Skip to content

There is More to Human Sexuality than XX and XY


As children we are all taught that humans come in two forms, male and female. What could be simpler? As we become more educated, we learn that male and female are defined by possession of a specific combination of chromosomes, XX making a person female and XY making a person male. Whether a baby is male or female, depends on which sperm reaches the egg, as half of the sperm produced by males contain an X chromosome and half contain a Y chromosome. For those who have studied a bit of human biology it is also well known that Y chromosome bearing sperm swim faster and more energetically than X chromosome bearing sperm, or at least that is what I was taught. It turns out that this is a myth, as more sophisticated methods for distinguishing Y-bearing from X-bearing sperm have not found any differences in sperm motility,[i] and this is not the only myth about human sexuality. When it comes to sexuality, the more we learn, it seems, the less we know for certain. Even the simple male/female dichotomy, and all the gender/sexuality assumptions around this apparent simple distinction break down under scrutiny.

Human sexuality is complex and comprises several interacting processes. Society tends to distill sexuality down to sex and gender, assuming that the two are always tied together. If a child is born as male, then he will automatically develop male gonads and secondary sexual characteristics such as an Adam’s apple and facial hair, will display male-gendered behavior and will be sexually attracted to females, end of story. Sexuality is much more complicated than this, being the combination of, at minimum, four interacting components or processes: chromosomal sex, phenotypic/anatomic sex, gender orientation and sexual orientation (Figure 1). Each of these components develops independently of the others and at different times during development.

Figure 1. The four components of human sexuality: Chromosomal sex, phenotypic sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Each component is correlated with the other components in typical sexual development. For example, someone who is chromosomally male (XY), will usually be phenotypically male, will identify as gendered male, and will be sexually attracted to females. However, each of these four horizontal axes is potentially independent, such that a person could be born chromosomally male, but due to a gene mutation might be phenotypically intersex, or they might be both chromosomally and phenotypically female, but might identify as nonbinary[ii] or male. Outcomes can land at any point on each of the four axes, each outcome potentially independent from the other three.

Chromosomal sex is the most straightforward of these, and if there are only two sex chromosomes present, it is as simple as XX being female and XY being male. Complications arise when there is only a single X chromosome, which results in an intersex condition known as Turner’s Syndrome, or more than two sex chromosomes, which results in a variety of intersex conditions. Intersex conditions are also represented as variation in the second component of sexual development, phenotypic/anatomic sex, which includes all the physical characteristics associated with a person’s sex. Someone who is intersex has a mixture of physical traits distinctive of both sexes making determination of their phenotypic/anatomic sex uncertain. In the medical community intersex conditions have commonly been referred to as “disorders of sexual development” or DSDs. Both terms, intersex and DSD, can carry a certain amount of stigma, so it has been suggested by those with these conditions that an alternative term be considered, “differences of sexual development,” which conveniently can also be abbreviated as DSDs.

Until recently, babies born with a DSD were evaluated by physicians and assigned a sex as soon as possible, followed by surgical interventions to give the baby physical traits consistent with their assigned sex. Because a growing number of individuals with DSDs assigned a sex like this at birth have become dissatisfied later with the outcome, the medical community is now reassessing this approach, and is more often considering delays in assigning sex until the child can participate in the decision.[iii] Surgeries, other than those that are required to protect the health of the child, are also delayed as long as possible, allowing the child and family to carefully consider the eventual sex assignment. Some individuals with a DSD have decided to remain intersex, refusing to choose a sex assignment and the surgeries associated with the process.

The biological processes that lead to typical phenotypic sexual development can be summarized in a flow chart showing the genetic and developmental decision points that guide the process (Figure 2). The process is mediated by genes that act as switches that control the expression of other genes, that in turn control yet other genes later in the developmental sequence. At the beginning all embryos, regardless of their chromosomal sex, have the potential to be either phenotypically/anatomically male or female, meaning that sexual development is nonspecific at first. One of the most important genes in early sexual development is the SRY gene, which resides on the Y chromosome. It is the master switch that channels development of the embryo in the male direction. Even if an embryo is XY, if the Y chromosome does not possess a functional copy of the SRY gene, it will develop as female. Even a functional SRY gene, however, does not guarantee a completely male phenotype, as there are numerous other genes involved in shepherding development along. Mutations in any of the other genes involved in sexual development can result in variant outcomes, many of which are classified as intersex conditions, because the phenotypic/anatomic sex of the individual is often uncertain or mixed.

