Non-binary or Genderqueer?

AgnosticBoy

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Non-binary or genderqueer is an umbrella term for gender identities that are neither male nor female‍—‌identities that are outside the gender binary.
- Wikipedia

I personally believe that everyone is either male or female. We all fall along a spectrum with male and female as the two endpoints. To say that a human's gender can be anything outside of those two options is just like thinking that there is a middle ground between belief and no belief. I can use biology (e.g. starting with anatomy and physiology) and logic to support my case. And keep in mind that this doesn't take away anything from those who are transgender because they also act according to a gender even if it's different than the gender they were born as.

I'm open to changing my view if I'm given good logic and evidence that shows that people can be something outside of male or female. But for now, I see the concept of non-binary or genderqueer as being a social construct. I am not convinced that it is like transexuality which can be traced to biological causes and is often accompanied with documented psychological distress, i.e. 'gender dysphoria'.

For Debate:
1. Is there a scientific basis showing that someone can be non-binary or genderqueer?

2. If there is no scientific basis, then why should I accept it?

3. If I accept this without a solid scientific basis, then will this set a precedent for anyone or any group to come up with a classification(s), and then use that to acquire a special status in society?
 

AgnosticBoy

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Here's a college professor, Jordan Peterson (a psychologist), being confronted by a crowd for disagreeing with some of the views from the nonbinary and transgender crowd...The responses from both sides relate to question 2 which gets into discrimination, free-speech, etc..

 
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MarkD

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Not long ago I started a thread titled "Male and female He Created them .. and sometimes intersex" at the Christian site BioLogos with this post which garnered more discussion than any other thread I've started there:

"I knew that mix-ups in sexual expression sometimes happen but I had no idea how often. Apparently it is as common as being born with red hair, about 1.5% of the time. In fact there are many ways sex can be expressed in ways not clearly female or clearly male. Some will say that everyone is born either male or female and that there is a simple criteria for determining which one they “really” are, but that doesn’t turn out to be true either as made clear here 24.

The science alone is fascinating and surprising to me at least. But there seems to be a problem here for many Christians. I don’t think there is any deep theological problem anymore than there is for accepting evolution. But many Christians seem not to want to acknowledge this biological messiness perhaps because it reflects poorly on the perfection of creation. But to my mind, and I assume to most or many here, this is no bigger hurdle for Christianity than is the “red in tooth and claw” element of creation. The real problem, as I see it, is that too many Christians are essentially blaming the victims of biology’s mix-ups rather than supporting and respecting them. If only these petty human biases were as easy to address as the science."

Clearly this is the debate section and I don't much do that but regarding the first two of your three points I would just say the arguments are just as good, which is to say no better, if instead of:

1. Is there a scientific basis showing that someone can be non-binary or genderqueer?

2. If there is no scientific basis, then why should I accept it?

We instead turned around the first point and adjusted the third:

1. Is there a scientific basis showing that someone cannot be non-binary or genderqueer?

2. If there is no scientific basis, then why should I accept it?

Basically the lack of scientific certitude no more prejudices the case against no binary sexual conditions existing than it does in favor, so lack of settled science can't be a criterion.
 
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AgnosticBoy

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For Debate:
1. Is there a scientific basis showing that someone can be non-binary or genderqueer?
Here's my summary of the expert and/or scientific perspective I have been able to find thus far:
A person’s gender is the complex interrelationship between three dimensions: their body (anatomy and physiology), Identity (what we identify as), and Expression (our behavior in society, gender roles, etc).
- Gender Spectrum | Understanding GenderGender Spectrum

Confusion arises when it comes to defining non-binary as I've run across multiple definitions. Some refer to non-binary as being neither male nor female while other definitions refers to it as not being exclusively male or female. The former is outside of the male and female gender spectrum, while the latter fits within it. In my opening post, I was questioning the 1st definition, that someone can be outside of a male and female spectrum.

