Eternal Gender?

I am starting a new semester this week and as a way to introduce my students to Physical Anthropology and each other on the first day of class I have them participate in an activity I call Line-Up. Much like in kindergarten, I ask them to line-up at the front of the class according to height. This takes a few minutes and is relatively easy. No one really hesitates or refuses to participate (an option if they so choose). Then, we line-up by skin color, then hairiness, weight, sex/gender, sexuality, and finally attractiveness. I let them arrange themselves and choose the specific criteria for each category. More hesitation, anxiety, and confusion permeates the line with each new category. I have yet to have a class complete the last category (who knew that measuring yours and other’s attractiveness would be so touchy compared to the other categories? But it is college after all). I do this activity in order to start a discussion about the confluence and interrelationship of biology and culture. All of these categories are “biological” and yet some carry more social, cultural, and moral baggage than others.

Line-Up generates a fascinating discussion on all of the categories, but none more so than sex/gender. It is usually the only category that ends up in a binary structure with a distinct space separating the men from the women. However, does this reflect the biological or social reality? Is sex/gender the only category that is not a continuum? And how do I rationalize all of this with my LDS theology of “eternal gender”?

The answer is no. At the most basic science 101 level there are more than two genders/sexes. Let me explain further, but first a note on the difference between sex and gender and why it is so difficult to discuss within Mormonism. In the 1970’s and 80’s, second wave feminists drew an important distinction between sex and gender. Sex, being the biological concept applicable to all humans, animals, and plants and gender referring to the socially and culturally conscripted roles, behaviors, and traits of males and females. What becomes problematic in LDS theology is that there is no such distinction and we are left to guess at what exactly is contained under the euphemistic category of eternal “gender.”

Why is this important? It is important because at the most fundamental physiological levels there is no such thing as two sexes or “eternal genders.” It is important because with the most simplistic cross-cultural analysis there is no such thing as two genders or “eternal genders.” It is important because I was raised to believe that “the spirit will reveal all truth” and that “we shouldn’t be afraid of learning because all knowledge will bring us closer to God.” It is important because we are all presented with two mutually exclusive ideas, the scientific reality and the theological claim. It is important because how we treat others and how we think of ourselves can change in beautiful ways as we begin to see the continuity of sex/gender. This post will explore if either gender or sex has objective binary features that could support an eternal gender theology.

Anthropologically speaking, most cultures have a category for an “other” gender, someone who isn’t totally male nor female, someone who occupies a space on the continuum of maleness and femaleness. Furthermore, the behaviors, traits, roles, and expectations of gender are culturally relative. I witnessed this first hand during my dissertation fieldwork in Ghana where men unabashedly hold hands with each other, wear pink, sing soprano, and like hello kitty without any reflection on their masculinity, “machismo,” and/or sexuality. It is also a land where women “provide.” They farm, they own small businesses, they occupy the most prestigious and wealthy positions in the largest outdoor market in the world. The variations continue from culture to culture in what fundamental behaviors are “male” or “female.” Similarly, “normative” gender is very susceptible to political and social coercion by patriarchal structures. Betty Freidan, in The Feminine Mystique, gives a beautiful depiction of this as she describes how the national rhetoric of gender changes throughout World War II. First, encouraging women into the workforce with Rosie the Riveter posters, “Women Can Do Anything Men Can Do (and maybe even better!)” factory advertisements, and the patriotic ethos that women who avoided work were like men who avoided the draft. This rhetoric takes a sharp turn once the men get home and start looking for jobs. There is a resurgence of the idea that women were meant to stay in the home, that it is their “divine” role, and that in the ideal family men are the sole providers. The obvious socially, culturally, and politically constructed continuum of gender behavior gives me serious doubts about the concept of the “eternal nature of gender” argued in the Proclamation to the Family and subsequent talks. It is implausible and carries the remnants of Americancentrism and 1950’s idealism inapplicable to much of the global membership. Thus, is the theology merely a remnant of our church leaders’ generational and national upbringing? Is it the one and only true gender construction? Or am I missing something?

