Late last week I was having a conversation with a new friend in the UK over Twitter. We were talking about God (what else?) and – as become the habit these days – I found myself referring to God with male pronouns. For me, this is of no consequences as prior to my conversion to Catholicism I had referred to God in male, female and even in the plural. At one point in the conversation, after having called God ‘he’ I added,
“or she. Or them. I think it’s pretty rude to call God ‘it.’ Perhaps the gender neutral term ‘they’ is appropriate?”
Inspiration, that wayward mistress, had struck: God is gender queer! I did a quick Google search to see if anyone had written on the topic before, and where I could fit my voice in when writing about such a concept. I found that the majority of the links led to medical journals that were attempting to scientifically explain gender identity, and a select few articles talking about God being gender queer. The problems that I found with the medical journals was that, firstly, the language was so complex that it made the information nearly inaccessible for the everyday person. Second, they didn’t bother to break down concepts of sexuality vs. gender identity or explain the non-binary gender spectrum. The links leading to the reasons why God is gender queer had their own issues. Most were written by LGBTQ+ community members FOR LGBTQ+ community members, which encounters the same problems as the medical journals did – unfamiliar jargon. Finally, a good portion of the articles that I found didn’t come from academia, so there was no sound theology behind it.
This is where I find that my voice will fit in. I have a foot in each of these communities and feel that I am in a unique position to take these complex concepts and break them down in to accessible language that everyone can read and understand. Throughout the course of this blog I will talk about the differences between sexual orientation and gender identity, the differences between gender and sex, the non-binary gender spectrum and finally what gender queer means. At the very end, I will talk about why I think God is gender queer. If you already have this groundwork laid, please feel free to skip towards the end of the blog for the point of it all. 🙂
I have one disclaimer.
Please do not assume that your embodied experience is the only reality. Simply because you do not experience gender dysphoria or gender fluidity does not mean that it’s made-up or doesn’t exist. It simply means that YOU don’t experience it. That does not give you permission to overwrite others’ reality with your own personal narrative.
Sexual Orientation vs. Gender Identity
The biggest misunderstanding that I’ve encountered when talking about sexual orientation and gender identity is that the two are somehow thought to be interchangeable. That being said, it doesn’t help that the Transgendered community is lumped into the same community that is identified for sexuality: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender.
So allow me to completely clear the air: sexual orientation and gender identity have not, are not and will never be the same thing. They are NOT interchangeable.
Sexual orientation is which gender/sex your find yourself attracted to. Popular examples of these are: homosexual, bisexual and heterosexual.
Gender identity is the gender that you identify with – internally. Common examples are: male and female. As we all understand; sexual orientation has nothing to do with gender and vice versa.
So, to be clear: when I speak of gender queer, I am speaking about a gender identity, NOT sexual orientation.
Sex vs. Gender
As with sexual orientation and gender identity, sex and gender cannot be used interchangeably. They are two distinct things which will take only a few moments to describe.
A person’s sex is based upon their reproductive organs and genitals. Yep – your kit n’ kaboodle. Your naughty bits. Your privates. Your..ah, you get it. Someone’s sex is reflective of their biology; uterus and vagina = female; penis and testicles = male. Easy right?
Now on to gender. Gender has nothing to do with your biological bits, rather it is the gender that you know yourself to be based upon internal awareness. Absolutely, your gender can match your sex and absolutely can your gender disagree with your sex.
The Gender Spectrum
Classically, genders are thought of as being binary; Male or Female – which, is based upon a person’s physical anatomy. Western culture is slowly beginning to reject this binary notion, and is being replaced with the concept of gender as a spectrum with 100% man on one end and 100% women on the other with shades of androgyny in between. This coincides with gender expression which is the way one portrays their gender, physically.
I know that this is a TON to take in… but to make it a little easier to understand, I’ve found a cute little drawing.
Gender is the internal awareness.
Orientation is who you’re sexually attracted to.
Sex is your physiological bits and pieces.
Gender expression is how you represent your perceived gender.
So now.. what this is all leading up to:
Gender queer is a gender identity that doesn’t subscribe to the classic binary gender distinctions. It can identify with neither genders, male, female, a combination of both, or a constant moving between the genders (gender fluid).
I’m Talking About God, Man!
As I said, it’s rude to refer to God as “it,” but that begs the question of what God is. Is God a he or a she? I posit that the only feasible gender identity for God is gender queer. God is all at once fully male, fully female, totally agendered (neither), and fully both genders at the same time. Hey – if God can be fully human and fully divine at the same time why can’t God be gender queer?
Imago Dei – the principal that humankind is made in the image/likeness of God – has long been described as the belief that humanity possesses the divine, creative spark. Yet, why can’t gender and sex be taken into account as well?
No… really. Why not?
Humans come in a vast array of personalities, colors, cultures, genders, sexual orientations, etc.. That is the richness and beauty of humanity. To limit God to only a white heterosexual male is an attempt to shove God into a two dimensional box that is convenient, easily defined and easily understood rather than allowing God to be the multi-dimensional, complex AWESOMENESS that God is. Further, to say that only men or only women, or only men and women are created in the image of God would mean that those who are not those predefined genders (or any other “acceptable” identity) are totally left out and therefore cannot be considered valid, loved and blessed.
I call bullshit.
Allowing ourselves to understand God as gender queer opens the door to deeper understanding which, in turn, bestows upon God all the richness of the genders and their expressions. This allows God to be alpha and omega, the darkness and light, male and female, and to even – dare we admit it – go beyond our perceived duality of nature.
I challenge you to open your minds and hearts not only to a new perception of God, but to those around you who live a different reality than your own. Open your hearts, and give them the love and respect that God asks of us.
Until next time!