When The Gospel Coalition decides to address the issue of gender, you know it’s going to be rife with misinformation, deliberately misconstrued in order to fit within the strict complementarian paradigm.
With a fresh refill of coffee, let’s dig in to that misinformation, shall we?
Author Brett McCracken begins a recent post with how he and his wife found out the sex of their new baby:
We had picked two restaurant options where we would have dinner, depending on what the ultrasound revealed. If our baby was a boy, we would celebrate at the local artisan sausage and beer hall. If a girl, we planned to dine at our favorite all-vegetable restaurant in downtown Los Angeles.
We did not have vegetables that night.
Right away, he’s wrong. Everyone knows you celebrate gender reveals with cake, not vegetables. What a monster.
But what might have passed as a forgettable anecdote then took a stranger turn.
A few months earlier, we were in a Vancouver restaurant enjoying an amazing porchetta sandwich. The doors on this restaurant’s restrooms struck me as subversively old fashioned. Instead of plain white triangles or “all gender” notations, these two washrooms had two different labels. One said “meat” and the other said “bread.”
Is food gendered? It sounds ridiculous. But what does it mean that my wife and I immediately knew that brats and fries for dinner were more appropriate to celebrate our baby boy than kale and candied beets? What does it mean that everyone in that Vancouver restaurant knew which bathroom to use, simply by the “meat” or “bread” signs on the door? Why is it that meat and bread — or meat and vegetables — pair so well together?
What it means, Brett, is that the restaurant thought it would be funny. Nothing more. If we assign genders to food, that’s on us. There’s nothing inherently male or female about bread or sausage. (I can’t believe this actually needs to be explained to him.)
I also feel compelled to point out that while McCracken uses words like “sex” and “gender” interchangeably, they actually mean two different things. Biological sex refers to our genitals; it’s gender that is a social construct — like the notion that blue is a boy color and pink is a girl color. When McCracken opens his post, he’s referring to the reveal of the sex of his baby, not the gender. The revelation of the former does not always predict the latter. You would think a man railing against transgender people would at least know the basics, but I guess he’s too busy staring at a menu.
But just to continue his silly metaphor, why exactly do certain vegetables and meats pair so well together?
It’s because they are not the same. They are different — beautifully different — in ways that enhance and bring the best out of the other. They are dignified, not diminished, by their complementary differences. They are part of a ordered cosmos of binaries — man and woman, light and dark, land and sea, salty and sweet — that bring structure, coherence, and irresistible beauty to life.
As much as contemporary Western culture tries to suggest otherwise, the difference of male and female exists and matters. And it is not just random difference, but complementary difference — a difference that indicates the two were made for each other. Woman and man are sort of like a lock and key. A lock and a key are meaninglessly different unless they are made to go together. But when together, their difference opens something up, unlocking something fuller and deeper about the human experience.
Christians of McCracken’s stripe love comparing humans to objects for some reason. As if any two things that go together are always good substitutes for men and women. (Those pants go well with that shirt! Men are obviously pants!)
For what it’s worth, a “lock and key” metaphor can also apply to same-sex couples… but that explanation is for a different sort of blog.
McCracken acts like the existence of a sandwich should discourage trans people from obtaining equal rights.
What is lost when gender becomes merely a fluid social construct with no “compass points,” or simply one among many accoutrements of expressive individualism? What is lost when the idea of “complementarity” is abandoned or demeaned because (like anything good) it can be abused or applied in problematic ways?
Among many other things, beauty is lost.
To deny or obscure the distinctive, complementary traits of men and women is to reject the creative genius of humanity’s creator. This denial also diminishes our own aesthetic enjoyment, as beings wired to enjoy a world of stunning polarities and complementary contrasts.
What secular researchers and egalitarian Christians are arguing is not that there are no discernible differences between men and women, but rather that the definitions we have for “male” and “female” are too narrow. The evidence of harm that complementarian views of sex and gender can cause is evident: not all men and women are wired the same way. Not all women are nurturers who desire to be mothers. Not all men think about sex 24/7 — in fact, some are in relationships with women who have higher sex drives than they do. Sometimes it works best for certain families when dad is the one who stays home with the kids and mom brings home the paychecks. Sometimes straight, cisgendered women prefer a more masculine look, while straight, cisgendered men favor a more effeminate style.
And to extend McCracken’s strange metaphor, some people don’t put meat in their sandwich at all, some like extra meat, and some people skip the bread entirely. (You can figure out what all that means. I’m getting confused now.)
Humans, no matter how they identify, are unique. They can’t all neatly fit in the boxes that McCracken would like them to. His ignorance, however, is no reason to deny the realities facing LGBTQ people everywhere.
(Image via Shutterstock)