What Is The Gender Binary
The gender binary is the description of a social system or cultural belief in which gender is classified into two distinct, opposing forms of masculine and feminine. The gender binary is well established within western society. However, many indigenous cultures around the globe have held more fluid and dynamic understandings of gender. For example, the Bugi society in Indonesia has five different genders in a tradition which dates back at least 600 years. Even within western culture, the attributes associated with being female or male have changed over time. Heels, wigs, makeup and the color pink were reserved for men and boys in previous eras.
Questions To Ask Ourselves
Can scientific discoveries expand our gratitude and joy for the complexity of our bodies and the universe in which we live, rather than frighten us?
Can we celebrate gender variance and diversity and affirm those who have often been seen as sinful or broken, unworthy of full participation in the life of the community of faith?
What if we informed ourselves with regard to contemporary discussions of gender identity and welcomed those who would teach us about their particular experience in the world? What if we celebrated each persons uniqueness with regard to gender expression and identity?
The theme of the book I am writing, , is compassion is a matter of life and death. As I write this blog, a global pandemic is changing our lives drastically all over the world. In the coming days, compassion will truly be a matter of life and death.
Thank you for reading! If you have questions, please contact me using the form at the bottom of this page.
Here follows some basic definitions for terms being used in contemporary conversations about gender identity.
Remember That Your Body Was Purposefully Designed
The human body is the home of our behaviors, appearance, mannerisms, and habits. Consider some things the Bible says about the human body:
We reflect the image of our Creator. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Being made in His image separates us and the purpose of human sexuality from all other creatures, elevating our status and imprinting us with His likeness.
Our bodies are not our own. Imagine receiving an original, priceless painting. Would you even consider getting your paints out and changing it? Not only did God create you, but He also sacrificed His Son to purchase you back from sin and death. To alter healthy sexual organs denies that you are Gods masterpiece and embraces the lie that your value and identity come from your appearance, preferences, and sexuality.
Sexual sin is spiritually devastating. Changing appearance, genitalia, or hormones doesnt actually change a persons sex. It also doesnt change Gods standards or His original design for your life. The biological sex God granted is coded into our DNA and every cell of our God-ordained bodies. Its a harmful denial of Him and this reality to reject our body in this fundamental way.
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Does The Bible Forbid Homosexuality
Gay-friendly clergy tend to use the terms love and acceptance interchangeably, claiming that we must love everyone, because we are all children of God.
It is certainly true that Jesus commanded us to love everyone, but it is not true that we are all children of God.; And it certainly is not true that we must tolerate and accept evil behavior.
Scripture repeatedly refers to children of the Devil:
No one born of God commits sin; for Gods nature abides in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God.;By this it may be seen who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not do right is not of God, nor he who does not love his brother .
You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your fathers desires.; He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies .
Anyone who has seen cursing, blaspheming homosexuals simulating sex at a Gay Pride parade, or has read their hate-filled screeds against the Catholic Church, should have no problem discerning whether they are children of God or spawn of the Devil.
Of course, homosexual persons are to be loved and respected, and homosexual tendencies are not sinful if they are not wanted. But homosexual;activity;is immoral and absolutely anti-biblical.
Disagreeing With Transgenderism Does Not Mean Denying The Pain Of Gender Dysphoria
Theres an enormous difference between the political aspects of the culture war surrounding transgenderism and the reality that there are precious persons who have genuine struggles with gender dysphoria a condition where a person senses that their gender identity may not align with their biological sex and experiences emotional distress as a result.
While we resist the attempt being made at a cultural and legal level to view gender as a matter of choice, we must also recognize that caught up in all this are deeply hurting people. Those who experience gender dysphoria are not necessarily trying to win a culture war. They need to know that Christians love them, are there for them, are ready to listen to them and seek to understand the pain they are facing, and deeply desire what is best for them. Compassion and dignity for dysphoric individuals is not in tension with disagreeing with transgenderism as a social movement.
As we ground our convictions in Gods unchanging, perfect, Word, we must speak with compassion in our hearts.
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What Is Gender Expression
Gender expression has to do with the way we make our internal sense of gender visible to other people. We express our gender through the way we dress and style our hair, as well as our speech and gestures.
Our sex assigned at birth stems from examination of the genitalia at the moment of birth, or through the report of an ultrasound or amniocentesis during pregnancy. My two oldest siblings and my youngest sibling were assigned male at birth. I was assigned as female.
