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.
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?