In Australia’s same-sex marriage debate, anxiety over gender confusion looms large.
An early advertisement for the “No” campaign features a young mother, concerned because her son was allegedly told that wearing a dress to school was permitted.
Conservative protests against “Safe Schools” programs, which supposedly attempt to normalise gender fluidity, reflect an unease with hybridity in its various forms. Anthropology reveals how clear-cut differentiations, enshrined in myth and ritual, are meant to keep such hybridity at bay and maintain an ordered society. The modern West is no exception, struggling with its own range of ineradicable hybrid realities. Hence we are not “modern” at all in that sense.
In this article I want to address gender anxiety as it is handled by the conservative Christian right, and offer an alternative view. A recent report by the Doctrine Commission of the (conservative-Evangelical) Anglican Diocese of Sydney will serve as a touchstone, entitled “A Theology of Gender and Gender Identity.” I will suggest that its approach is way too modern, and not biblical enough.
But first, what exactly is the problem?