intersexed … transgendered people are seperate issues to us?

Q: 1) What does Islam say about intersexed (people born with both genders)  people in Islam? Because roles and obligations in Islam are very gender oriented, what would the roles/obligations of an intersexed person be? Or would they have to choose to become one gender or the other? I have heard choosing one gender or the other at a young age can have detrimental effects psychologically in the long run.

2) On a similar note, what is the Islamic stance on transgendered people? Is it allowed in Islam? I have heard that in some countries, such as Iran, gender changes are commonly used as a way to “cure” homosexuality, is this practice within the bounds of Islam?
Time: Friday May 20, 2011 at 7:38 am

Answers: I appreciate your questions. Kindly limit it to one issue at a time. The query itself poses complexity. Likewise a compounded question does not assist the matter either for our general audience.

On the bright side, many of the youth that I come in contact with are very surprised that Islam has already addressed this matter in detail. The islamic advice removes the psychological ills and eliminates premature decision-making. The jurist addressed it so as to eliminate confusion for the ummah, for Muslims this matter is not new. In light of your query, I am to answer as follows:

Answer to # 1)

  • Being born with both genders would require the child to developed until a gender can be ascertained. Once a gender has been ascertained: example: menses for woman, other aspects of development for boys, at such a time can the excess gender organs be removed.
  • The only time a decision can be made at the onset is when it can be ascertained that the ‘excess private part’ has no value and its function is mute and would not later affect the sexuality/personality/other development of the child. Thus, should such certainty not exist, one must await for appropriate certainty as it relates to gender choice. Thus, surgery can be done to correct the matter when emergence of one gender becomes apparent and dominant.
  • At the onset, the choice and selection of gender should not be based on a whim.  If one is not fully sure, then the parent(s) (guardians) wait until maturity account chemical balances that may sometimes go against what may be at first apparent. It would irresponsible to remove a gender ‘part’ (or modify with is present) on a whim when the chemical aspects may dictate otherwise later in life.
  •  If it is impossible to decipher the gender, then in such a situation that person would remain both-gendered. In such an instance, this person would not perform his/her salah with men nor with woman but rather in-between the both genders.

Answer to # 2) 

*Islam requires us to be content with that which Allah (SWT) has bestowed upon us. Sometimes we think a thing is good for us, but Allah chooses otherwise, for He knows better as to what would most benefit us, even though we see pain in it.  Thus, if a person is born fully male, they should live as males, likewise, a woman born fully as a woman must present herself as a woman. To promote such sentiment, the Rasulullah (SAW) has said:

 و وعن ابن عباس رضي الله عنهما قال لعن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم المخنثين من الرجال والمترجلات من النساء وقال: أخرجوهم من بيوتكم  رواه البخاري

This above hadith makes clear, imitating the opposite gender by means of dress and actions is prohibited. Likewise, it has been mentioned:

لعن الله الرجل يلبس لبسة المرأة والمرأة تلبس لبسة الرجل

Cursed is that man that adorns the clothing of woman and a woman who adorns the clothing of men.

*The matter relating to transgenders is vague to complex, each transgender case needs clarity and can best dealt with on a one to one bases. For purposes of simplicity we are to define it as follows: transgender deals with a person not being content with their given sexual orientation and thus chooses to live in accordance to the gender of personal choice. Such ‘switching behavior’ in Islam is prohibited.

On the social side, such a switch also creates problems. One knows well that woman and men as part of Islamic culture separate themselves in events – be it within the mosque structure, or for that matter within Muslim households as it applies to strangers.  A man wanting or feeling like a woman all of a sudden shows up in the female section can be quite unnerving and also function as a violation towards the rights of those that are to surround the individual they think is of a particular gender while in reality they are not.

By contrast, if there has been a chemical imbalance that causes a male to be a female due to the development of breasts and other features, etc. then such a person must be evaluated and attain the necessary cure. Such an evaluation must be made in conjunction of a muslim doctor and psychologist/psychiatrist* so as to best assist this person in bring resolution to the matter.

A person cannot for mere ‘fun’ purposes cross over genders. This violates the integrity of self and others and takes away the privacy of individuals that may be uncomfortable in being with such an individual. Once a professional decision has been shared without manipulation from the side of the patient and at such a time a gender has been awarded, then such a person should associate with the gender awarded with its necessary changes. The rules that apply to the person would also be in accordance tot he newly accepted gender.

I am not familiar with the laws of iran nor does it remain a concern for us at this juncture, suffice to say, merely having a surgery for a man that feels like a woman does not always resolve the problem. Such problems run deeper then a mere ‘change of gender.’ For some it may be a medical issue, for others it may be linked to areas of psychology, socializing patterns, etc. Nonetheless, had a surgery taken place, than in such a situation the person must keep the matter private and associate with the ‘new’ gender. Such a person should find a new community to be part of and start a fresh life with the new gender and limit association with those that would demoralize them.

Allah Certainly Knows Best.

*Psychiatrist not due to insanity, rather due to them being more sensitive to chemical as well as other aspects that could best relate to his matter. Psychiatrist being medical doctors coupled with added knowledge could best assist the sincere patient.

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