Figure 2. Cascade of fetal sex development and genes involved in sex determination and differentiation. Abbreviations: INSL3, INSL3, insulin-like factor 3; DHT, dihydrotestosterone; AR, androgen receptor; AMH, anti-Mullerian hormone. Source: Choi, J.H. and Yoo, H.W., 2012. “Differential Diagnosis of Disorders of Sex Development (DSD) by Molecular Genetic Analyses.” Annals of Pediatric Endocrinology & Metabolism, 17(3), pp.137-144.

The third component of sexuality, gender, or gender identity is the personal embodying of one’s sexual identity. To a large extent, gender identity is culturally defined, with certain behavioral patterns and modes of social presentation being associated with being male or female. Western culture typically expects men to be masculine and women to be feminine with all the concomitant behaviors and personality traits associated with these terms. The degree to which gender is biologically determined vs. culturally determined remains much debated, leading some people to dispense with the concept entirely, referring to themselves as gender fluid or nonbinary, allowing them to mix gender specific behaviors and presentation from both genders in complex ways, and defying long-held stereotypes. Other individuals are transgender (often abbreviated as trans) and self-identify with a gender opposite to that which is compatible with their chromosomal and phenotypic/anatomic sex. Like all aspects of sexual development, gender identity is assumed to be partly determined by genes, although exactly how is not certain, as the development of gender identity is less well understood.

The final, and apparently most complex, component of sexuality is sexual orientation. Although sexual orientation seems to be the last component to appear during development, since sexual attraction does not manifest until puberty, all evidence points to sexual orientation having its roots in genetics and early embryonic development. Although not completely genetically determined, growing evidence from twin studies,[iv] genome wide association studies (GWAS),[v] and other genetic evidence[vi] shows genetics to play a prominent role. The remainder of the nongenetic effects (including epigenetic effects) on sexual orientation seem to be prenatal and may be caused by variations in testosterone levels or other yet uncertain processes.

Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome: A Difference of Sexual Development

Although the precise biological roots of something like same-sex attraction are uncertain, differences of sexual development (DSDs) are well understood and provide instructive examples of how differences in sexuality are navigated. As already noted, many DSDs result in intersex conditions, leaving the phenotypic/anatomic sex and gender ambiguous. Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS) is the most common DSD, seen in 1 in 20,000 to 1 in 99,000 individuals with a normal male XY karyotype.[vii] It is caused by mutations in the androgen receptor gene which is located on the X chromosome. The androgen receptor protein is required for normal response to androgens (male sex hormones) of which testosterone is the best known. Mutant forms of the protein may respond partially to testosterone, resulting in a condition known as Partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (PAIS), or may not respond at all to testosterone, causing Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (CAIS).[viii]

Babies born with CAIS are to all physical appearance female, having a vagina that looks externally normal, yet they have no uterus or ovaries, and instead have testes in the abdomen. Because of this, the condition often goes undetected till later when treatment for an apparent inguinal hernia reveals the presence of testes, or the child never starts menstruation during adolescence. Once the testes are discovered, past practice has been almost always to remove them because retaining them was believed to represent an unacceptably elevated risk of testicular cancer. Removal of testes has become increasingly controversial, because risk of testicular cancer before puberty is now understood to be extremely low[ix] and retaining the testes until after puberty enables normal breast development to occur (since the testes produce some estrogen and some testosterone is converted to estrogen as well) without the need for estrogen replacement therapy. Retaining the testes also appears to reduce the severity of osteoporosis later in life. Because essentially all babies with CAIS in the past were initially identified as girls and were raised as such, and almost all such individuals were later satisfied with their assigned sex and gender, this remains the practice. Most individuals with CAIS see themselves as fully female and feminine and display sexual attraction toward males and function sexually just like typical women.

