THE BLOG
10/08/2012 07:38 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016

The ABCs of Who Should Marry: H Is for Human

I'm not LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bi, trans, questioning, or intersex). I'm neither a lawyer nor a religious scholar. But I'm aware of a fairly simple analysis that should make it much easier for people to accept marriage equality, whatever their religious, cultural, or political background.

Start with the premise that an individual has a right to marry, someone, let's say, of the "opposite" gender. However, some people are intersex -- that is, born with so-called "ambiguous" genitalia and indeterminable gender. Doctors previously "assigned" a gender, sometimes surgically, engendering (pun intended) much suffering for children who matured not comprehending the agony in their skin, clothes, and lives.

Science now acknowledges that gender goes beyond appearance or physiology, involving a complex interplay of hormones and matters such as androgen insensitivity. You can't simply make a child one of two genders by shaping or dressing the child as male or female. Experts acknowledge the wisdom of being open to people discovering their own place on the gender continuum. A human-rights cohort emphasizes that no child be altered "to impose a gender identity without the full, free, informed consent of the child in accordance with the age and maturity of the child" (the Yogyakarta Principles).

Obviously, babies don't choose to be intersex, just as none of us chooses our biological, physiological, or hormonal realities. Intersex people exist (and have always existed) and suffer acutely from convoluted policies regarding marriage inequality. They are full-fledged human beings. Who should deny them their rights to love, sexuality, and marriage? What religion, law, or institution should bar them from the fullness of life's blessings, or sentence them to isolation, simply by virtue of their birth? After all, if we can't establish someone's gender, we can't define their "opposite" gender.

Whether or not religious scriptures address this reality, we must. Otherwise, we relegate people to a subset, not fully human in their rights. Don't religion, the law, and society have to open the door for individuals to marry someone, even if they cannot pinpoint their precise place on the gender continuum? This answer must be yes, and it must lead to marriage equality.

The terms "lesbian" and "gay" refer, apparently, to women and men who are homosexual. "Transgender" denotes those who experience themselves as a gender other than the one that they were assigned at birth and feel compelled to present as another gender or actually transition to the other gender. "Questioning" refers to those who are still unsure of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Why is it mandatory to declare? Just as intersex people deserve the right to their own identity, everyone has the implicit right to individual natures and dispositions, not stamped with some single label legislating approval or disapproval of one's very being.

Males may be nurturing, artistic, athletic, strong, gentle, intellectual, outdoorsy, indoorsy, aggressive, and so on. Men have markedly differing levels of testosterone. Some men neglect their appearance; others fuss over it. Some women prefer pants to dresses. There are assertive women, graceful women, clumsy women, quiet women, outspoken women, powerful women, etc. Are these "chosen" traits? (Hormone levels aren't.) Does it matter? We don't assess hair, measure body parts (ensuring that size legally matters), or have marriage examination boards, ranking everyone on some scale measuring masculinity or femininity. Those eligible for so-called "traditional" marriage might not be sexual with one another; they may commit adultery; they may not be heterosexual; they may have extramarital same-sex encounters; or they may be gay and in MOCs (marriages of convenience, basically façades that allow them stay connected to their families, religions, or cultures). Whether or not we approve of such people marrying, they do -- legally.

And religions emphasizing mating to procreate, as the model, don't exempt from marriage men with low sperm counts or women who cannot bear children. Just as we wouldn't say that someone missing one limb may marry but someone missing four cannot, having lost too much to be human, we cannot say one has lost too much masculinity to be male, or too much femininity to be female. The gradation of masculinity and femininity, and of dispositions, is too nuanced (as is being intersex) for precisely bracketed categories.

The handful of boxes we are typically given to check to define our ethnicities are absurdly few to reflect our complex, unknown ancestral lineages. Likewise, the "opposite" sex category is an imprecise, limited construct in substantial physical, biological, and behavioral aspects. If marriage to someone of legal age is a right, should we post guards with checklists, decreeing arbitrary, indefinable, but supposedly requisite traits of the pairs?

Though I'm not a lawyer or religious expert, this analysis cannot be blithely dismissed. It deserves serious consideration and review.

Who am I? In the acronym LGBTIQA, I'm an "A," for "ally." The hidden letter that encompasses them all is "H," for "human."