Did God really say?
The Genesis of Gender: A Christian Theory by Dr. Abigail Favale dives into the topics of gender theory including feminism and gender dysphoria, offering a perspective on a biblical framework that has developed out of her personal experiences. She writes of her conversion to Catholicism and how profound an impact it had on her worldview in teaching gender theory at a Christian university. She shares her transformation story and the moment that she realized in the curriculum she was using with her students that she had been “careless with their minds, and most disturbingly, their souls.” As she wrestled with how to move forward given her recent shifts in thought and theory and unclear on next steps, she was clear that she “didn’t want [her] endgame to be confusion.” Favale then dives into different perspectives and types of feminism, the Creation story, and her ongoing discovery of the importance and role of the created, integrated person.
While addressing various topics of sexuality, I found Favale to continually circle back to the goodness of the created person. The inherent good and value that every person was formed with by the Creator. She shares many anecdotal conversations she has had over the years in which some who have medically transitioned identify the trauma that was more so the root of the confusion they had about their gender and sex. While I found this book to provide a new lexicon that will hopefully allow me to engage in these conversations more intentionally and thoughtfully, I find myself sticking to her questions posed in the discussion on the role of blame towards the body for underlying pain. She asks, “What would it look like to approach a person in the depth of his complexity? In the fullness of her dignity?” While specifically addressing those suffering from gender dysphoria, I feel as if these questions ought to be the foundational approaches regardless of the context.
While I do not have a personal history of gender dysphoria or ever having the feeling that I should have been created as a man, Favale did provide an example I resonate with that allowed her to have more understanding and empathy and compassion towards those that do. Favale shares her experience after giving birth – the physical and hormonal changes, the feelings of her body not being right, and a desire to hide away. Having had the opportunity to birth two children in the last three years, I easily identified with her experience. Add in the physical, emotional, and hormonal complexities of cancer treatment coupled with this, there have absolutely been times I have felt my body has betrayed me. Again, while not the same as those experiencing gender dysphoria, this was finally an analogy that gave me a sliver more understanding into what it must be like for those that do.
What I noticed it stirred in me while reading this week was how often our struggles, confusions, pain, and trauma can go back to the Garden and the question, “Did God really say…?” posed to Eve by the enemy. Regardless of the topic, how often can my own sin, insecurities, or challenges point back to questioning God and my identity in Him? How often to I rely on my feelings to guide my decisions and actions rather than truth found in scripture? Do I tend to focus on the inherent good or the perceived lack? Specifically in my vocational context working with college students, these core questions are often at the root. Regardless of who I may be sitting across from, their specific context or challenge, I more often than not find the Holy Spirit guiding the conversation towards their identity in Christ. While Favale’s work specifically targets the topic of gender, I found it to have wider applications in her approach to addressing hard conversations, being comfortable with being misunderstood, and a deeper context for the often mis utilized ‘truth in love’ phrase. This will likely be a book that I need to ponder and process longer, but I have found it to provide a thoughtful address to the topic of gender within a Christian worldview.
 Favale, 13.
 Ibid., 14.
 Ibid., 198.
 Genesis 3:1
 Favale, 206.
10 responses to “Did God really say?”
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Thank you for powerfully connecting the reading this week to your journey of processing all of this.
Thinking back over the reading, do you feel like the author gave any ground with empathy to nonbinary and genderqueer individuals? If not, what do you think is the balance between arguing established belief systems and opening oneself to alternative views?
Andy: I actually found the anecdotal components weaved throughout the book to reveal her empathy and also model the ability to sit with someone she does not agree with, model listening to understand, while still being able to express herself and perspective clearly. I do acknowledge though that she is sharing her interpretation of those conversations and the counterparts may not have experienced or walked away from those engagements with the same conclusion.
Kayli, I really enjoyed reading this post. Thank you for also sharing a personal story in order to relate to an issue often argued from a distance and as only a category. I like this quote you chose to include: “What would it look like to approach a person in the depth of his complexity? In the fullness of her dignity?” In your experience, what are some ways that give dignity when you sit with someone wrestling with gender dysphoria?
Roy: I would not say that I often sit with those navigating gender dysphoria, but I do often sit with students who generally did not have any conversations with their parents prior to leaving home for college about issues relating to sexuality that have all sort of questions and confusions as they process things. Regardless, in those moments, I think the emphasis of dignity really lies in the fact of simply sitting, listening to understand, and providing a safe space where they do not feel they have to hide components of themselves or questions they have. I think most of us simply want to be seen and known regardless of the issue we may be walking through.
Ms. Kayli: Favale’s compassion and humanity for others leaps off the page, doesn’t it? I so appreciate this book and her intelligence, as well as her faith and humanity she brings to this discussion. The book was so well-written that even feminists that disagree with her conclusions can walk aways from this book feeling like Favale at least understands the complexity’s of the gender paradigm debate.
I would agree that her ability to see and understand the alternative perspective – she even taught it for years – gives her some additional level of credibility when speaking on the subject.
Kayli, thank you for sharing yet another layer of your journey. In your time working with young adults have you seen an increase in them struggling with identity issues particularly sexual? I’m wondering how much of the challenge with identity can be contributed to the mouldability of worldview with, what Favale refers to as the 3rd and 4th waves?
I think this is hard to answer because I’m not sure if students today are struggling more than generations before or just feel more free to share as society has opened up over the last few decades.
Kayli, As others have said, what a beautiful post that comes through sharing your “body” story. I resonate with the self-reflection you have had…29 years ago I went through brain surgery to remove a benign brain tumor that would have eventually killed me if left inside.
On a different subject, you spoke about being led by the Spirit. Dr. Favale rarely (if ever) spoke of the Holy Spirit in her journey. How might the Spirit shape her argument differently?
Kayli, I enjoyed reading your blog and the words that really caught my atention are “Regardless of the topic, how often can my own sin, insecurities, or challenges point back to questioning God and my identity in Him? How often do I rely on my feelings to guide my decisions and actions rather than the truth found in scripture?”
Ordinarily, we’re creatures of emotions and feelings. Most decisions are made from our immediate reactions to feelings and emotions or in the context of “using Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, fast and slow system 1 thinking.” How can we guard ourselves against falling prey o this trap and be guided by scripture?