Intersex and Faith Identity
Christians with intersex conditions/DSDs have sometimes reported facing alienation or a lack of understanding from other people of faith, who may consider their condition "fallen" or somehow illegitimate. Other Christians with intersex conditions/DSDs have found that their faith helps them to navigate life with their condition, and that their religious community is a source of strength and hope.
As part of the Intersex, Identity and Disability project, the Lincoln Theological Institute has conducted research through interviews and questionnaires with people in Britain who identify as both intersex and Christian (and who may or may not currently be part of a church community), in order to learn more about the interactions between their intersex condition/DSD and their faith identity. Published work drawing on these interviews and questionnaires (with all names changed) will be made available to groups such as church policy makers and social responsibility officers. It is hoped that this will lead to an increased awareness and understanding of intersex/DSD among Christians in Britain, and improved pastoral and spiritual care for people who identify as intersex and Christian.
Published and forthcoming papers drawing on this research include:
- Cornwall, Susannah (2013), "British Intersex Christians' Accounts of Intersex Identity, Christian Identity and Church Experience", Practical Theology 6.2, 220-236
- Cornwall, Susannah (2013), “Asking About What Is Better: Intersex, Disability, and Inaugurated Eschatology”, Journal of Religion, Disability and Health 17.4, 369-392
- Cornwall, Susannah (2014), "Telling Stories About Intersex and Christianity: Saying Too Much or Not Saying Enough?", Theology 117.1, 24-33
- Cornwall, Susannah (2014), "Sex Otherwise: Intersex, Christology and the Maleness of Jesus”, Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 30.2, 23-39
- Cornwall, Susannah (forthcoming 2015), "“Laws ‘Needefull in Later to be Abrogated’: Intersex and the Sources of Christian Theology”, in Cornwall, Susannah (ed.), Intersex, Theology and the Bible: Troubling Bodies in Church, Text and Society, New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan
Links to support and advocacy groups
The following groups can provide useful information and support for people with intersex conditions/DSDs and their families.
The Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome Support Group (AISSG) is a UK-based charity which started in 1988 (formalised in 1993).
AISSG provides information and support to young people, adults and families affected by XY-female conditions such as complete and partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome or AIS (old name Testicular Feminization Syndrome or Testicular Feminisation Syndrome). AISSG also supports those affected by Swyer's Syndrome (XY Gonadal Dysgenesis), 5-alpha Reductase Deficiency, Leydig Cell Hypoplasia, Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser (MRKH) Syndrome, Mullerian Dysgenesis, Mullerian Duct Aplasia, Vaginal Atresia, and other related conditions.
The group has played a dual role in providing support and comfort to affected adults/families all over the world, as well as fighting for and contributing to a better understanding of the various conditions, and of how they should be ‘treated’ by the medical community.
Intersex UK works to raise awareness of intersex conditions/DSDs. Intersex UK advocates for the rights, equality and legal recognition of intersex people. It also offers education and support to intersex people and their families.
The United Kingdom Intersex Association is an education, advocacy, campaigning and support organisation which works on behalf of intersex people.
UKIA has the following aims:
- to educate, inform and campaign in order to remove the shame, secrecy, social prejudice, ignorance and stigmatization which surround intersex people.
- to campaign against the pathologising and medicalisation of intersex people's lives.
- to campaign against the use of surgery and other medical treatments for coercing intersex people to physically conform to cultural definitions of "normal".
- to campaign against the widespread practice of witholding information from intersex people regarding the medical implications of being born Intersex where these exist.
- to campaign for the same status and respect for human rights accorded to all others to be equally accorded to intersex people.
Organization Intersex International is the world’s largest intersex organization with members representing almost all known intersex variations. OII has affiliates in twenty countries, on six continents, speaking ten languages including Mandarin Chinese and Arabic.