Last month there was a story in the news about a baby born in British Columbia, Canada. The child was not born in a medical facility and therefore did not receive an official gender designation or a birth certificate. The news article I read only mentioned one parent. The parent identifies as non-binary transgender, which is neither male or female, or maybe it’s both. I’m not really sure. Anyway, the parent wants the child, named Searyl, to develop and decide for themselves what gender they identify with.
Identifying pronouns was another thing the news article tried to explain. This new parent refers to the baby as “they.” I am so confused. The parent didn’t want the baby to be labeled as “he” or “she” and as I understand it, the preferred pronoun for the baby is “they”, which to me is plural, but there is only one baby. If this keeps up, we’re going to need some entirely new words because the old ones are only confusing me more.
I hope that somehow this child will be able to find “their” true self, but I am not sure how “they" will be able to reach a decision on gender identity without any cultural influence at all. It’s not a neutral world. If it were, there would be a lot less to argue about in congress.
Recognizing personal identity is often difficult even when the lines and pronouns are clear. There are some details that I might think are clear markers for my identity, but then other people may see me and never associate those characteristics with me at all. My name is one of those things.
For several years after moving to Walterboro, I got called Jan a lot. Jan was the pastor’s wife. If it wasn’t Jan, it was Mrs. Scott. Scott is my husband’s name. Mrs. Scott is neither my first name or my last name. Just to make matters more perplexing, Scott is my husband’s middle name. His first name is Timothy, but I’ve never heard anyone call him that.
It’s not just names that give us identity. Often, it’s what we do and where we go. Earlier today as Scott and I walked out of the Cracker Barrel and joked about wanting to know when awards night was because we want to be present to pick up our trophy for being the most frequent diners there. Some of the servers there know what kind of salad dressing Scott likes. They know we both like the Wednesday broccoli cheddar chicken special. They don’t know that we’re also working on a frequent diner prize at Subway too.
The one thing that’s common in both of those examples is the relationship to my husband. The people at church who couldn’t remember my first name still associated me with him. The Cracker Barrell cashiers do the same thing. My identity is often defined by my relationships.
Psalm 51:5 offers a description on my identity too, “for I was born a sinner.” Many of the New Testament books written by the Apostle Paul include multiple mentions of my sinful nature. I was born with it. We all were. None of us can help that we were born that way, but the truth is, we do need help with it. We cannot fix it ourselves. The only way to change our identity as a sinner is with a relationship. More specifically, a relationship with the only one that can take the sinner moniker from us and carry it himself. Jesus.
Isaiah 43:1 says, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” He knows my name. He calls me by it. He’s not going to call me Jan. He might even call my husband Timothy. He knows our names and who we are. Our identities are not in question with Him. He calls us all into a relationship. He wants a relationship with us so that we will no longer be identified as sinners, no matter what pronoun we prefer.
The was originally published August 6, 2017 on The Press and Standard website.