Sex and Gender Identity in Scripture

One of the reasons people in the Church give for not wanting to affirm transgender, intersex, gender fluid, and non-binary members of our community is because of how these perceptions of gender allegedly conflict with scripture. So, let's take it apart, starting with some of the important terms on this front it will be helpful to define.

As I looked at each term on their list, I paused on the definition they've given for Binary: "The gender binary is a system of viewing gender as consisting solely of two identities and sexes, man and woman or male and female."

Maybe this is obvious to other people, or has been covered elsewhere before. But seeing male and female vs. man and woman written like that caught my attention. These terms are separate. They refer to sex and gender distinctly, separately.

You know what else does that? The creation story of Adam and Eve.  

Notice how Moses 2:27 refers to sex, male and female.

Gender isn't introduced until the next chapter, when Adam names Eve, "Woman." Which, yeah. How are you going to have gender before the first woman has even been created? It's a distinction and separation that is also maintained in the Genesis accounts of chapters 1 and 2.

Here's the interesting part. Nowhere, is any of this exchange, does God state that sex and gender are intrinsically tied together—that they must or will always line up as male and man, or female and woman. It's not a necessary part of the story as written.

Adam and Eve, the record makes clear, are cisgender. But there is no scriptural imperative of any kind to assume that this is the immutable order of things for all creation, according to God. There is simply no evidence for that assertion here.

I've read these stories countless times, heard them recounted countless times in the temple as both a patron and an ordinance worker, and I've never seen those layers of meaning before. It's a good reminder of what my husband says to me all the time: God can't steer a parked car. Until we ask for these insights, we may never see them on our own.

But wait! There's more.

Look at D&C 93:29. In our pre-earth life, we were spirit beings, living in the presence of God. And we were made of "intelligence," right? 
Notice how it says intelligence can't be made or created?

Hold that thought, and go back with me to Genesis 1.
What does it say God did with it biological sex? What's the verb? 
He made us male and female. But D&C 93 says intelligence, the substance from which we're made, cannot be formed or made. 
What does this mean? What does it tell us?
It means intelligence, like priesthood, has no gender. 
It means our biological sex begins when we are organized out of intelligence.
We are eternal beings, but biological sex and gender are not eternal.

"But Sister Collins! The Family Proclamation says the opposite!"

Yes, it does. It's almost like the Family Proclamation has been superimposing evangelical Christianity's political interpretation of gender and sexuality on the human family that isn't supported by scripture. And in a choice between evangelical Christianity and the health and safety of our own members, it's pretty clear whose side we should be taking.

But I'm just a returned missionary who has been a Sunday School teacher more times than I can even count. What do I know?

"How can you talk about the Church that way?"

I view my loyalty to be to God first, the institution second. I'm a disciple of Christ, not the Church. It also helps that I've had to navigate the Church being a Messy Place with Messy People since before I was baptized.

Image courtesy of: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

No amount of institutional grief or disappointment will ever compare to the Young Women lesson where I found out my family couldn't be at my sealing. If I can survive that, there's not much worse the Church (or anyone else) can do to me.

It sounds bad, but I learned early on that this kind of pain just comes with the territory. Being Mormon has always been this hard for me. But the highs justified the lows somehow. It was only recently that I asked myself "should it really be like this?"

I'm trying to figure out if/how to have Mormonism in my life without all the the self-sacrificing martyrdom. It is possible for them to ask too much. It's a new way of thinking about faith for me, but it's the only way forward at this point.

I found a lot of value in that Abrahamic notion that faith should be able to ask everything of you, or it can't actually save you. I was eager to prove myself to God, and to see what I was made of.

But no one can do that forever. So I'm asking different things of my faith now. And in the process, I think I'm coming to understand Romans 4 for the first time.

It's wasn't the law, the sacrifice, or the works of Abraham that was accounted to him for righteousness. It was his faith. That was the purpose of the lesson. It wasn't to take Isaac away from his father, to require that from his hands. It was to teach him that there are things in this world more valuable than sacrifice.

It is through faithnot through Abraham's name, his bloodline, or through the lawthat salvation comes. To be consumed with making sacrifices to God as a measure of my own self-worth? That's not what I'm supposed to do. That was never supposed to be the point of my association with God, even if that's what the Church and its members expect from me.

So, in the same spirit that was taught to the Hebrews, I can learn this lesson. I can let go of this constant need to prove myself, to try and earn the worthiness to be loved and regarded by God. That's not something I have to earn. As in all loving and healthy relationships, it was there already, waiting for me to be able to see it.

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