Within a traditional Christian concept of sexual relationships individuals with CAIS pose a challenge. The traditional Seventh-day Adventist position that sees marriage as only between a man and a woman, and forbids same-sex marriage, begs the question in this case: Where does someone with CAIS fit into this definition? To summarize, a person with CAIS is chromosomally male, anatomically intersex (they have a vagina and testes), gender female, and they are usually sexually attracted to males. If someone with CAIS marries according to their own inclination, they will marry a man. Does this represent a same-sex marriage, since the chromosomal sex of both partners is male? And if the answer is yes, how should the church respond? In some sense, it is neither a same-sex marriage nor a traditional marriage between a man and a woman. The North American Division Statement on Human Sexuality[x] openly admits that “given the complexities of the fallen human condition (Rom 3:23), we recognize that individuals may experience same-sex orientation through no choice of their own.” By this it is concluded that the condition of “being gay” does not represent a sinful condition. It goes on to state:

“We acknowledge that attraction to someone of the same gender may be temptation, but not an act of sin (Matt 5:27-28; Rom 6:1-23; Col 3:1-10; James 1:14-15); therefore, those with same-sex orientation, who conform to biblical teachings about sexual behavior, may fully participate in the life of the Adventist Church.”

The implicit message is that such individuals must remain completely celibate.

Applying this same principle to someone with CAIS, or some other DSD, would mean banishing that person to a life of celibacy, just because they were born with a difference in the way they developed sexually. It certainly can be acknowledged that we live in a sinful world, but to assume that differences in sexual development are solely the consequence of sin, and to therefore hold the person possessing such a difference to such a rigid standard of sexual conduct, seems unjust, if not unethical. Yes, a person with CAIS is chromosomally male, but their gender identity is fully female, and they are attracted to males, as is typical of most females. To anyone not privy to the biological details, such a marriage would appear no different than heterosexual unions.

Assuming that conditions like CAIS are the result of sin is problematic itself, since it is based on the assumption that perfect genetic systems would never experience mutations. Genetic mutations are neither good nor bad, inherently, and are the necessary basis of human variation. Without mutations humans would all look alike, with the same eye color, hair color, skin color, facial shape, etc. Mutations are the basis of the nearly limitless variation observed in the human family. It is impossible to conceive of a genetic system without mutation, and if God is the architect of life and of the genetic systems that support life, He must have incorporated the process of mutation to provide the diversity needed to produce a vibrant human population. Of course, before sin, maybe God had some system of making sure that all mutations were beneficial, so certainly, many mutations after the fall end up causing harm, but this is just speculation.

A larger problem with assuming that mutations, even deleterious mutations, represent a consequence of the fall, lies in the subjective nature of defining what mutations are deleterious. For example, although we do not know the precise genetic causes of cognitive differences, we do know that genetics is involved in such things as dyslexia[xi] and ADHD.[xii] An uncritical assessment of these traits might label them as detrimental, but this ignores their potential benefits. A variety of extremely successful people have dyslexia and/or ADHD, and rather than preventing their success, there is good evidence that these traits, properly directed, lead to their success.[xiii][xiv] Why should genetic variation in sexual development be any different, labeling any variation that deviates from the average as somehow negative and due to the effects of sin? Difference, just because it is generally perceived to be uncomfortably different from the familiar, should not be automatically assumed to be a result of sin. Many differences in sexual development could just as easily be treated like variation in hair or eye color, as simply a part of the wonderful diversity of human variation, and be celebrated as such.

The LGBTQ+ Spectrum as “Differences of Sexual Development”

In a broader sense, since all aspects of sexual development are known to involve some degree of genetic influence, lesbian, gay, and transgender individuals, from a biological perspective, represent some of the expected variation in sexual development. Throughout the animal kingdom a certain percentage of individuals in over 450 species display same-sex sexual behavior,[xv] an expected outcome for a behavioral trait that is under some degree of genetic control. From a developmental perspective it would be surprising if there were not some people born who are sexually attracted to members of their own sex, given the complexity of the underlying genetic and developmental processes. By the same reasoning, it would also be surprising if there were not some people born whose gender identity is opposite to their chromosomal and/or phenotypic sex.

