Archive for June 2010

CDSP M. Div. Student Lindsay Hills on Thinking Theology and Intersexuality

June 16, 2010

As a queer Christian woman who has struggled to find her own place within religious communities I have often found myself looking at issues of insiders and outsiders especially in the Christian context.  Who is invited to the table and who is pushed to the margins are questions that intimately inform my theological lens.

I first encountered the biological complexities of sex while completing my undergraduate work at Bryn Mawr College in Sociology and Feminist and Gender Studies.  It was in this context that I was first exposed to the heartbreaking stories of intersexuals, or those born with ambiguous genitalia, historically referred to as hermaphrodites, whose families, doctors, teachers, priests and rabbis desperately tried to cover-up, deny, or surgically fix these perceived broken and imperfect bodies.  The question I was struck by was how do these individuals, often marked from birth as other and misfit, who are caught in the socially constructed binaries of gender, sex, and normalcy, find their way to the table and how can we as church leaders educate and empower our congregations to create and maintain safe spaces where all the Children of God can be nourished and fed.

The result of all these ruminations was my paper for Constructive Theology. The paper, entitled God is Creating:  A Creative Approach to Intersexuality in Light of the Creation Accounts explores the biological, cultural, scriptural and theological evidence regarding intersexuality in a way that seeks to transform the ways in which intersexuals are welcomed into the world and our churches.  God is Creating explores the creation accounts exegetically in order to break open the often translated orderly account of God’s cosmos, creation of male and female.  Calling on the contributions of feminist theologians, I explore the landscape of the ‘adam, or human, androgynous being, in which man and woman both have their being, a being that pre-existed sin, therefore rebuking the claims that are so ignorantly made that intersexuals are the product of sin.  I then explore the essentialist and constructivist claims regarding gender norms and pulling on the works of Augustine, Judith Butler, Lisa Isherwood, and Serene Jones, to demonstrate the growing need to recognize that a theology that embraces the bodiliness of intersexuality is one that reflects a “creating” God.

The conceptual tools I advocate for, in light of this different view of creation, are informed by a theology of creativity.  This creativity is seen in the eyes of the intersex infant, the image of God is seen clearly in God’s complex creativity, and that image is something that needs to be honored and celebrated, invited to the table and fed at the table, like every other Child of God rather than being disguised in a cloak of shame and lies.

Bio:

Lindsay Marie Hills graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 2004, with a BA in Sociology and a concentration in Feminist and Gender Studies.  It was there that she first encountered the complex issues of gender and sexuality.  It was during this time that as a queer Christian woman she experienced spiritual violence for the first time.  Hills is entering her final year at Church Divinity School of the Pacific and is a Postulant for Holy Orders in the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania.  Hills seeks to create safe spaces where all of God’s Children know that they are loved unconditionally by the creator and are able to grow and flourish in that love.