September 21, 2003 VNN8360
Now Try To Define A 'Man' Or A 'Woman'
BY BHAKTI ANANDA GOSWAMI
EDITORIAL, Sep 21 (VNN) The Self is Infinitely More Than the Sum of Some Bodily Parts
Ah! The pleasant security of being inexperienced and mal-educated, but absolutely sure that you know everything!
This is the sad state of certitude of Jerry Falwell and his cadre of inexperienced and ill-informed homophobic marriage-defenders, who are at it again. Their current One Man and One Woman Marriage Initiative in the U.S.A. is picking up steam, and we should all welcome it, because ultimately medical challenges to such a law will prove that it is impossible to use any medical criteria for justly defining a 'man' or 'woman'.
The many kinds of intersex persons, including sex-reversed persons (born that way), who cannot fit any chromosomal or anatomical definition of male or female will have to have their constitutional rights upheld. The reality of such persons will never permit a simple chromosomal, gonadal or genital definition of male or female, man or woman. By trying to force a legal medical definition of 'man' and 'woman' for marriage purposes, Falwell and his followers are in for a real shock from God and Mother Nature! Already the International Olympic Committee has entangled itself in a nightmarish legal mess, by trying to define 'male' and 'female' for athletic competition legal purposes.
The Committee had to stop genetic testing, due to the suprizing number of intersex persons who were being unjustly kept out of the Olympic Games, because they could not pass the Committee's 'sex' testing! The reality is that life on Earth is much more complicated than the simple, common (mis) understanding of male or female so passionately believed-in by persons like Mr. Falwell and the promoters of this amendment. Hoping to influence the moral decline of our Nation, these marriage defenders mean well, but are making a terrible mistake based on a belief in human sexual dimorphism that is not based in reality. Neither is their misunderstanding Biblically based.
You will not find sex chromosomes or mixed-sex gonads etc. mentioned anywhere in the Bible. The sad fact is that their idea of male and female is based on bad out-dated 19th century and early 20th century science. They are still living in the early scientific era when it was wrongly assumed that animals and humans came in only two models, with only two kinds and expressions of sex chromosomes...XY=male and XX=female. Now modern science KNOWS that this is simply not true!
Consequently the key to the failure of this misguided marriage-protection legislation is the fact that no purely biological simple definition of male or female will ever suffice. XX and XY chromosomes cannot be used to legally define every human, because not all humans are merely XX or XY. Some are chromosomally XXY, XO or Mosaic, having various chromosomal patterns in different tissues throughout their bodies. Mosaic persons can test XX, XY, XXY, XO or something else in various parts of their bodies! Then there are naturally sex-reversed people whose bodies are the opposite of the standard issue. Such persons have XX chromosomes with male anatomy, or XY chromosomes with female anatomy. Neither can gonads (ovaries or testes) or other reproductive parts be used to define every person's sex, because some otherwise normal men have a uterus (Persistent Mullerian Duct Syndrome) and some chromosomal 'women' have a functional penis and testes. There are even completely "sex-reversed" (this is the actual medical term!) people who have normal-looking bodies that are the opposite of their sex chromosomes. Thus Complete-AIS XY 'genetic males' look like normal women and may function sexually just like normal women, and Complete-CAH XX 'genetic females' have normal external male anatomy. Such naturally sex-reversed people have always been sex-assigned and raised as their anatomical sex, not their so-called chromosomal or genetic sex.
There are also otherwise normal looking and feeling men and women who have been born without any genitals, as well as intersex persons who were born with both a functional vagina and a functional phallus. Furthermore, some intersex people are so-called true hermaphrodites (a medical label that is being phased-out as offensive), because they have ovotestes or both testicular and ovarian tissue in their mixed-sex gonads. Although most intersex persons are infertile, some can and do biologically parent children or successfully give birth. In 2001, when I was compiling a survey of the best and most recent research on sex differentiation and intersex conditions in vertebral species (including our own), I read a number of biology and medical journal reports on intersex and sex-reversed animals and humans who had fathered or given birth to healthy off-spring. Yes, there are XY women who have given birth to normal children. So there are not only reproductively successful XY sex-reversed females in other species, but there are even fertile and infertile (with treatment) XY human females who have given birth!