Evidence that same-sex attraction is biologically based is well enough established that there is no need to present further evidence here, since even the North American Division Statement on Human Sexuality acknowledges this. The statement is less certain regarding transgender individuals, stating that the church “has not yet articulated an official position” on this issue. Its stated reason is that:

“The complex nature of transgenderism calls for further discussion before recommendations can be made for the Church.”

Although this might have seemed a valid reason to dodge the issue at the time, there is adequate evidence that transgender individuals are displaying a biologically-based condition. In 2002 Coolidge, Thede, and Young studied the incidence of gender identity disorder (GID)[xvi] in 314 twins and found that heritability for GID was 0.62,[xvii] which is comparable to the heritability estimates for major personality traits such as extroversion or positive emotionality and for alcoholism,[xviii] a trait long known to have genetic links. Even among non-twin siblings, if one sibling is transgender, there is a significantly higher probability that the other sibling will also be transgender than the occurrence rate in the population.[xix]

Although the preponderance of evidence points to genetic involvement, because gender itself is difficult to pin down, transgender individuals are difficult to characterize biologically, as well. The difficulty lies in the fact that gender identity derives from the brain, and there continues to be some disagreement as to what degree it is determined organically (i.e., stemming from actual brain differences) vs. intellectually/socially. Even typical gender development, long assumed to be rooted in brain differences, is extremely complex. Since the advent of brain imaging, researchers have searched exhaustively for differences between male and female brains, and statistically, in most studies differences are found, but it is not clear exactly how these differences relate to sex/gender differences in behavior.[xx] This has led some to conclude, like Angela Saini, that:

“Fresh theories on sex difference, for example, suggest that the small gaps that have been found between the brains of women and men are statistical anomalies caused by the fact that we are all unique. Decades of rigorous testing of girls and boys confirm that there are few psychological differences between the sexes, and that the differences seen are heavily shaped by culture, not biology.”[xxi]

Nevertheless, based on what brain differences appear to exist between the sexes, most brain structure studies of transgender individuals have revealed that their brains are either more like the gender with which they identify or are intermediate.[xxii] Unfortunately, these results are based on no more than a few hundred individuals, and some studies found that transgender brains resembled more the biological sex of the individual than their gender identity. Lastly, most of the individuals studied had already transitioned, so brain structures could have been affected by the hormonal changes involved in transition. More study is needed, but at present, the preponderance of the evidence is that for individuals identifying as transgender their gender identity is likely biologically based, at least in part.

Although not representing a clear departure from its 2015 stance on LGBTQ+ issues, the NAD has made some progress with its production of an “Adventist Edition” of the booklet Guiding Families of LGBT Loved Ones in 2018.[xxiii] A more affirming statement about gay and transgender individuals appears very early in the booklet:

“While it is tempting to focus on causation, I want to resolve this question up front: the origins of sexual orientation and gender identity are highly complex, multi-factorial, and likely rooted in both nature and nurture. For any one person, it can be impossible to know the exact cause. For this reason, we propose that we shift our focus from causation to compassion.” [Emphasis in the original.][xxiv]

While I applaud this openly supportive tone which suffuses the entire booklet, it concerns me that the word “likely” in the phrase “likely rooted in both nature and nurture” is used, rather than the more accurate word “is.” From a biological/genetic perspective all individuals in the LGBTQ+ spectrum are the way they are because of a complex combination of nature and nurture, the exact mix of the two being specific to each LGBTQ+ individual. The sooner we can openly acknowledge this, the better able we will be to see LGBTQ+ individuals as fully human and deserving of love, respect, and full acceptance like all God’s children. Regardless of my quibble with this point, I highly recommend the booklet, as it does more thoroughly humanize LGBTQ+ individuals, giving the reader a wealth of useful information essential to understanding what it is like to be an LGBTQ+ person in the church, with numerous tips on how to interact with LGBTQ+ individuals in a positive way. It lays the groundwork for a much more accepting and compassionate attitude toward LGBTQ+ SDA Christians. Additionally, it nowhere endorses any form of “reparative” or “conversion” therapy to change gay or transgender individuals, and clearly endorses the principle that gay and transgender individuals do not choose their sexual or gender orientation and should not be expected to change.

