Ok, time to speculate on gender essentialism

Stephen Marsh Mormon 38 Comments

There are lots of ways to start this off. I could start with the more than forty sexes of slime molds (why stop at 4 or 5 gender types when you can have 47 sexes). Or I could start with race and culture differences and variety and how they relate to sexual differences. Or how about the differences between the terms gender and sex as the words were used in 1770, 1970, 1990 and 2010. Should I dredge up fetish behaviors and the animal companion marriage movement? And just what does it mean to be human? How much difference is possible in this world or another for someone or something to be human?

So, how do I speculate without offending too many people or getting too obscure for anyone to care? After all, if gender is an essential part of human nature, what is gender, what is essential, and what part of it is human?

Attraction is very persistent, almost like a compulsive disorder. It is also very flexible. People find each other attractive through pregnancy and through aging. I look at people the age of my wife when we got married and I just see kids now. It can be very fickle. I know a couple who divorced because one of them did not make a convincing blond.

Is attraction an essential part of ones nature? How does sex fit into gender? Would an intelligent slime mold be raised in the resurrection with its original sex intact or would it be moved into a binary gender assignment?

Are men and women different? Are the all different the same away as a fundamental difference?

When do we discuss all of the sub-issues without insulting each other? Which issues do you consider important?

I would suggest the issues might include:

· How many essential genders are there?

· Is gender limited to or controlled by what attracts you?

· What differences are there between genders?

· What of gender differences are based in culture, what is based in biology or a fallen world, what is essential?

· What is gender?

I don’t think we can really get to an intelligent discussion of gender essentialism until we begin to define or work out how many genders there are, what gender is, how much of it is spiritual vs. other factors and if it has any limit created by attraction? Does sexual orientation or attraction have anything to do with gender? Is it everything? What about people who are asexual (without any sexual attraction or drive) or seeking asexual relationships (which, by the way, applies to most of the animal companion movement as well as a building movement with couples who are seeking asexual marriage companions) – is that a gender orientation? Is gender relevant only as to humans? If not, where would an intelligent (or not) slime mold fit?

Is anyone interested in a longer set of questions or addressing the issues one at a time? Can a longer set of questions occur without it devolving into a marriage debate or insults?


Consider: from an LDS perspective, is gender something like charge on an electron or a proton? What are the characteristics of a “legitimate” gender vs something else? What affect should gender have on marriage; who holds the priesthood; other roles in society, family, etc.? Is gender any different from race?

Have we really even addressed the necessary foundation to have this conversation within the LDS perspective?

What do you think?

Comments

comments

Comments 38

  1. Ambitious post, Stephen. Hope at least something constructive comes from it before it devolves into…something else.

    I don’t know about how many essential genders there are…but I do think that gender should be separated from sexual orientation. Gay men are not “female” (nor are they transwomen). Lesbian women are not “male” (nor are they transmen). And asexuals are not a-gendered.

    I can imagine that there are some differences in gender, but I find two difficulties — distinguishing those differences from social differences in gender *roles* that aren’t intrinsic or inherent…and in continuing to recognize that *all individuals* are different. So, in some ways, I wonder if focusing on gender differences isn’t flawed because we are taking the time to focus on immediately apparent differences rather than more subtle, but still big differences in personality, etc.,

    In some ways, I like to play with the idea that gender is mental and neurological and sex is physical…which allows for there to be a discrepancy (which is what we see).

    other than that, I’m not really sure.

  2. Rather than electron or protons, I think we are more like quarks. We have different flavors and characteristics that aren’t strictly binary. There are also various combinations, some of which are more stable and common than others, but which are all possible. A relationship is like a hadron, possibly composed of two quarks, but sometimes more than 2 quarks.

    Given all this, male-female is the most common in our society today, but male-male, female-female, male-female-female-…, all exist. There are also more complicated entanglements such as what Joseph Smith set up with interconnected marriages to single women, already married women, etc. At the end of the day, like quarks, I think people ultimately fall into what works best for them and what is the most stable relationship for their particular set of characteristics.

    The after-life is like the mysterious world of high-energy physics. We have hints about what goes on there, but no real clue, to be honest. Under conditions far beyond what we experience on “normal” earth, quarks may even exist as independent particles. Maybe we, too, are in some sort of massive “soup”, with all of humanity sealed together into one massive family and none of the “traditional” roles in which we find ourselves on earth. Who knows?

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    Mike, I like the analogy to quarks.

    Andrew, the thing that keeps striking me is that the gender differences people keep trying to point out to me are personality differences, not remotely linked to sex or sexual orientation. “Boys like math” sorts of things.

  4. Since the Proclamation on the Family states that “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose”, and since I consider myself to be a believing Mormon, I’ve tried to identify what these essential characteristics are. The Proc only talks about men and women and only makes room for heterosexual marriages — it doesn’t seem to allow for other genders. Unfortunately, I haven’t come up with anything fundamental between men and women that holds up under any sort of scrutiny.

    There certainly are measurable statistical differences between men and women. Some of that can be explained by propitiated sexism in society, but there are also statistical differences in the brain and brain chemistry. This may be true also of hetero vs. homosexual men as well, for all I know. But again, these differences are only statistical and there’s an awful lot of overlap. As many feminists have said to me, take a reasonable sample of men and women, and you’ll find more differences among the men (or women) than you will between the groups taken as a whole. So empirically, the gender essentialism thing isn’t really substantiated by anything I’ve seen.

    On the other hand, I’ve never seen any empirical evidence of spirits, life after death, or resurrection of the dead, either, and yet I still believe in them. I don’t know that I understand them all that well, but I accept they exist. I view gender essentialism the same way. I don’t know what the fundamental differences between men and women are, but I believe they exist. I just think one needs to be very careful assuming he (or she) knows what they are.

    On a practical level, I think the church generally targets the statistical majority. As Elder Oaks once said, the general authorities give general counsel. It doesn’t necessarily apply to a given individual in a given circumstance. However, I think individuals need to be very careful when they decide something doesn’t apply to them.

  5. I’m not prepared to provide an answer to what gender is, but I applaud the intention. We have very little on the ground when it comes to gender, sex, and orientation. We are trying to answer higher cultural questions when we don’t know very much about the basics of such things other that what we’ve inherited from tradition, 50 years in infant science on the topic, and a healthy counterculture movement that has wedded civil rights politics into the equation (which I think, makes it very tough to start to ask these most basic questions).

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    I think that talking about it, in a respectful way, which we are doing, is important. Want to make a good start on real feminism (or a good replacement)? Then just what is gender comes to mind.

    So far what usually happens is people get bogged down in sexual preference, sexual orientation, sexual identity. But surely gender is more than just a sexual drive.

  7. Does anyone know, what percentage of humans are not born with a physically distinctive male or female gender?

    I’d go with the following notion
    “There are two human genders, male and female. Male and female join together for procreation.”
    Anything other than this is somehow less than ideal, probably because we don’t live in an ideal world – physically, biologically, spiritually, etc.

  8. If we consider gender to be an eternal quality, is it a physical quality? Can it be, if it is possessed prior to receiving a physical body? Or is it a spiritual quality that is merely reflected in our physical body?

    I like your analogy, Mike (2). It makes a lot of sense.

    Super post – sorry I only have questions! 😀

  9. No, and for the record, we’ve never advocated this. We certainly would like to see people become less freaked-out by people who don’t fit sex and gender cultural norms. But there are at least two problems with trying to raise kids in a “third gender.”

    First, how would we decide who would count in the “third gender”? How would we decide where to cut off the category of male and begin the category of intersex, or, on the other side of the spectrum, where to cut off the category of intersex to begin the category of female? (To read more about how intersex is not a discrete category, go to our FAQ called What is intersex?)

    Second, and much more importantly, we are trying to make the world a safe place for intersex kids, and we don’t think labeling them with a gender category that in essence doesn’t exist would help them. (Duh, huh?)

    Their numbers are higher than the evolutionary biologists I’ve listened to, probably overstated by a factor of ten or so.

    But, http://www.isna.org/faq/third-gender was interesting.

  10. Re #4–

    On a practical level, I think the church generally targets the statistical majority. As Elder Oaks once said, the general authorities give general counsel. It doesn’t necessarily apply to a given individual in a given circumstance.

    But, of course, Elder Oaks’s caveat doesn’t stop the Church from attempting to encode restrictions based on its unique theology of eternal gender into civil law. When it comes to targets of the political kind, the Church actually prefers the statistical minority, especially if that minority happens to be unpopular.

    Which reminds me– I’m wondering if race is also an eternal trait. Racial distinctions limited who could be ordained, endowed or sealed by proxy in LDS temples prior to 1978. (It wasn’t just a restriction on the living.) Now that the Church allows for racial equality, is race an still thought to be an attribute that existed before this life, and will it persist, like gender, after this life? If you answer no, then the previous ban on temple work on behalf of blacks (other than baptism) makes absolutely no sense. If the answer is yes, you have to define “race” in a way that works for spirits without bodies. (That is, you have to define this trait in terms other than lineage.)

    Race is eternal. Gender is eternal. But there won’t be gay people in the hereafter; the word is in that our essential natures will be altered so that we then will become indifferent to the deepest and most significant relationships we have had in mortality (the pair bonds with our lifelong partners). Trust me, if the shoe were on the other foot, you’d be complaining, too.

  11. Re #6,

    So far what usually happens is people get bogged down in sexual preference, sexual orientation, sexual identity. But surely gender is more than just a sexual drive.

    Sexual orientation is much, much more than just a proclivity to engage in particular sex acts. How otherwise can you account for the unbridgeable incompatibility that can arise in a relationship when sexual orientations do not match and the enduring joy and fulfillment when they do? (You need to become friends with a happily partnered gay couple to see this in action, or read some of Carol Lynn Pearson’s books on the topic for a faithful Mormon perspective.)

    I’ll say this until I’m blue in the face: it’s not about sex, it’s about the dynamics of pair bonding. Forming a durable pair bond with a special person is a compelling and nearly universal human need. Once this bond forms, if you or your spouse had physical injuries that prevented sex, you’d still have each other. You would still be each other’s beloved. Mature, loving couplings have remarkable durability, in sickness and in health. Let’s just say that it’s not unfulfilled sexual desire that causes all those suicides in gay LDS youth.

    There is no loneliness in this world like the loneliness you can feel as a part of a poorly matched couple. There is no more painful kind of rejection than what a wife can feel when her husband can’t love her back “in that way.” It can destroy a person’s sense of self. Sexual orientation matters. This is inconvenient and frustrating, but it matters. Trust me, I am just as capable of love, commitment and intimacy with an appropriate member of my own sex as you are with the opposite sex. By the same token you would be incapable of forming a durable pair bond with a member of the same sex. It’s not a deficiency on the part of gay people; it’s a difference.

  12. There seems to be among humans two very distinct physical genders, male and female, though quirks of nature appears to create hybrids, from time to time, just as it creates imperfect physical humans. But, by and large, from a physical sense, humans have two genders.

    Now, when you then separate physical from the physiological and emotional, then things change dramatically. Because, within those gender types, you have a wide variety. How much is “in-born” and bred through genetics and mutations and how much is environmental is a toss up at this point.

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    MoHo … the sermons were always that the race issues were ones that would pass. Even the harshest of them came around to a final conclusion that all races, kindreds, tongues and people would receive the priesthood and all the ordinances.

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    MoHo … I’ve also read Pearson. I’ve seen professional partnerships that endured with great meaning past a number of marriages for the partners. There are a number of bonding types, from the “band of brothers” to pair bonding. But it seems to be sexual orientation that determines, to a great extent, who we can pair bond with, regardless of the level of consummation that occurs. That seems true in asexual types as well.

    But, you seem to be implying that you are looking for a permanent partner of the same gender, that gender and sexual orientation are different things, that having a different orientation does not give you a different gender.

    Interesting thought, I’ll have to think on it some.

  15. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gender

    Gender: b : the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex.

    I think the discussion of gender needs to dwell with this definition, that is, the non-physical aspects of gender. We all know that XY’s are supposed to have a penis and XX’s, a vagina. But the real world has every gradient between that. In my understanding, Church teachings about “the every gradient between” has been treated a disease that will be cured by a resurrected body. That person will get the equipment that they were supposed to.

    Therefore, continuing this theme, sexual attraction/orientation is also different from “Gender”.

    What does that leave for gender without stereotyping people and forcing them into cultural/historical roles that have nothing to do with their eternal character?

    I’m getting the notion that gender is really a puff word to enforce our personal beliefs about how others should act.

  16. re 16: SilverRain,

    ‘m not MoHoHawaii, but to me, pair bonding is different from soul mates in that it isn’t so “exclusive.” To me, the idea of “soul mates” rings up ideas of “the one.” As if there is one person in these billions and billions with whom we can be completed.

    I don’t think any sort of implication like that can be applied to the idea of a pair bond. However, that doesn’t mean that with sheer force of will, we can “force” ourselves into making any relationship thrive. In some beautiful, tragic way, sexual orientation is a directing (yet limiting?) factor.

    But I’m not articulate enough to even begin to describe what it *is*.

  17. I’m gonna venture into this territory a bit. I think a lot of good points have been made.

    I almost think we have to come at this from two different viewpoints. The first viewpoint would be a purely physicalist/practical standpoint. From this viewpoint we might be able to define some pretty good generalizations (the means of the distributions if you will) about what it means to be male and female. This would likely include physical indicators, and perhaps give a nod to some cultural tendencies and brain chemistry. Nature is most definitely not binary, or any -ary. I think it is flawed from the get-go to view the world as adhering to some defined limits. Physics is a horrible representation of the world (that is it will almost always be wrong) UNLESS it is properly accompanied by uncertainty. Personally, I think this leads to a definition of “gender” that is a moving target (just like many things in our lives, even spiritual and supposedly “eternal” things are often moving targets despite our wish for them to be constant).

    The second viewpoint would be a more eternal, spiritual, and/or platonic viewpoint. In this view we need to reconcile “gender” in a spiritual way in part because our religion dictates that we must. Perhaps, in this light, “gender” is more like a platonic Form. Perhaps the physical property of “gender” is merely a mimicry of some more essential element that we are unaware of but which we are “reminded” of in this life. Or, perhaps, “gender” is a word like “red.” How do you define “red”? How do you teach someone what “red” is? Of course the physicalist can claim that it is merely a light frequency. But that’s not what a person thinks about when he/she thinks of “red.” Similarly, gender may not merely refer to one’s physical genitalia or sex-life. How do we teach someone what “red” means? Well, we sort of point out lots of red things and hope that if we do it enough that the person will start to distinguish the property of red from the object itself. But just like an apple may not be completely red (even though we might still say it’s a red apple even if it has some green or yellow near the stem) perhaps a person may not be completely male even though we might still say he is. In this light, gender becomes a word that is all wrapped up in our experience and the ONLY way we can even relate to the concept of gender is through our subjective experience. After all, we have no idea if our individual notion of “red” is, in fact, what “red” is.

    I’d love to hear a real philosopher theorize on this issue.

  18. I’m very interested to read this discussion, and I really hope that it stays respectful. My father-in-law, a convert, long time member, temple-endowed high priest has, in recent years, begun the transgendering process. This has really left me struggling to figure out the difference between gender and sex in my own mind, and specifically as it applies to my family.

  19. MoHoHawaii, I certainly understand that sexual orientation is about a lot more than a proclivity for a certain sex act, but I’m not convinced that it isn’t still all part and parcel of our physical bodies. As far as I can tell, the closeness that comes from sex is primarily a chemical reaction in the brain which makes us feel a certain way. That isn’t to say there isn’t a conscious component of closeness as well, but the chemical contribution is huge. I think the same is true for any closeness involving sexuality, even if there’s no intent or possibility of sex. So in one sense, I completely agree with you, but in another I don’t think I do.

    I’ve heard a lot of outrage expressed at the idea that gays could be “fixed” in the resurrection, and I don’t understand that. I personally would not feel threatened at all by the idea that my ultimate eternal, intimate partner was to be a man. The idea of physical intimacy with a man is repulsive to me. I’ve always been attracted to women. But not all women, just some. But I can be close to men (and women whom I’m not attracted to), emotionally intimate even, I just don’t want them touching me. I think that last part is chemical. My identity as a man needing to pair-bond with a woman isn’t in and of itself valuable to me, and I don’t feel that I would lose a part of myself if God “changed me” into being attracted to men so I could be with one for eternity. (course, that would really mess up my marriage)

    Maybe I feel this way because I haven’t spent my whole life agonizing over my sexuality, as I would expect a gay Mormon man would.