Factoring in this concept of non-binary with the 3 dimensions of gender, I can say that someone can be non-binary in terms of their body, while not being non-binary in terms of their identity. They may also be non-binary in every dimension of their gender.

In terms of biology or body, I haven't found any scientific justification for non-binary classification (in terms of being outside of male/female spectrum). The closest examples are the disorders of sexual devleopment (DSD) that MarkD described earlier in his post. For instance, there's a condition called vaginal agenesis, which involves the vagina not developing, and the uterus may only develop partially or not at all.

In terms of identity and expression, is where I'd expect to find more variation in gendered behavior but then again that's because a lot of that is subjective. Sure, we can perhaps imagine an entirely different gender or just define (or redefine) one into existence, but that does not make it scientific or objective. If it were more than just a social construct, then I'd expect it to have a biological roots that either causes or influences such behavior. Despite that, I'm sure there's some biological underpinning (don't we find patterns of gendered behavior among non-human animals?) to gender identity, however, it is largely environmental or societal phenomenon:
While sex is the determination of whether a person is biologically male or female, gender is the sociocultural determination of understanding of what it means to be a man or a woman. Sex is largely constant across different cultures; in virtually any country, a person with XY chromosomes and male reproductive organs is considered male. Gender, however, takes many forms and is shaped by religious, political, legal, philosophical, linguistic, and other traditions. For example, in some countries, wearing make-up is associated with women and is seen as feminine. Elsewhere, men routinely wear make-up and it is seen as masculine.
[emphasis added]
Source: Boundless Sociology

2. If there is no scientific basis, then why should I accept it?
The first question is the most important to me because I want logic and science to inform my decisions. Ideally, I'd want it informing even practical matters, like what should be done given all of our knowledge on gender. Unfortunately, even some experts acknowledge that this issue can't be decided using only science:
The idea that science can make definitive conclusions about a person’s sex or gender is fundamentally flawed. Just ask sports organizations such as the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which have struggled with this for decades. In the 1960s, concerned that men would compete in women’s events,...
Source: Nature

If anything, one thing that leaves me skeptical of accepting any gender identity classification that isn't backed by science is the fact that there are over a dozen gender classifications already in existence. I'm sure, people will come up with many more. Without logic and science, I won't accept that every single one of these classifications ('agender', 'omnigender', etc) are more than social constructs. I also won't accept that they should have a special status (e.g. become a group requiring special protections under law) if it's nothing more than a social construct that anyone can make up.

3. If I accept this without a solid scientific basis, then will this set a precedent for anyone or any group to come up with a classification(s), and then use that to acquire a special status in society?
Refer to my response to question 2.
 
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AgnosticBoy

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Not long ago I started a thread titled "Male and female He Created them" .. and sometimes intersex at the Christian site BioLogos with this post which garnered more discussion than any other thread I've started there:
Thanks for posting that, Mark. It turned out to be a good debate. I have my popcorn and drink with me while reading through it!

Basically the lack of scientific certitude no more prejudices the case against no binary sexual conditions existing than it does in favor, so lack of settled science can't be a criterion.
At least by my standard, scientific certitude is very important. An issue lacking science will usually leave the door open for biases and unproven ideologies.

The science alone is fascinating and surprising to me at least. But there seems to be a problem here for many Christians. I don’t think there is any deep theological problem anymore than there is for accepting evolution. But many Christians seem not to want to acknowledge this biological messiness perhaps because it reflects poorly on the perfection of creation. But to my mind, and I assume to most or many here, this is no bigger hurdle for Christianity than is the “red in tooth and claw” element of creation. The real problem, as I see it, is that too many Christians are essentially blaming the victims of biology’s mix-ups rather than supporting and respecting them. If only these petty human biases were as easy to address as the science."
That's true. I read some comments on the forum you originally posted this to, and I saw one member mentioned that we're in a disordered world. The problem with that response that it would be unreasonable for God to expect us to follow his rules, like wanting hetero marriages, when gays and others are born to do otherwise.