The problem does not get any clearer if church leaders are talking about “sex” instead of “gender.” Scientifically, there is also cause for concern. I have studied and taught the biology of sex differentiation for years and when the Proclamation to the Family first appeared my original question was how can gender be eternal when we have about 12 million people living in America alone who are intersexed—whose sexual genotype or phenotype is not exclusively male nor female (Fausto-Sterling 2000). This happens because there are many levels in the making of a biological sex. There are distinct chromosomal, gonadal, hormonal, morphological, neurological, and behavioral developmental stages susceptible to error, mutation, variation, and environmental pressure. For example, something as simple as the amount and ability to produce or receive testosterone, for chromosomal XY males, or the introduction of testosterone, for chromosomal XX females, at a critical stage in utero can influence the development and morphology of the primary and secondary sex characteristics, as well as, elicit changes in neural and behavioral ontogeny. There are numerous variations that occur in the natural world in each of these different stages and based solely on genital anatomy some researchers have argued that there should be 5 different sexes (Stephen Asma 2011). What is fascinating about all of this research is that we once thought that gender was constructed and sex was determined (the latter is similar to the church’s current stance), however, we now know with absolute certainty that sex is susceptible to many different environmental, embryonic, and epigenetic influences. Thus, an “eternal sex” is also highly problematic.

Taylor Petrey writes a fascinating and intelligent article on how this topic relates to sexuality, entitled “Post-Heterosexual Mormon Theology” in the latest issue of Dialogue (Winter 2011) and offers a serious yet optimistic critique of eternal gender arguing, “The numerous critiques of the category of gender in recent years cannot be ignored, even if Latter-day Saints opt for a continued emphasis on binary sexual difference. Whether from the critique of gender roles, gender essentialist notions of innate characteristics, or even the notion of biological difference itself, LDS theology faces serious credibility issues by continuing to hold to precritical assumptions about sexual difference. At the same time, however, there is nothing preventing Latter-day Saints from moving past these assumptions in order to more clearly focus on Mormonism’s distinctive teachings about kinship and salvation, which does not require an appeal to the suspect category of gender at all” (Petrey 2011:129).

A post-gender theology would be revolutionary. Can you even imagine a religion, where everything from youth activities to apostolic callings, were dictated by spiritual maturity, ability, and inspiration, not genitalia? We would double our leadership ranks over night. I don’t have a lot of hope or optimism. So much of our current teachings, policies, and practices are gender based, but how wonderful would it be if you were able to fill the measure of your creation in any form that takes?

I’ve wrestled with these ideas for years and would love to know how you have been able to personally or theologically rationalize the idea of “eternal gender?” Is a post-gender LDS theology even possible? And what implications would that have for women and LGBTQT’s communities?

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43 Responses

  1. “Can you even imagine a religion, where everything from youth activities to apostolic callings, were dictated by spiritual maturity, ability, and inspiration, not genitalia?”

    I can imagine such a religion, but not any religion currently existing. Many, of course, are moving toward that reality at a far greater pace than Mormonism.

    Thank you for your informative post!

  2. Can you even imagine a religion, where everything from youth activities to apostolic callings, were dictated by spiritual maturity, ability, and inspiration, not genitalia? We would double our leadership ranks over night.

    Actually, I think the leadership ranks would stay at about the same numbers – I know any number of men (and women) whose spiritual maturity, ability, and inspiration are less than adequate for their callings.

    Good article to help people think. I certainly don’t have any answers for this, but people should at least be thinking about it.

    • Hawkgrrrl says:

      I agree. The pool eligible for leadership would double, thereby allowing for higher quality leadership. That might be desirable, although leadership in the church doesn’t necessarily go to the most qualified, despite what those selected might think; we have some underlying notion that the unqualified are purified by trial (often at the expense of those they lead). Perhaps this would change in this described future.

  3. April says:

    Determining who should qualify for church leadership callings based on genitalia makes very little sense to me because I can’t think of one occasion in which it is appropriate to utilize one’s genitalia while performing official priesthood duties.

  4. spunky says:

    Wow! I am surprised that you could get the “line up” thing past the University Ethics Committee, given that some students may not be “out” in regard to being transgendered or homosexual. That aside, are there any existing studies or interviews with transgendered Mormons? I think those interviews would be very interesting, if people were willing to even be interviewed. I have a powerful opinion in regard to eternal gender, but this is not the place to share it.

