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Master of Divinity and Doctor of Medical and Health Humanities Student Introduces Intersex Educational Materials to Drew University

Chris Paige is dedicated to educating the Drew community and beyond on intersex and faith

June 2022 – Drew Theological School and Caspersen School of Graduate Studies student Chris Paige (they, them) recently hosted a screening of the award-winning documentary Stories of Intersex and Faith, a film that illuminates the journeys of five intersex people and their unique perspectives and experiences surrounding gender and faith.

The film was created to help viewers engage in constructive conversations by highlighting the diverse struggles that can accompany an intersex diagnosis.

The screening was followed by a panel discussion with the film’s creator, Megan K. DeFranza, and several participants from the film. 

Paige, who is openly transgender, nonbinary, and queer, was the Theological School Student Association Representative for Drew’s Spectrum Caucus. Spectrum sponsored the event along with other organizations at Drew.

“The movie is really tailored to helping theologically conservative audiences think about sex and gender,” said Paige, who is dedicated to educating the Drew community and beyond on intersex and faith. They were integral in bringing the film (with Korean and Spanish subtitles), along with a related six-session video curriculum, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made: Scripture and the New Science of Gender, to the Drew Library.

“This is a valuable and timely addition to our library holdings,” said Theological Librarian Jesse Mann. “The documentary and the accompanying curriculum provide an illuminating, complex, and sympathetic introduction to questions of sexuality, gender, justice, and religious belief.”

Paige is completing a Master of Divinity at the Theological School, and is now beginning as a Doctor of Medical and Health Humanities student this fall. Their educational path is slated to become an official Drew Dual-Degree in the near future.

We recently sat down with Paige to learn more about their work in intersex spiritual care and discuss their “Intersex Among Us” op-ed.

Why is this documentary and curriculum valuable for the Drew community?
Unfortunately, even medical education tends to overlook the so-called ‘differences of sex development.’ This leaves newly-diagnosed patients and their families with limited resources. Meanwhile, many religious communities are entirely ill-equipped to talk about issues of sex and gender. That only adds to the anxiety around disclosure.

We have the opportunity to work together to interrupt the secrecy and stigma around intersex variations for our friends and community members at Drew, as well as the families we hope to serve in the future.

Drew University is on its way to being a more affirming space just by having this film available to support conversations in the Theological School, medical humanities, psychology, and pre-med.

Why is your work surrounding intersex spiritual care important?
When we think of intersex—if we think of intersex—most of us think of physical differences in sex characteristics that are obvious at birth. However, some intersex variations are not discovered until puberty or even later. For instance, genetic testing done for reasons of fertility or even sports is another time when intersex variations are frequently discovered. Still, the physical details of intersex bodies are only one part of the story.

Stigma, shame, and secrecy around these natural physical diversities have a variety of impacts on mental health. Children are often not given adequate information to help them process what the surgeries, frequent doctor visits, and invasive medical examinations mean. Eating disorders, depression, suicidal ideation, and low self esteem are just some of the reported impacts of secrecy and lack of psycho-social support.

In my grassroots work around gender, I’ve heard several stories about people with intersex variations being told that they are the ‘only one.’ While each individual diagnosis may be relatively rare, the sum total of intersex variations is as common as red hair—between one and two percent of the population.

Paige is the author of OtherWise Christian: A Guidebook for Transgender Liberation and “Transgender-Affirming Spiritual Care: A Bibliographic Essay” in Theological Librarianship.