My solution is to abandon a Christian view when it is shown to be wrong.
 
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MarkD

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My solution is to abandon a Christian view when it is shown to be wrong.

Since I never really adopted a Christian POV I don’t need to abandon it. But I feel something for Christians perhaps because it has been such a big part of mother culture in the milieux I grew up around. Plus I admire those that choose faith without deluding themselves about ever achieving certainty. I’m lucky to know several through that website.

But being a humanities guy I don’t place quite the same emphasis on science. I find many more interesting truths in philosophy, literature and some psychology than in the empirical reference book science has given us. Of course it is important too but it doesn’t connect me in the same way.
 

AgnosticBoy

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Since I never really adopted a Christian POV I don’t need to abandon it. But I feel something for Christians perhaps because it has been such a big part of mother culture in the milieux I grew up around. Plus I admire those that choose faith without deluding themselves about ever achieving certainty. I’m lucky to know several through that website.

But being a humanities guy I don’t place quite the same emphasis on science. I find many more interesting truths in philosophy, literature and some psychology than in the empirical reference book science has given us. Of course it is important too but it doesn’t connect me in the same way.
(y)(y)

If anyone is looking for the side that advocates for the non-binary crowd, which some might call the Liberal side, then they can refer to Christy's post (member's posts are from another forum). Perhaps you can also refer to MarkD's posts here and on that other site, as well.

For the side that is more skeptical or not as open to non-binary genders, then you can refer to Dr. Jordan Peterson or even some of my views. Although, I will stress that I'm willing to adapt my position based on any good logic and evidence from either side.
 
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MarkD

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I am curious by what definition you think every human being is rightly classified as only female or male. The thread I created on BioLogos was only about intersex conditions where biology itself does not resolve neatly into just those two categories. Admittedly it is a small slice of the population which is effected by such conditions, about the same as that which is red headed apparently.

As for gender dysphoria and sexual preference, I tend to believe what people tell me about who and how they are unless I have a great reason not to. Of course there is still the question of whether any of these are particularly need a new/different gender designation is a separate question. Guess I'm pretty permissive because I don't feel like I need to referee how "gender" gets interpreted.
 

AgnosticBoy

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I am curious by what definition you think every human being is rightly classified as only female or male.
My view doesn't involve everyone being only male or female. I view gender as falling along a spectrum. Being exclusively male or exclusively female are the end points. Intersex people fall in between. They have some degree of female and/or male. Btw, my gender spectrum is not too different than Kinsey's scale on sexual orientation which you can reference below (just substitute male and female in place of heterosexual and homosexual):
1*5PixCrQ4lJHgi_cWUJfpSw.png

The Table comes from https://medium.com/psyc-406-2016/scaling-our-sexual-orientation-54351ca46674

As for gender dysphoria and sexual preference, I tend to believe what people tell me about who and how they are unless I have a great reason not to. Of course there is still the question of whether any of these are particularly need a new/different gender designation is a separate question. Guess I'm pretty permissive because I don't feel like I need to referee how "gender" gets interpreted.
That's a good standard to have.
 
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AgnosticBoy

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Update on my position after further thought:

I would use non-binary terms towards someone who is between a 2 and 4 on the Kinsey Scale (if we substitute gender for sexual orientation - refer to my last post). Doing that is still compatible with my view of there being no such thing as a third gender or 'agender' - or nothing outside the male and female spectrum for humans (nothing proven, at least). So I would be using non-binary terms for reasons that differ than those who view it as an alternative gender. The female and male terms should be reserved for those who identify as being exclusively male or female.

As for gender dysphoria and sexual preference, I tend to believe what people tell me about who and how they are unless I have a great reason not to.
Gender dysphoria is probably the biggest reason why I would refer to a transgender as the gender that they identify with. However, there are some exceptions where going by the gender at birth is important or needs to be known. Some situations that come to mind are starting a romantic relationship (esp. considering transgender women can't bear children), having a medical procedure, or playing sports.
 
