Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg • February 3, 2016
Perhaps the most confusing issue of our age and the one that may vex members of the Body of Christ the most, surround the topic of gender. This topic has become so enormously confusing over the last several decades that at first one can hardly be blamed for succumbing to the emotional arguments in favor of promoting such heart-rending difficulties. “Gender” has been used as a tool to deny the real essence of human nature. Revealed truth teaches us that God made us male and female; the new “gender” theory rejects this obvious distinction in favor of a multitude of “gender” possibilities, defying the truth about maleness and femaleness.
While there is no doubt that the seeds of confusion surrounding gender have been prodigiously sown, this means that we have an even more pressing duty to clarify these issues using rightly-ordered reason subordinated to Church Teaching, in order to catechize our brothers and sister so that we may all treat this issue with truth and charity.
To untangle the majority of confusion surrounding this issue, we must first have a look at the real meaning of the word “gender” and try to discover what it really means and how it ought to be appropriately used. Its current use as a large collection of categories for human sexuality is wholly disordered and cannot under any circumstances be promoted by faithful Catholics. It diametrically opposes Church teaching and is harmful to those who are taken in by its arbitrary deceit.
Where Does the Word Gender Come From?
The old verb form of the word “gender” can be traced at least back to the late 14th century French meaning to “engender, beget, or give birth to” and this came from the Latin generare which meant the same. As a noun, “gender” had meant the “kind, sort, class, species, or character.” This came from the Latin genus, which has a broader use extending to “race, stock, family, kind, rank, order, species etc..” Aristotle used the word genos as a Greek grammatical term referring to male and female sex. This particular use of gender as a noun denoting male and female sex is witnessed in English from the 15th century. However, it wasn’t until 1963 that “gender” took on an erotic value; and the degeneration of that word has been rapid ever since.
The Romance, Germanic, and Slavic languages have always referred to words in a grammatical sense as either masculine or feminine. This was the understanding of gender in language up to the modern age. The term “gender” today has replaced what we would have called “sex” before the 1960’s. This use of the word “sex” was as a noun and its intended use was to inquire about the maleness or femaleness of a particular human person. Today we use the word “sex” almost strictly for the pleasures of the genial bed, and rarely for biological dimorphism. Now we use the word “gender” almost exclusively to talk about how particular humans describe themselves pertaining to certain variations of maleness and femaleness.
Sexual Confusion Begins
Although the word gender refers to what we called “sex” in the past, it no longer refers to male and female, but many other things grounded in misguided notions of the human person. The modern problem in understanding “sex” and “gender” is grounded in three foundational issues. Primarily we suffer a grave misunderstanding about the nature of authority. Second, we deny the universal common truths about human beings made in the image and likeness of God. Third, we have a problem understanding the relationship between being and doing.
God, our Father in Heaven, is the Author of Life, the Creator of all that is good. As such, He is the Law. Christ the Logos is the divine revelation of that Law and His law is naturally written on our hearts. God is the authority who governs all that is right and wrong. We must measure our actions against His objective standard.
This modern age denies Christ’s authority in favor of his own subjective authority. Thus we have our deepest and most intractable problem concerning understanding what is objectively disordered about inventing our own definitions of “sex” and “gender”. If we do not agree that God’s authority is the measure by which we ought to judge our actions and beliefs, then there is no possibility of having a fruitful conversation about such a thing as “gender”, because everyone will have their own subjective opinion. This is a denial of proper authority. God’s supremacy as the Creator and arbiter of all truth is challenged by man as we crown ourselves our own authorities.
God is the Creator; male and female He created us. We are made in the image and likeness of God (cf. Genesis 1:26-27); it is a self-evident truth that we are either male or female. The Christian anthropology is grounded in the ontological reality that one is either male or female. This truth determines the very things we are able or not able to do. For an example, those of us created male can never give birth to a child. Those who were created female can never be a father. To say otherwise is to deny obvious truths about universal traits of common being present in all of us for all of time.
Because we have denied the universal nature of male and female, we have run into a problem of being and doing. The truth that we have always been male and female can be demonstrated by our perfect complementarity physically, mentally and emotionally. We arrange our marriages and families in order to comply with God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply” as we participate in the glories of creation with our Creator.
What we are by virtue of our natures determines the kinds of things we can and ought to do. The problem with “gender” is that we have inverted the order of reality to claim that what we desire to do The very wide variety of such desires has led to the inordinate throng of invented ‘genders’, such as genderfluid, intergender, neutrois, pansexual, and (ironically) third sex.
Sexual Confusion Reigns
The plain and simple truth concerning “sex” and “gender” is that we are either male or female. It can be demonstrated scientifically by chromosomes and a host of other verifiable repeatable observations. It can be philosophically deduced by first principles of the perennial tradition by philosophical anthropology. Most soundly, it can be demonstrated theologically by revealed truth: “Male and female He created them.” The Christian anthropology to which all the faithful must ascribe sets forth the simple truth that we are either male or female.
And yet, we’re terribly confused in this age, because, This false “sexual freedom” has caused many to abandon the authority of Christ, and to determine for themselves the nature of reality against all common and holy sense.
Deacon Fournier explains that this isn’t freedom. “It turns people into objects of use and degrades the dignity of human sexuality. Sadly, the same spirit of the age fails to recognize the integral unity of the human person, body, soul and spirit, and has turned the human body into a machine.” Our bodies, we wrongly suppose, are to be used by us for whatever purposes we deem desirable.
The modern world ignores revealed truth, the right ordered use of our intellects, and even the scientific data to make claims that are irrational, unreasonable, and untrue. The word “gender” as it is used today is a misbegotten notion. That we are either male or female determines what we ought and ought not to do based on our God-given natures measured against the objective moral standard. We are not at liberty to invent what we are concerning our natures or “gender.” As Catholics we must convey the truth in charity God made us for Himself and our hearts are restless until they rest in Him (cf. St. Augustine, Confessions 1.1). Male and female he created us. We must conform to this truth, not try to make the truth conform to us.
Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg is a Catholic convert, husband, father, Catholic writer and speaker on matters of Faith, culture, and education. He teaches, theology, philosophy and Church history at Holy Spirit Prep in Atlanta. Steven is a member of the Teacher Advisory Board and writer of curriculum at the Sophia Institute for Teachers, a contributor to the Integrated Catholic Life, Crisis Magazine, The Civilized Reader, The Standard Bearers, The Imaginative Conservative and Catholic Exchange.