However, as positive a step as the above-mentioned booklet represents, it does not affirm LGBTQ+ individuals as fully integrated members of the church, able to be baptized and become full participants in church offices, should they go through with transition or marry a same-sex partner. Although very little mention is made about the official SDA stance on same-sex marriage, it does openly address this at the very end of the booklet by quoting the complete text of the SDA Fundamental Belief #23 on “Marriage and the Family” in which it is made clear that only marriages between a man and a woman are acceptable.[xxv] At another place in the booklet pastors are reminded that church policy forbids pastors from officiating at same-sex marriages, while assuring family members that attendance at such weddings is allowed, being up to the conscience of individual members.[xxvi] Thus, although the booklet is very refreshing in its stance that the church needs to be more inclusive, compassionate and loving toward LGBTQ+ individuals, many LGBTQ+ individuals may still feel rejected since they will be considered out of compliance with church policy should they choose to marry a same-sex partner. It is my hope, in this article, to show a path toward full affirmation of our LGBTQ+ members while also honoring basic biblical and moral principles.

How Should the Church Respond?

Recognizing that sexual and gender orientation is biologically based to a significant degree should prompt the church to revisit policies regarding the treatment of LGBTQ+ individuals as members of the church. If being gay or transgender simply represents part of normal, genetically-based human variation, how can we consider these individuals any less valued by God? Is it appropriate to hold them to a standard more rigid than expected of others in the church? Should such individuals continue to be admonished to remain celibate or face being disfellowshipped?

The traditional basis for prohibiting same-sex marriage is the claim that the Bible prohibits it. It is true that some texts in the Bible appear to prohibit certain kinds of same-sex sexual behavior, but do these prohibitions apply to all cases of same-sex sexual behavior? A careful review of all the relevant texts finds that none of them addresses same-sex sexual relations in the context of marriage. This is not surprising since same-sex marriage was not even considered an option in ancient Hebrew culture, thus any treatment of the acceptability of same-sex sexual activity within a committed marriage relationship is also absent.

Until very recently, same-sex marriage was always rare, if not nonexistent, at least in Judeo-Christian culture. This is largely because, until the 20th century, same-sex sexual behavior was considered to be against nature and was often criminalized. Nature it is argued, as created by God, decrees that heterosexual attraction is the God-ordained norm, and same-sex attraction is a perversion of nature. Consequently, gays are not actually “attracted” to members of their own sex, they are just seeking more sexual pleasure wherever it is available,[xxvii] and since males have always been considered to have a stronger sexual drive, where else to find more sex than with other men. This may help explain why the Bible is essentially silent when it comes to lesbians, as women were not considered to have the same intense sexual drive as men. Romans 1:26 is the only verse in the Bible that even hints at lesbian sexual behavior, but according to some theologians may more correctly be interpreted as addressing a more disturbing type of immoral sexual behavior.[xxviii]

Knowing that same-sex attraction is inborn, as already officially acknowledged by the NAD, changes the assumptions on which the traditional view of same-sex sexual relations is based. Someone who is gay is attracted to someone of their own sex by nature, not by choice. Thus, the desire to develop an intimate, committed relationship with someone of the same sex is natural for someone who is gay. Same-sex marriage would therefore be a natural and acceptable accommodation of this biological reality. Just as for heterosexuals, sexual relations outside of marriage violate God’s law, but within a monogamous marriage relationship, sexual relations are a normal outgrowth of a healthy, intimate relationship. It is time for the church to recognize that same-sex marriage, rather than violating God’s law, can play the same role as marriage does for heterosexuals, providing life-long companionship and a context in which to remain sexually pure.

A Moral Argument for Same-Sex Marriage

Despite the ample evidence that having same-sex attraction and being transgender are partly to largely biologically based, some may remain unconvinced, arguing that some, or most, gay and transgender individuals choose to be attracted to members of their own sex rather than by nature. Others may concede the biological arguments, but still consider being gay or transgender as the result of defects caused by living in a fallen world, and may see same-sex marriage as an extension of that sinful condition, a so-called state of “living in sin.” Although some may not be ready to consider the possibility that same-sex marriage is something God can bless, for those who are earnestly seeking for a more compassionate and loving way to affirm our LGBTQ+ members I would like to suggest a biblically and morally sound approach. I share this especially for the many in our church who have a family member or close friend who is LGBTQ+ and who have a deep longing to help these individuals find an affirming place in the church in which they can flourish spiritually.

