Gender identity is part of the deeply felt sense of self a person has. Gender has nothing to do with body parts and everything to do with a person’s inner self. In many cultures, and especially in church culture, there are only a binary of genders recognized: male and female. But when we look closely, we can see that even in this binary we have recognized something richer and more complex.
Growing up, I was what people called a “tomboy.” I didn’t like to wear dresses, I like to do physical things, I gravitated to math and science, football and astronomy. I did not know how to interact with “girly girls” who were very feminine, preferring pastel colours, make-up, talking about boys, and shoes with heels. I’m fairly certain you’re all familiar with these terms! They demonstrate an understanding that not everyone who has girl parts feels the same about how to live with those parts. Our evolving ideas of gender give space for people to step out of the binary and say that not only are they a “tomboy,” but they don’t feel comfortable with the idea of being female at all!
Some possible genders include: cisgender, transgender, non-binary, pangender, agender, and gender queer. We will look at all of these and explore the wide range of gender identities in coming posts. The truly exciting thing for me is the freedom people are beginning to feel in finding themself and identifying something deeply affecting and important.
There is a verse in Romans 8 (verse 16) that says, “God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are” (MSG). I know that in other versions, it specifically says that God’s Spirit affirms that we are God’s children. But using methods of midrash, which allow for multiple meanings in Scripture, I see this verse as deeply meaningful to us in regards to gender. We know who we are. The Spirit affirms that in each of us, whether we fit society’s (or the church’s) expectations or not. It has taken great courage for people to grab hold of the Spirit’s hand and proclaim the truth of who they are, come what may. I believe the Spirit identifies with them in their vulnerability and willingness to lead the world into new, greater understandings of what it means to be human.