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TracyRN

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For Debate:
1. Is there a scientific basis showing that someone can be non-binary or genderqueer?

2. If there is no scientific basis, then why should I accept it?

3. If I accept this without a solid scientific basis, then will this set a precedent for anyone or any group to come up with a classification(s), and then use that to acquire a special status in society?
1) No. A big role of the genders is to procreate. Trans men can not impregnate women neither can trans women get pregnant.

2) You should not have to. I can see law makers trying to eventually make it into a law. Our kids should also not have to be taught about gender outside of science education.

3) It will and that is the problem! I volunteered at a homeless shelter that has a section for men and a separate section for women and families. On one occasion two two males wanted to stay in the women's section. They self identified as female...no sex change. We turned them down and referred them to the health department. They would have to get a leather from the health department saying that they were female before we can let them stay with the women.
 
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MarkD

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1) No. A big role of the genders is to procreate. Trans men can not impregnate women neither can trans women get pregnant.

2) You should not have to. I can see law makers trying to eventually make it into a law. Our kids should also not have to be taught about gender outside of science education.

3) It will and that is the problem! I volunteered at a homeless shelter that has a section for men and a separate section for women and families. On one occasion two two males wanted to stay in the women's section. They self identified as female...no sex change. We turned them down and referred them to the health department. They would have to get a leather from the health department saying that they were female before we can let them stay with the women.
Hi Tracy. I can see what a difficult position that must have been at the homeless shelter. (I helped run one of those one winter as well.) It is obviously a practical problem but I don’t think it’s being inconvenient means other genders don’t exist or need never be accommodated. Your solution that night was to acknowledge you were not equipped to give them what they asked while insuring the safety of everyone else. Men with women is a little like foxes with chicken. I would have done the same.

I don’t really do debate but my take on the three points AB raised would be:


1. Certainly many of the intersex conditions are biologically demonstrable. So the short answer is yes, sometimes there is a scientific basis.

2. Science is not sufficient and only rarely adequate at all to assess the nature of our subjective being. So for literature, the arts and humanities scientific basis is irrelevant. We should accept the importance of Shakespeare irrespective of what science has to say about that.*

3. In general I would never decide such a question on the basis of the potential for setting a precedent for other cases. In law such considerations are necessary as well as in public policy. But I'm neither obliged not inclined to live my life like that. That a sound decision tree for all possible cases inolving non standard gender is even possible is suspect. In general I don't think we should ever let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

*I recently came across this article again and I think it applies here. It's point, I think, is that an over reliance on science, especially by applying it where it doesn't fit, should be rejected.

"Wittgenstein’s thought has made very little impression on the intellectual life of this century. As he himself realised, his style of thinking is at odds with the style that dominates our present era. His work is opposed, as he once put it, to “the spirit which informs the vast stream of European and American civilisation in which all of us stand.” Nearly 50 years after his death, we can see, more clearly than ever, that the feeling that he was swimming against the tide was justified. If we wanted a label to describe this tide, we might call it “scientism,” the view that every intelligible question has either a scientific solution or no solution at all. It is against this view that Wittgenstein set his face.


Scientism takes many forms. In the humanities, it takes the form of pretending that philosophy, literature, history, music and art can be studied as if they were sciences, with “researchers” compelled to spell out their “methodologies”—a pretence which has led to huge quantities of bad academic writing, characterised by bogus theorising, spurious specialisation and the development of pseudo-technical vocabularies. Wittgenstein would have looked upon these developments and wept."

 
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AgnosticBoy

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1) No. A big role of the genders is to procreate. Trans men can not impregnate women neither can trans women get pregnant.

2) You should not have to. I can see law makers trying to eventually make it into a law. Our kids should also not have to be taught about gender outside of science education.