Firstly, as mentioned above, same-sex marriage is nowhere forbidden in the Bible. Our prohibition against it stems from a tradition of interpreting the Bible in a way that does not consider the vastly different culture of today. It ignores the cultural meaning of marriage in biblical times, which was focused on kinship and the need to produce descendants, to the almost total exclusion of the primary reason for marriage today, companionship. Certainly, companionship was a component of marriage, but it was subsidiary to forging kinship bonds and producing descendants that would take care of one in old age and who would inherit the family property. That companionship was simply seen as a by-product is reinforced by the fact that marriages were arranged by the parents, they were not the result of falling in love. Well-made matches were hoped to result in loving companionship for life, but that was not the primary motivation for forming a marriage, and since producing descendants was central, of course marriages were always heterosexual. Same-sex marriage would make no sense in such a culture and even would be inferior to heterosexual marriages in which the couple was unable to produce children, a condition seen as a curse in biblical times which could represent grounds for divorce.

Secondly, to consider same-sex marriage to be wrong, it needs to be shown to be morally wrong, since there is no explicit prohibition of it in the Bible. Even some explicit prohibitions in the Bible are considered to no longer be wrong, because there is nothing morally wrong in doing them. A couple of examples of these kinds of prohibitions are found in Leviticus 19:19b (NIV): “Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed. Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.” There is nothing morally wrong with either of these actions, so Christians do not consider them a sin. Conversely, something that is permitted in the Bible may be determined later to be morally wrong. A prime example of this is slavery. The Bible nowhere explicitly prohibits slavery, and in most cases clearly tolerates or condones it, going so far as to outline laws that pertain to the owning and proper treatment of slaves. Nevertheless, no Christian today would consider slavery to be morally acceptable.

For many human actions God has given no specific guidance in the Bible, but he has instilled mankind with an ability to develop moral arguments as to whether specific actions are right or wrong. In the case of same-sex marriage, Chris Meyers has developed what he refers to as a “simple argument” based on moral reasoning which I have slightly adapted:

1. For an action or practice to be morally wrong, it must have some wrong-making feature.

In other words, if an action is morally wrong, there must be something about the action that makes it wrong.

2. Wrong-making features include the following: the action or practice i) causes harm or ii) violates some competent person’s autonomy or iii) is unfair or iv) violates someone’s individual rights or v), etc.

This second premise can be extended. It should include an exhaustive list of features that make an action or practice morally wrong.

3. Same-sex sexual relations between two consenting adults do not have any of these features. In other words, i) it is not harmful, ii) it does not violate anyone’s autonomy, iii) it is not unfair, iv) it does not violate anyone’s individual rights, v), etc.

This, of course, is not to say that same-sex sexual relations can never be morally wrong. For example, if a man is married to a woman and has secret same-sex liaisons on the side, that would be morally wrong. But it is not the same-sex sexual behavior per se that makes such behavior morally wrong. What makes it wrong is that it involves betrayal and the violation of one’s marriage vows. It is wrong because it is adultery, not because it is gay adultery.

4. Therefore, same-sex relations between mutually consenting adults are not morally wrong.

This argument is obviously valid. To say that an argument is valid means that if the premises 1-3 are true, then the conclusion (4) must be true. The conclusion might still be false but only if at least one of the premises (1, 2, or 3) is false.[xxix]

It is important when making moral arguments for one to remain objective. So often, when thinking about an issue like same-sex marriage, it is easy for disgust to hijack one’s ability to be objective. “The psychology of disgust and contamination regulates how many Christians reason with and experience notions of holiness, atonement, and sin,”[xxx] which can lead to inappropriately considering something wrong just because it disgusts us. Sexual behavior of any sort is prone to trigger disgust in people, depending on the context and the specific behavior. For example, just take a moment and ponder your parents having sex. Such thoughts almost universally trigger feelings of disgust, despite the knowledge that our parents had to have sex at least once to conceive us. Disgust is triggered even more easily when thinking about any sexual behavior that you personally do not consider “normal,” and even pondering such behaviors is considered an example of having “impure” thoughts. Sexual sins are unique in that the church almost universally regulates them by purity metaphors,[xxxi] and when we think of someone who has committed a sexual sin, we automatically feel disgusted as well.

