyone.

    And yes, we have women on submarines too. Even back in the 80’s, there were female civilian contractors on board on some 90-day patrols. As there are in the USN.

  17. Sorry, I should have mentioned before now. I’m one of the rare female (protandrous) pseudo-hermaphrodites.

    Born looking male, changed to look female.

    I didn’t have the courage to transition volitionally. I felt I’d rather die than bring shame and scandal on my family. It came as quite a shock when my long-delayed puberty happened. That I wasn’t a “man who thought he was a woman” after all, but a “woman who thought she was a man who thought he was a woman”.

    And here I am talking to a Southern Baptist, who will no doubt look at all I’ve said in a new light as the result. *SIGH* Sorry, should have mentioned it before.

    Though reading some of the other entries here, you’re not like any other Southern Baptists I’ve met before. You’re Christians first, Baptists afterwards. You follow Matthew 22:35-40, and 1 Corinthians 13.

    My very best to Heidi, and all like her. By Their Fruits Shall Ye Know Them. God Bless.

  18. I have found the discussion between Marshall and Zoe, quite interesting/fascinating! Can someone tell me if homosexuality is mentioned somewhere in the Bible, other than First Corinthians? It is my personal belief that the Bible was “inspired” by God, so was Paul not subject to human error, even in his writings? The book of Corinthians has always been a difficult one for me . . .

  19. Zoe, I am so terribly sorry about Christine! May God rest Christine’s soul and grant Christine eternal peace! Amen! Also, Zoe, even before I learned more about you, it was very obvious to me that you are, in my humble opinion, EXTREMELY intelligent! And please know, please, please know that people are PEOPLE to me and they are precious children of God whom God loves beyond anything we can ask or even imagine NO MATTER WHO OR WHAT THEY ARE sexually, politically or what ever else category have you. As I read the Bible, which I believe to be the Word of God, that is extremely CLEAR to me! God LOVES us ALL!! “For God so loved the world that God gave God’s only begotten Son that WHOSOEVER believes in Him shall not perish but have ever lasting life!” And situations like Christine’s make me feel that, again, medical science has GOT to try harder to find out exactly WHAT causes these desires (not a negative reflection on what you have said, please understand, you obviously have an excellent understanding of these matters – just in the offical scheme of things, official medical scientists will have to work to verify according to scientific protocol) and how best to handle these situations for the best interests of the PERSON involved as well as in hope of preventing any more “ingesting bullets” (oh my dear God I am so terribly sorry to learn about that – may God rest Christine’s soul!)! And, Zoe, if I was your father, I would tell you that I was extremely PROUD of you as your family SHOULD be! May God bless and watch over you and always remember God’s LOVE for you! And, in heaven some day, there will be no marriage, issues of gender will have passed away and something wonderful will have occurred – we will all be God’s children in God’s eternal care, there will be no more tears, just eternal love!

  20. Also, regarding where women can serve in the miliary, back in the ’70s, I was taking an Army ROTC course in college (my only experience with the military, I had a high draft lottery number and never served – I did once look into enlisting but I wanted a medical military occupational specialty and all three services said that, based on my test scores, I would likely be sent to work with nuclear missiles. Go figure! I politely declined. My wife says that, in declining to serve, I probably saved humankind from possible nuclear destruction if I had goofed up, ha, ha! Maybe they should give me a MEDAL, ha, ha!). An enlisted man assigned to our university ROTC unit shared with us that he had served in the Army Infantry in Vietnam. He said that occasionally they came up against all female Viet Cong combat units. He said that those women fought like devils and that his unit was extremely fortunate to have survived their terrifying assaults! Since then, I have felt that women should be able to serve anywhere in the military in any nation!

  21. Hi Marshall – we actually have a pretty good handle on the cause now.

    We know, to a very high degree of confidence, that anyone with a female-pattern neural anatomy in certain distinct areas will have a female sex identity, and anyone with a male-pattern one in those areas will have a male sex identity. (usually called “gender identity” rather than “sex identity” for historical reasons).

