On Facebook, Fox News, and Intersexuality

I swear, the people at FoxNews aren’t just idiots, they’re proudly ignorant idiots, mocking that which (and those whom) they do not (and refuse to) understand.

Fox News personality Tucker Carlson refers to "intersex...whatever that is".

Fox News personality Tucker Carlson refers to “intersex…whatever that is”.

Facebook recently added additional gender options to its traditionally dichotomous male/female profile preferences. The gender terms provided by Facebook have been known for some time by those studying gender and sexuality, and have been explained to the public by professionals on several occasions.

So you can imagine why it may come as no a surprise to many that numerous pundits at Fox News not only do not know what many of these terms mean, but openly mock them.

Listen to the audio on the movie here.

Let me Google that for you: intersexThese are news people. They are supposedly investigators. So why mock intersexual people (or individuals exhibiting an intersexual condition) by saying on air “whatever that is”, when you can just as easily Google it.

Again, Tucker Carlson saying the words “whatever that is” in reference to intersex individuals is either evidence of incompetence as an investigative journalist, or sheer mockery of intersexuals.

Fox News personality Todd Starnes mocks intersexual individuals.

Fox News personality Todd Starnes mocks intersexual individuals.

And when Todd Starnes, host of the radio program Fox News & Commentary and a regular guest on Fox & Friends, says on Facebook,

“In the beginning God made man and woman…but Facebook decided to improve on the original models.”

or the idiotic

“What if you identify as a pine cone or a chicken or a weed whacker? Facebook doesn’t offer those options.”

and concerning “gender-fluid” individuals, who fluctuate somewhere on the spectrum between male and female, Starnes joked,

“You might want to have a roll of paper towels handy — just in case.”

I shake my head. It’s not news. And it’s a poor attempt at comedy. It’s a feigned ignorance for the purposes of mocking very real persons.

Intersexuals are not hypothetical individuals, and they are far more prevalent than you might think. Depending on the definition, about 1-1.7% of all live births – one or two out of every hundred people you know – show some form of sexual ambiguity, with 1 in 10 of those requiring optional surgery to assign them to a traditional male or female sex category.

I’ve blogged on this issue before. The case of Caster Semenya is but one higher profile example of an intersexual individual being questioned in the public spotlight.

And intersexual individuals are not new. There are photographs documenting intersexual individuals dating almost as far back as photography itself. Hell, the Greeks wrote complete myths about intersexuals in an attempt to explain their (divine) origin.

But it is this continued, deliberate ignorance of the existence of intersexual individuals – and the complete apathy concerning learning about them – that explains why so may religious conservatives (including those at Fox News) make the ignorant arguments they do concerning same-sex marriage. To put it simply, the existence of intersexual individuals implodes all arguments they make both about their opposition to anything but heterosexual marriage, and their claims that individuals choose their sexuality and are not born or “created” that way.

To argue age-old gender related religious arguments like “men are the spiritual leaders” and “women cannot be elders in the church” and “marriage is only between one man and one woman” falsely assumes that all individuals are either male or female. This is simply not the case, whether the Bible acknowledges intersexual individuals or not. Remember, science is not the Bible’s strong suit, and there are many realities of the modern world that the Bible simply does not acknowledge (for instance, that disease is caused by germs and not possession by evil spirits).

Intersexual individuals (formerly called Hermaphrodites after the Greek god Hermaphroditos, the son of Hermes and Aphrodite, who, according to Ovid, fused with a nymph (Salmacis) resulting in his possessing the physical traits of both a man and a woman) are very real individuals who do not fall into the traditional male-female dichotomy. Additionally, intersexual organisms are very common in nature. For example, clownfish (of the subfamily Amphiprioninae) of “Finding Nemo” fame are sequential intersexuals, with all specimens being born initially male, but with the largest fish in the group transforming very naturally into a female for reproductive purposes. (Remember that next time you watch the Disney favorite!)

Again, if you are going to argue that God made people, then God made intersexual people the way they are. (Right? Because “God don’t make no mistakes.”) They certainly didn’t “choose” to be intersexual; they were born that way. And while many intersexual individuals are proud of who they are and of the way they are, many others struggle with acceptance in a society so obsessed with sexuality and sexual conformity (especially to conservative religious traditions).

