Thursday, December 20, 2018

Is Gender binary or a polarity?

I was surprised to see Mike Bird describe gender on Twitter as non-binary. Binary male-female gender can be observed in the world (The overall pattern across large populations groups; physically, historically and socially is binary.) and in Scripture (Gen 1:27), notwithstanding abnormalities (Klinefelter syndrome etc). While gender is empirically observable, it's also subjectively experienced and gender roles, tropes and behaviours are socially constructed. The modern transgender movement has elevated a person's experience and expression of their gender into an objective standard and a political ideology. Christians, while eschewing the politics of that type of ideology, should also have compassion for people with a genuine experience of gender dysphoria or who have struggled with a gender abnormality. You see this principle of generosity in Philip's interaction with the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8. Everyone's bodies have been broken by sin in one way or another and everyone is battling the corruption of sin, so the invitation to follow Jesus and walk in step with the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:25) should be shared without discrimination.
I had assumed this was the evangelical Christian view of gender and so I surprised when I saw this tweet from Mike Bird describing gender as a "polarity" and when I asked him what that meant he answered: "Male and female are the spectrum of sex, but in between you get phenomena like intersex and gender dysophoria." But this seems to be faulty reasoning. Firstly, it denies the widely observable pattern of binary male-female gender. Secondly, Mike Bird makes an inductive argument from exceptions: "intersex and gender dysophoria", rather than a deductive argument from large-scale patterns. A Christian sexual ethic is not built up from subjective individual experiences but imposed from above, for better or for worse, from the larger reality of history, biology and Scripture. You tackle those exceptions, such as "intersex and gender dysophoria", as they arise within a larger objective framework of gender. It's also worth noting that gender, and all its associated tropes arises from the ancient pattern of male-female binary sex.