Gender inclusive and diversity symbol.

The Prefixes used to describe gender:

Cis-: A Latin prefix meaning “on the same side as,” used in ‘cisgender.’

Trans-: A Latin prefix meaning “across,” used in ‘transgender.’

To navigate the conversation about gender with clarity, understanding some basic terminology can be very helpful:

Cisgender: This term is used when a person’s gender identity consistently matches the sex they were assigned at birth.

Transgender: This refers to a person whose gender identity does not align with the sex they were assigned at birth.

Biological Sex & Gender

Traditionally, biological sex has been categorized as male or female, a binary system that shape the worldview of many people. However, this classification system is an oversimplification of a much more complex biological reality. Intersex conditions, where chromosomal, gonadal, or anatomical sex characteristics differ from the standard male or female patterns, highlight the spectrum of biological diversity. These conditions might include variations in chromosome patterns, hormone levels, or physical traits that do not fit neatly into ‘male’ or ‘female’ categories, challenging the binary view of sex.

Gender Identity & Gender

While biological sex refers to the physical characteristics observed and recorded at birth, gender is an internal, deeply-held sense of self that could align with, or differ from, one’s biological sex. Gender identity is how individuals perceive themselves and identify on a spectrum that includes man, woman, both, neither, and everything in between—such as non-binary, genderqueer, and genderfluid. This personal conception of one’s gender can be seen as one’s own understanding of their place within the cultural constructs of gender roles.

These definitions and terms provide a foundational understanding that is crucial for discussing the more nuanced aspects of gender identity, especially as we explore its intersection with spirituality and individual expression.

Biological Diversity in Gender

Like gender identity, biological sex can be understood as a spectrum, with a variety of factors including chromosomes, hormones, and anatomy contributing to a person’s gender identity.

Chromosomal Variations & Gender

While the XX and XY chromosomal patterns are most familiar to us, numerous other chromosomal configurations play significant roles in human biology:

Klinefelter Syndrome (XXY): Typically categorized as male, individuals with Klinefelter Syndrome are born with an extra X chromosome. This additional chromosome can result in a blend of physical traits that might be considered typically male and female, such as reduced facial hair or broader hips.

Turner Syndrome (XO): Individuals with Turner Syndrome, usually categorized as female, have only one X chromosome rather than the typical two. This condition can lead to various developmental changes, such as shorter stature and infertility.

XYY Syndrome: Occurring in males, this syndrome involves an extra Y chromosome. Often, it manifests as greater than average height and can sometimes be associated with learning difficulties, although many individuals may not exhibit any symptoms.

Triple X Syndrome (XXX): Females with Triple X Syndrome have an extra X chromosome. This can sometimes result in taller stature and learning difficulties, though many affected individuals have no significant symptoms.

Hormonal Variations & Gender

Hormones significantly influence the development of gender characteristics, with variations in hormone levels or sensitivities leading to diverse expressions of gender identity:

Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS): Individuals with this condition have XY chromosomes but their bodies are partially or completely insensitive to androgens, which are typically involved in developing male characteristics at puberty. As a result, they may develop physical traits typically associated with females.

Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH): This condition results in increased production of androgens in individuals with XX chromosomes. It can lead to the development of characteristics often associated with males.

A Spectrum Perspective

These examples highlight the biological complexity behind concepts of biological sex and gender identity. It is clear that gender cannot be neatly categorized into male and female; rather, it encompasses a wide range of biological variations that challenge the traditional binary framework.

By recognizing this spectrum, we can foster a more inclusive understanding that respects and values the diversity of human bodies and experiences. This scientific perspective not only enriches our knowledge but also supports the ongoing efforts to ensure dignity and equality for all, regardless of where they fall on the gender spectrum.

Understanding Gender Diversity & Gender Identity: Beyond Biological Sex

Introduction to Gender Identity

While biological sex is defined by the physical characteristics observed at birth—such as chromosomes, hormones, and genitalia—gender identity is an entirely different concept. Gender identity refers to how individuals perceive themselves and identify internally, which can be the same as, or different from, the sex they were assigned at birth. This self-perception is a core aspect of an individual’s identity and deeply personal.

The Spectrum of Gender Identity

Gender identity is not fixed along a strict male or female binary. Instead, it exists on a broad spectrum, reflecting the diverse experiences and identities of people around the world. Here are some key points to consider about the spectrum of gender identity:

Kate Bornstein

“Instead of saying that all gender is this or all gender is that, let’s recognize that the word gender has scores of meaning built into it. It’s an amalgamation of bodies, identities, and life experiences, subconscious urges, sensations, and behaviors, some of which develop organically, and others which are shaped by language and culture. Instead of saying that gender is any one single thing, let’s start describing it as a holistic experience.”
Kate Bornstein, Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation

Fluidity in Gender: Gender identity can be fluid, meaning that it can change over time. For some people, their understanding of their own gender might evolve due to personal growth, experiences, or a deeper understanding of themselves.