Sexual Identity In The Bible
If you examine this verse carefully, you will see that we were made in the image of God. When someone thinks and lives according to their choices, they have turned the Biblical view of reality on its head. Matthew 7:15-20 reminds us of the warning Jesus gave us about false prophets. He taught us we would recognize them by their fruits. He gave the analogy of a tree and the fruit it produces. Good trees bear good fruit, bad trees produce bad fruit. In other words, each of us are like trees. How we live according to Gods Word or not determines the kind of fruit we produce. We, either accept Gods Word and love Him with all our hearts, our minds, and strength or we reject him.;
The second significant truth is how God created us: Male and Female. He assigned our sex at conception. Every cell in our body carries the genetic code of our sex. Not only do our chromosomes identify our sex, there are also hormones and reproductive organs as well. However, there are rare cases of physiological disorders that occur during fetal development which create confusion in gender identity. Evidence points to the influence of different hormone levels that determine sexual preference and condition the brain to male or female during pregnancy as well.;
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There Is A Difference Between Identity And Behaviour
I dont mean to say that LGB identity is simply about behaviour but in the narrative of Christian anti-gay rhetoric thats what it comes down to. You could technically be LGB and not sinful so long as you didnt act, sexually, on your feelings . For trans folks its not about sexual behaviour but about intrinsic gender identity.
This line does get blurred a bit when Christian folks deny the gender identity of a trans person and then accuse them of same gender sexual behaviour.
Thats a basic overview of the condemning passages.
Reception History And The Rhizome
For Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, the images of map and rhizome are intertwined with one another. While conducting this research, I found it helpful to imagine reception history as a rhizomatic discipline. Appropriating the term rhizome from the discipline of botany, Deleuze and Guattari write that:
A rhizome is characterized by ceaselessly established connections between semiotic chains, organizations of power, and circumstances relative to the arts, sciences, and social struggles. Rather than narrativize history and culture, the rhizome presents history and culture as a map or wide array of attractions and influences with no specific origin or genesis, for a rhizome has no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo.
In fact, all of these things might theoretically be combined on one map, but that may create an unsightly map. One so ugly that it may be indecipherable. The point is that maps can serve many purposes and are never comprehensive, just as reception history cannot be comprehensive. For this reason, reception historians may need to compile and consult many maps for the same area. Also different map-makers may highlight different landmarks. A quasi-comprehensive map would not look like a bouquet of flowers as Arthur Koestler describes the arrangement and presentation of data; its not pretty. Moreover, because it is not pretty, it is not intelligible for navigation.
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Embracing Our Transgender Neighbors On Gods Terms
Transgender questions today carry an urgency unimaginable even five years ago. Most churches and Christians find themselves exposed due to their lack of theological and pastoral preparation. What does the Bible have to say about living life in a gender-nonconforming way? What can faithfulness to Christ look like for a person who desireswho might even say needsto live such a life?
Into this infant conversation comes Transforming: The Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians, by Austen Hartke. Coming from a mainline Lutheran perspective, this volume stakes its ground in predictable places hermeneutically. But this does not negate the importance of the work, which clarifies the theological and pastoral fault lines on this topic.
Hartkes identity is as important to the book as his arguments. Hartke was assigned female at birth, which is how trans people and their allies describe a persons biological sex. He experienced gender dysphoria in youth, and the decision to transition from a tomboyish girl to a transman came slowly. Hartke wondered if there was place in the church for someone like him who didnt agree with every piece of Christian doctrine, who was gender-nonconforming, and who identified as bisexual.
Biblical and Pastoral Clarity
A Safer Path and a Thriving Home
Rachel Gilson is director of theological development at Cru Northeast. She blogs at rachelgilson.com.
Instead Heres What I Think Is A Helpful Conversation:
As we read throughout Scripture there are a large number of affirming passages for trans and gender non-conforming people. We find righteous women warriors, a wonderful passage in Isaiah about Eunuchs being given a name and a family, Jesus words of affirmation towards Eunuchs, the man carrying a jar of water in the Passion narrative, the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts, and much more.
There is ample evidence that people who dont conform to gender norms are not only accepted but celebrated throughout the Scriptures. So lets start there.
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What Is The Definition Of Transgender
A transgender person is someone whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with the sex they were assigned at birth. Transgender is an adjective and therefore does not stand alone. It must be attached to a noun. A common google search phrase is what is a transgender? revealing a misunderstanding of the nature of the word as an adjective. What does transgender mean? is a grammatically correct question. The word transexual is largely considered to be outdated by the majority of young people today. The term has been used to refer to those who have medically transitioned in some way away from the gender assigned to them at birth and to the gender which they experience themselves to be.
