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Title: 'No longer male and female' : the challenge of intersex conditions for theology
Author: Cornwall, Susannah
ISNI:       0000 0001 3562 9077
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2007
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The thesis explores the theological implications of intersex conditions (those involving the congenital development of ambiguous genitalia, a congenital disjunction of the internal and external sex anatomy, sex chromosome anomalies, or variations in gonadal development) and their medical treatment. Christian theology has valued the integrity of the body and the goodness of God reflected in creation, but has also set much store by the “complementarity” of “normal” male and female physiology (and gender as mapped onto these). It has been threatened by liminality, shifts in sexed and gendered identity, and non-marital sexual activity. However, a deconstruction or querying of male and female as essential or all-embracing human categories changes conceptions of legitimate bodiliness and of what it means for human sex to reflect God. Theologies based too unmovingly in sex or gender complementarity are dubious in light of intersex, and fail to resist imperialism, hegemony and heteronormativity. Theologies which value incarnation and bodiliness must speak with stigmatized or marginal bodies too: the Body of Christ is comprised of human members, and each member changes the Body’s definition of itself as well as being defined by it. Accepting the non-pathology of intersexed and otherwise atypical bodies necessitates a re-examination of discourses about sex, marriage, sexuality, perfection, healing and the resurrection body. Informed by existing theologies from three marginal areas (transsexualism, disability and queer theology), this beginning of a theology from intersex demonstrates the necessity of resisting erotic domination in defining bodies. Theology is always self-queering, since it contains tools for hermeneutical suspicion, for overturning religious and cultural practices which do not meet the demands of love and justice. Although intersexed people do not always align themselves with the politically queer, intersex is, unavoidably, theologically queer. The ongoing erasure of intersexed bodies and experiences demands theological responses motivated not by fear but by a desire to expand the ways in which human lives and bodies tell stories. Until theologians, medics and others accept that the male-and-female world is not the only “real” world, and that the normalizing procedures of surgery and signification which bolster it are themselves grounded in something partial and arbitrary, the silencing and devaluing of otherness in human bodies will go on. This cannot be justified.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: intersex ; theology ; gender ; sex ; transgender ; disability ; queer