    As I said, I have no idea what essential gender characteristics men and women have that cause them to need each other. I can’t believe we procreate in the eternities like we do here on earth.

    By the way, I don’t mean this as an argument against gay marriage. If any good came from the church’s support of prop 8, it would have to be the individual members’ re-evaluation and consciousness of the topic. I definitely feel there’s more understanding of gays in the church than there ever has been and I think post prop 8 it continue to spread rapidly.

  20. I think gender is an eternal property, but it is inseperable from one’s gender on earth, just as any other aspect of the physical and spiritual are inseperable. The gender lived on earth will be the gender experienced in heaven, so in this way, the analogies to race ought to be a warning. Marginalizing people on earth doesn’t mean God will marginalize them in the glories — and He won’t end their marginalization by changing them to be more acceptable to us. We’ll come to learn that, or we will be the ones marginalized from the CK.

  21. So glad to see some interesting discussion and not just the usual rehash of the typical Prop 8 issues.

    I looked up the definition of heterosexual from Wikipedia and it says “consists of sexual behavior, practices, and identity predicated on a primary preference or desire for the opposite sex” — but the issue I have with that is the word “opposite”. Is Female really the opposite of Male?

    Biologically speaking we know the answer is no. Religiously speaking the answer is still no — Eve was formed from Adam’s rib. (No I don’t mean literally).

    I think this line of thinking fits directly into Stephen’s original line of thinking and many of the other comments made here about the complexities of gender, and it not being a binary thing. That’s not to say that there aren’t biological realities that make us either Male or Female however in terms of procreation and I think that is at the very heart of the LDS position.

  22. If I may borrow liberally from some of the ideas which have been shared:

    From a purely physical standpoint, gender is the separation of the *human (or other) species into *two (or other) generally distinct groups. Additionally, there is a spectrum along which we find the distribution of the differentiating physical characteristics, from purely male to purely female, and a variety of forms inbetween.

    Semi-separate from the physical structure is sexual orientation, which also appears to move along a spectrum of both intensity and specificity. This orientation is indicated by both physical desire, as well as desire for a *pair-bond (or in some cases more-than-pair bond).

    The question is, is this spectrum a result of mortality diffracting a platonic Form, or is it a true representation of non-corporeal intelligence?

    From the proclamation: Gender is an essential characteristic of individual (premortal, mortal, and eternal) identity and purpose.

    Do we read this as saying that the spectrum of physical characteristics is an innate part of our spiritual self, or that the spectrum of emotional attachment is an innate part of our spiritual self, or both?

    I might wonder here, too, at the purpose of gender itself? Is it purely for reproduction? Does that purpose continue as post-mortal beings? If that is the case, then it would seem to suggest that eternal posterity would require separate genders, hence leaving same gender relationships unable to reproduce there as well as here.

  23. Re #15

    But, you seem to be implying that you are looking for a permanent partner of the same gender, that gender and sexual orientation are different things, that having a different orientation does not give you a different gender.

    I’m well past looking. :- ) I was married to a woman years ago but now have a beloved companion who happens not to possess Church-approved plumbing. He and I feel blessed to have found each other.

    Gender and sexual orientation are two completely different things. Personally, I’ve never been “confused” in any way about identifying as a man. I think that traditionally the Church has blurred the distinction between gender and sexual orientation. Things have changed quite a bit though, and now if you read the more recent official statements, the Church pretty much recognizes sexual orientation as an innate trait that is distinct from gender. It’s now treated as a disability, although many of us don’t consider ourselves disabled.

    Re #21

    As far as I can tell, the closeness that comes from sex is primarily a chemical reaction in the brain which makes us feel a certain way.

    No argument here. In fact, the same could be said for just about any aspect of the human experience. Behind it all are chemicals in your brain. (Read Oliver Sacks on the fascinating and peculiar effects of brain injuries.)

