Is Gender Really Eternal?

The Proclamation on the Family states that “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”  We know that gender is related to genitalia, but sometimes that can be a bit confusing. I talked previously about Intersex individuals, and TLC has a show (also available on Netflix) called Strange Sex.  The show features what you would expect: swingers, a polyamorous family (2 wives and 2 husbands living in a committed relationship), but also features some unusual medical conditions.

I think we would all agree that a man involved in a farm accident is still a man.  Tommy was involved in a farm accident and had to have his penis removed.  Episide 6 of Season 2 describes another man with diabetes that got gangrene in his scrotum.  Of course we would consider such atrocious injuries as not affecting gender, but what happens when someone is born that way?

Episode 3 Season 2 discusses the case of a woman born with 2 vaginas.  One vagina was so small (about the size of a #2 pencil) that she didn’t notice until it was pointed out by a doctor.  She has 2 uteruses, and 2 sets of ovaries.  The larger uterus isn’t as large as a normal sized uterus, so she had a concern about miscarriages.  However, she has been lucky enough to give birth to two children.

Another woman in episode 2 from season 2 was born without a vagina.  She still had ovaries and a uterus, but they were basically useless.  She has never had a period, and has had 2 operations in order to fashion a vagina.  But it is unlikely she will ever have kids since she can’t ever have a period.

Jeanne and her husband Bob

And then strangest of all is the case of Jeanne.  As she turned into a teenager, she did not develop breasts like other girls, and didn’t have a period.  Concerned, she visited a doctor at age 17 to see what was wrong.  The doctor hospitalized her, collected her urine for a week, and then didn’t exactly tell her what was wrong.  He told her that she would need to take hormone injections for the rest of her life, and that her ovaries failed to develop and needed to be removed because they would become cancerous.  At age 25, she decided to get a copy of her medical records to find out more about her condition, and was startled to learn that she had XY chromosomes, (making her genetically a man), but had been born with female genitalia.  The condition is called Swyer syndrome.  How is that even possible?

Doctor Victoria Gomez-Lobo, a pediatric gynecologist explained that ”A patient with Swyer Syndrome has 46 XY, so normal male chromosomes but because the testes never developed, they never develop into a male.”  It is estimated that Swyer Syndrome occurs in 1 of 30,000 people. Jeanne became angry that her doctor did not tell her about her condition.  She has married a man, and they have a normal husband/wife sex life, though she will obviously never have children.

So, given intersex individuals and the strange case of Jeanne how does the proclamation about gender apply to these situations?  Do you believe gender is an eternal characteristic?

11 comments on “Is Gender Really Eternal?

  1. Yes I believe Gender is eternal. These are just cases of the biological processes in the body not working properly.

  2. I vote for NO!

  3. Excellent post! It begs the question; how many genders are there?

  4. I would suggest that you better define what is meant by “gender”. Are you only defining it in biological terms? Did that mean I had a penis as an intelligence? What did I use it for? What purpose did it serve then?

  5. The Family Proclamation doesn’t quite use proper terminology. It is not talking about gender, but rather, about sex. Unlike sex, gender has nothing to do with genitalia, and is socially constructed.

    But terminology aside, this is one part of the Family Proclamation that I happen to like, because it can provide a place for transgendered people within Mormon cosmology. Gender Identity Disorder could be, under this framework, a situation where the sex of the spirit and the sex of the body at birth are not the same. Most intersex people, as I understand it, identify as either male or female. For those that do not, there is no reason why the idea of gender need be a binary male/female thing. If male and female identity are eternal, then why not intersex identity?

  6. Michael, those are interesting questions. The PoF seems to take it for granted that everyone understands gender, but clearly there are some unusual cases that the PoF does not take into consideration. I’d be curious to hear you answer your own question. For most people, I think gender=sex.

    Chris, I don’t know what you meant that gender is socially constructed. Can you expand on that a bit?

    The case of Jeanne brings up so many theological problems for me. If Jeanne is really a male (XY), then will she be resurrected as a man? And if so, will he be eternally sealed to Bob? It seems to be an argument for gay marriage. And if Jeanne is resurrected as a female, I guess it solves the theological problems, but will require a change in chromosomes.

    Will Jeanne get to choose? If so, will transgender people get to choose?

  7. […] and Firas are a Muslim couple married in August 2009.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been watching the TLC program, Strange Sex (also available on Netflix.)  For Firas and […]

  8. Social construction is a philosophical theory. Here’s what wikipedia has to say about it.
    The social construction of gender comes out of the general social constructionist thought. Social constructionism, briefly, is the concept that there are many things that people “know” or take to be “reality” that are at least partially, if not completely, socially situated. For example, money is a socially constructed reality in most societies. The paper bills that people use to pay for goods and services, for which they work most of their lives, have little inherent or essential value, but have value by convention. Even the gold that (used to) back the bills is socially constructed. Gold only has value because we, as a society, give it value. We act, however, as though gold were worth working for, fighting for, and even dying for. This meaning that we ascribe to money only serves to reinforce our belief in its essential nature.

    In relation to gender, we are born male or female. everything else we thing else we think about our roles in society as males and females has been constructed for us.

  9. This is deffently a hard subject, but even you (I believe its your words) used the words “she and her”. If she feels like a woman, looks like a woman and has all the right parts shes a woman. I know she didn’t develop breasts, but ther are woman that have small breasts and it seems that they aren’t their, and yet they are and can still have children. She had something medically wrong from birth. Just cause a man thats gay feels like a woman doesn’t mean that they need a sex change. There is a number and I wish I had a % to give but what a about those that say they were born gay then live a strait lifestyle? Now will she be raised up a the resurection as a woman I don’t know but I think she will.

  10. When a fetus develops it will become female by default unless the correct instructions are sent to masculinize it. As a result, it seems to me, individuals with non-typical sex chromosomes will more often appear female when adults. Consider Turner’s Syndrome, where in most cases the individual has a single X chromosome, rather than XX or XY. Persons with Turner’s Syndrome appear female are considered to be female but do not develop enlarge breasts and typically have non-working ovaries. It is hard to say whether such individuals would have become a male or a female had their prenatal development proceeded normally.

    A dear friend of mine actually has Turner’s Syndrome and, because she appears female, was temple married. But how do we know what her eternal gender really is?

  11. […] and Firas are a Muslim couple married in August 2009.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been watching the TLC program, Strange Sex (also available on Netflix.)  For Firas […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: