I will keep this reflection short. It’s merely a thought.
With the introduction of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, the Church received a renewed understanding of human sexuality. Sexuality is not merely a vestige of our animal side, or a dirty blot tainting our spiritual life – it is a gift from God established at the beginning.
As we talk about gender and human sexuality in the Church, we need to focus on this gift, and what “GIFT” really means.
We should remember Christ’s words about the Sabbath: “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27). Christ spoke of the Sabbath as a gift that enlivens humanity rather than a prescription that binds him. Maybe we should think of gender similarly.
“Gender was made for humanity, not humanity for gender.”
When we talk about being a man or woman, we need to talk about the gift of God-given identity. What God established in the beginning wasn’t a taxology of rules; it was the gift of being alive as a unique, individual being in relationship with others.
Is this free gift the thing we’re talking about in contemporary conversations on gender? Are our norms of masculinity and femininity treated as celebrations of an authentic gift that comes from within, or are they treated as a to-do list of behavioral “rules”?
True gender comes from within, as an inner charism, a God-given impulse toward relationship with others. Too often gender-nonconforming individuals are told “You need to embrace your God-given maleness/femaleness.” The language of “the gift” is being used, but it’s being misused. A gift is not something that is shoved down people’s throats. Gifts enliven, not deaden.
Gifts are planted within to be shared without. When a gender-nonconforming person tries to share what they experience as their inner gift, how often are they shut down? How often is their gift seen as a curse, or “not the right gift,” “not their true gift”?
A professor of mine liked to talk about God’s gifts. He described the spiritual world as a God-given buffet of every possible variety of food. Some people might choose to stick with bread and water, but my professor said he would load up his plate with as much as he could of everything. “If God is offering,” he said with a shrug, “then I’m accepting.”
Maybe this simple attitude is all we need to understand gender non-conforming individuals, whether intersex, transgender, or genderqueer. God has offered us these people, these individuals, this myriad of flavors and expressions. If God is offering, I’m accepting.