3) It will and that is the problem! I volunteered at a homeless shelter that has a section for men and a separate section for women and families. On one occasion two two males wanted to stay in the women's section. They self identified as female...no sex change. We turned them down and referred them to the health department. They would have to get a leather from the health department saying that they were female before we can let them stay with the women.
Hey there Tracy... I started a topic that would go with your 2nd point regarding education...

Should parents be in charge of their kids education?

 

TracyRN

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Hi Tracy.
Hi and welcome back! :)

I don’t really do debate but my take on the three points AB raised would be:
Same here. I used to discuss theological topics but ever since Covid-19 hit, my life has been mostly work.

1. Certainly many of the intersex conditions are biologically demonstrable. So the short answer is yes, sometimes there is a scientific basis.
I admit I misunderstood the topic. I thought it was about transgender.

I'm a Christian and I can say that the Church acknowledges that someone can be born as a "intersex". Where Christians differ is on how we treat this situation. We don't embrace or accept them as intersex unlike you, AB, and many others. Here is one Catholic's perspective..

Making Sense of Bioethics: Column 132: Seeing through the Intersex Confusion by Rev. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, PhD

Sometimes the suggestion is made that intersex individuals are, in fact, neither male nor female, but fluid, malleable or “bisexual,” with sexual identity residing somewhere between male and female. This kind of explanation is untenable.

Human beings, along with most other members of the animal kingdom, are marked by an ineradicable sexual “dimorphism,” or “two-forms,” namely, male and female. When problems arise in the development of one of these forms, this does not make for a new “third form,” or worse, for an infinite spectrum of different sexual forms.

Instead, intersex situations represent cases in which a person is either male or female, but has confounding physiological factors that make them appear or feel as if they were of the opposite sex, or maybe even both sexes. In other words, the underlying sex remains, even though the psychology or gender they experience may be discordant. Put another way, intersex individuals may be "drawn away" from their intrinsic male or female sexual constitution by various anatomical differences in their bodies, and by opposing interior physiological drives and forces.

This can be further complicated because of strong cultural forces that contribute to the confusion by sanctioning a paradigm of complete malleability in human sexual behaviors that militates against an understanding of sex-based "hard-wiring."

Even though it may not be popular to affirm the fact, people suffer from sexual development disorders in much the same way that they suffer from other kinds of developmental disorders, whether of the cardiac/circulatory system, of the nervous/intellectual system or others. No one, of course, should be subjected to bias or mistreatment due to a bodily disorder they may have been born with, but in treating such persons, we always strive to return their cardiac or intellectual functions to their proper baseline, rather than inventing a new abnormal as the norm and defining that as a “treatment,” as some are tempted to do with sexual development disorders.

While a newborn’s "intrinsic maleness" or “intrinsic femaleness” may be difficult to assess in certain more complicated intersex cases, the point remains that there is an "intrinsic" or "underlying" sexual constitution that we must do our best to recognize, respect, and act in accord with. We must carefully acknowledge, nurture and accept our given embodied sexual nature as male or female. Willfully denying or acting against that given nature will constitute little more than a prescription for disillusionment and dishonesty.
 
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AgnosticBoy

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I admit I misunderstood the topic. I thought it was about transgender.
Just to recap, the thread topic is about the gender identity terms that are referred to as genderqueer or non-binary. MarkD brought up 'intersex' to serve as an example of genderqueer. So far, all of the members that have weighed in have agreed that people can be intersex.

I'm a Christian and I can say that the Church acknowledges that someone can be born as a "intersex". Where Christians differ is on how we treat this situation. We don't embrace or accept them as intersex unlike you, AB, and many others.
You bring up an important aspect of this entire issue. We can have all of the facts, but how should we act on it? This is where I tend to see a breakdown of science when it comes to clinical practice and public policy. Ideally, I'd want only science informing clinical practice and public policy but instead, I can see other factors entering the picture. For instance, we can see this clearly when it comes to the issue of if people are born gay. The secular side tends to say people are born gay as part of a genetic determinism argument to show that it's not a choice. Meanwhile, the religious want to deny that claim so that they can say it is a choice, and then they can bring in the moral aspect. The experts tend to side with the secular side so a lot of them argue against or flat out ban conversion therapy.

