At one point, there were upward of 50 gender options available for users to choose on Facebook. Things must have changed, because when I checked this morning, it was down to three: male, female and a write-in custom option.
I've hesitated to write about the Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner media event, because it's such an intimate matter, even as Jenner appears on the cover of Vanity Fair.
A friend told a story about being among fairly traditional church-going parents who were discussing what they might do if one of their own children expressed a desire to change from male to female or vice versa. "Accept him for who he is," was the consensus. (Well, or her/she.) When did it become unheard of for a parent to guide a child? In a culture with no guideposts, how can anyone have any freedom?
While we think of freedom as doing whatever we want, we have lost the element of what we ought to do. What's good for us and for society?
Pope Francis later this month will be issuing a letter -- an encyclical, in Church lingo -- on ecology. Much has already been written on it in advance of its release. The Church is already being applauded or condemned for its supposedly sudden enlightened progressivism. This, as is often the case, misses the full picture, the continuum.
We can point to where Pope Benedict talked about "Bearing in mind our common responsibility for creation ... the protection of land, water and air as gifts of the Creator." And he went on to say: "When human ecology is respected within society, environmental ecology also benefits. Is it not true that an irresponsible use of creation begins precisely where God is marginalized or even denied? If the relationship between human creatures and the Creator is forgotten, matter is reduced to a selfish possession, man becomes the last word, and the purpose of human existence is reduced to a scramble for the maximum number of possessions possible."
And so too with Pope Francis. Far from alone among popes or religious leaders, he points to a whole picture of who we are and why we are, together in the image and likeness of our Creator. As he talks about the importance of stewardship of creation, he points to stewardship of humanity. The question posed by Caitlyn is: What is human? What does it mean to be human? What is good and responsible stewardship of life, liberty and happiness? And yes, what is happiness?
For some weeks now, Pope Francis has been talking about family life -- children and marriage. In early April, he said that marriage is inscribed in creation. "The Earth is filled with harmony and trust when the alliance between man and woman is lived properly," he said. He warned that "we risk taking a step backwards" in seeking to erase the critical nature of the sexual difference. He described "gender theory" as an "expression of frustration and resignation, which seeks to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it."
The Supreme Court may be on the verge of legalizing same-sex marriage across the country. That, much like Bruce/Caitlyn, is not a harbinger of the apocalypse. We've been wandering on the road to confusion and disunion for decades now. And we see its manifestations in the continued erosion of marriage and the further degradation of the relationship between the sexes. We seem to "tolerate" everything but this amazing gift, this miracle of human complementarity.
If Google is to be believed, the British version of Facebook had more than 70 genders at some point. It doesn't have to be so complicated. How about rediscovering the beauty and genius in the two given to us? The fruits of such gratitude might just be regenerative.