    We’ve never observed an exception, not in many tens of thousands of observations.

    What we don’t know for sure is how this comes about. Why should our sense of being male or female depend on those parts, and not others? How come external genitalia, upbringing after birth etc seems to have no effect?

    We have a really good theory that explains many of the observations, and is definitely true for some cases. We’re by no means certain though that this is the only mechanism, that it’s universal. We think it probably is, but have no means of testing that.

    That theory is Milton Diamond’s Biased Interaction theory. You’ll find it at http://www.hawaii.edu/PCSS/biblio/articles/2005to2009/2006-biased-interaction.html

    Basically, a child is born with no awareness of being male or female. But they do have (usually) sexed neurology, male or female. This leads to two distinct patterns. Girls smell, hear, think, and emote differently from boys. This can be objectively measured from an early age, and is independent of upbringing. One can see the differences in the neuro-anatomy from about week 26 after conception, long before birth, and test things like eye dwell time and language ability in the first year after birth.

    As children are exposed to their peers, they become aware of which group they’re unlike. Later, they become aware of which group they’re like. This process is usually unconscious. The sex identity crystallises from a myriad of daily experiences, but is pre-destined based on existing neurology.

    Most people aren’t aware of this. They just *know* what sex they are. And usually by age 7, always by age 10, often by age 3.

    Now before I’d read Diamond’s theory, here’s how I explained my own experience. I’m actually Intersexed anatomically rather than Transsexual, but psychologically speaking I was TS rather than IS.

    ====

    “Up until age 5, I was a child. No real concept of gender.

    At 6, I went to school, and noticed something was wrong. I was dressed as a boy, I looked like a boy, but I didn’t think like “other boys”. I still liked toy guns, and Meccano rather than dolls, but I was different.

    At 7, I knew I wasn’t a boy, but didn’t know what I was. I thought boys were puerile, and girls too silly and sissy. A classic Tomboy in retrospect.

    At 8, I got to play hopscotch with other girls, and I felt at home. They thought like I did, they cried like I did. I still didn’t see myself as more than an honourary girl though. Even if my favourite toy car was Lady Penelope’s pink Rolls-Royce.

    At 9, more by a process of elimination than anything else, I realised I was female. Boys could just as well have been an alien species. Girls were just like me, in feelings and values.

    At 10, I was in a boys boarding school then, and I was able to make up boardgames of astounding complexity when it rained. I had my own secret garden in the nearby woods, with flowerbeds I’d planted. I could sit and read amidst the flowers, and was terribly happy. It was then I picked the name Zoe, and planned what I was going to do with my life. I wanted children, a husband, the white picket fence etc, but also to be a Rocket Scientist and to travel the world, things that Wives and Mothers Just Did Not Do in the 60’s.

    Even though it had been obvious since age 7 that I’d never be “svelte” or “petite”, that I’d be the girl “with the wonderful personality”. I didn’t cry about that – much. And not where anyone could see me. I was more worried about the practical problems I’d be having when I started having a female puberty. And vaguely concerned that boys didn’t interest me at all. I was so naive I thought that was part of the package of being a girl. Was I a defective one?

    It came as a terrible shock when I learnt that boys and girls are born looking different, and that my body was boy.

    I didn’t take it well.

    Basically, I convinced myself I had to be a boy, no matter how I felt inside. That meant forgetting a lot, suppressing memories, but it was either acquire a minor psychosis, or sink into despair, depression, and death.

    A part of me still knew, but that part was in a box in a safe in the hold of a sunken ship at the bottom of the ocean on a planet circling a distant star.

    I tried to be the best Man any woman could be.”

    ====

    Psychologically speaking, it’s obvious (in hindsight) that I aimed to emulate in my life the kind of man I wanted to marry. The type of guy I wanted to father my children. But I didn’t realise that until some time after transition.