    That being said, I think that from a practical perspective, the church would do better to expand internationally if women were gifted priesthood keys so that women could preside in congregations where men are unworthy, spread too thin or just not devout. I have heard of some Mormon theologians who seeming to cite the second anointing, say that women can bless sacrament, etc. if they have “permission” (authorization?) from their husbands to do so. But even then, basing priesthood permission on chromosomal or genitalia just seems bizarre. It would be so much nicer to allow priesthood leadership authority based on righteousness, something that IMHO, is more definitive than sex or gender.

    • Whoa-man says:

      I state very clearly and multiple times that students have the freedom to line-up only when and where they feel comfortable. It is up to them. I often have people sitting out of many of the categories and most sit out of the attractiveness one or just all blob together in a ball of awkwardness.

      Spunky, I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts further on transgender/intersex. It is a subject that needs to be addressed more in any forum. To my knowledge there hasn’t been a LDS study conducted on this subject and it is not something I’ve ever heard clarified or talked about in church materials, besides the CHI which states that transgendered persons can not pass the sacrament or something to that effect (it has been awhile!)

      I really appreciate your thoughts. Thank you.

      • Capricornus says:

        Not meaning to necro an old thread (although it WAS tweeted just earlier today!), but I’m a transgender Mormon. I’m in the process of starting a blog to talk about some of these exact issues from my perspective (constellatum.wordpress.com).

        Great post, though!

  5. EBrown says:

    Thank you. This post is absolutely wonderful: thought provoking and powerful.

  6. Miri says:

    This is an amazing post. “Can you even imagine a religion, where everything from youth activities to apostolic callings, were dictated by spiritual maturity, ability, and inspiration, not genitalia?” It is a great struggle for me right now to understand why this is such a difficult concept for humankind (and April’s comment made me laugh out loud, because its silliness just points out exactly how ridiculous this qualification is).

    I have to admit that, even as a feminist who has long since rejected the “divinity” of gender roles, I’d never considered the possibility before that gender itself might not be eternal. I was just reading Brad Carmack’s post at Feminist Mormon Housewives earlier tonight, and I was embarrassed to realize that I’d never even heard of most of the sex traits he lists. I’d never heard the word “intersex” before reading the comments on the Sisters Speak post a couple days ago, and didn’t know what it meant until reading the fMh post. Is it completely ridiculous to feel a little bit conspired against? How can so many adults not know something so basic as the fact that gender is not as basic as we think it is? It’s too soon after learning this information for me to have given it any decent amount of thought, but knowing what I do know I don’t see how gender (whatever the church is referring to when it says this) could be “an eternal characteristic” of anything.

    Thanks for the post, Whoa-man. Thought-provoking for sure.

    • Whoa-man says:

      WOW! Thanks Miri. I wanted to post the fMh piece by Brad Carmack and I’m glad you linked to it. I don’t know what I believe or think about gender into the eternities or when we were intelligences, all I know is that now, right now, this second, and for the past few years “eternal gender” has been talked about as if unequivocal when it is in fact very inaccurate. Not only that, but think about the harm and pain this concept has caused for those who are transgendered. Millions of intersexed people in our country alone are being told that not only do they not exist, but that they don’t exist in the past or in the future. I have no solutions, only a plea for some kind of answer.

  7. Miri says:

    *Knowing what I do now.

  8. Whoa-man says:

    Oh goodness! I just read Brad’s post on gender at fMh and we are basically saying the same thing only his is longer and more eloquent! I’m sorry about the double heaping of the topic.

  9. Brad Carmack says:

    Wow Whoa-man, you and I were on the same page! I just posted “Mormonism beyond the gender binary” at Feminist Mormon Housewives (http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/?p=7905). Thanks for the read, Miri. 😉 Regarding Miri’s question of feeling a conspiracy- that reminds me of when I spent some time with Joanna Brooks on a bus going to drop us off at the airport. I was asking her about gender and whether she thinks there’s a binary. She said “of course not, I did go to grad school!” as though all mature educated adults knew what I had just learned. It was funny, I was so serious and new to the idea and thought it was this great mystery I had to share with the world now that I’d discovered it.