Such cases can be studied on-line at the National Library of Medicine ( http://www.nlm.nih.gov/ ) Entrez PubMed journal search site http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi . This search site is very easy to use and accesses over 12 million scientific journal citations, going all the way back to the 1960s. Hundreds of scientific papers on intersex and sex-reversal in humans and other species can be read at this site. The U. S. National Library of Medicine is the leading institution of its kind in the world. Just a search of 'environmental estrogens' and related terms will pull up hundreds of world-class studies on modern pollution-caused intersex conditions in animals and man. The feminization of ALL SPECIES due to environmental estrogen mimicking compounds is a very serious world problem. It has been called a crisis and an epidemic. In some badly polluted areas, the incidence of XY feminized intersex has doubled in the last 20 years. So more and more people are being born every day who cannot be sex-assigned according to the typical XY-male type of differentiation. What will Mr. Falwell and his 'man and woman' marriage crusaders want the legal establishment to do with these souls?
There are more and more intersex humans that break all of the rules of any possible simple and dimorphic legal-medical male and female sex assignment. This means that any rule used to define one man and one woman for marriage purposes can and will be eventually challenged and struck down, at the nation's highest court, by the scientific facts presented in defense of intersex persons who will have to challenge any simple dimorphic definitions of 'male and female' or 'man and woman', to secure their most basic human rights. Seeing such a legal nightmare on the legislative horizon, more and more informed people in the government will try to block this doomed legal project. The institution of Christian Marriage cannot be "defended" by denying a vast number of intersexed human beings their very right to exist.
So, let the ill-informed bring on this amendment, and let science respond with the question: OK, how will we define 'male' and 'female'?" The ensuing struggle will be very educational! I welcome it, as it will for once and for all end the legal-medical tyranny of anatomical parts over people who do not fit neatly into our society's fantasy of a simple, sexually dimorphic species.
This amendment is exactly what is needed to bring the scientific, medical and human rights legal issues of assigning sex to national and global attention. Simplistic definitions of male and female, or man and woman, are the fantasy of inexperienced and poorly educated people like Mr. Falwell. Such prejudiced people would benefit from some volunteer service that exposes them to the real medical, legal and pastoral needs of intersex and sex-reversed people and their families. In the real world, human beings come in a continuum of complex biological conditions that range from the common standard issue XX=female and XY=male, through an extremely complex continuum of intersex states, all the way to the naturally sex-reversed XX-male and XY-female.
A large number of humans exist in every state possible and viable in between 'normal' male and female, and chromosomally sex-reversed male and female. In fact, estimates for various population groups range from 1 in 2000 to 1 in 100 for persons born with some atypical sex differentiation or intersex condition. That is a lot of people who will not fit into any one-size-fits-all legal-medical definition of 'male and female'. Such intersex and sex-reversed persons are fully human and have basic God-given human rights too! As it is now, there is an enormous medical ethics debate going on about how to 'treat' and assign sex to the increasingly large number of intersex persons being born every day. At some point this medical ethics problem and the legal issue of defining 'man' and 'woman' for marriage purposes will merge. When they do, it begin a new era for human rights education and activism.
Education regarding the medical-legal impossibility of defining male and female is therefore the key to a human rights centered outcome in this amendment struggle. The sanctity of sacramental marriage (in any faith) cannot be preserved by denying the existence and basic human rights of part of the human race.
For a copy of the Topical Index to my Sex Differentiation Study entitled "Improving Medical and Pastoral Responses To The Needs Of Intersex Persons...A Resource: Sex Differentiation and Behavior, An Introduction To Animal And Human Studies " (Compiled by David Sherman, August 2001) please write firstname.lastname@example.org
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