People tend to think of human sexuality as a very black and white issue, particularly within the heat of the American Culture War. Straight or gay, right or wrong, good and evil seem to dominate the conversation, and the idea that one chooses their sexuality, or can change it simply by willing it to be so, is a prevalent and misguided perspective. “Man bits fit with lady bits, and lady bits fit with man bits” is the mantra (or something similar), and anything else is an abomination according to ancient texts, written in dead languages, by Bronze Age men. The problem with that perspective, however, is that it attempts to simplify an extremely complex issue, and demonizes anyone that doesn’t fall into the range of what the religious right deems morally acceptable.
One of the reasons I think it is so easy for some to judge others based on their sexual orientation is because sexuality cannot be seen. Not that you couldn’t “see” two people having same-sex intercourse, but what I mean to say is that a person’s sexual desires are an internal mental state, and not something visible you can determine just by looking at someone. Because mental activity is generally viewed in terms of “choosing,” this makes it very easy for a person to look at someone’s physical characteristics (i.e. male/female), and then determine what their appropriate mental attitude should be regarding those of the same or opposite gender. This is usually a pretty comfortable place for those who like to keep sexuality a black or white issue, but things get a little murky and confusing for them when you introduce them to a category they are likely unfamiliar with: intersex.
“Intersex, in humans and other animals, is the presence of intermediate or atypical combinations of physical features that usually distinguish female from male. This is usually understood to be congenital, involving chromosomal, morphologic, genital and/or gonadal anomalies, such as diversion from typical XX-female or XY-male presentations, e.g., sex reversal (XY-female, XX-male), genital ambiguity, or sex developmental differences. An intersex individual may have biological characteristics of both the male and the female sexes.”
With the introduction of intersex individuals, things become much more difficult to explain from the perspective of religious texts. What does the Bible or the Koran say about someone who has a vagina and a penis? Or a vagina and testicles? Or a penis and ovaries? Or ovaries and testicles? Can they go either way? Can they only have sex with other intersex individuals? If a person with a vagina and testicles has sex with someone with a penis and ovaries, is that a homosexual relationship, or do the opposites cancel each other out? Perhaps the best course of action is to let the 109,000+ born each year love and have sex with whomever they want, because it’s their body, and they know better than anyone who they are, and no one has the right to tell them otherwise.
Now let’s take a step back for a moment because if you thought sexuality was all neat and tidy before, I have a hunch you’re at least willing to admit that maybe it’s not as tidy as you thought it was. Is it not reasonable to acknowledge that if external sexual characteristics cannot be chosen, such as with the cases of intersex individuals — that the internal sexual characteristics of those in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community are also not chosen? Is it also not reasonable to acknowledge that because we see intersex specimens among other species in the animal kingdom, as well as homosexual and bisexual behavior among other animals, that this behavior would be expected in certain percentages of humans as well?
I’ll leave you with part 1 of this excellent documentary on intersex individuals. If you have not seen it previously, I highly recommend that you watch it, no matter what side of the fence you happen to be on concerning human sexuality. If nothing else, you’ll come out a little more informed about a little-known issue than you were before.