When my daughter was a freshman in college and home on winter break she and a bunch of friends sat up all night gabbing and laughing while I tried to sleep in the back.
"What were y'all talking about all night?" I asked the next afternoon.
"Sex." she laughed.
"What about it?"
"We want it."
It really doesn't get any simpler than that, does it? Really, that's how most of humanity is programed. We reach a certain age and our hormones begin to percolate big time. We begin to explore who we are relationally and attractionally (is that a word?). And some of us find the opposite gender rocks our boat. Some find themselves to be same-gender loving. Some are drawn to both genders (how lucky is that?!). And our intersex friends may or may not experience sexual drive.
Then there's the gender thing. Again, some (1 in 20,000) of our intersex siblings must find their way through the ignorance and 'no person's' land of being born gender-ambiguous. (Which has much to teach us all about what it means to be human!) Some of us are, as the Zuni Indians would say, "two-spirited people", people born experiencing our gender in opposition to the physical expression of our bodies. It's all a part of the wonderful the multi-layered, multi-hued, creative impulse of Godde.
So how did we humans get it all so screwed up? Both sex and gender are used to exert power and control. At its worst it manifests as the subjugation of women, hatred of gays, lesbians, bi and transgendered folk, physical and sexual abuse and rape. The closest, most tender, most vulnerable parts of ourselves are turned and used against us. I'm going to name it here: it is the patriarchy. It is a system of power and gender hierarchy that in its worst forms is an expression is evil. Yes. I said it. Evil.
Unfortunately, theologians have historically been men of the dominant culture, viewing the world through the lenses of privilege while assuming that their experience of the world was universal. While most of these thinkers and theologians were good men with good spiritual intentions, they were not able to see beyond their own 'cultural boundedness'. They never challenged the basic assumptions of the patriarchy so, historically, we have been stuck with fairly rigid perspectives on gender and sexual expression.
Here's where I want to suggest a different way of thinking about sex and gender. Contemporary feminist and womanist theologians have challenged and continue to challenge patriarchal assumptions and have moved theological dialogue forward. (thank you!) Acknowledging their influence, I want to talk about where I have come to about sex and gender.
It is so utterly simple: it ain't about who you have sex with it's about how you love, how you are in right relationship with another.
I do not believe there is any way Godde wants us to fret, worry or be suffocated by guilt and shame over our sexual orientation or gender (ambiguous or otherwise).
Really? I want to ask the big boys, Really? You're all worried about who and how someone is expressing sexuality. Isn't the more important question that we should all be worried about, 'how do we treat one another?'
Here are the questions I think we should be asking:
1- Is my action/expression exploitive of another?
2- Am I loving and respectful of my partner and myself?
3- How do my actions/life answer the question: Am I loving Godde with all my heart and mind and strength and am I loving my neighbor as myself?
Those questions are both complicated and simple enough to beg each of us to think and act with loving integrity.
If we think about those questions when issues arise like, oh, the Bishop Edie Long case, our questions of him would be not about which gender he may have had sex with, but whether or not his relationships were exploitive or loving, respectful, and filled with integrity. Self-loathing doesn't leave much room for those questions.
As the weeks go by and we are faced with an epidemic of suicides by LGBTQ youth I hope we respond not by debating tired old theology based in the inherently abusive system of the patriarchy. Instead, let's begin a new conversation. One that starts with Creation as the artistic expression of Godde and ends with a call for all humanity to be in relationships that are loving to one's self and the other.