This article is four years old and clocks in at a mere 533 words. We publish it as part of our commitment to ensure that all voices in the Church be heard on the complex questions of sexuality and gender that face us today.
Orthodoxy in Dialogue published Intersex vs. Transgender in October 2017. At that time a colleague in Orthodox theology wrote to us: “I would encourage you to keep reminding everyone of the science related to all these issues. I don’t want our science determining our theology, but we can’t do good theology without the right science.”
When an esteemed churchman of Metropolitan Hierotheos’ stature ignores the contributions that the empirical sciences have made to our understanding of sexual and gender variance in human nature—such as the unarguably observable phenomenon of bodies born intersex (re: the “biological infrastructure” of gender cited below)—he does a disservice to science, to theology, and to human persons who simply do not fit into a tidy binarial schema of gender.
Until now we knew that there were two genders, the male and the female, or man and woman. There were also some who wavered from this for various reasons, primarily due to the passions. But recently there has arisen another person of the “third gender,” as it has been named by the courts, after many years of struggle made by such people of an “indeterminate gender” or “third gender.”
Someone named Norrie May-Welby, who was born in Scotland as a man, later went to Australia where he underwent gender reassignment surgery to become a woman, because he believed that he did not feel comfortable as an individual of the female gender, so he decided to discontinue hormone therapy to have an operation to avoid belonging to a “predetermined” gender. Then he began a long struggle to be legally recognized as a person of an “indeterminate” gender.
On Wednesday 2 April 2014 “the Supreme Court of Australia ruled that the State of New South Wales should recognize the existence of this third ‘indeterminate’ gender to which Norrie May-Welby belongs” (Ta Nea, 04/04/2014). Thus was born a person of an “indeterminate gender” (non-specific sex), who is neither a man nor a woman.
One is struck by the point to which a person can reach, who is frustrated by all things and wants to taste new experiences and situations. There are many who, claiming human rights for all people, are ready to accept and adopt such a mindset. But if we start accepting human rights without any necessary restrictions, then we will arrive at a social catastrophe.
Existential philosophy, when speaking about freedom, says that the biggest problem with freedom is what we are “given from existence,” that we do not have the right or ability to choose our gender, but it is given to us without the possibility of making a choice. Well, now this personal right has been loosed and is even recognized by the State. But where can society reach with such considerations?
The duality of gender was given to us, and indeed has a biological infrastructure. God created people as man and woman and in this way people developed in society, and thus the human race multiplied. Unfortunately, due to many causes, there exists today in society “genetic corruption” and man himself intervenes in this issue.
In the Church, however, we have the ability to transcend what has been “given from existence” with the life in Christ. Saint Maximos the Confessor, identifying the five divisions (namely uncreated and created, mental and sensible, heaven and earth, paradise and ecumene, man and woman), writes that in the life in Christ we begin to transcend the division of man and woman and proceed to transcend all divisions. The saints of the Church live in an angelic state, as it is written in the troparion, “Like angels in the world let us celebrate”, but they also become angels in heaven, according to words of Christ, “They will be as angels in heaven” (Mt 22:30).
When people do not know and cannot become an angel in Christ, then in their mania they voluntarily become a person of an “indeterminate gender,” and even worse, since even animals have a distinction of gender.
Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, “Ὁ «νέος ἄνθρωπος» τοῦ «τρίτου ἀκαθορίστου φύλου»”, May 2014. Translated by John Sanidopoulos. Published in English on June 23, 2014 on Discerning Thoughts.
See also our “Transgenderism” Isn’t a Thing.
Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou, born in 1945, is the author of many books. To an English-speaking readership he is perhaps best known for his Orthodox Psychotherapy: The Science of the Fathers.