I am convinced that a large part of the reason the church persists in prohibiting same-sex marriage is due to misguided purity concerns, driven by disgust of same-sex sexual behavior. People often overcome these biases when a family member or close friend comes out as gay or transgender, and it enables them to normalize their conception of what LGBTQ+ people are like. Once the church begins to see LGBTQ+ people as a normal part of the spectrum of human variation in sexuality and gender, it should enable us to see the moral rightness of same-sex marriage. A number of Christian denominations have been able to come to this conclusion, and it is my hope that the Seventh-day Adventist Church will reach this point soon as well.


Notes & References:

[i] Grant, V. J., 2006. Entrenched misinformation about X and Y sperm. BMJ332(7546), p.916.

[ii] Definition of nonbinary: relating to or being a person who identifies with or expresses a gender identity that is neither entirely male nor entirely female. “Nonbinary.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc. [ retrieved 01/27/2020].

[iii] Callens, N., Van Kuyk, M., van Kuppenveld, J. H., Drop, S. L., Cohen-Kettenis, P. T., Dessens, A. B., & Dutch Study Group on DSD. (2016). Recalled and current gender role behavior, gender identity and sexual orientation in adults with disorders/differences of sex development. Hormones and behavior86, 8-20.

[iv] LeVay, S., 2016. Gay, straight, and the reason why: The science of sexual orientation. Oxford University Press, pp. 87-90.

[v] Ganna, A., Verweij, K. J., Nivard, M. G., Maier, R., Wedow, R., Busch, A. S., Abdellaoui, A., Guo, S., Sathirapongsasuti, J. F., Lichtenstein, P. and Lundström, S., 2019. Large-scale GWAS reveals insights into the genetic architecture of same-sex sexual behavior. Science365(6456), p.eaat7693

[vi] LeVay, S., 2016, pp. 90-95.

[vii] Oakes, M. B., Eyvazzadeh, A. D., Quint, E. and Smith, Y. R., 2008. Complete androgen insensitivity syndrome — a review. Journal of pediatric and adolescent gynecology21(6), pp.305-310.

[viii] Batista, R. L., Costa, E. M. F., Rodrigues, A. D. S., Gomes, N. L., Faria Jr, J. A., Nishi, M. Y., … & Mendonca, B. B. D. (2018). Androgen insensitivity syndrome: a review. Archives of endocrinology and metabolism62(2), 227-235.

[ix] Gottlieb, B. and Trifiro, M. A., 2017. Androgen insensitivity syndrome. In GeneReviews® University of Washington, Seattle. [ retrieved 12/19/2019].

[x] This statement was voted during the Year-end Meeting of the North American Division Executive Committee on November 2, 2015 in Silver Spring, Maryland. [ retrieved 12/19/2019].

[xi] Carrion‐Castillo, A., Franke, B. and Fisher, S. E., 2013. Molecular genetics of dyslexia: an overview. Dyslexia19(4), pp.214-240.

[xii] Thapar, A. and Stergiakouli, E., 2008. An Overview on the Genetics of ADHD. Xin li xue bao. Acta psychologica Sinica40(10), p.1088.

[xiii] Logan, J. and Martin, N., 2012. Unusual talent: A study of successful leadership and delegation in entrepreneurs who have dyslexia. Inclusive Practice4, pp.57-76.

[xiv] Wiklund, J., Patzelt, H. and Dimov, D., 2016. Entrepreneurship and psychological disorders: How ADHD can be productively harnessed. Journal of Business Venturing Insights6, pp.14-20.

[xvi] Gender identity disorder (GID) is no longer an available diagnosis and was renamed gender dysphoria (GD) in 2013 with the release of the DSM-5. The name change and revised criteria was instituted in part to recognize that GD is not a disease or disorder, but rather a difference in sexual development. For a brief introduction to GD see Parekh, R., 2016. What is Gender Dysphoria? American Psychiatric Association. [ retrieved 01/01/20.]