    Unlike trans women though, I didn’t have the courage to be myself. Better a reasonably average looking male than the ugliest woman on the planet. It suited my “Geek Girl” personality too, no glass ceiling for me. It wasn’t that bad. And if I said that to myself every morning, even if I *had* to say it every morning just to get through each day, then I’d believe it eventually, wouldn’t I?

    I did that for some 14,000 days. Each day just a little worse than the last – the condition is progressive, it gets worse, not better.

    As Christine put it:
    “We are born with this, we fight it as long as we can, and in the end it wins.”

    I was still fighting when my body staged a palace revolt, and feminised anyway. The relief was indescribable. OK, so was the stark terror 🙂 It took considerable intellectual flexibility, shall we say, to cope. Had the change gone in the wrong direction – as it does, I’m afraid to say, about 1 time in 3, instead of an escape from hell, it would have been a descent into nightmare. Fortunately such “natural sex changes” are rare, and the male-to-female ones *exceedingly* rare.

    The odds of such a thing happening to you, someone with a male sex identity, would be on the order of 1 in 50 million. But… it happens.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/2233453/Father-of-five-naturally-turning-into-a-woman.html

  22. Zoe, I am reminded of an episode of “Star Trek: Next Generation”, I believe it was, which dealt with issues like this. Oh well! Anyway, if I am following you correctly, is my understanding correct that, in your childhood, either your parents or your physicians or both at some point “assigned” you to the male gender but that, at some point in the puberty years, you “bloomed” and your body said, “I’m a girl”. Is that what happened? Also, I wonder about the man over in the UK. Just out of curiosity, if I understood the article, it seems like they have no idea what would have caused him to start producing estrogen as he apparently has. I’m wondering if it would have been something in the environment, unknown to him and unknow to the physicians, or what would be going on with that. Does anybody know what brought about your condition? In the earlier article about the persons in Gaza, I believe it stated something (cannot remember the term just now, have to look up the article again) about something missing from the mother’s diet when she was pregnant. Would something external have affected either or both of your parents? Also, are you SURE you wanna keep studying about computers instead of going to medical school or graduate school in the medical sciences? ;>

  23. Hi Marshall – sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to be believable.

    In my childhood, I was “assigned male”. I looked like a perfectly normal boy at birth. No test in 1958 could have detected any of the anomalies.

    I kept my feelings to myself.

    In 1985, at a fertility clinic, I was diagnosed with a mild Intersex condition. I may have had a more severe one, some abdominal surgery in 1980 took out rather more tissue than I was informed of at the time, but I was still looked on biologically as an “Intersexed male”.

    I didn’t get a female puberty till 2005, at age 47. Before then, I was thought to be biologically male. Intersexed, but male. Having a female puberty – incomplete, anomalous, but still recognisable – caused that to be re-evaluated 🙂 . After many, many tests, ultrasounds, MRIs, Karyotypes etc etc it was decided that the best diagnosis for me was “severely intersexed female”. (The actual diagnostic code is “severe androgenisation of a non-pregnant woman”)

    Such changes happen, but we’re still not sure why. Medical science still has many syndromes marked “idiopathic” – cause unknown. Mr Wright’s is one of them. Some, such as “Idiopathic adolescent scoliosis” are very common. Others exceeding rare.

    The case in Gaza, that’s well-understood. A mutation on a particular gene, causing 17beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase-3 deficiency (17beta-HSD-3) syndrome. Nothing environmental about it, it’s hereditary.

    See 17β-Hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase-3 deficiency: A rare endocrine cause of male-to-female sex reversal by Silvano Bertelloni; M. Cristina Maggio; Giovanni Federico; Giampiero Baroncelli; Olaf Hiort. in Gynecological Endocrinology, Volume 22, Issue 9 September 2006 , pages 488 – 494.

