I have relived my life countless times for the benefit of others, but not quite in the way I am here tonight so please bear with me while I find my feet (and my words).
I was born with a genetic condition called Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS), which means I was born looking like a girl, but with XY Chromosomes. Doctors will tell you that people like me are rare but there are more of us than you think, about one in 20,000 born with AIS, around 1 in 1000 to 1 in 1500 born with Intersex conditions in general. What are Intersex conditions? Well, the medical definition is “An infant born with external or internal reproductive organs or sex chromosomes that are not exclusively male or female”, we used to be called hermaphrodites but this is actually medically true of only a tiny percentage of us. What we do is defy the understanding that God created two sexes, we are biologically both and proud to be so.
I spent much of my life as a child in and out of hospitals being prodded and poked and generally being an object of fascination for the medical profession. I used FOI to get my medical records later in life when I wanted more answers than I could get otherwise, the large folder of records that arrived made for interesting reading in a clinical sense, but it didn’t really give me what I was looking for from a personal sense, it didn’t really tell me who I am. I suppose I was silly to think my medical records would do this, but I was still learning to be me.
I cannot completely dislike doctors though, through them I found a support group and others like me, a support group I have helped run for the last 10 years. It was through the support group that I first learned about the impact children like me had on our parents, you are very much blind to this when it is your own parents. I talked to them about the decisions they had to make about their children, usually decisions they were being asked to make about surgery on very young children, and I began to understand that you suffer differently when you deal first-hand with issues your parents have to deal with on your behalf. It is hard for parents, as it is for us sometimes. It was through this group that I really started to find out who I am and that there were others like me searching for answers.
I had the usual surgeries that kids like me have as we grow up, but generally my life was OK. We are a very old Adelaide family and I grew up in the Adelaide Hills, where everything seemed to be fun as long as there were plenty of trees to climb and tadpoles and frogs to catch. My younger brother and I were always up to something, my younger sister was (and still is!) the princess of the family, but she is still very cool. Girls were fun too. I met my first girlfriend at the Christian college I went to and we were together for many, many years. I have since had another long-term girlfriend and another partner who is Intersex, but identifies as male. I suppose at this stage that means I am attracted to girls more than boys on the balance of the partners I have had.
I went on to become a research engineer, did post grad science, and theology because God is very much part of my life too. People often ask me how someone with my science background can still believe in God and decide to study theology. It isn’t a difficult question to answer. It is actually the lack of answers from my science background that show me there is far more to us than what we see in another human being face to face, or when we try to dismantle ourselves through medical or social sciences. There is still something we can’t quite capture, something just beyond our grasp, something I can find answers for through God, my belief and faith, and fellowship. My best friend calls me a ‘faith mongrel’, it is something I am very proud to be. I grew up a Baptist, went to a Lutheran College and am now a member of the Uniting Church for reasons I will discuss in a while. I am proud to be a ‘faith mongrel’, I can truly claim just to love God and not be tied to any one doctrinal approach to my worship.
I don’t actually know if I can call myself ‘Gay’. In fact I wonder if any of us should be trying to fit ourselves in neat little boxes just because of who we are attracted to anyway. I am biologically both male and female so regardless of the sex of my partner I am always going to be in both a same-sex and heterosexual relationship at the same time. Maybe that makes me biologically “Bi”, who knows? I just know that God made me this way and I am proud to be who I am. I do both girl and boy though. I am an unbelievably tomboyish girl despite being six foot tall, very fair with blonde hair (never cut short) and blue-green eyes, and liking to look very girly when I do dress-ups. I do nearly all of the work on my collection of cars, love to play with trains, but collect artwork and play piano when the mood takes me. I can happily watch a good thriller or action movie, but also cry at a good romance or drama. I don’t do the ‘blue room/pink room’ thing.
I have also used my biology to shoot down many an argument the right wing fundamentalist or biblical literalists have tried to bring to bear. It doesn’t hurt to have studied theology too of course. Sunday-school level understandings of scripture are fine up to a point, but when the aforementioned groups want to have an argument with me about the “sin” of same-sex relationships, they had better have far more than Sunday-school understandings of scripture as just my own biological make-up is enough to send them home in tears to rethink their approach. They can either argue that God didn’t make me as I am (a bit difficult since any good theologian will tell you God is neither male nor female, or is both), or they have to argue that God created me never to be in a relationship because it is impossible for me to truly biologically meet the ‘boy meets girl’ line they would have us believe is correct (“Surely we don’t worship a God that would be that cruel?”).
The only problem with going at issues in this way, is that it sometimes does not win friends. Part of the reason for me being a ‘faith mongrel’, is that after a ‘doctrinal disagreement’ with the Baptist church some years ago I realised I had worn out my welcome and I turned from the church to save my belief and faith. About a year ago my best friend, who is a very active member of her Uniting Church, told me there were same-sex couples in her congregation and they were welcomed by her church. Curious, I sought out my local Uniting Church minister and met with the minister from my best friend’s church and had lengthy discussions with both. It became clear that whilst there was still some way to go, the Uniting Church was doing a lot to encourage same-sex attracted people back into the church. I decided this was the church for me. I have since become a member of my local Uniting Church and my views, whilst still generating some discussion and debate, are actually open for discussion and debate and acceptance as valid, rather than ignorantly dismissed as they had once been.
I don’t actually know where all this leaves me as a person. I do know that it is important to my faith for me to keep fighting for the right of same-sex attracted people to have a welcoming home in the church. Relationships are supposed to be about the things that Christ told us are important in a relationship, love, commitment, respect, support and understanding. Relationships are about being covenant relationships, regardless of the sex of the person you share you life with. Relationships should also be able to be celebrated before God, with others who share our faith. Anything less than that for me is not acceptable, not for me, not for the wonderful Christian friends I have that are same-sex attracted and not for the wider GLBT(I) community either. We all of us add to the wonderful variety that God created, regardless of how you believe that creation occurred.
I was going to leave this post until next weekend as I will be in Canberra for the week. I live in Melbourne but spend a lot of my time in Canberra. If you do reply to my message and don’t hear back from me until next weekend, it isn’t because I am not interested in your replies, just that I am away from home.
I must sign off now as I am taking part of our service tomorrow before heading to Canberra tomorrow afternoon, and I need my sleep!
To those of you that welcome it, God bless and protect you over the coming week.
To those of you who would rather have my best wishes in other ways, you have just that.