[xvii] Coolidge, F. L., Thede, L. L. and Young, S. E., 2002. The heritability of gender identity disorder in a child and adolescent twin sample. Behavior genetics32(4), pp.251-257.

[xviii] Bouchard Jr, T. J., 2004. Genetic influence on human psychological traits: A survey. Current Directions in Psychological Science13(4), pp.148-151.

[xix] Gómez-Gil, E., Esteva, I., Almaraz, M. C., Pasaro, E., Segovia, S. and Guillamon, A., 2010. Familiality of gender identity disorder in non-twin siblings. Archives of Sexual Behavior39(2), pp.546-552.

[xx] Grabowska, A., 2017. Sex on the brain: Are gender‐dependent structural and functional differences associated with behavior? Journal of neuroscience research95(1-2), pp.200-212.

[xxii] Smith, E. S., Junger, J., Derntl, B. and Habel, U., 2015. The transsexual brain — A review of findings on the neural basis of transsexualism. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews59, pp.251-266.

[xxiii] Henson, B. 2018. Guiding families of LGBT+ loved ones: Adventist edition. North American Division of Seventh-Day Adventists, Columbia, Maryland. Copies of this booklet may be obtained from AdventSource:

[xxiv] ibid., p. 9.

[xxv] ibid., p. 71.

[xxvi] ibid., p. 47.

[xxvii] “In Paul’s day, same-sex relations were a potent symbol of sexual excess. They offered an effective illustration of Paul’s argument: We lose control when we are left to our own devices. We have no moral anchor without God, so chaos and confusion are a typical result when we abandon him… Same-sex behavior condemned as excess doesn’t translate to homosexuality condemned as an orientation — or as a loving expression of that orientation. Given the cultural status of same-sex behavior in the ancient world, it’s not surprising that Paul condemned it. He opposed all forms of lust — sexual desire indulged to the excessive height of same-sex behavior would have been no exception.” Vines, M., 2014. God and the gay Christian: The biblical case in support of same-sex relationships. Convergent, p. 106.

[xxviii] “Many commentators recognize that this is a difficult verse. Discussions of lesbian sexuality were fairly rare in the ancient world. Yet one cannot gloss over Paul’s recurring emphasis on the centrality of passion and lust — even in this text. The discussion of women giving up “natural relations” in Romans 1:26 begins with the words “God gave them up to degrading passions.” So whatever Romans 1:26b may have in mind in the sexual behavior of women, it is presented as an expression of excessive and degrading passion, just as male-male sex is described in the following verse as “consumed with passion.” But here is where Elliott’s suggestion of an allusion to Gaius Caligula may also be helpful. As noted above, Gaius “lived in perpetual incest with all his sisters, and at a large banquet he placed each of them in turn below him, while his wife reclined above.” Such behavior would certainly qualify on several counts as an example (in Rom. 1:26b) of how “their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural.” Similarly, the reference to “their women” suggests that women are still being thought of in relationship to men in this context. While we may not be able to know definitively what Paul had in mind here, it is clear that it is intended to be part of an overall picture of over-the-top lust, self-centeredness, and greed.” Brownson, J.V., 2013. Bible, gender, sexuality: Reframing the church's debate on same-sex relationships. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, pp. 159-160.

[xxix] Adapted from Meyers, C., 2015. The Moral Defense of Homosexuality: Why Every Argument Against Gay Rights Fails. Rowman & Littlefield, pp. 16-17.

[xxx] Beck, R., 2012. Unclean: Meditations on purity, hospitality, and mortality. Casemate Publishers, p. 4.

[xxxi] ibid., p. 48.


Bryan Ness has BS and MS degrees in biology from Walla Walla University, and a PhD in botany (plant mo­lecular genetics) from Washington State University. He is currently a Professor of Biology at Pacific Union Col­lege (PUC) where he has been teaching for 30 years.

Photo by Joyce McCown on Unsplash


We invite you to join our community through conversation by commenting below. We ask that you engage in courteous and respectful discourse. You can view our full commenting policy by clicking here.

Subscribe to our newsletter
Spectrum Newsletter: The latest Adventist news at your fingertips.
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.