    Whoa-man- Using the college student line-ups- what a great way to illustrate the failure of the gender binary! Spot on with the Taylor Petrey reference and the reasons why this subject matters, as well.

    My answer to your question, “Is a post-gender LDS theology even possible?,” is yes. There’s a fair amount of groundwork to be laid, though. You and Taylor and others are laying it! How’s that for modern day temple cornerstones.

    I’d be interested in your responses to my post. Also, if we’re not friends yet in real life (read: Facebook), add me so we can connect!

    Thanks for your rocking post, and for walking the walk too!

  10. Brad Carmack says:

    Passing each other as ships in the night. Twice! 😉

  11. Maureen says:

    I think what “gender” references is pretty unclear. I think it is frequently used in church rhetoric to signify, support, or argue for gender roles. But I have also heard where it seems to be referring to something else (especially when concerning essential and eternal nature). Elsewhere I’ve heard “gender” can’t possibly be anything but roles, which as actions obviously can’t be essential to nature/being.

    But I think the mere fact that there are those out there that identify as one gender in a different body/biology and those that identify as a gender outside the binary, gives evidence to there being gender distinct from sex and roles. I have not known anyone in these circumstances personally, but from what I have heard you could ask them why they think their gender is different from their sex. Then even if you stripped away social conditioning (you like pink/to shop/to nurture/etc.? well that’s not necessarily female) they would still feel that something about themselves did not match with their biology. Thus they use “gender” to reference to that which is mismatched (an aspect of psychology, spirit, what?). Is that wrong?

    What I would like to know is if there are those who strongly and self assuredly self identified as one gender at some point and then distinctly discerned an independent and involuntary change in gender (not to be confused with a willful change to try and conform or satisfy the self concerning what they felt they were all along). I know there is precedent in the animal kingdom of an autonomous change of sex in an individual. But it’s not like I can ask them, “Hey did you feel like your gender matched before and after your sex change?” If this does occur in the human species then that would strong evidence against essential/eternal gender.

    Personally I feel that I am essentially female. I have heard others (who are open minded about gender) express the same thing. I could not tell you what femininity is (though I could tell you what it is not, roles). But I do strongly feel that if you stripped my female-ness away from me I would no longer be me. And that is what essential/eternal gender means to me. Though I am open to the thought that there are others without essential gender or whose essential gender is a gender which changes form at a given point or points. I just think there is so much room in the doctrine (though painfully tight in the rhetoric) for a much broader allowance of the explanation of the revelation we have (not saying the Proclamation is that, but I do think there could be something behind it) and how it fits the world science shows.

    • Whoa-man says:

      Thank you Maureen. These are interesting things to think about.

    • Miri says:

      This is really interesting to me, and is kind of throwing me for a loop. I’m trying to think of what is inherently female about me (and not just social conditioning), but I don’t know how to answer that question. Yes, I absolutely feel female, but if I try to come up with any reasons why, they’re all social. I love children, I hate violence, I’m a humanities person and epically suck at math, I hate sports and video games (except Super Nintendo), I’m emotional, I cry easily. I can’t imagine not being female… But I’ve been female my whole life, so what does that prove? Is it just the simple fact that I do feel female?

      • Maureen says:

        Thank you Whoa-man for giving a place for all to consider these kinds of things.

        🙂 Miri. Shall I throw a further wrench into the works? I am not fond of young children. I get along better with men than women. Though I love philosophy (a humanities but male dominated field) I’m also very scientifically minded and interested. I rock at math. (I do hate sports) but love video games. I have a very analytical mind and don’t express emotions easily.

        I have many reasons to reject the notion of an essential female nature. But I find that I can’t do so. I am not male in a female body. I am not female with predominately male attributes. If characteristics can overlap genders I refuse to see them as essential characteristics of any one gender. Yet neither am I genderless with just a sexed body.

        I find my inability to name just what the essential feminine is very frustrating at times. If I had some other word to reference my experience that fit I would use it. I’ve considered that I fall outside the gender binary, in between, or something. It just doesn’t satisfy and I can’t say why. I’m delighted to hear that others do strongly affirm falling outside it (this speaks of divine creativity to me), but that is definitively not my experience. Rather, it’s inexplicably the opposite in that I feel that I definitively fall inside it in the female. Which simply confounds me in that I can’t define what is female. How exactly do I assume to determine what/who I am when I am so lacking? Yet I still find that I just know.

