all the things · christian thought

on gender and race

The world is currently abuzz with topics of gender and race which have recently become rather fluid constructs. Mostly, though, people are discussing identity. Identity is a tricky thing. Identity literally means “the fact of being who or what a person or thing is.” It is a fact, but often something we search for. Erik Erickson even named a stage of adolescent development after this search. “Finding” our identity is a pivotal marker of our lives, one that continues to shape and mark our journey for the rest of our lives.

And that is why the conversations surrounding Bruce/ Caitlyn Jenner and Rachel Dolezal are so troublesome to me.

First, there are certain facts about who we are. There are a certain set of characteristics that are genetically and biologically encoded within us. I am physically female. I was born with all the organs and capabilities of a woman. I was born with all of the “equipment” necessary for female reproduction. I am, plainly stated, female.

But, I also like to use power tools. I hated dresses as a kid, preferring shorts and tennis shoes. I played with my cousins’ GI Joes. I didn’t start wearing make-up until college. I YouTube do-it-yourself projects around the house and various other maintenance projects for me to do (not my husband). I played baseball. I never did dance. (I did play with Barbies, I’ll admit.) I even joke around that I’m my father’s first-born son. If I grew up thinking all of these were intrinsically male specific, I may have grown up with a skewed construct of self. But, thankfully, my parents never said I couldn’t do those things because “that’s what boys do.” They never told me, “You hit like a girl.” They never diminished my girlhood because I liked to do “boy things.”

That is why commercials and efforts promoting #likeagirl are so critical and so powerful for the future generation to hear and see. That is also why a 65 year old man deciding to get breast implants (and then pulling up his shirt to show his son afterwards), surgically remove his penis and calling himself a woman is so damaging to that campaign. It actually hurts feminism and severely slows the efforts millions of women have made in trying to improve life for their daughters.

Likewise, I am genetically 50% Korean and 50% Caucasian. I am biracial. I look more Asian than white, but mostly just a blend of the two which means I am often asked if I am an Inuit, a Native American or Hispanic. I grew up in a predominately white town where looking different affected my day-to-day life. Did I mention that my Korean mother worked at the best Chinese restaurant that staffed Hispanics in its kitchen? Bizarre, but true.

I cannot change my racial heritage even though I did for a time because I didn’t understand it. I didn’t understand what it meant to be both Korean and white. Like the transracial adoptees, I experienced the world in a different way (albeit, differently than they did). It was a world where I was different and was made fun of for it, where I was asked while working with my mom if I spoke “English good”, where my brother was routinely called Mexican, and where my parents lived in an interracial marriage and never explained to us what that meant, or how to teach us about our differences.

So, when Rachel Dolezal identifies herself as a black woman, when she is Caucasian, it robs all of us (in addition to the blacks) of our experiences, of racial reconciliation and of the real struggles we faced growing up. Her identification as black is blackface and is offensive to all minorities. Her pretending slaps us all in the face and hides the “deeper consciousness of issues related to race.”

All of this, all of these conversations, struggles, experiences are all rooted in identity. That is why it’s troublesome and offensive. It strikes at the core of who we were created to be. Which leads me to my second point.

While, I am a Korean-German female, I am so much more than my genetics. I was created in this body which shapes my earth-side experiences, but by my Maker and in His image which is so much more beautiful and diverse. I cannot place my identity (and ultimately my hope as the two are so intrinsically interwoven) in what I was created as, but I must place it in who I was created by.

My hope cannot be in my womanhood. It cannot be in my ethnicity. They will fail us. And, at some point, they will end, just like everything else. When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, the opened the door to death, and that means everything of this world will die. And, everything of this world will fail you.

Even you will fail you.

My identity and my hope needs to be found in forever, the only Truth, in Jesus who lived the life I could never live and died the death I deserved to die. Jesus is the perfect Truth, my Truth and should be yours too because He will never fail you.

It is in Him we were created. Not this world. Not this place where we can pick and choose, and confusion reigns, but in our steadfast Maker.

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