    I think what’s hard for people to wrap their minds around is how much symmetry there actually is between the gay and straight experience. Basically, everything you know about love, sex and relationships applies to the other side. I have approximately the same feelings of physical inhibition with the opposite sex as you do for the same sex. I understand the ick factor. Fortunately, nobody’s asking you to switch teams like they did to me those many years ago. :- )

    If any good came from the church’s support of prop 8, it would have to be the individual members’ re-evaluation and consciousness of the topic. I definitely feel there’s more understanding of gays in the church than there ever has been and I think post prop 8 it continue to spread rapidly.

    From where I sit, this is good news. I highly recommend Carol Lynn Pearson’s interview on John Dehlin’s Mormon Stories site (especially segment #4 where she talks about LDS responses to gay people). She also sees the ensuing discussion as the silver lining.

  24. MoHoHawaii, I don’t know if you’re going to come back to this discussion, but I’d really like to get your response to my question regarding why the prevalent attitude that “God will fix you in the resurrection” is so offensive to many gays. I hear the “there’s nothing wrong with me, I don’t want to be “fixed” ” sentiment. In light of my second paragraph in #21, I just don’t understand this. I do understand not wanting to lose a great relationship formed here on earth. I just don’t understand the allegiance to one’s orientation.

  25. Re #26, I can’t speak for anyone else. I can only give you my own reaction to the doctrinal speculation that “we’re all straight in the hereafter.” I’m not necessarily offended by the suggestion that my innate capacity to love and share my life with another person is so inferior to yours that it needs a complete overhaul in the next life. Honestly, I’m more baffled than offended.

    Sexual orientation runs very deep. It’s not just about sex. It affects all kinds of things in my personality– what jokes I find funny, how I express my creative impulses, how I relate to others, etc. Excising gayness from my being would be such a big change that I fear that it would simply mean the destruction of the self. There wouldn’t be enough left to be called “me.” In fact, such radical change contradicts prior LDS teaching that there is a continuity of personality in the resurrection. As makeovers go, this one is pretty serious.

    So, I dunno, Martin. Maybe the pushback you are getting from gay people you know is not as much about allegiance to one’s orientation as it is not wanting to be obliterated. Whether it happens or not I can’t say, but I can’t imagine it and certainly wouldn’t sign up for it if given any choice.

  26. There wouldn’t be enough left to be called “me.” — ahh, now we get to how much of what or who we were before this life survives into the next. I’ve often wondered just what it means to be “me” and just what of the current me will survive contact with the prior me (or vice versa). Reminds me of the Card’s novel where one of the races is the side effect of a terraforming virus and one of the characters chooses to die free of the virus rather than live which is really a metaphor for the question of biology vs. spiritual identity.

    We really need some gay saints to visit us from the next life. A visit like the founding fathers to St. George would be nice (remembering that the actual record of the visitation was them chewing the brethren out for judging them as not worthy of temple ordinances because of their faults and the instruction that they had done well according to the light they had and the tasks God had given them).

  27. May I suggest again that there is no “pre” about preexistence; there is no “after” about the afterlife. The relationship between causality on the spiritual side of the veil and time on this side of the veil is far more complex. It has to be because the way physical time itself behaves is more complex than we are taking into account.

    IMO, the personality of the pre-existent spirit is being established by our physical interactions just as it in turn guides our physical interactions. The spiritual and physical are simply alternative viewpoints of the same reality. There is one coin, whether you look at the “heads” side or the “tails” side. You were always “you”; you will always be “you”.

  28. Reminds me of the Card’s novel where one of the races is the side effect of a terraforming virus and one of the characters chooses to die free of the virus rather than live which is really a metaphor for the question of biology vs. spiritual identity.

    Somehow, I am uncomfortable with the theological ramifications of this. In nearly every other religion (where the spirit and body are placed at odds with one another), it wouldn’t be so problematic…but in Mormonism, embodiment is kinda a big deal (and a good deal).

    If there are a group of individuals who have essentially an entirely different “point” to life (hey guys, while everyone is learning how to fit into their identities and grow into their spiritual potentials through this physical challenge, you guys’ goal in life instead is to learn to deny yourself, deny your essence, and learn to self-annihilate so that you can be remade again in your spiritually pristine [but utterly unlike your]self).

    brb killing my broken self for a new one.

  29. If you really believe in Mormonism then gender in the afterlife has only one real significance. Only resurrected celestial bodies will have the ability to procreate. By default even though gender may be an eternal role, any resurrection body that is not celestial would be effectively asexual. If you take who you are with you into the next life it wouldn’t matter what gender you were attracted to if you have no capacity to act on those desires physically.

