Modern Gender Theory Part 3

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

In the last article we explored what the Torah and the rabbis had to say about assigned sex – what our genitals looked like.  Please bear in mind that this is different than “biological sex,” a topic for another article.  In this article, we will explore gender theory.

First off, gender is an intrinsic sense of oneself, informed by many characteristics and traits. Biology does play a role, but there are other factors as well, such as societal role, how one is raised, as well as many factors that are, quite frankly just not known.

Traditionally the belief was that there were two genders, just as there was a belief that there were just two sexes. This comes from the way that the Church read Genesis 1:27 in the Latin. They were not able to access the subtleties we saw with the Masoretic tradition. In addition, they did not consider the Talmud or Midrash in their teachings. So, to the Church, which informed Western thought, gender and sex were identical and binary.

With modern queer thinking and the advent of transgender identity, people began to realize that there is a difference between gender and assigned sex. Further, we began to recognize that gender presentation wasn’t always binary. For instance, we saw gay men who were effeminate and lesbians who were butch. This resulted in a belief in a gender spectrum that was linear. The next two images come from the cited source. [1]

This spectrum shows male at one end of the line segment and female at the other, with some non-binary, or androgynous, points in the middle.

But this is also not correct. So, we go to the next step in the evolution.  We now recognize that gender exists as points on a multi-dimensional space, and a person can exist at any point in that space. This existence would then be non-binary.

What really surprises people when discussing this concept with this image is that male and female exist as two finite points in this space.  From geometry, we know that a point has no dimension. So, from that standpoint, the mathematical or theoretical probability of a person being purely male or purely female (e.g. binary) is essentially nil.

Why then, do people identify with binary genders?  We are socialized to do so, our bodies are conditioned to do so in utero, we are medicalized by our doctors, and a host of other external factors. But in reality, if we were not given all these external stimuli, and left to our own to determine our own identities, we occupy points in this space somewhere in the non-binary existence.

In other words, in Hebrew – gam zeh v’gam zeh. Some of this and some of that. Men have a little bit of the feminine in them. Women have a little bit of the masculine in them. Nobody is REALLY purely binary. HOWEVER, we do not tell people how to identify. Gender identity is an extremely personal thing.

If a person states that they are a binary male or a binary female, sol sein – good enough. That is for them to say, and not for me as a gender scholar. We always accept what any person tells us their gender says. This brings respect and peace to the world.

The problem is that right now, far too many so-called experts think they know better, because they read some English version of a Bible that was translated and interpreted maybe ten times. And remember – every translation is Midrash. To know what the Torah says – read the Hebrew. If you aren’t able to access it, ask your rabbi – we’ll be honored to help you with it. But don’t rely on ANY translation because they ALL have bias, and you never know what that bias will bring.

May we see the day when all people truly understand and accept that all people are as unique as the Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5 (cited in the previous article) states that we are. Then we can have peace. And then, those charged with the care of trans and queer elders will be well prepared to understand and effectively care for them.

In the next article we will discuss the difference between assigned sex and biological sex, and why that is important.


About Rabbah Rona Matlow 4 Articles
Rabbah Rona Matlow is a retired Navy officer, disabled veteran, and non-binary transgender woman who uses ze/hir pronouns. For more information, please see hir biography on hir website Ze is available on Facebook, Twitter and Insta @RabbahRona.

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