Words Matter. We need to understand what happens when we elect to refer to two men entering into an intimate legal union as “Same-sex Marriage.”
Of course, people need to be able to understand each other. So common terminology is good, right? And doesn’t this seem like a value-neutral term? Like “heterosexual marriage?” You are not passing any judgements in using such terms, not saying whether it is good or bad, right?
Wrong. In saying “same-sex marriage,” you are saying that what is really going on is mainly a marriage between two people of the same sex. You are saying that sex is the thing. You are implying that the real business is in the bodies. The real matter is between the maleness or femaleness of the union. That’s what defines it.
Except it isn’t. What is really happening when two men get married is that two people of the same gender are coming together. Gender is something much deeper than maleness or femaleness. Christians, when they think about it, should be driven to understand that there is something very deep inside of us that defines our souls, of which our bodies are the sign. Certainly our bodies are important, but they are important to show the character of our souls. Maleness-femaleness is not the thing, masculine-feminine is the thing. Man-woman is the thing.
This is why, several years ago, I began to use the terms, monogendered (man-man, woman-woman) and intergendered (man-woman) to describe intimate romantic relationships. I do this even though it means that I have to explain it a lot, that what people usually call same-sex relationships I call monogendered relationships, and the usual heterosexual I call intergendered. As a Christian, I am much more comfortable with these terms because they really describe what is going on. You are having two people of one gender coming together. That is the important matter in what is happening.
I hope that you can agree that monogendered and intergendered are just as value-neutral terms as anything else. And, for me, they frame the discussion around what really counts. And, I hope you can also agree with me now that in our society, gender is the issue.
There are other costs to not framing the discussion thusly, as gender difference rather than sex difference. Such as in the recent article I read from the Gospel Coalition, an organization worthy of great respect. The article, which was quite good, was about SOGI laws, the conflict between religious freedom and LGBTQCIAAPPP rights. But the author used the common term same-sex marriage, and then had to contrast favoring it with something…? She settled on “same-sex marriage or traditional marriage.” As if, what Christians favor is tradition, nothing more.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t dare base my beliefs and convictions on tradition. If tradition is what is holding us up, God save us all!
Rather, my convictions come from God’s revelation to us in the Scriptures that gender is real, that sexual difference reflects it, enriches it and shouts it, and that all things confirm that it matters in relationships, principally marriage.
Words matter, don’t you think?
Yes, indeed, they do!