As I took time to reevaluate my core values I needed to redefine what I believed about my gender and gender roles. For the majority of my life, I viewed my gender as a woman as less than. As a child I experienced sexual, physical, and emotional abuse from my foster parents. Although I was biologically a female, I heard the message loud and clear from my foster parents that I was “supposed to be a boy” and it was reaffirmed with questions like “Why aren’t you a boy?” throughout my elementary years.
Like all children I needed affirmation, affection, and attention from the adults in my life. So at the tender age of five or six I quickly determined to become stronger, faster, and smarter than the boys in my world–all to gain the acceptance and approval of my foster parents. In addition, I was born on the gender spectrum a tom-girl; I had natural athletic abilities and have always been leading others rather than following. As my growing body blossomed into womanhood I hated it and did everything within my power to stop it. By the time I was 12 I exclusively wore men’s clothing and kept my hair unruly and short (with the exception of a short lived period of longer hair and a bad poodle looking perm–Can we say goodbye to the 80’s?). I lived in a body and gender I hated. My family clearly found no value in me as a woman and neither did I.
By the time I entered adulthood I easily was identified as a butch lesbian. More man-like in appearance, I felt safe in this role. Men weren’t attracted to me and women were easier to manage and control for me in this role. I know some of you are saying, You are who you are, Hope–what’s wrong with that? The longer I followed Jesus and read the Bible, the more I understood that our gender given to us at birth is God’s good gift to us. God is not arbitrary, but intentional in all that He does. He makes some women soft girly-girls, more at ease with make-up and nail polish, often compassionate and creative, and others confident tom-girls who play ball, love nature and often are gifted leaders; there is a broad range of women in between them.
When it came to gender roles I knew I needed to make them one of my core values based on Genesis 1:27: “So God created human beings in His own image. In the image of God, He created them; male and female He created them.” I want to pause here and say it is important to understand that God created both men and women in His image and as a result each gender reflects the image of God in their design. The Genesis account emphasizes full equality of both genders with roles that are complementary to each other. God commissioned men and women to jointly and compassionately “rule” and steward the earth. Recognizing that humans are created in the image of God is so important, especially when it comes to our faith and belief system. John Wesley makes this profound statement about human design and gender roles:
Human creation as male and female is in some sense a reflection of the unity and diversity of the Holy Trinity. When the Tri-Personal God creates, gendered humankind is a key result. The profound unity-in-diversity of the Trinity is in a derivative sense reflected in the unity-in-diversity of the human family—mother, father, offspring. God is beyond gender, but the richness of Triune life produces gender distinction within the unity of human personhood.
The fact that we are created in the image of God does not resolve all issues regarding sexuality (as some conservatives might think). However it does weigh on the side of biblical morality and sexual ethics. Accepting one’s gender as God’s good gift and being made in the image of God is a core component of one’s human identity. Gender roles assign Biblical norms for men and women, families and societies and culture.
My Value Statement for Gender I affirm that God created both male and female in His image and as a result each gender reflects the image of God in their design. I accept that God intentionally assigns one’s gender at conception. I embrace that both genders are equally valued and that their roles are complementary to each other. I accept my gender as a woman as God’s good gift to me. I commit to honor the belief that men and women have separate and valuable roles in our world. I will uphold the belief that because God is both good and intentional and does not make mistakes, that a person’s gender assigned at birth is to remain as it is throughout this life.
Thank you for following my journey, I welcome your comments!