But speaking from a strict scientific standpoint, we know that even biology is not fixed. Genetic expression can change (epigenetics) and even brain function and structure (neuroplasticity) can change all based on experience. On the religious side, we know that neither God nor the Christian morals are proven to be objective or valid. Yet public policy and clinical practice still follows the secular camp despite their deviation from science. No side is willing to explore if there are healthy ways (non-religious ways) to change sexual orientation.

TracyRN quoting an article...
While a newborn’s "intrinsic maleness" or “intrinsic femaleness” may be difficult to assess in certain more complicated intersex cases, the point remains that there is an "intrinsic" or "underlying" sexual constitution that we must do our best to recognize, respect, and act in accord with. We must carefully acknowledge, nurture and accept our given embodied sexual nature as male or female. Willfully denying or acting against that given nature will constitute little more than a prescription for disillusionment and dishonesty.
The explanation here basically leaves it up to the person to "recognize, respect, and act in accord with" with what they see as being "intrinsic". This is problematic not only because it is subjective, but also, doesn't the Church advise against this when it comes to transgender people? Transgendered people also decide that they are intrinsically male or female.
 

MarkD

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Even though it may not be popular to affirm the fact, people suffer from sexual development disorders in much the same way that they suffer from other kinds of developmental disorders, whether of the cardiac/circulatory system, of the nervous/intellectual system or others. No one, of course, should be subjected to bias or mistreatment due to a bodily disorder they may have been born with, but in treating such persons, we always strive to return their cardiac or intellectual functions to their proper baseline, rather than inventing a new abnormal as the norm and defining that as a “treatment,” as some are tempted to do with sexual development disorders.

From the article:

“While a newborn’s "intrinsic maleness" or “intrinsic femaleness” may be difficult to assess in certain more complicated intersex cases, the point remains that there is an "intrinsic" or "underlying" sexual constitution that we must do our best to recognize, respect, and act in accord with. We must carefully acknowledge, nurture and accept our given embodied sexual nature as male or female. Willfully denying or acting against that given nature will constitute little more than a prescription for disillusionment and dishonesty.”

Though some intersex seem to embrace being ‘other’ than male/female I’m inclined to agree with you and the author that most often there is probably an intrinsic maleness or femaleness in every newborn, in some cases it is not a straightforward matter to determine which it is. In these cases, if you guess wrong in your sex assignment surgery you risk choosing badly. If indeed it is intrinsic then even very good plastic surgery risks compounding the difficulties for the child. If surgery is delayed to give the child’s verbal development an opportunity to guide the choice it could help alleviate that risk. I’m not suggesting the choice be made the child’s alone but surely the opportunity to hear from the child could help. Tricky regardless since young children can be pretty undifferentiated until puberty. But there are many cases where the assignment choice was made badly and the feeling of entering puberty with the wrong body may be even worse than one that is just incompletely developed. Cases like that make me leery of taking an authoritarian approach to sex assignment for intersex babies.
 

TracyRN

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The explanation here basically leaves it up to the person to "recognize, respect, and act in accord with" with what they see as being "intrinsic". This is problematic not only because it is subjective, but also, doesn't the Church advise against this when it comes to transgender people?
The Church treats the transgender crowd differently when they are not hermaphrodites. If it is clear that you are a biological male or female from birth then that it what the person should stick with.
 

TracyRN

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Cases like that make me leery of taking an authoritarian approach to sex assignment for intersex babies.
I completely agree Mark. Some Christians may be quick to judge but there are no easy answers here. This matter requires a lot of support and compassion. I can't even begin to imagine how hard it is on a child to have to go through a journey to figure out their gender. The pressure from society to fit in a gender category makes it worse. This is probably weighing on the mind of parent's when they have to decide the gender of their newborn.