The Bible defines us by our biology.
Tazri'a & Mezora
This is the law for her who bears a child, either male or female. (Vayikra/Leviticus 12:7)
Over the past few decades there has been a major transition in how we humans view ourselves. It wasn't that long ago that it was assumed that apart from very rare abnormalities, a distinguishing trait of each human being was what was termed "sex," either male or female. This is the term still used on many legal forms including birth certificates and driver's licenses and is technically a biological designation.
There is another term that also distinguishes between male and female, and that's "gender." Until recently gender was not used of people, it was (and still is) a grammatical term to classify words as masculine and feminine. This is not as much of an issue in English as it is in other languages, such as French, in which all nouns (and corresponding adjectives) are classified as either masculine or feminine. It is noteworthy that when it comes to most nouns, there is no innate reason for an item to be masculine or feminine; it is simply a matter of form.
But today it has become more and more acceptable to speak of a person's gender as if it is something separate from their sex. Sex is reserved for their biology only, while gender is, as some claim, psychologically derived. So while a person may be male physically, they might regard themselves as female. And it appears that there is a growing movement to make a person's gender, not their sex, that which determines whether or not they are male or female.
The Bible makes no such distinction between biological sex and psychological gender. According to Scripture a person's sex is the only thing that differentiates them as male or female. This week's parsha (weekly Torah reading portion) is an example of that. According to the Torah, the duration of a woman's purification following giving birth was based on whether or not she had a boy or a girl. We are not told why the time after bearing a girl was twice as long as after bearing a boy, but it is. Whatever else might be learned from these directives, boys and girls were to be regarded as different. And the only thing that determined that difference was biology, the baby's sex.
Male and female are not psychological constructs, they are biological ones. That we have associated certain human traits as masculine or feminine has confused this issue as has all sorts of societally imposed expectations upon men and women, boys and girls. But that's a different subject. What constitutes legitimate roles and activities for males and females is a necessary discussion, but one that cannot be had unless we first accept the Bible's understanding that male and female are biological symbols designed by God to differentiate the sexes.
From the earliest chapters of the Bible we know that male and female is an aspect of the image of God (see Bereshit/Genesis 1:27). This sexual diversity is more than just for show or for pleasure; it provides essential and distinguishable differences both in function and role especially within the family structure and specifically having to do with the bearing and nurturing of children. The curse upon our first parents due to their rebellion against God, didn't create this diversity, it only complicated it.
One of those complications is our inability to accept who we are as we have been made by God. I in no way want to belittle the personal struggles many are facing today. But we are not helping anyone by encouraging them to ignore the reality of their biological identity in favor of psychological inclinations. When feelings and desires seek to drive us away from objective truth, it's the feelings and desires that need to change, not the truth.
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