So tell me, praytell, who can intersexual individuals marry? Can they serve in leadership roles in a church?

These are real questions about real people, and the idiots at Fox News are too ignorant to know what they are, too stupid to look it up, and to bigoted to do anything but laugh at them. There is no excusing it. It is sheer mockery. They mock what they do not (and refuse to) understand because it does not fit their religious right wing narrative.

It is not news; it’s public social mockery of that which is “different” or “outside” and “beyond” the conservative worldview resulting from the religious blinders imposed by the Conservative Evangelical Republican political machine.

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how gay is gay enough?

North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliancenews of a peculiar lawsuit caught my attention this afternoon. according to the article:

Three bisexual men are suing a national gay-athletic organization, saying they were discriminated against during the Gay Softball World Series held in the Seattle area two years ago.

The three Bay Area men say the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance in essence deemed them not gay enough to participate in the series.

the problem is that the league is set up for gay athletes. banning non-gay athletes from the league is a form of discrimination based upon sexual preference. while the league does allow for two straight players to play on each team, the limitation of players based upon sexual preference appears to be a curb against teams who might recruit ‘ringers,’ that is, players who are exceptionally skilled at softball, but who may have no other affiliation with the group. (this happens a lot in church softball leagues, where teams will field a team full of exceptional softball players who may have never set foot in the sponsoring church, but there’s really no way to stop it. do league officials or members of the other team ask their opponents to quote bible verses to prove that they are actually christians? and does the ability to quote scripture make one a christian? church leagues usually leave the enforcement of team membership to each team. but i digress…)

there is really no way to stop a straight ringer from saying, ‘yep, i’m gay’ and then playing on the team. so, to prevent teams from fielding teams of ringers, and to preserve the gay nature of the league, the league put a limit on the number of straight players a team can have. i am guessing that the allowance for any straight players at all was itself a concession to avoid accusations of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation while gay advocacy groups are lobbying hard for same-sex marriage around the country.

but this raises another question: how does one test for appropriate level of ‘homosexuality’? is not a man having sexual encounters with another man (among other encounters with women) homosexual and therefore gay? and how does one test for gayness? apparently, the league had a way. according to the article:

Each of the three plaintiffs was called into a conference room in front of more than 25 people, and was asked “personal and intrusive questions” about his sexual attractions and desires, purportedly to determine if the player was heterosexual or gay, the lawsuit alleges.

Gay softballouch. i can just see the right latching onto this as an example of a gay organization using a litmus test to determine one’s level of gayness, so that one can either be granted or denied benefits and access to something. sound familiar? it’s the very this that gay advocacy groups are arguing against in states with pending same-sex marriage legislation.

the lawsuit is even more interesting because it is not three straight players attempting to play in the league, but three bisexual players. three bisexual men were apparently prohibited from playing because as bisexuals, they apparently weren’t gay enough. i’m not sure if ucla’s lesbian gay bisexual transgender (lgbt) campus resource center would buy that argument. while some draw a distinction between the two, most consider bisexual to be at least a subset of homosexual. ask the question: how is bisexual not gay? if the definition of bisexual is a person who has sexual attraction to or sexual encounters with members of both sexes, and a homosexual is a person that has sexual attraction to or sexual encounters with members of the same sex, then by definition, bisexuals should be considered gay. all squares are also rectangles, etc.

so, as ridiculous as this lawsuit may sound at first, it will actually be a problem for the league, as well as for gay advocacy groups. again, how does one determine if one is gay? and why should sexual orientation be a determining factor for eligibility in a softball league?

the plaintifs realize the absurdity of the league’s rules and are therefore challenging them. they wanted to travel and play in the tournament, but couldn’t because of their sexual orientation. even if the league is a private league, they will lose because the league take’s advertising and solicit sponsorships. besides, imagine a ‘straights only’ softball league. would that stand up in court? would there be protests?

