Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Does difference matter?

We are being inundated by the topic of same-sex "marriage" and genderlessness. These ideas are being normalized in such innocuous ways that it's easy to be blissfully unaware that definitions are changing all around us.  It's on the news websites every time I visit (this senator, this former president, this former secretary of state now endorse it ...), it's in Canada's parliament today as they vote on a bill that would say, "Gender Identity means, in respect of an individual, the individual’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex that the individual was assigned at birth," and it's even on our television commercials.
Exhibit A



Exhibit B

 

What's the point of gender? Why does any of this even matter? Is it a problem that our commercials, magazines, and newspapers are filled with the idea that gender is simply what we make of it?

Below is a column of mine originally published in the Diocese of Covington's newspaper, "The Messenger" in 2011.

It seems that everywhere we turn we are confronted with questions about gender. In recent months, the Internet, television and newspapers were filled with stories about a family in Toronto that has decided to raise a “genderless” baby, not revealing whether or not their third child is a son or a daughter. A video was released with a speaker addressing fourth graders in a California public school with the message that one can choose a gender based on feelings. A mother appeared on national television to encourage cross-dressing for young children. 


The new message to children that they can do be anything they want no longer centers around being an astronaut or a doctor or an explorer, but that one can be a boy, or a girl, or a boy and a girl, and can create their ideal gender style, just like they can choose their ideal career choice.


But gender matters. We seem to have forgotten that. We seem to think we can determine sex/gender by how we feel. And gender isn’t something reduced to pink, sparkly dresses or playing with toy trucks. Gender is about masculinity and femininity, about different modes of giving and receiving (and we do both, but differently), about being created with absolute dignity, not “sameness,” about a difference that matters.


Gender (sexual difference) is a beautiful reminder that I am not God, that I cannot encompass the whole of reality, that I cannot be everything. There is always someone different from me, “other” than me. And that difference and “otherness” is good. It reminds me that I did not create myself, nor did I create the “other.” I was created. I am a child of God. My life has been given. There are some things about my existence that I cannot determine, but instead am called to receive.


Gender is a beautiful reminder that I am called to love. In seeing that there is another with whom I have unity (the same gift of humanity) and difference (masculinity or femininity), I see that it is possible for me to give to another and to receive from another. I begin to see that love is possible, that love is good and that love is the meaning of life.


Gender is a beautiful reminder that I am called to love fruitfully. When I realize that I did not create myself, that I come from God, and when I realize that I can love another with whom I share a unity and a difference, I can see that my love can be fruitful. It can grow and be more. It doesn’t have to collapse in upon itself. It can open me up to new experiences, new wonder, new gratitude as I watch love unfolded as something I am given and not as something I create, dominate or master.


So, why do we think it’s a good idea to march into classrooms and onto national television shows and into newspapers and tell children, tell parents, tell the world that we don’t need a visible reminder that our life is a gift? In fact, we don’t want a reminder that life is a gift, thank you very much. We’d prefer to take out the mystery, take out the wonder, take out the gratitude, take out the fact that we did not create ourselves.


What a different culture we would live in if we embraced masculinity and femininity as a unique way in which God reminds us of our origin from love, our call to love now, and our ultimate destiny sharing in eternal love with our Creator and Redeemer.

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