      • Miri says:

        I get along better with men, too (at least when they aren’t refusing to even make eye contact with me because I’m married or they are – something that really pisses me off), though I don’t have a problem getting along with women. I don’t express my emotions easily, either; I feel them ridiculously strongly, but generally can only talk to my husband about them and even that is a struggle. I generally really hate sappiness. I’m not scientifically-minded, but I am very interested in science. And I often feel like (outside of Bloggernacle circles) men are surprised slash annoyed when I engage with them over political issues, as though they’re not used to women having (or voicing) an opinion on them. This might be a weird/too-personal thing to share, but I find female bodies way more attractive than male bodies. I’m not attracted to women, but I think female bodies are sexy and male bodies just… not really. (No offense to anyone, though, including my husband, to whom I am very attracted. 🙂 )

        Anyway. The moral of that story is that I think I feel the same way you do. I’m still thinking about it, and I still can’t think of anything that could define what “feminine” is outside of characteristics. Are there any characteristics that don’t overlap genders?

      • Whoa-man says:

        I love all these ruminations. I am very similar to both of you personally (HATE being ostracized by men at church, or in political conversations, love women, but not sexually, love being a female and feel it is essential to who I am, but cannot define why, etc.) One thing that helps me in regard to variation and gender distribution is to think in terms of bell curves. Think of two bell curves of any traits from nurturing to “work-aholic-ness” and we will find that there is more variation within a gender (i.e. from the left to the right) than between genders (the height and curve of the graph). We often forget that! That any trait is hugely variable and to assume certain traits for certain genders is entirely inaccurate.

  12. CatherineWO says:

    I love both posts, by Brad and Whoa-man. This is a conversation that I feel really needs to take place in the LDS community. When I was about nine or ten years old (around 1960), my mother taught me about sex by giving me a couple of books to read and then discussing them with me. One of them talked about all the different variations of sex/gender, and I remember my mother being very open in discussing it with me and not judgmental. The Proclamation on the Family was the first time I had ever heard of the concept of eternal gender, which seemed to me to fly in the face of the scientific evidence. But this is the first time I have ever seen or heard it discussed by members of the Church. Thank you for bringing me up to date on the science of it and for daring to talk about the religious side of it too.

  13. Annie B. says:

    I hadn’t really thought much about rationalizing eternal gender. I’d thought about how irrational and un-merciful it is to expect celibacy (or a life that appears outwardly heterosexual complete with spouse and kids) of homosexual individuals. It was an issue when I realized that homosexuals are in fact born that way (contrary to what I’d been taught), and that some people are asexual (not sexually attracted to either gender). It was even more of an issue when I learned about transgender individuals and all the possible gender variations there are. If a person can be born extra short, extra tall, albino, ect. why wouldn’t it be possible for people to be born with abnormal gender and sexual characteristics also? As for my own gender, I’m very happy to be female, but I can imagine myself being male. Kind of like Jo in “Little Women” when I was a kid I often wished I was a boy. I liked wearing pretty dresses to church and was excited to grow boobs, but I also liked all the things my brothers and dad did (ride motorcycles, start campfires, ect, and I fully wanted to be taught those things growing up and wished I was included in scout camping trips and hiking trips. For a long time I was more comfortable around males, but I’m becoming more comfortable around women and have even made some girlfriends of my own that are not attached to me through family or church and I’m really proud of myself for that. I don’t get baby-hungry, and I don’t feel sad about my children growing up, or feel like I need to get pregnant as soon as my youngest is 1. The baby stage is cute, but I don’t enjoy taking care of an infant or toddler on a day-to-day basis and have to be very watchful (or my husband does) of my social anxiety and depression during that phase. I consider my feminine sexuality to be an important part of myself and very much enjoy that part of my relationship with my husband. Maybe gender is eternal but we just need to widen our view to include more than male and female, and maybe we need to be less judgmental and not expect a homosexual individual to lead a heterosexual life any more than we would expect a high-functioning autistic person to act like everyone else. I don’t know.

