I once saw a delightful poster in Japan — a sketch of two toddlers standing side by side. One is staring into his diaper, the other (with ribbons in her hair) is half looking into her own diaper and half into his. Off to the right is a big question mark. This sketch would have been a perfect illustration for this post!
I have said before that I am often asked “When should I begin talking with my children about sex?” and “What should I say?” Here is where we begin: in early childhood, with their sex, or gender. This is also where the Bible begins, in the very first chapter:
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.(Genesis 1:27)
Right here in this passage are three hugely important lessons on sexuality: (1) males are different from females, (2) every child is precious, because every child is made in the image of God, and (3) both male and female are to be images of God in the world.
At the most basic level, male and female are different anatomically, as even these toddlers can see. And there are reasons for this difference, which you will need to explain to your child at some point.
Even our brains are different. Over the last decade neuroscience studies have documented sex differences in brain anatomy, chemistry, and function, and involving cognitive domains such as emotion, memory, and learning. We now know:
• that even the brain tissue is intrinsically different in males and females. (Leonard Sax, Why Gender Matters);
• that there are differences between male and female in the front and prefrontal cortex, which control much of our decision-making ability; in the limbic system, which controls our emotional life; and in the amygdala, which controls not only the generation of emotions but also the ability to remember them (John Medina, Brain Rules).
But there are many other differences, as men and women instinctively recognize. Researchers are discovering more and more differences all the time. It is now known:
• that males and females see colors differently, and hear differently;
• that sex differences in the anatomy of the eye prewire girls to be interested in faces and boys to be more interested in moving objects;
• that a female, already at 3 months gestation, moves her jaws more than a male!
• that from a very early age boys and girls converse differently: boys sit side by side, looking forward; girls face each other (Deborah Tannen, You Just Don’t Understand);
• that gender differences affect the prevalence, incidence, and severity of a broad range of diseases and conditions, indicating that treatment also needs to be sex based. Because of this fact, the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association determined to publish only research in which data are broken down by sex;
• and much, much more.
“Sex is an objective biological fact that is determined genetically at conception by the allocation of X and Y chromosomes to one’s genome, immutable throughout one’s lifetime. Christian Medical and Dental Associations
If the Bible and science both point to two, and only two, genders or sexes … if every cell in our body is either male or female… what then should we think about the 56 additional gender choices on Facebook or, more specifically, about transgender?