The whole issue of Gender and Gender Roles is so inextricably tied to self identity that there is no wonder that it is a sensitive topic. At some point close to our existential core we feel the need to identify with a Gender.

This becomes problematic when we identify with a Gender that is not what society assigns to us. Whether we like it or not we are not born entirely free; we are born into a set of assumptions and expectations for what we will be and become.

Further complicating the issue is that social expectations are not static, but are dynamic and fluid in nature, changing from place to place and time to time. This means that what may be a social expectation for a specific gender in one place may not be the expectation in another.

This becomes even further complicated by the fact that technological advances allow us to see what the social expectations of gender are in other parts of the country, and even the world. This then reveals that expectations and norms develop at varying speeds depending on innumerable external factors, such as information sharing, points of origin, religious affiliation, etc.

Now that the web has been illuminated, allow me a few words to try to make sense of it, and help point to a better way of operating within this world we live in:

First, we need to understand that our expectations on Gender are not a static, timeless, universal reality but are in fact tied inextricably to our context and the myriad factors that created such. In fact, the expectations on Genders have changed remarkably in the US while I’ve been alive, so much so that people identifying with the female gender are now the primary breadwinners for American families. This means that social norms are changing during my lifetime, but not everywhere. Today, I am at home while my wife is working. I’m doing the laundry, cleaning the bathroom, making the bed, doing the dishes. This was the Gender expectation for women when I was younger, but not now and not here. This then leads to my second idea:

Gender roles change. Then change back again. Right now, my wife is the breadwinner for our family. But in the future, she wants to stay home and raise our family. Then our current Gender roles would be reversed. I think one of the follies of talking about Gender roles is that we assume they are unchanging and universal. That just isn’t the case. Nor should it be.

Now to my third idea.
Awareness of the variances of life. Know that the way I understand the world, or even the bible, is not the only way, and while I need to be faithful to my convictions, I also need to acknowledge that as a sinful human being I do not have a corner on God or on truth. I could be wrong entirely! And so could you. That is why we truly need to rely on grace, and extend grace to others. For people who identify with a different gender than what is assigned to them, the loss of identity is compounded exponentially by people who harass and condemn them as “weird” or “depraved”. Have we no compassion? No one chooses to have an identity crisis, especially one as significant as Gender!

2 Comments

  1. Paswa on September 14, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    Nate,
    I,m a little confussed at what it is exactly that you are saying. Though I agree that roles and expectations of a certain gender can and do change as society and circumstances dictate; I'm a little confused by your third point about identity crisis. Are you saying it should be perfectly OK if a particular person feels like they are a different gender than the one given to them by their Creator to not only feel they are the opposite gender, but to seek to have that gender changed? If that is what you are saying – I would have to humbly disagree. I beleive we are assigned "gender" by our Creator (whether or not you beleive that or not doesn't change the truth of that) To re-asssign our "gender" is not something we get to choose. We can choose to follow different expectations or roles in that gender, but a male is a male and a female is a female. To desire to be the opposite is in contradiction to God's design. It is not "weird" or "depraved," it is just wrong.

  2. Nathan Myrick on September 14, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    Hey Wayne, thanks for commenting! I think you're missing my point here. I'm not actually addressing the morality of Gender identification, I'm addressing the morality of someone's reaction to a person who struggles with that.

    A sad reality in life is that people are not always born with just one gender. I have at least one friend who was born with both, and their parents had to decide which they wanted their child to be (physically, that is). In that circumstance, there isn't a cut and dried answer to what their Creator desired for them to be, save for the result their parents chose. But for many in that situation (which is happening more and more frequently…) the question is unanswered, especially if they do not identify with their assigned Gender.

    The issue I'm trying to address is not the actuality of such events, but how our reaction to them as Christians can help or hinder.

    If you'd like to continue the discussion I'd be glad to do so! My number is still the same as it was in Warroad 🙂

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