    As for studying medicine – no, there’s way too much to learn there. I have been called in by professors of psychology and medicine though to teach in this particularly specialised area. I really should get some formal qualifications in it some day.

    One “environmental factor” we *do* know is important. In the 50s, 60s and 70s the estrogenic drug DES was routinely administered to prevent miscarriages.

    When this was done in the first trimester, 1 in 5 of the 46XY children became transsexual. Both 46XY and 46XX children often have Intersex conditions.

    Children were affected by the drug Thalidomide at about the same rate. But while everyone feels sympathy for the kids born with malformed arms and legs, those born with a malformed sex are deemed by many to be morally corrupt, perverts and sexual deviants. Many churches deny them entry into the congregation.

    As was said recently on the topic :
    “I believe that intersex/transgender people are the offspring of human females that have had sex with demons or Satan himself.

    I do not think we should allow into the church as once you invite them in they can come in anytime and corrupt the House of the Lord.”

    That belief is far more common than you might think amongst certain of the more Apocalyptic sects of Christianity. Attempts at Exorcism are not uncommon.

    At times I’m tempted to say “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”. And at others, to say in the words of Shakespeare “Lord, what fools these mortals be!” (A Midsummer Nights Dream Act 3, scene 2, 110–115)

    They’re trying to do their best, you see. To do as God wills. To do the right thing. Even if they quite literally wish to exterminate me, and sometimes take action to do that, they’re not doing so with intent to do evil. Quite the contrary.

  24. Zoe,
    I too have been educated by your posts, however your comments have been centered around the scientific, physical, and emotional aspects of your life. Forgive me if have missed something obvious in your posts, but I wonder about your spirituality. Do you have a positive relationship with God and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? If so, has this contributed to your ability to find peace within your unique situation? It sounds as if your condition consumes you. How does this affect your view of God?

    As one that is unique sexually and has the ability to research facts, I also wonder if you have a biblical perspective regarding homosexual behavior.

    I would not ask such questions if you had not been so open already. This is not a “loaded question”. I am a curious person.

  25. I’m not a Christian. I’m often taken for one, as I believe that His message is pretty good, and try to actually live up to the ideals of behaviour, not just mouth them.

    1 Corinthians 13 says it all – you can be pious, know the Bible backwards, say all the right things, do all the right things, but if you do it just to follow the rules rather than out of charity towards others, if you do it just to avoid punishment by an invisible sky policeman, you’ve missed the point.

    I’m a Kantian realist, and an agnostic with a tendency to commit Buddhism. I’m a spiritual as a brick. I lack Faith.

    My idea of Hell would be a place where I personally am at ease and comfortable, but where I know others are suffering eternal torment. I don’t believe in a God that has a private torture chamber just for punishment, and if He does, I reject him. I’m terribly imperfect, but even I’m better than that.

    A penitentiary though… a place where you can finally realise the extent of your sins, and are given the opportunity to make amends and to help others undo the wrongs they’ve done too… that’s my idea of Heaven. And while a single person is drowning, I can’t leave the pool. The path of the Bodhisattva.

    “A variant of the legend says that Miao Shan allowed herself to die at the hand of the executioner….

    Finally in desperation he used his hands. Miao Shan, realising the fate the executioner would meet at her father’s hand should she fail to let herself die, forgave the executioner for attempting to kill her. It is said that she voluntarily took on the massive karmic guilt the executioner generated for killing her, thus leaving him guiltless. It is because of this that she descended into the Hell-like realms. While there she witnessed firsthand the suffering and horrors beings there must endure and was overwhelmed with grief. Filled with compassion, she released all the good karma she had accumulated through her many lifetimes, thus freeing many suffering souls back into Heaven and Earth”

    That’s a legend of the Bodhisattva Kuan Yin. Who shares a certain similarity with me in other areas. I’m not in that league, but I can aspire to be, however imperfectly.