    It has been prescribed that celestial marriage only exists between man and women, I don’t believe the rest of it will be of consequence.

  30. @Andrew S “brb killing my broken self for a new one.” First off that was the best end of post ever.

    But on a serious note that is actually what coming unto Christ is all about. As CS Lewis so famously put it – “Give me all of you!!! I don’t want so much of your time, so much of your talents and money, and so much of your work. I want YOU!!! ALL OF YOU!! I have not come to torment or frustrate the natural man or woman, but to KILL IT! No half measures will do. I don’t want to only prune a branch here and a branch there; rather I want the whole tree out! Hand it over to me, the whole outfit, all of your desires, all of your wants and wishes and dreams. Turn them ALL over to me, give yourself to me and I will make of you a new self—in my image. Give me yourself and in exchange I will give you Myself. My will, shall become your will. My heart, shall become your heart.” ~ C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity)

    Thats the story of the Fall and Atonement. Its harsh. Buts its what Christianity is all about.

    What I’m not explicitly suggesting is how this relates to this particular topic but speaking in more general terms about the notion of killing ones broken self for a new one.

  31. I guess my problem with Christianity (in general) is that it squashes out the You and replaces it with You Prime (I have used these exact terms in the past, I believe.) So who is enjoying heaven? Who is enjoying all of this? It isn’t You. You are no more. You Prime is some other being who has snatched your body.

    I think that is the fundamental difference. Maybe you could argue otherwise IF the change were “pruning” or a “development” (e.g., Mormonism’s eternal progression, more positive attitude toward embodiment that doesn’t suggest total annihilation of one kind of thing for another, etc.,), but if the entire tree must go, and from the rubble comes and entire new self, then it doesn’t seem like there is any individuality but that which is artificial.

    I guess I feel like when the church leaders have said in the past: “You do yourself a disservice by identifying yourself by your attractions instead of by the fact that you are a son of God,” then what it sounds like to me is, “The former is far more central than the latter.” (gasp apostate talk) The former is far more apparent than the latter. The former is far more real than the latter.

    At least the church recognizes that, for whatever eternal gender is (which I don’t think we’ve gotten so far to describe what it is…even if we have described what is separate from it), it is not artificial, but central and eternal. So, church leaders wouldn’t ever say, “You do yourself a disservice by identifying yourself by your *gender* instead of by the fact you are a son/daughter of God.” Recognizing the former is requisite to recognizing the latter.

    And yet, we are to believe that in other cases, recognizing the former is antithetical to recognizing the latter.

  32. re 35:

    whoever you are, Stephen M, you should stop impersonating Stephen Marsh. Impersonating a permablogger at Mormon Matters is a serious offense.

    😉

    but yeah, I agree with any suggestion that has FireTag blogging more.

  33. Andrew, when I started posting in the Bloggernacle I quickly discovered that there were other Steves. So, I went by Stephen (which is what I do when I am in a room with a lot of guys named Steve), since the Bloggernacle is generally a “real name” place. However, Ethesis is, in some ways, my “real” on-line name. It points directly at me, with a lot of public information (not like anyone who tracks Ethesis down is going to find it used to hide my identity. I ended up with it when AOL swallowed my ISP, canceled our e-mail accounts and made us switch to aol.com accounts. My old handle from the 1970s had been appropriated by someone else, and was a little “college-aged” anyway, and time was short, so I went to Ethesis).

    Anyway, the Bloggernacle has too many Stephens and Steve/Stephen Ms too, so I started posting as Stephen M (Ethesis) so that I could be clear which one I am. That works, except when I am logged in as an OP, which causes Stephen Marsh to appear as my name. I did not realize that anyone did not realize those were not the same person until I was commenting on a post I had written and someone disagreed with me that I had the meaning of the post correct. So I thought I ought to post, once in a while, that I’m really me.

    Which brings us back to the concept of identity, which cries out for FireTag to post more 😉

  34. I just find it hilarious that people don’t make the connection.

    Did you know, that in Your Profile, there is an option to set display names and nicknames? Maybe that would make it Stephen M (Ethesis) all across the board?

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