First Argument God Made Two Distinct Genders
Lets look at the first building block more closely, that God made two distinct genders, male and female.
Now of course the passages in the Bible which are usually talked about at this point are the creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2, and also other passages that refer back to these, for example when Jesus does it in Matthew and Mark .
But it seems strange to use Genesis 1 and 2 to say that God only made a male and a female and that therefore this must apply to everyone since. Sure, it applies to the vast majority. But according to studies, only about 1 in 5,000 to 1 in 50,000 of the population are transgender .
The creation accounts in Genesis arent focused on unusual situations they dont even apply straightforwardly to those who dont have children or remain single. The creation accounts say that God blesses both male and female, that both are made in his image, that God blesses, if you like, marriage and children.
But Genesis doesnt try to address transgenderism, or whether you must get married, or whether you must have children. Genesis doesnt address transgenderism at all.
But lets also consider the problem in claiming that there are two distinct biological sexes. Thats true for most people, but its not true for everyone.
But not always. Occasionally, women are born with XY chromosomes. How come? Because from being in the womb their bodies dont react to a male hormone. These females have what are usually considered male chromosomes.
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Teach Your Children The Truth About Gender And Transgender Identity
From an early age, teach them that our human bodies matter. The body is connected to our personhood who we are. Emphasize that their body is good and worthy of respect and protection. Help them celebrate their unique qualities of maleness or femaleness. Become informed on this topic through trustworthy resources and encourage your kids to bring their questions to you or your spouse as their primary source of reliable information on any topic, especially private or uncomfortable ones.
And when you see a trans person, dont model a sense of disgust or make disparaging remarks. Show respect and love for them as Gods image-bearers and use the encounter later as an opportunity to discuss the experience with your kids.
But What If These Interpretations Are Wrong
The answer to this question will be different depending on the tradition of the person asking. For example, for some Christians, affirming or not affirming transgender and non-binary people is connected to salvation and eternity. For other Christians, the afterlife isnt their main concern, but instead their focus is determining what it means for Christians to contribute to human flourishing and to the moral integrity of the church. Whatever is at stake for the person asking, it is important to note the role of humility, grace and having a consistent standard to apply in discerning what is true of God. We read in Pauls letter to the Corinthians that until Christ returns we are bound to see truth in a way that is incomplete, a mere reflection, as in a mirror, dimly . The Bible calls its interpreters to the awareness that even if ultimate truth about any subject isnt always in our grasp, we can still remain committed to the task of trying to find it.
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The Second Argument God Doesnt Make Mistakes
But what about the second building block? God doesnt make mistakes, and therefore your gender identity ought to match your biological sex.
This makes no sense on so many different levels to me. How does this apply to intersex people? If God creates them as part of his good creation and they are part of his great variety that he looked upon and saw and said was good, then why cant trans people be in the same position?
But if intersex people are the result of the fall and therefore an exception, but therefore we can make allowances for them again, why cant we do the same with trans people? God doesnt make mistakes Im afraid here the way it is being used is just an empty slogan.
More importantly, if there is a mismatch, why does the physical body take priority over the mind and sense of identity?
Ive seen this expressed as: its just feelings compared with being, or psychology compared with ontology. But thats not taking our sense of self seriously enough our mind and spirit and taking our bodies too seriously. Paul says, we have this treasure in clay jars is that treasure just a feeling, just psychology? Which is more important the clay jar or the treasure?
Yes, we need to take our physical bodies seriously we follow an incarnate Christ. Our bodies are real. But so is what is going on inside us. Our minds are real too.
On The Sixth Day God Created A Gender Spectrum
Theres no doubt traditional male-female gender roles are common in the Bible. After all, this is an ancient text that reflects the values of the societies from which it emerged.
In these societies, masculinity was the ideal and polygamy not uncommon. This makes it all the more astonishing there are moments of gender subversion and gender diversity found within the Bibles pages.
Another creation story is found in the very first chapter of Genesis 1. It states:
God created the human in Gods image, in the image of God s/he created him; male and female God created them.
At first glance, this might seem obvious: God made two different, discrete sexes. But if we look at this line in its context, we see this creation account follows a poetic structure made up of a series of binaries that indicate the breadth of Gods creation: light and dark, seas and dry land, land creatures and sea creatures.
In the structure of the Genesis poem, these binaries are not discrete categories, but indications of a spectrum.
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The sea and dry land merge on tidal plains. Some animals inhabit both land and sea. Darkness and light meet in the in-between spaces of dusk and dawn. God didnt create night or day, but night and day, inclusive of everything in between.
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