What Exactly Determines Gender?


#1

All my life, I’ve struggled to find out where exactly I fit in. I try to read as much as I can to figure this out, but only get frustrated when I read things like this:

“When it comes to sexuality in the human person, our sex (or as some incorrectly call it, gender, (gender is a grammatical term that refers to the classification of nouns and pronouns)) is not just a coin toss. Our soul is either male or female and our body reflects that fact. My soul is male; my spirit is male; hence, my body is male.”

"The Body God Gave us Doesn’t Lie/

My personal experience seems to contradict this. When I was born, I appeared to be a (mostly) healthy male. Because my male organs were underdeveloped, the doctors ordered a karyotype which showed 70% of my cells were male XY cells and 30% were XO cells. The doctors think that I started as an XY cell, but as the cells multiplied, a mutation made some of the cells XO.

My parents were told that because I would struggle to reach 5 feet and because vaginal construction would be easier than penile reconstruction, that it would be better for me to be raised as a girl- but the decision was left up to them. Despite my male appearance and the fact that the majority of my cells are male, my parents agreed that raising me as a girl would be best. The remarkable thing is I believe that they could have decided to raise me as a male, and I would have just as much ease as assimilating into that gender as I have into the female gender. I have never felt at home in either gender and have strong reasons to indentify with both male and female genders.

My body appears to be feminine. Anyone who sees me or hears my voice wouldn’t give a second thought to what sex I am. But my feminine appearance is solely due to the feminizing hormones I’ve taken for most of my life. Had I taken testosterone, I would appear just as male as I appear female now.

But, my soul doesn’t seem to be particularly feminine. I am predominately sexually attracted to females (Though there are also a few males I’ve been attracted to, the vast majority of them are female. I’ve only ever fallen in love with females, never a male). Growing up, I always preferred playing outside with the boys than staying inside playing with dolls with the girls. I spent Saturdays helping my Dad fix things around the house or doing yard work. I had no desire to sew, cook, or clean the house with my mom. I looked to my Dad as a model of who I wanted to become and didn’t see many things in my mom I wanted to emulate. I was most comfortable in jeans and a t shirt and only wore dresses when my parents forced me to for special occasions. Now that I’m in my 30’s, my interests still lie more on the masculine side than the feminine side- my love of sports, my natural ability to fix things around the house and in my car, and my clothing preference. Of course, I’ve met many females who have these qualities, too- but females who have as many strong “male” interests as I do are very rare.

Despite all this, I’ve never told myself “I feel like a boy” or “I am a boy”. Since I can remember, I’ve had a deep sense that I am different from all the girls, but the idea of being a different gender was out of the question. I had been told all my life I was a girl- why wouldn’t I be? I wasn’t told the truth about my brith until I was 18, and until then,I had never suspected I was born a different sex.

So, reading things such as this really confuse me: “Receiving hormones of the opposite sex and removing genitalia are not sufficient to change one’s sex. Sexual identity is not reducible to hormonal levels or genitalia but is an objective fact rooted in the specific nature of the person.”

Then what exactly determines gender? In my case, it seems that receiving hormones and removing genitalia is exactly what changed my sex.

"The body (of the person) is a fundamental indication of what sex we belong to. It is a physical, empirically verifiable reality that does not change simply because our beliefs or desires do.”

ncbcenter.org/page.aspx?pid=1287

What to make of this when there are times the body does lie? There are other conditions similar to mine, such as Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, where the cells are fully male, but the body converts testosterone into estrogen. This results in a person who looks fully female, but who is chromosomally fully male. These people usually feel fully female. But is that because they are a female soul in a body that is male? Is it because the hormones feminized not only their body, but their soul? What gender are they really, and how is this any different than people who are transgender? Sometimes it seems that the decision to be a certain gender is arbitrary and really is up to a coin toss.

What exactly determines gender? It doesn’t seem like the body or the mind are always reliable ways to determine this. Any insight that can be given would be appreciated- I’ve spent much of my life trying to make sense of all this, and I only seem to be farther from understanding.


#2

As stated in your first paragraph, there is no such thing as a person’s gender. People have a sex, not a gender. People do not have a sex AND a gender. They have a sex, period. Yes, some people have chromosomal or indocrine conditions that make this a complex and painful situation.

I am sorry about what happened to you as a child, and the decisions your parents made that are having such consequences for you now.

I suggest you contact the National Catholic Bioethics Center for a referral. You are not going to the get answers you are seeking from a public Internet forum.


#3

In my current opinion.

The soul is reasoning, the by-product of mind (body and spirit).
The body has needs and desires the soul (reasoning) to fulfill its needs. The body does not sin apart from the soul; and the soul is not saved apart from the spirit.
If the the soul’s sole resoning is to be a slave to the body’s needs, then when the body dies so does the soul and the spirit. That is, the body killed the spirit, and the soul killed itself.

Gender is the result of body needs and what the soul (reason) feeds it.

Body is an organism functioning on chemicals. If chemicals change so does the organism to adapt to those chemicals that has remained in the body.
Soul is the reasoning of the mind functioning on whatever beliefs we have agreed upon to invest in for our self. There is the false-self (ego) and the true-self (soul).

Gender is determined by body chemistry and if/how the soul fulfills its desires or not.
For a spiritual life, is to be filled with spirit and lack in reason. That is why faith is so important, and not reason.