  14. Amber says:

    The more I learned about biology, the more I realized that gender is not as simple as I once thought. This made the Proclamation tricky for me as I tried to get science and my religious beliefs to match up. It’s like trying to figure out a puzzle with half the pieces missing, you know? Impossible.

    As for a change? Is it possible? The part of me that is tired says no, but my optimistic side hopes that things will change. There must be some recognition of gender science, right? That there is no such thing as 2 genders? I sure hope so.

  15. Erin says:

    Maybe the “gender is eternal” thing isn’t as clear as church leaders like to think it is. Maybe it is doctrine (i.e, from God), but maybe they are misinterpreting it. For example, suppose a person’s spirit is created male, but on earth, the male spirit is sent to a female body. I suspect this could happen as a condition of mortality, just like any other mortal trial we have to deal with, such as being born with depression or cancer or anything else. The depressed person *knows* they should be happy, the person with cancer *knows* they should be healthy–they know this because their spirit cries out for what their spirit has been created to be. Similarly, maybe the male spirit in the female body cries out to be what they were created to be. And then, in the next life (i.e., eternity), that male spirit is resurrected into the body he was meant to be in–a male body. Just like the depressed person or the person with cancer will be resurrected into a non-depressed, healthy body.

    I’m sorry if this thought has been posted before–I don’t have time to read all of the comments. If it has been posted before, consider it healthy repetition! :^)

  16. Michelle says:

    I’m like Maureen…I can’t pinpoint why I feel female and in many ways don’t fit a typical stereotype (e.g., I was a tomboy, got a grad degree in business (which meant mostly male colleagues and friends), don’t like typical ‘girly’ things, found that I wasn’t a ‘natural’ mother, the list could go on). But I’m as passionate about being a woman as I am about anything. I’m also passionate about the role of gender in the big picture. There is something deep in me that feels that this matters, even if I can’t articulate why.

    What does seem to click within me (your mileage may vary of course) is that it’s all part of a whole. This may sound odd, but I wouldn’t want a religion that lines us up based on merit, because I think that is not what God is about. I think that looks at the individual more than the community, and I think we need both for our journey.

    I also think that the interplay of male and female (even including all that that means in terms of individual differences and variation on the ‘continuum’) is part of what God’s plan is all about. The whole ‘neither is the man w/o the woman or the woman w/o the man” thing. I know I don’t fully understand what that means, but I do believe it’s more than just a biological thing.

  17. MB says:

    What does seem to click within me (your mileage may vary of course) is that it’s all part of a whole. This may sound odd, but I wouldn’t want a religion that lines us up based on merit, because I think that is not what God is about. I think that looks at the individual more than the community, and I think we need both for our journey.

    Well said. I think that the whole paragraph in the Proclamation needs to be considered, as there is more than just the “gender is an essential characteristic” to it. We tend to think in just two categories, male and female, as that is introduced to us at a young age when the subtle (and not so subtle) variations on the theme that exist on the earth are beyond our comprehension. The whole paragraph reads: ” All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”

    It does not say two genders, just that gender itself is essential. In other words, gender is not something to be ignored or discounted. Most importantly, the paragraph includes “ALL human beings” as being created in the image of God and having a divine destiny, not just one type, style or gender in line for that. That inclusivity is complete; not just one half or the majority, but all of God’s children. I suspect that though the sentence being discussed has been most used as springboard for discussion on sexual orientation or genetic sex characteristics, or definitions of gender, the paragraph addresses more specifically the fact that the divine nature of God is not exclusively male, and that a godly divine destiny is not restricted to just one category of persons, male, female or variation on the theme, however you want to define this elusive matter of gender.

    Though we may be, as above, wondering how the last sentence in this paragraph applies to people who are unusually gender oriented or physiologically sexually different from the majority, ie. what we see as the exceptions to the rule, in fact the paragraph in it’s entirety is clear about its inclusivity of “all” and “each” of God’s children (no exceptions) as beloved and of their divine nature and divine destiny, irregardless of their gender differences that we observe with our earthly eyes and, in our fallen state, use to categorize ourselves and each other and divide us.

  18. Adriana says:

    The Proclamation on the Family always bothered me and I made it a point to bring up the sex/gender difference in religion classes at BYU when the terms were used incorrectly only to be shut down by the “well, it’s God’s word and you can’t argue that” argument.

