Tuesday, 17 June 2014

What did a Seventeenth Century Anglican think of intersex and trans?

I came across an astonishing aside in a seventeenth century sermon recently. The author casually mentions intersex individuals, including one specific example of someone who has changed both gender and the sex of their marital partner.

He doesn't mention them to condemn them, but merely to underline a rhetorical point. There is not a hint of a suggestion that this is a problem - unusual, yes, but within the normal range of unusual events. Intersex, he says, happens 'pretty often', and is God-given.

The author - John Wallis DD - is speaking about the Athanasian creed, and specifically about the possibility of a virgin birth. He says that it is no less likely than the raising of Lazarus and other miracles.

Then he goes on:
"I was about to say (and it is not much amiss if I do) it is not much more than what (pretty often) happens amongst men, when God gives both sexes to the same person (such there are, and have been; and I think there is one yet living, who was first as a Woman married to a Man, and is since as a Man married to a Woman;) and what hinders them, but that God, if he please, may mingle the Effects of both these Sexes in the same Body? A little alteration in the structure of the vessels would do it."

Maybe this should go into the Pilling report as some theological background?

(Reference: 'An Explication and Vindication of the Athanasian Creed', by John Wallis DD, London, 1691. In Durham University library special collections, PG.Routh.36.B.16)


  1. See also Huguccio, 12th century Canon lawyer: Huguccio,
    12th Century Canon lawyer

    As to a hermaphrodite, if he has a beard and always wants to engage in manly activities and not in those of women, and if he always seeks the company of men and not of women, it is a sign that the masculine sex predominates in him and then he can be a witness where a woman is not allowed, namely with regard to a last will and testament, and he also can be ordained a priest. If he however lacks a beard and always wants to be with women and be involved in feminine works, the judgment is that the feminine sex predominates in him and then he should not be admitted to giving any witness wherever women are not admitted, namely at a last will and testament, neither can he be ordained then because a woman cannot receive holy orders. ”On Causa 27, quaestio 1, chapter 23, ad v.

  2. Splendid. Thank you both for the quotes.

    Christian, housewife, intersex

    1. Hope y'all don't mind my expanding on the subject...

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