Tags: Caspersen, students, Theological School, Theological School homepage
A Master of Divinity and Doctor of Medicine and Health Humanities student presents intersex educational materials at Drew University
Chris Paige is dedicated to educating the Drew community and beyond about intersex and faith
June 2022 – Drew Theological School and Caspersen Graduate School student Chris Paige (they, them) recently hosted a screening of the award-winning documentary Stories of intersex and faitha film that illuminates the journeys of five intersex people and their unique perspectives and experiences around gender and faith.
The film was created to help viewers engage in meaningful conversations by highlighting the various the struggles that can accompany a diagnosis of intersex.
The screening was followed by a panel discussion with the film’s creator, Megan K. DeFranza, and several film attendees.
Paige, who is openly transgender, non-binary and queer, was the theological school’s student association representative for Drew’s Spectrum Caucus. Spectrum sponsored the event along with other organizations in Drew.
“The film is really designed to help theologically conservative audiences think about sex and gender,” said Paige, who is dedicated to educating the Drew community and beyond about intersex and faith. They played a vital role in the making of the film (with Korean and Spanish subtitles), as well as a related six-session video program, Terribly and Wonderfully Done: Scripture and the New Science of Genderto Drew Library.
“This is a valuable and timely addition to our library holdings,” said Theological Librarian Jesse Mann. “The documentary and accompanying curriculum offer an illuminating, complex and sympathetic introduction to issues of sexuality, gender, justice and religious belief.”
Paige is completing a Masters of Divinity in Theological School and is now starting as Doctor of Medical and Health Humanities studying this fall. Their educational background should become an official Drew Dual degree in the near future.
We recently caught up with Paige to learn more about their work in intersex spiritual care and to discuss their “intersex among us” editorial.
Why is this documentary and program valuable to the Drew community?
Unfortunately, even medical education tends to overlook so-called “sex differences”. development.’ This leaves newly diagnosed patients and their families with limited resources. Meanwhile, many faith communities are totally ill-equipped to talk about sex and gender issues. This only adds to the anxiety surrounding disclosure.
We have the opportunity to work together to break the secrecy and stigma that surrounds intersex variations for our friends and members of the Drew community, as well as the families we hope to serve in the future.
Drew University is on its way to becoming a more assertive space just by having this movie. available to support conversations in theological school, medical humanities, psychology, and pre-medicine.
Why is your work around intersex spiritual care important?
When we think of intersex – if we think of intersex – most of us think of physical differences in obvious sexual characteristics at birth. However, some intersex variations are not discovered until puberty or even later. For example, genetic testing done for fertility reasons or even sports is another time when intersex variations are frequently discovered. Yet the the physical details of intersex bodies are only part of the story.
The stigma, shame and secrecy around these natural physical diversities have various impacts on mental health. Children often don’t get adequate information to help them understand what surgeries, frequent doctor visits and invasive medical exams mean. Eating disorders, depression, suicidal ideation and low self-esteem are just some of the reported impacts of secrecy and lack of psychosocial support.
In my gender baseline work, I have heard several stories about intersex people variations being said that they are the “only”. Although each individual diagnosis can be relatively rare, the sum total of intersex variation is as common as red hair – between one and two percent of the population.
Paige is the author of OtherWise Christian: A Guide to Transgender Liberation and “Transgender-Affirming Spiritual Care: A Literature Essay” in Theological Librarianship.