  19. Anon says:

    I am not sure I buy into the gender stereotypes so heavily lauded here in the West. I am more inclined to believe that as HUMANS we are all capable of Christlike attributes that include intelligence, ambition, kindness, emotions, pragmatism, etc. Whether or not one is interested in math is not dictated by gender (aside from social conditioning affecting expectations) but an individual preference.
    Some men are more openly emotional and nurturing and sensitive and some women are more assertive and logical and dislike children. It speaks more to one’s upbringing and natural strengths than gender.
    This is why I tend to see males and females as complementary- we have different perspectives whether or not as a gender group we think similarly or just as individuals we find common ground we need the balance of the sexes. Too much estrogen results in silent treatment and passive-aggressive behaviors (from my own experience) and too much testosterone can lead to fistfights or declaring war (again, my opinion).
    Individuals also complement each other too. We often find attractive what we lack (opposites attract and all that).
    So hopefully we, as a collective humanity, can learn to see past the need to categorize and label based on gender. We should be free to explore whatever captures our interest and do it in a manner that comes naturally and seek to balance our strengths and weaknesses with each others’ help.
    The Proclamation might do better to focus in parenting and leave the “providing/nurturing” to both parents because both are equally capable. There is research to supplement the idea that children who receive active parenting from both mother and father are more well-rounded than if only one parent does most of the parenting.
    I’m not sure what makes men men and women women. I suppose for me it’s the difference in bodies. I find the male form really appealing (especially the less physically powerful…don’t care for the six-pack). It’s the shoulders and the arms and the lack of curves (those are for me!). I like that the female form is a bit softer and squishier.
    I also love that men can be articulate and creative and sweet and compassionate (unfortunately for me most of those guys tend to be gay more often than not…I have to say that if all the sensitive, interesting, enthusiastic, affectionate, confident guys are coming out then I am in danger of being single forever) and not the macho, logical guys that can barely string a sentence together. That pretty much describes every guy I met in the YSA. The monosyllable male.

    One thing I have begun to notice is how quick we can be to labeling a kind, articulate man who talks with his hands and isn’t a sex-maniac as gay. Not that there is anything wrong with being gay but if you are a man who expresses himself well and is artistic and smiles a lot and is very openly enthusiastic when he speaks and cares about posture (and enjoys the arts like theater) and who likes to talk…a lot then people have a hard time believing that he could be straight. Where is this labeling coming from? Does this not also hurt men who aren’t your typical “guy” guys and their sexual orientation is questioned (usually behind their back)? How many male ballet dancers (or male dancers in general…with the possible exception of ballroom) have to fight against that stereotype or the comments made by others?
    So when a woman (like Margaret Thatcher) is cool, levelheaded, logical and unemotional they call her “the iron lady” (or worse) and when a man is sweet, sensitive, succinct, artsy then he’s gay.
    I don’t get it.

  20. Boonsage says:

    If Gender existed n the premortal state then genetics have nothing to do with gender so all arguments relating the two are nonsensical. Secondly our mortal/imperfect bodies are not the same as our potential immortal/perfect and hopefully exalted bodies so to assume any exploration or need to understand a variation, exception or difference in our mortal bodies from what is recognized as the “norm” as somehow connected to who we really are (which is of less importance) or to whom our Heavenly Father knows we have the potential to become in the eternities seams a fool hardy exploration, that can only lead one away from what should be our eternal goals. Those goals can only be achieved by following the path laid our but loving celestial parents. Gender is more about what we can become to meet our full potential and less of what we are or lack at the moment.

  1. February 8, 2012

    […] really good read and raised important questions about gender and theology within the LDS Church.  Eternal Gender? share:Share on TumblrPrintEmailLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

  2. January 6, 2013

    […] April, commenting on Whoa-man’s post “Eternal Gender” at the Exponent: Determining who should qualify for church leadership callings based on genitalia makes very little sense to me because I can’t think of one occasion in which it is appropriate to utilize one’s genitalia while performing official priesthood duties. […]

  3. November 20, 2013

    […] but gender is most decidedly not! Some time ago, LDS womens’ magazine The Exponent featured a really great article on this subject. Seriously, go read it, it’s fascinating. Here’s a […]

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