Gender Identity

In most societies around the world, one’s gender identity has traditionally been equated with one’s anatomy--in particular the sexual organs one possesses--and sorted into two categories: female and male. This remains how many continue to see gender identity.

In recent times, however, transgender and gender non-binary people (often but controversially referred to as queer) have shared that their experience of gender does not conform precisely with their anatomy. Subsequently, a growing number of people now see gender identity as referring to the inner experience and self-identification of each individual with regard to gender.

Further complicating our understanding of gender identity is the growing body of research pertaining to intersex individuals, who have both male and female genital characteristics, and those babies born with ambiguous genitalia.  In decades past, surgeries were sometimes performed to correct gender identity; nowadays, available tests can shed light on gender markers not physically readily identifiable (such as chromosomal makeup, etc.)  

Progressives point out that ambiguous genitalia and intersex conditions occur at higher rates than most conservatives realize; they further assert that other biological realities can define gender as well (chromosomal makeup, natural hormonal levels, brain differences between genders, and even the proper development of internal sexual organs).  Some progressives assert that to construct gender merely by the presence or absence of external sexual organs is therefore short-sighted.

This has led to a profusion of new terms to describe various gender identities. A trans woman, for instance, denotes someone who was born with male genitalia (known as assigned male at birth, or amab) but identifies as a woman; a genderfluid individual is aware of fluctuations in their gender identity depending on a variety of factors.

Some conservatives dismiss the term gender identity as superfluous, given their belief in the traditional equation of gender with physical characteristics. Many religious conservatives view those physical characteristics, and therefore the gender of each person, as a God-given attribute, not to be altered under most circumstances.

These experiences are not as difficult to embrace in other cultures, where gender is not understood as a binary at all, but rather as a spectrum (e.g., places in Asia). Among some indigenous Native American peoples, certain transgender individuals are referred to as "two-spirit" and are actually revered for their perfect balance between male and female attributes.

Conversation Catalysts: 

Genderqueer and Non-Binary Identities and Terminology,” Genderqueer Identities

Austen Hartke has some excellent analysis on one of his videos. He is a transgender Christian theology nerd who produces high-quality videos on his Youtube channel. More about him here.

LGBTQIA Resource Center Glossary,” University of California, Davis

Russell D. Moore, “Conservative Christianity and the Transgender Question,” OnFaith, August 15, 2013, 


John Backman, Heidi Weaver-Smith

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