A Delicate Issue…This is going to be a hard blog post to write… but as hard as it might be, it is even more needful. Gender is a core aspect of our individual identity as human persons. We must get it right! Each and every one of us needs to know and understand our own gender in order to have an accurate view of ourselves! But gender has been anything but clear in our culture lately. And with the public declaration of Bruce Jenner that we should now call him/her “Caitlyn Jenner,” the question of gender right out there for us all to see. How is gender determined anyway? And how does the answer to that question inform our effort to answer the question in the title of this post?
Defining GenderWe can’t determine answers to the gender-assignment question until we define gender itself. But here’s where the culture has gone astray. So let me define it directly: Throughout all the natural world and for every sort of gendered creature…
Gender is determined by one thing and one thing alone… Reproductive Function.That statement is scientifically incontrovertible. Any attempt to define it some other way—just for humans—is simply unscientific… and wrong. We never refer to dogs as “gay” or cats as “trans-gender.” Why? Because we don’t query them for their “preferences” or “feelings” when we determine their gender… we look to their physical attributes and discern their reproductive function. And we are not wrong. Bruce Jenner—when born—was announced to the world with “It’s a BOY!” Did the doctors make a mistake that day? Should they have instead declared (as Bruce does now), “It’s a GIRL… albeit with a penis and scrotum!” No, when Bruce was born, he was a boy. They got is right. And they got it right because the only factor utilized for making a gender declaration that day was the very clear evidence of his future reproductive function; he had a penis… he was a boy.
“What If I Don’t FEEL Like a Boy?”
Sugar and spice and everything nice That’s what little girls are made of.What if a little boy is not made of “snips and snails and puppy dog tails”? What if that boy is more “nice” like “sugar and spice”? What then? The old nursery rhyme notwithstanding, these things are still not the determiner of gender. Sometimes a man doesn’t feel like a typical man. Sometimes a woman doesn’t feel like a typical woman. That’s a reality. I acknowledge that! But what does it mean? I want to offer an answer to that question that I’ve never heard the church or anyone else offer. Yet, I suggest it is rooted firmly in the Scriptures.
The Image of GodIt goes all the way back to “The Beginning.” Genesis 1:26-27… “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…. God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” There we see not only the sum total of valid gender labels, but we also see that God created both genders “in His Own Image” and “likeness.” Evidently, being “like God” wasn’t something that one gender alone was sufficient to portray, so God created two genders. This means that both men and women received many of their qualities from their “likeness” to God. It then follows that what we might call “masculine” is derived from our likeness to God. Likewise, all that we might call “feminine” finds its source in God as well. But you know what? The bible never defines the measures of “masculinity” nor “femininity.” We are all simply declared to be “in His image and likeness.” We might suggest that a particular attribute is “typical” of men, or “typical” of women, but no attribute is absolute. We’ve all known sensitive and nurturing men, and we’ve all known strong and assertive women. Every last one of us is invested with an array of attributes drawn from the character of God Himself. So when a man is sensitive, he’s still like God. When a woman is strong, she’s still like God. Gender is unaffected.
Gender by Stereotype??We, as a culture, have largely laid aside the real measure of gender, preferring instead to point to things that are stereotypically (but subjectively) “male” or “female.” Why have we done this? Why have we resorted to stereotypes to define gender? Could it not be that by labeling feelings and preferences and other attributes as “male” or “female” we have created a climate that feeds the sort of confusion of gender that we see expressed in our world today? Shouldn’t we rather stick with what the doctors said on the day of our birth, and simply accept whatever mixture of the divine likeness that God decided to implant in that little baby’s being? I suggest to you that within the ranks of males we need men who are sensitive, nurturing, and who possess other feminine-labeled attributes. Among the ranks of females we need women who are physically strong, mentally assertive, and who possess other masculine-labeled attributes. Thankfully, that’s exactly what God has done within the human race!
The Answer to Gender ConfusionSo… back to the question raised in the title of this blog post… “Is Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner Now a Woman?” The answer is a very obvious “No.” Bruce has never been a woman. He’s not a woman now, and he never will be a woman. Even his DNA will tell the entire world that he’s a man. But Bruce most likely is not your stereotypical guy… evidently, he’s always identified with the attributes/feelings/preferences that we have culturally—and in some measure, arbitrarily—assigned to the female gender. Honestly… THAT’S OK!! I can and will accept and even celebrate any man who is so wired! I will personally support him in his unique rendition of God’s likeness, especially in this culture of stereotype-based gender assignment! That’s the right way to treat someone who’s wired differently than I am… it is NOT right to redefine his gender! I really feel bad that Bruce has now fallen victim to the notion that his gender identity is based upon his feelings. I grieve that any man or woman feels so divergent from our culture’s definition of their assigned gender that they would believe that the only solution to their internal conflict is to identify with the opposite gender… or one of the dozens of other gender labels that have been invented lately.
Male and Female He Created Them.There are only two genders. That’s the final word from our Creator. And He established no master list of “masculine” or “feminine” attributes… for they all reflect God’s likeness. There are simply too many attributes “like God” to be contained in a single gender. God mixes and matches them uniquely in every single person. Let’s celebrate the God-given and creative diversity found in our unique sets of attributes… independent of gender. And let’s keep calling men “men”, and women “women.” — Pastor David Martin
————-See also: The Imago Dei Listen to: The Incarnation — Scene One For an outstanding statement from a woman who didn’t fit the stereotypes… Read: I Wished I Had Been Born a Boy