Throughout the history of this blog, I’ve certainly wavered some on my view of sexual/gender differences. At times I’ve focused on what men and women have in common and ruthlessly attacked unhelpful gender stereotypes of our culture, and even pointed out how such stereotypes contribute to the problems of crossdressing and transgenderism. At other times I’ve focused on the fact that men and women are distinct, created differently by God for a reason. I guess I shouldn’t call this wavering. I’m striving for what I see as the true middle ground. Some in our culture are turning to the error of denying gender altogether, and some in our culture go to the opposite error of purporting a huge gulf of great difference between the sexes, stifling people who are different from the norm, causing them to question their true sex.
Men and women are indeed created differently, with different roles, different biology, different bodies, and different temperaments. The differences are complementary and beautiful. On the other hand, the gender stereotypes of our culture are often too rigid and don’t allow for individual differences and uniqueness. Men can be generally like a,b,c,d, e, and women generally like f,g,h, i, j. But pick out a specific man and he might be c,d,e,f, g. Pick out a specific woman and she might be a,g,h,i, j. And men and women have many more traits in common than traits of difference. We are all humans called to follow Christ and exhibit the fruits of the Holy Spirit. To ignore our differences is an error, as it is equally an error to forget that we are mostly the same. We must stay on this middle ground to avoid the gender confusion and pain in our culture. Such middle ground will help to avoid the errors of crossdressing, transgenderism, transsexualism, sexism, abuse, and gender dysphoric pain.
I was recently reading an interesting book by the author Tim Keller called, “The Meaning of Marriage.” In it he has this quote about gender difference that I found very helpful and fitting with my view above:
“This means that single people within a strong Christian community can experience much of the unique enrichment of cross-gender relationships between brothers and sisters. It is my experience that it is nearly impossible to come up with a single, detailed, and very specific set of ‘manly’ or ‘womanly’ characteristics that fits every temperament and culture. Rather than defining ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’ (a traditional approach) or denying and suppressing them (a secular approach), I propose that within each Christian community you watch for and appreciate the inevitable differences that will appear between male and female in your particular generation, culture, people, and place.
Wait for them to appear, and know them. Talk about them among yourselves. Notice the distinct idols women have and men have in your generation, culture, and place. Notice the strengths women have and men have in your generation, culture, and place. Notice communication modes, decision-making skills, leadership styles, life priorities, and the balance of work and family. Once you see them, respect and appreciate them. Without the gospel, people often turn temperamental, cultural, and gender differences into moral virtues. This is one of the way we bolster our self-esteem – a form of ‘works-righteousness,’ a way to earn our superior status. And so men and women scorn and mock the other gender’s distinctive traits. But the gospel should remove that kind of attitude.”