male, female, etc.

How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings. Luke 13:34 [partial]

I had thought to do a little blogging of the Lenten study we’re doing at my church (which does not have a website–it doesn’t even have a computer) but hadn’t gotten around to beginning. What follows is only marginally related to our actual Lenten study.

The Hermits have of late been considering biology and humanity, sex and gender, topics which lend themselves to diverse pursuits–scientific inquiry, theological reflection, and, of course, the taking of online quizzes.

The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, meanwhile, have been considering similar questions, although in a somewhat graver and larger fashion. (Background via Google or the NYT, if you are so fortunate as to have a subscription).

Today I heard the following opinions expressed:

  • gays are sinners and should be punished appropriately
  • gays are sinners and need to be saved
  • gays are children of God just like the rest of us
  • gays choose to be gay
  • gays have no choice about being gay (and, in an interesting variation, 3/4 of gays have no choice about being gay)
  • gays are gay because of a birth defect

Despite my years of regular church attendance, I am the sort of person that Ann Coulter would doubtless describe as a godless liberal (although I usually tell people I’m a communist–why not go all out, I figure?). In the course of my eastern education and upbringing (remember, anything east of Cheyenne is “back east”), I had never heard the last of these before.

I mentioned that I did not think that gay people were defective. The speaker said they were not defective (what with all being God’s children and all), but they were not perfectly formed in God’s image in the same way that people with birth defects are. I said that it seemed to me that since we are all part of God’s creation, God probably intended for us to come in a variety of configurations and sexual orientations and so on and so forth. I’m not sure how that went over.

It has occurred to me lately, though, that when we say that gay people are gay because they can’t help it, because they have no choice in the matter, we are doing them something of a disservice. Saying “you have no choice” is not quite the same as saying “you have a birth defect” (and, I should note, this whole discussion is probably doing an enormous disservice to people who have birth defects, who are also no less human than the rest of us), but it implies that you are to be pitied, that you are, in some way, a less than perfect example of God’s creation–sort of like saying that if you are female, you are somehow less able to relate to God, since in his human incarnation he was male.

Last week in Lenten study our lesson was Luke 13:31-35. I noted at some point that I thought it was either interesting or nice or both (I can’t recollect which adjective I used) that Jesus chose a feminine image in the bit quoted above–the mother hen gathering in her young. I have for years–for as long as I have been thinking about it–believed that humanity encompasses male and female and indeterminate and in-between, heterosexual and homosexual and bisexual, and, in general, more things in heaven and earth than we can dream of. Is there any reason that God should not also encompass all these?

I don’t consider the people whom I listened to today to be intolerant, on the whole. But sometimes it’s very clear to me that I come from a different place. We have a gender neutral restroom at our church, but we don’t call it that, and I don’t know that anyone thinks of it that way. But I may start to think of it as such–to be happy in the knowledge that there’s a place you can go around here where you don’t have to choose a label.

One thought on “male, female, etc.”

  1. Actually, men are the ones with the birth defect, if you want to call it that. Every fetus begins with XX chromosomes. It’s a few weeks later that slightly less than half the time, it mutates and becomes XY.

    But that’s okay — they can’t help it!

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