#4

It might be better to consult one of the NCBC’s qualified consultants rather rather than a forum full of laymen.
ncbcenter.org/sslpage.aspx?pid=1182


#5

No one here will be able to help you very much, I’m afraid --your situation is immensely rare and impossible for most of us to comprehend. Even among those who attempt to make themselves transgender, someone who has your condition is still rare. I would seriously suggest following Ike’s advice and contacting the bioethics center. Focus on the Family is a Christian organization that may also be able to recommend counselors for you, since you seem to be looking for Christian advice.

The only thing I really feel free to share about this situation is that, nowadays, I do not think your parents would be prompted to reassign your gender to be female merely because of the fact that your cells were not entirely male and your penis was not fully constructed properly. This was an unfortunate process that happened years ago, when doctors did not fully understand the ramifications of doing this to a child. To my understanding, it has now been mostly abandoned because of the disastrous results it had in some individuals. In hindsight, it seems rather obvious that attempting to turn a full male into a female just because his penis was injured at birth (say, through a botched circumcision) was a bad idea; your situation is more complicated and may be more recent, but it is possible your parents *may *still have gotten bad advice – this is why you should talk to the bioethics center to get a professional opinion – (none of us know the modern medical teaching, particularly the modern *Christian *medical teaching and thus cannot help you). They may also be able to help answer other complicated questions you might have as well as directing you to Biblical teachings that can help you.

Interestingly, your situation sounds very close to the Bible’s discussion of marriage found in Matthew 12:

[quote=]“Jesus replied,‘Not everyone can accept this word [to be celibate], but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.’”
[/quote]

[Eunuch’s were males who had been castrated from birth, either though the act of men or biology. They were quite similar to yourself and never developed characteristics that were masculine as a result.] Again, a qualified Christian medical professional will be more able to help you interpret this passage’s meaning for you, but for now, take it as a reminder that Christianity (and God) cares about people with your condition and desire to provide teaching that will help you.

Finally, be aware when reading Christian teaching that your situation is far different from even todays modern transgender person (many of whom are not intersex as you are) and thus will **not **be answered by reading about transgenderism, since there are so many differences.

I’m sorry to hear about your situation and pray that qualified Christian professionals will be able to provide you with wise advice. I also pray that you personally will be able to find the answers to your questions both spiritually and practically.


#6

I believe that our body parts determine whether we are male or female. Whether or not we feel “masculine” or “feminine” has nothing to do with it. I believe that there are some men who have very feminine tastes, and there are some women who like to do construction work, which is just fine with me.

I have a lot of trouble with the idea that someone is a man trapped in a female body, or vice versa.

It is different when you are born with some physical characteristics of each sex, and I doubt that people like us on a forum could be of much help.

There is something that I could share that I learned when reading a book on genetics. Most people think that if you’re XX you are female, and if you’re XY, you are male. This is true in 99% of people. However, there is really such a thing as an XY female. The way it was explained was that all embryos start out as female. There is apparently a gene or set of genes in the Y chromosome that get turned on to make the embryo start developing as a male. If something goes wrong, and these genes never get flipped on, it is possible that a person will be a female with XY chromosomes.

It seems to me that you were classified as a female when you were born, and you look like a female, it would be hard on everyone around you if you decided to turn yourself into a male.

This is just my opinion, and I hope it is not offensive in any way. I’m sure it must be very difficult to be in this situation.


#7

I appreciate your input and am not offended at all. What is difficult for me to comes to terms with is that when I was born I looked male, was given a male name, and could have very easily been raised as a male and developed into a man had I been given male hormones. Instead, surgery and feminizing hormones have made me develop into a woman. The thing is, I’ve never really felt like a female or a male. Both sexes to me seem to be mysterious groups that I cannot be a part of. And it makes me wonder, what would life be like had my parents chosen to keep me male? And what exactly would my gender be? It seems to me as if my gender really is a coin toss- and yet the Bible says “male and female He created them.” Who I am seems to contradict teachings such as that. It just seems to be that there must be something more than the body that determines gender.

Thank you eke and Inquiringperson for the advice about consulting the NCBC- I’ve been to their website many times over the years, but never thought about requesting a consult. That may be helpful.

[quote=FractalFire]“Jesus replied,‘Not everyone can accept this word [to be celibate], but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.’”
[Eunuch’s were males who had been castrated from birth, either though the act of men or biology. They were quite similar to yourself and never developed characteristics that were masculine as a result.] Again, a qualified Christian medical professional will be more able to help you interpret this passage’s meaning for you, but for now, take it as a reminder that Christianity (and God) cares about people with your condition and desire to provide teaching that will help you…
[/quote]

Thank you for your insight and for your prayers. I’ve meditated on that passage many times, and found it helpful to be reminded of it again. It’s comforting to know that of the limited recorded words of Jesus that some of those spoke specifically about people like me. Knowing that I am called in a special way to live for the kingdom of heaven really does help me make sense of a confusing and painful situation.


#8

#9

Glad to be of service. God bless. :slight_smile:


#10

Your question is well beyond the laypeople of this forum.
I can recommend a psychologist and spiritual director Laura Thor has real expertise in questions of gender identity and intersexed conditions.

laurathorcounseling.com/

I have seen the out of date theories at the NCBC and I think a consult with them may be very detrimental to your psychological and spiritual health.

I hope you find peace in your understanding on these issues. I have studied these questions for 40 years and have found peace.
Your sister in Christ,
Hilary


#11

You have asked a difficult questions and it’s not something easily answered on a forum because it’s rare to encounter the situation you describe. Maybe someone at this website can refer you to resources to help you: isna.org/


#12

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.