  26. Zoe, I had to chuckle about your statement about not wishing to study medicine “…there is way to much to learn…”! There is no doubt in my mind that you could learn it and learn it easily! In my humble opinion, mind you! As for those who believe that intersexed people are products of women having relations with demons or the evil one, it’s sad that some people would believe that. SIGH! I do believe that someday God will show us all the “whys” and so forth of things that we currently find perplexing in life and that God does have, as stated in the Bible, rules for us to abide by in living our lives no matter who or what we may be. I do believe that God does love us all no matter who or what we may be. I do think that demons and the evil one do exist – now doomed yet still existing – however, I think that they are busy doing other things and not going about producing intersexed people and so forth. And no matter what those evil beings may be doing, I do believe that God can and does work in any situation to bring about ultimate good and that, as the hymn says, …a mighty fortress is our God…!” It would not surprise me if God is working through YOU, Zoe, in ways that we will understand someday. I can only encourage you to continue your personal research and to continue to teach about these matters. And maybe you should go into medicine – I think that you could easily do it – pursuing research in your current field and these intersex matters. Or at least write a book! Whatever you do, I pray “Our Lord God Almighty, please bless and watch over Zoe now and for the rest of her life! Please keep her in Your eternal care, through Jesus Christ, AMEN!” And I would add an additional prayer for us all, “Eternal God, I offer you the Body and the Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world! For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world! Through Jesus Christ Our Lord, AMEN!”

  27. Zoe,
    Thank you for the response and I look forward to telling folks that I have a friend that is a rocket scientist. It may help my social standing 😉

    Your words “I lack faith” have troubled me today as I have wondered what I might possibly write that could have some influence on your ability to “believe” in God and his son Jesus Christ as savior. I am reminded of an Octoberfest event I attended this past fall. I was there with a couple of friends under a massive tent with hundreds of others. With mugs (and plastic cups) of imported German beer raised, the cheery crowd sang along with Jerry Goodman and the Sauercraut Band. Um..pah!! Um..pah!! Polka music filled the air.

    Somehow I was introduced to a lady form Germany and we began to talk, as best we could (Umpah.. Umpah..you get the idea) Trying to create conversation, and being the curious person I am, I asked what type of music was popular in Germany and what type she liked. She listed country, techno, and rock, and then she said “anything but gospel music”. For some strange reason I asked “Why, because of the words or the music ?” And before I knew she was telling me how she grew up in a the protestant tradition, but her mother and sister had both died unexpectedly, her husband had left her after they moved to the USA, and her relationship with her grown children was strained. (A strange place for such a conversation) Her ability to have faith in God no longer existed as a result of these bad things that happened in her life. Where was God in this? How could He let this happen? As she told me she no longer believed in God with distress in her face, I sent up a silent prayer that God may reveal himself through me. In a split second I prayed that He would give me something to say that might make a difference to her. As quickly as I did, it was if He said to me, “there is nothing you can do or say that will make a difference”.
    Not what I wanted to accept, but the reality was her decision to turn away from God was not made in a moment. It was made over months and years. There was nothing a stranger, under a big tent, with the Sauercraut band playing in the background, could say that would change her mind then and there in that instant.

    Now, through a Baptist preacher’s blog, the opportunity arises for me say something profound that may make a difference in your life, but you “lack faith”, so what can one say. I can’t explain God and his son Jesus Christ with science and tangible evidence. I could cite passages of scripture, but you already have knowledge of the bible. So all I can do is testify.
    My faith started with believing in the unseen. Now, as sure as I know sunlight will steam through my window tommorrow morning, I know God revealed his love and himself in the flesh here on earth through Jesus Christ. My prayer is that you too might find a way to take that leap of faith so that God’s love would be revealed to you and you may find the “peace of Christ”.

    You no doubt you have had many exams and tests in your journey toward toward your education. “Faith” may be the hardest test of all, but it is the start toward everlasting rewards. Its really not that difficult. Afterall, it not rocket science.
    Blessings Zoe Brain

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