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Why Does Gender Matter?

Goltzius' "The Fall of Man"

by Glenn Stanton

What does the reality of two distinct genders, male and female, have to do with humanity being created in God’s very image?

This is a very big issue today. It’s missed by many because it seems so obvious, but it’s being vigorously challenged – if not outright denied – in various sectors of society today. And there is a deep spiritual reason behind this that we must recognize.

In such self-important places as the gender and women’s studies departments at most universities and colleges, it is a confidently held premise – their pre-suppositional foundation, really – that humanity doesn’t exist in two sexes, but rather in a spectrum of possible genders. For instance, medical professor Anne Fausto-Sterling famously asserted in a prestigious paper published by the New York Academy of Sciences that, as the subtitle declared, “Male and Female Are Not Enough.”

When she laments that “Western culture is deeply committed to the idea that there are only two sexes,” it makes one wonder whether she’s contending that nations outside the Americas and Europe experience multiple sexes in the everyday. If that is the case, those cultures are doing an excellent job of hiding these additional genders; from all appearances, they seem pretty committed to doing the male/female-only thing, just like the West.

The title of her paper boldly announces her discovery of “The Five Sexes.” Seven years later Fausto-Sterling would apologize in a follow-up article for being too short-sighted, claiming we should bump her original number up by one. Six different genders! And the otherwise professionally respected journal The Sciences determined her observations were worth publishing. If you’re having a hard time imagining what the extra four genders might be, it’s not because you haven’t gotten out enough. It’s that the ones she points out are merely rare variations on the binary (a four-letter word in the gender studies world) male/female make-up of humanity such as hermaphrodites and such.

But Fausto-Sterling was being far too conservative in her estimation. In fact, Facebook recently added – get this – 50 different expressions of gender (!) that their users can choose in their personal profiles beyond the boring “male” and “female.” (And when people complained that their gender identity was excluded from this ridiculously expanded list, Facebook now just lets people fill in what their particular, never-before-heard-of gender is.) In fact, many of these folks astonishingly say there are as many genders as there are people – which is closer to the truth if you adhere to the radical notion that we each “interpret” our own genders and there are no objective standards for the way we see ourselves sexually.

But in a Christian anthropology, not only do male and female matter, there are the only two models of human beings that uniquely and solely show forth the image of God in the world. This is clearly stated in Genesis 1:26-27.

The male human being cannot be fully human without the female. The female cannot be fully human without the male. These may seem like two very brash and unorthodox statements. But they are not. It certainly does not mean that every male needs a female partner to be fully human, but it does mean that men in general cannot be understood as males without the other of females, and vice-versa.

We only become what we are made to be in relation to another.

Learn more about God’s irreplaceable design in The Family Project® – a 12-session DVD curriculum that explores why God’s plan for families matters today. Take your small group on a life-changing journey to strengthen and encourage families! Get The Family Project® curriculum today.

Glenn Stanton is the director of global family formation studies at Focus on the Family, and the co-author/co-creator of The Family Project, as well as the co-author (w/Leon Wirth) of The Family Project book.

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