There are those who can teach us the difference between “intergendered” unions (between two people of different genders) and “monogendered” unions (between those of the same gender). In fact, there are plenty of them in our churches. Sadly, they get ignored, insulted, or shunned, yet they are the ones before whom we should all be quiet and listen.
Who, you ask? Simply those who feel long-term same-sex attraction (SSA), and who may have even acted on those feelings in gay relationships in the past but who came to decide, in their Christian commitment, to marry the opposite gender instead. Ex-gay Christians who have been happily married for years are the best instructors what the difference is. They have been there and can compare. It was to just these people that I turned to explore these questions of marriage in my doctoral qualitative research project[i] under Covenant Theological Seminary.
I decided to limit the scope of my study to husbands with SSA, talking in depth with them about how their Christian wives, as women, made a difference in their relationships
The second thing I learned was that gender matters in making closeness in these marriages. This kind of research is great in its allowance of time to listen to one’s interviewees talk, so I got to hear many reasons why these men treasured their wives. As I pressed them about why they felt that they could not share the same intimacy with a man, a host of explanations issued forth. I eventually distinguished 28 distinct reasons for intergendered intimacy. Some of these reasons concerned the essential nature of women, as these men saw it. Others involved their wives’ gendered practices. But even the latter also depended on their being women. It was not just what they did, but who they were, doing what they did, that made these husbands feel, as one confessed, “To depend on her makes me more me.” So discussion of inherent feminine gender traits entwined with the wives’ consciously womanly deeds.
“A woman brings a lot of life.” The exceptional emotional richness of women encourages even deeper sharing and trust: “Most women have the ability to understand and feel things at a different level from men, so I get a deeper connection from her perspective,” and, “Her sensitivities … give me room to risk things that with a man I would never risk.” One creatively pictured the emotional complementarity thus: “Men are like strings, women like balloons. Women rise in lofty splendor, but need the string to be tied down. But men, without them, are just strings dropped in the mud.”
The wife’s virtues, often dissimilar to the husband’s, constituted another locus of rationale for how gender matters. The husbands admired and were advanced by virtues they find unique in women: “Her femininity allows me to let my guard down,” and, “Her … gentle spirit, it invites me in [to a place of] security [that] unites us.” One husband eulogized, “She is very much an undergirding support of everything I do, and very strong. … It’s all very feminine. There is nothing masculine about her strength, which I love. I find … security and support in that.”
Perhaps the most profound collection of reasons concerned the personal growth these men associated with their intergendered unions: “Her femininity has very much enhanced my masculinity,” and, “It’s not like my wife is particularly more mature than the [men] that I was with. … It’s just the two of us together … having to. … It’s just deeper. It is,” and “A different makeup, her womanhood … increases my understanding and has helped to unravel lies about me.” One of the reasons these husbands first sought an intergendered union was a lack of spiritual growth in their monogendered ones: “It left me self-focused,” and, “To be perfectly honest with you, when I was in a relationship with a man, I wanted a man to take care of me.” Now, instead, her nature, need, service, and desires call forth growth in him to be proactive for her: “Her femininity makes me want to do more … pulls me to where I would want to please her,” and, “The mystery of male and female union … is about ‘other’ … it called out of me fruit … I’m more awakened to being me. I’m a different man.”
It is worth reading the whole thing. The takeaway for me is that marriage really is based on the complimentary of a man and a woman. One makes up for what the other lacks. Thus they join together as one complete whole; one complete person. Same-sex marriage will never have that. It is a fiction - a creation.