Complementarity of the Sexes
"God created man in His image. Male and Female He Created Them."
(Genesis 1:27)

We live in a culture that would like us to believe there is no difference between a man and a woman.  Gender stereotyping is considered discrimination.  Some would like to abolish the idea of gender altogether, and would prefer that we live as androgynous beings.  Men are sleeping with men, and women with other women.  People are cross-dressing as members of the other sex, and some even going so far as to have a sex change operation, mutilating their bodies in an effort to become transgendered.  Our culture says this is okay and claims that gender stereotyping places limits on freedom and equality.

The Catholic Church sees it quite differently!

In the creation story in Genesis, God created all things out of nothing, and the nothingness was compared to chaotic waters.  When God was creating the world, He did so by placing limits on the chaos.   Limits, as the very definition of creation, are not bad, but rather protect the identity of creation.  Gender, then, is not limiting to the human person, but protects a person's true identity. 

Now, the identity of the human person is full of great dignity, unique among the rest of creation.  In fact, human beings can be spoken of as the crown of creation because God stamped His own image into our being.  Each person reflects the image of God.  It was by God's own design that the human person was made male and female.  This does not mean that our souls, emotions and psyches are genderless and trapped in a body that is either male or female.  No, God created the human person as a unity of body and soul!  Masculinity and femininity are matters of the whole person.  The manifestation of masculinity or femininity in the genitals of the body is a physical sign of an interior reality.  If you castrate a man, he is still a man!  If a woman has a hysterectomy, she is still a woman!  It makes sense that the gender differences between men and women are not just physical, but that masculinity and femininity involve different ways of "being." 

So, why did God specifiy between man and woman when he created us in His own divine image?

Men reflect certain attributes of God in their masculinity, and women reflect other important attributes of God in their femininity.  What is even more amazing, however, is that man and woman were created for each other, to form a communion in marriage that reflects the very communion of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the Trinity!  Therefore, the Catholic Church speaks of the complementarity of the sexes because man alone, or woman alone, cannot completely reflect the image of God.  Understanding that the body is a sign of an interior reality, the Church looks to the purpose of bodily gender differences to understand what it means to live out masculinity or femininity in a way that reflects the image of God.  In the next sections of this website (listed under the Complementarity of the Sexes tab), there is a brief overview of the Church's teaching on what it means to be man or a woman.  Parents who understand the complementarity of the sexes can raise young adults who know who they are and are able to make a sincere gift of self through their masculinity or femininity, because gender differences include the ways that we give and receive love.