Can Gender Be a Birth Defect?

It’s a pretty common argument. “What would you do if your child was born with a cleft palate? Would you fix it, or leave it because, I mean, that’s how God designed him in the womb!”

And it’s true. We do say that God designed babies in the womb. We do quote Psalm 139:13 — “For you formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.” We do say that God was involved in the growth and development of every baby. And yet we do use surgery to fix things like cleft palates.

So is our argument illogical? In this broken world that gives some children horrendous birth defects, can gender be one of them?


This is something we need to know as more people use surgery and hormone therapy to try to align themselves with their chosen gender. Obviously, we want to go to the Bible, but where does the Bible take us in this argument?

Well, here’s what we know:

What it Was Like At the Beginning

In Genesis, we see God creating a perfect world, free from sin, free from genetic mistakes, free from sickness, death, and birth defects. Then, he allowed two people — Adam and Eve — to live there.

We read in Genesis about the creation process, and when we get to Genesis 1:27, it says, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”


In this perfect world before sin, before birth defects, God Himself created male and female. God chose that Adam would be male and that Eve would be female. He created them to be male and female so that they could show the image of God in unique ways.

The Matter of Image

As Genesis 1:27 points out, God created us male and female to reflect a small piece of Himself. Males reflect some aspects of Him, females reflect some aspects of Him, and individually, all people reflect unique aspects of Him. We were each made in God’s image.

No other physical or genetic attribute is listed in the Bible as reflecting God’s image — not hair, not height, not eyes or ears or hands or feet. Only our gender is specifically named as showing the world a small part of what He is like.

Hardware vs. Software

I have heard it explained this way. A computer has two main components: the hardware and the software. The hardware includes all the pieces that make up the computer — the screen, the disk drive, the memory, the hard drive. The software is what makes the computer run. It’s all the pieces that you can never see, but that make up the computer’s “identity,” as it were. These are things like the programs it runs, whether it runs Microsoft’s or Apple’s OS, things like that.

Our bodies are similar. On the one hand, we have the parts of us that make up who we are physically — our hands, our knees, our stomach, our brain. On the other hand, we have what makes up our identity — who we are that you couldn’t physically see — our personalities, our emotions, how our brain is wired in the first place.


Birth defects, like our cleft palate example, are part of those physical aspects that we can sometimes remedy to make life a little easier.

Gender is in that second category. It’s part of what makes you you. It’s the part that we can’t change because it is an intrinsic part of our identity, whether we realize it or not, whether we like it or not.

As we read about Jesus, God become man, walking here on our planet, we read that He healed people. Hundreds of people. People came for miles seeking Jesus just so He could heal them. In Matthew 8, it says, “great multitudes followed Him,” and in just that chapter, Jesus heals lepers, a little girl who was dying, a woman sick with fever, demon-possessed people, and then the vague term “many.”

Yet never do we see Jesus “healing” someone by changing their gender, or anything like it. Only those pieces of “hardware,” like eyes, hearts, and legs.

So What Do We Do Now?

This can be a tricky subject in today’s world. We see people all over who feel honestly miserable because of the gender that they were born with. We see people forgetting the diversity God placed in humanity and within the two genders — telling others they should be male or female.

Even in the craziness or in our own confusion, we have to trust that God knew what He was doing on the day of conception when He assigned those chromosomes to that person. We can show love to those who are confused, and share truth with them. And we can keep clinging to chapters in the Bible like Psalm 139, which says to God:

“You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.

You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.

For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.

You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.”

Share your story! Have you had personal struggles with this, or do you know someone who has? What truth in God’s Word encourages you in His perfect design? How do you share love with those who don’t yet understand that truth?

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