here’s what will happen: the plaintiffs will win this case. the north american gay amateur athletic alliance should immediately settle this case, apologize, fly the three men to wherever they want to go, let them play, and change their rules. in a world where even gender is being challenged (girls can now play little league and boys can play softball), and where the olympics and women’s sports leagues are encountering issues of transgender and hermaphroditic/intersexual competitors, it seems a ‘gay’ softball league will lose in court every time.

this lawsuit is bigger than softball: same-sex marriage equality is at stake and this case will be used to argue against allowing gay marriage. this case could cause irreparable damage to legitimate efforts to legalize same-sex marriage. opponents of same-sex marriage will tout this case as discrimination against others by homosexuals, and this will not help the cause.

the leagues rules are bad. settle the case, change the rules, apologize, and move on. besides, why not let straight men show support for gay rights by playing in a gay softball league? if straight men are willing to play in a ‘gay softball league,’ then let them. it’s a form of support for the cause and a sign of the straight man’s comfort with his own masculinity. if men who neither have breasts or cancer can walk in a breast cancer walk, why not let straight men play in a gay softball league?

here’s fox news’ attempt at being funny.

question for the ‘yes on prop 8’ supporters: who can caster semenya marry?

South African gold-medallist Caster Semenya

South African gold-medallist Caster Semenya

i have a question for all of the california ‘yes on proposition 8’ supporters and others who support bans on gay marriage:

who can caster semenya marry?

it was revealed that south african olympic runner caster semenya is an intersexual individual (traditionally called hermaphrodites).

South African gold-medallist Semenya, 18, has both male and female organs, it was claimed…Semenya is claimed to have NO womb or ovaries — and has internal testes, the male sexual organs which produce testosterone.

first, i want to say that i can’t possibly comprehend what it must be like growing up as an intersexual individual in a society that sees issues of gender in such a markedly binary manner. gender issues are confusing enough if you are merely male or female, but to grow up in a sex-obsessed world arguing about issues of same-sex marriage as a hermaphrodite? this seems incredibly difficult.

i want to lend my support and sympathy to caster semenya, not for her physical makeup – she should be proud of who she is. but, i want to encourage her to stay strong in her life as an olympian and a woman (the gender she has chosen).

however, i cannot help but ask a few questions to those that oppose same sex marriage and to those that oppose women’s full inclusion, participation, and leadership in the church.

who can caster semenya marry? can she marry a man? would you let her marry a woman?

can she preach in a church? can she lead singing? can she serve as an elder? a pastor?

while these questions are answered quite simply by those of us that support gender equity and same-sex marriage, the answers are a little more difficult for those wishing to impose traditional (and quite physiologically ignorant) opinions on the matter. the bible speaks of male and female, but does not consider asexual, hermaphroditic, or other intersexual individuals. quite frankly, hermaphrodites do not fit the ‘biblical’ paradigm that many wish to enforce.

hermaphrodite_symbolhow can we continue to impose male/female gender regulations from a book that fails to address intersexual individuals upon a modern society. studies show that about 1% of all children born express some degree of sexual ambiguity, and 1 in every 2,000 newborns is born in a pronounced intersexual state. sure, these individuals are in the extreme minority, but if christians truly believe that every individual person is loved – and most say uniquely created (some might say intelligently designed) – by god, how can we impose gender restrictions upon individuals that possess both genders? it is no longer acceptable for fundamentalists simply to argue that the only acceptable christian lifestyle for intersexual individuals is lifelong abstinence. it is no sin, and they (nor their parents) did nothing wrong.

it is time for christians (and jews, and muslims, and peoples of all faiths) to recognize that some social institutions mentioned in the bible are no longer valid in modern society. the bible allows for slavery, but modern society has condemned this practice. the bible not only allows for, but at times commands genocide, but modern society has condemned this practice. likewise, the bible promotes the continued subjugation of women and homosexuals based upon antiquated and scientifically ignorant understandings of what it means to be a human with gender. it is time we once and for all did away with calls by christians to continue to ban same-sex marriage and women’s participation in church worship and leadership. it is time to accept that not all people in christ are ‘male and female’ (gal. 3:28) and realize that like its endorsement of slavery, the subjugation of women, homosexuals, and intersexual individuals is no longer acceptable.

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