Gender and the Supernatural
Writing for me, as I’m sure it is for many of you, is a sense-making tool. And as I’ve used it to navigate our cultural landscape, I’ve become fascinated with the concept of gender. I’ve written five posts that deal with it directly or indirectly. And as I’ve done that, I’ve realized that gender is one of the most complex and interesting ideas that our culture is dealing with today. That is the reason I find it so worthy of discussion.
But this post is not about the complexity itself. I’ve already explored it in detail. This post is about clarity and simplicity which I hope I can bring to the discussion.
To that end, I’ve boiled it down to a single question: what can we say is objectively true about human beings, and how might the concept of gender be either helpful or detrimental in our understanding of that reality?
Here’s where I start in answering that question.
When we divide human beings up into categories like male or female, man, woman, boy or girl, I can identify only four dimensions of description in which they can be objectively observed:
- Biological sex: a person’s reproductive mode which we refer to as male or female
- Sexual orientation: whether someone is attracted to their same sex, to the opposite sex, or to both, or to neither (asexual)
- Masculinity and femininity: the physiological, psychological, and social characteristics and behaviors associated with being male or female
- Sense of self: the level of comfort or discomfort a person feels with their biological sex and/or the characteristics associated with it
I don’t mention gender in this list partly because I’m purposely avoiding using the term in question to explore the term in question; but also because in my sense-making process I have yet to establish that gender names anything that is objectively observable about humans other than what is listed above. That is, if gender is a legitimate concept at all, it must be synonymous with one or more of the above parameters, or it must refer to an encapsulation of all of them.
There is only one other alternative conceptualization of gender that would make sense, but…