Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent
It used to be so simple, that question of what a man or woman is. Now the water is unnecessarily muddied. One born with the genitalia of one sex can consider themselves another gender and find societal acceptance. Yet, biology is objective. It provides evidence one cannot dispute. You either have the chromosomes making you male or female. Of course, there is an infinitesimal chance that one can be born “intersex,” possessing the reproductive organs of both males and females. But this is not a difficulty most people will face. Thus, there is no valid rationale for a separate concept of gender.
I realize that the average person likely still uses sex and gender synonymously. Still, the Oxford English Dictionary documented the divergence of meaning from 1945.1 There, beneath the third entry for gender, the OEM cites the American Journal of Psychology, saying that gender is the “socialized obverse of sex.” In other words, it is what society perceives as male or female, independent of biology. As such, we immediately take note of the fact that gender is subjective. Societal perceptions do change from year to year and country to county.
I often cite Elizabethan-era men as an example. Have you ever seen a portrait of Sir Walter Raleigh? He was an influential figure in the colonization of America, exploring what would become North Carolina. North Carolina’s citizens named their capital city for him. Artist Nicholas Hilliard painted the only contemporary portrait we have of Raleigh. In old U.S. Southern parlance, Raleigh appears to be a popinjay. That means he dressed ostentatiously. He sports quite the large frilly lace collar, something we would not expect the twenty-first-century man to wear. One source said that it took Raleigh one and ½ hours to dress for Queen Elizabeth’s court!2
Even today, what constitutes “manliness” is subject to varying cultural concepts around the globe. In South Korea, for example, men are more likely to use cosmetics than men elsewhere in the world. And in Scotland, men might wear a kilt. It looks like a “skirt” to Americans, but we understand it is culturally appropriate apparel for Scottish men. It certainly does not detract from their virility, either, as we’ve likely seen kilt-wearing gentlemen at U.S. Scottish festivals toss 150-pound cabers!
The problem with gender is that it fails to account for variety within specimens sharing the same chromosomal pairing. For example, I cite myself. I have an XY chromosomal pairing but am unlike my brother, who likewise has an XY chromosomal pairing. While he always pursued athletics, I was a homebody. Fortunately, we are not alike spiritually, but we share this variability with another pair of brothers mentioned in the Bible. If you recall, Esau was the manly hunter. However, his brother Jacob preferred the peaceful living found within the tent (Genesis 25.27). Furthermore, Jacob was a “momma’s boy.” Esau was his father’s favorite and delighted in eating the game his son hunted (Genesis 27.1-4). But was either Jacob or Esau lacking in what it meant to be male? No. And though he preferred the easy life, Jacob proved quite adept at hard work too when he needed to secure his future happiness by laboring for his wives and livestock for twenty years.
So, depending upon whom you asked, I am more “feminine.” Yet, I know this about myself and embrace it as a part of my identity. I have never once thought that this means that I am biologically male but am gendered female. And this is not because Christian parents have brainwashed me to reject “the truth.” Instead, they allowed me to be a “free-range” child who may have, for example, played with the toys readily at my disposal, whether for boys or girls. My parents even indulged my idolization of Little Orphan Annie, buying me the record album of the movie’s soundtrack. I don’t necessarily recall wanting to be Annie, but I may well have pretended to be her in my play.
Youth can be a confusing time, and little ones do not yet understand their biology, let alone grasp a concept like being gendered, but activists claim that children as young as two can begin showing signs of transgenderism. Likewise, these activists have successfully pressured the psychological community into renaming “gender identity disorder” as gender dysphoria, removing the stigma that it is a mental illness requiring psychotherapy.
From my experience, I note one boy who expressed his desire to be a girl because he felt his parents treated his sisters better. For example, his sisters would receive new clothes while his parents made him get by with what he already had. Unfortunately, this disparity caused the boy to think that being female was preferable since his sisters got his craved love and attention. Fortunately, this boy grew into manhood because he overcame those juvenile conclusions. I can only imagine how he would have turned out had he been influenced by those telling him that what he felt was his incongruity with his biology, that he was gendered female.
