On Gender

Photo via Flickr user  Christine Szeto
Photo via Flickr user Christine Szeto

There is no distinction…between male and female (Galatians 3:28).

“It’s a girl.”

My friend and her husband went in for an ultrasound last week which unveiled the sex of the baby growing in my friend’s womb. Upon hearing the news, they were filled with conflicting emotions. They admitted to us, a week later, that they were a little disappointed for a moment, and then they felt guilty for that disappointment. Almost immediately after finding out, they were excitedly considering girl names. But they are a tad bit haunted by their initial gut, snap reaction : deep down, for just a fleeting moment, they really preferred if their baby was a boy.

In our world, gender matters. It matters a lot. My friends had to fully admit this in light of their reaction to hearing, “It’s a girl.” After, when they could apply more nuanced thinking, they knew that gender wouldn’t limit their joy as parents. They would love their child so much no matter what. Her gender will not limit her from wrestling with her dad or being good at science or looking adorable in blue. Yet gender does matter in our society, so much, that part of their longer, more intense reflection about their first born went to worrying about pressures that young women tend to face more than young men in our society– a focus on looks and weight and superficial ideals of perfection. Women still tend to get paid less, hold positions of power less and are the victims of assault more often. Their hesitation was not personal so much as it was an acknowledgment that our society still is set up for life to be a little easier for men.

On our way home from dinner with these friends, my spouse and I talked about that first moment when the medical professionals uttered to us after our baby was born, “It’s a boy.” We talked about the feelings that ran through us that first moment and since, knowing that we had a son to raise. We had a baby to hold and love moments after we were informed of its sex, which helped. We could love and hold that person who happened to be a boy, and we got all wrapped up in his humanness that transcends gender. Still, we are raising him in a world where gender matters.

My instinct, I’ve noticed, is to keep using the phrase in a world where. I guess part of me believes in a world away from here where it’s different. To help explain, I recommend reading Richard Rohr’s daily meditation on gender where he claims that gender is not our ontological identity. He goes on to say that men and women are different only at a superficial level, and that our True Self goes deeper than gender:

The object and goal of all spirituality is finally the same for all genders: union, divine love, inner aliveness, soul abundance, forgiveness of offenses, and generous service to the neighbor and the world.

I love being a woman. I am loving raising a boy. And I appreciate Rohr’s challenge to define myself first as a child of God, a child of the resurrection first. He reminds us that in Christ we find unity and wholeness, not duality.

Published by Ellie Roscher

Ellie Roscher is the author of How Coffee Saved My Life, and Other Stories of Stumbling to Grace. She holds a master’s degree in Theology/Urban Ministry from Luther Seminary and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction writing at Sarah Lawrence College.

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