The reality is that it is nurture that creates transgenderism, not nature. If not, Florida would not have had to pass a law to prevent teachers from telling their five-year-old pupils that their gender can differ from their biology! And what happened to common sense on this issue? How is it that our new Supreme Court Justice could not answer the question, “Can you provide a definition for the word ‘woman’?”3 How is it possible that a witness before a House Congressional hearing about “abortion rights” can say, with a straight face, that men can become pregnant and have abortions?4 It seems there must be a vested interest in destroying what it means to be a man or woman to achieve a goal, likely the destruction of the traditionally structured family. For example, Black Lives Matter, which is ostensibly about campaigning against violence and systemic racism towards black people, concerns itself with trans acceptance5 and eliminating the nuclear home.6 Why?
From the Christian worldview, it is clear. Genesis 1.27 says God made us male and female. And God assigned only a few sex-specific roles: 1) Women give birth to children and desire their husbands, and 2) Men provide spiritual leadership for the household and work (Genesis 3.16-19). However, even with these roles, there is no commentary about gender. For example, is it true that women cannot wear trousers? Can men not have long hair? Can a woman work outside the home?
Before someone does not rightly divide the Word of Truth and seeks to claim that Moses forbade women from wearing men’s clothing and vice versa (Deuteronomy 22.5), one needs to understand the context. One rabbinical tradition suggests the prohibition is from wearing the dress of the opposite sex to prevent them from mingling with them to fornicate.7 In ancient sexually segregated societies, men and women did not intermingle. So, a libertine man might dress as a woman to infiltrate the woman’s societal sphere.
Another rabbinical tradition states that the meaning of prohibiting women from men’s dress was to prevent women from putting on the armor of war or priestly garbs, symbols of the responsibilities given to men.8 We would also do well to note that, just as with the “squaring of the beard” (Leviticus 19.28), God’s people were not to mimic the practices of the surrounding heathen nations. For example, men worshipping Ishtar (aka Venus) would cross-dress during their pagan rituals.9 So then, God forbade using the accouterments of men and women to sin, not the practice of women wearing trousers or Scotsmen wearing skirts, I mean kilts. Men were not sinful for having Fabio’s flowing locks. And the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 was quite the worker, even beyond her domestic responsibilities.
In conclusion, sex is biology, the way God made you. But man uses the notion of gender to allow behaviors and preferences incongruent with the identity assigned by God. It may be that we will encounter those uncomfortable in their skin. To these, we owe compassion. Befriend them and demonstrate by your example what a man and woman are (Titus 2.1ff). Ultimately, those who are confused are won by grace, not rebuke.
1 “Gender, N.” Gender, n. : Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press, Mar. 2022, www.oed.com/view/Entry/77468.
2 “English, 18th Century (Nicholas Hilliard Tradition, 1547-1619).” Daniel Hunt Fine Art, Daniel Hunt Fine Art, 2 Oct. 2019,www.daniel-huntfineart.com/artworksmanager/2018/7/23/english-18th-century-nicholas-hilliard-tradition-1547-1619.
3 King, Alveda. “Biden’s Supreme Court Nominee Doesn’t Define ‘Woman,’ and Devalues Them All.” Fox News, FOX News Network, 5 Apr. 2022, www.foxnews.com/opinion/biden-supreme-court-woman-ketanji-brown-jackson-alveda-king.
4 Chasmar, Jessica. “Dem Witness Tells House Committee Men Can Get Pregnant, Have Abortions.” Fox News, FOX News Network, 18 May 2022, www.foxnews.com/politics/house-committee-witness-men-get-pregnant-have-abortions.
5 Salzman, Sony. “From the Start, Black Lives Matter Has Been about LGBTQ Lives.” ABC News, ABC News Network, 21 June 2020, abcnews.go.com/US/start-black-lives-matter-lgbtq-lives/story?id=71320450.
6 Wulfsohn, Joseph A. “Black Lives Matter Removes ‘What We Believe’ Website Page Calling to ‘Disrupt … Nuclear Family Structure’.” Fox News, FOX News Network, 21 Sept. 2020, www.foxnews.com/media/black-lives-matter-disrupt-nuclear-family-website.
7 Lipka, Hilary. “The Prohibition of Cross-Dressing.” TheTorah.com, Project TABS, 2018, www.thetorah.com/article/the-prohibition-of-cross-dressing.