Broad Categories: Beyond being male or female, gender identity includes non-binary, genderqueer, and genderfluid identities, among others. Non-binary is an umbrella term for genders that don’t fit the traditional understanding of male or female. Genderqueer people might see themselves as both male and female, neither, or as falling completely outside these categories. Meanwhile, genderfluid individuals experience changes over time in how they personally experience their gender, which might shift from male to female, between non-binary, or other identities.

Personal Understanding and Expression: The way people express their gender identity can vary greatly and includes their choice of pronouns, clothing, and social roles. Gender expression is how one outwardly shows their gender identity, which might not necessarily align with societal expectations of the biological sex they were assigned at birth.

Emphasizing Respect and Recognition

Understanding and respecting each person’s self-identified gender is crucial for affirming their humanity and dignity. Recognizing a person’s gender identity by using their chosen name and pronouns is not only a basic courtesy but also a critical recognition of their identity’s validity. This respect is foundational in building inclusive environments where every individual can thrive without fear of discrimination or misunderstanding.

Rabbi Elliot Kuckla

“People tend to like having things in nice, tidy boxes, of men do this, and women do that, and challenging these notions can create anxieties. To make room for transgender Jews round the table, we have to expand some of our notions around gender and sexuality. For starters, normalizing the fact that people can have different life-cycles and choices, ones that don’t necessarily conform to the binary reality of male/female, mother/father… to my understanding, gender is a lot more complex than that.”

― Rabbi Elliot Kukla, Transgender? Judaism’s Got a Blessing for You

Beyond the Science: Exploring Gender in World Religions

Gender Diversity in Religious Contexts

Across the globe, religious and spiritual traditions offer a vast array of interpretations related to gender roles, many of which include fluid and non-binary concepts that challenge modern preconceptions. These diverse understandings provide a rich historical context for the ongoing discussions about gender identity today.

Gender in Judaism

The Talmud, a central text in Rabbinic Judaism, recognizes at least six gender categories, which reflects the complexity of gender beyond the binary framework. These categories include:

  • Zachar: Typically aligned with male gender roles.
  • Nekevah: Typically aligned with female gender roles.
  • Androgynos: Someone with both male and female characteristics.
  • Tumtum: A person whose sexual characteristics are indeterminate.
  • Ay’lonit: A person assigned female at birth but develops male characteristics and is infertile.
  • Saris: A person assigned male at birth but develops female characteristics, often referred to as a eunuch.

These categories were historically significant and used to navigate religious laws and societal roles, challenging the notion that gender has always been viewed through a binary lens.

Gender in Christianity

Early Christian texts, such as those written by the Apostle Paul, suggest a spiritual equality that transcends traditional gender roles. In Galatians 3:28, Paul writes, “There is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus,” indicating a vision of spiritual community that is inclusive of all, regardless of gender. This perspective has often been overshadowed by later interpretations that reinforced patriarchal structures.

Gender in Hinduism

Hinduism recognizes a fluidity in gender roles that is deeply integrated into its spiritual texts and practices:

The concept of Ardhanarishvara, which shows Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati as a combined entity with male and female halves, symbolizes the synthesis of masculine and feminine energies.

Epic narratives like the Mahabharata include characters such as Shikhandi, who was born female but identified as male, playing a crucial role in the story.

Gender in Indigenous Spiritualities

Many indigenous cultures around the world recognize genders beyond the binary male and female:

Two-Spirit people in Native American cultures, who carry both masculine and feminine spirits, are revered as leaders and mediators.

In Polynesian and certain African cultures, gender fluidity is accepted and integrated into social and spiritual leadership roles, reflecting a holistic understanding of gender.

Thoughts on Religion, Spirituality, and Gender

The rich tapestry of gender interpretations across different spiritual traditions demonstrates that gender diversity is not a modern phenomenon but a longstanding part of human history. By embracing these diverse perspectives, contemporary religious practices can evolve to become more inclusive, reflecting a broader, more encompassing view of humanity.

The Spiritual Significance of Using Correct Pronouns: Blessing & Honoring Each Other

Pronouns and Spiritual Respect

Pronouns are more than simple parts of speech: they are integral to a person’s identity. Just as using someone’s name can be seen as a sign of respect, using the correct pronouns is a profound gesture of acknowledgment. This practice is not only about correctness but also about honoring the person’s true self, which is a spiritual act of affirming their existence and dignity.

Why Pronouns Matter

Affirmations of Gender: Using correct pronouns helps affirm an individual’s gender identity, which is crucial for their self-esteem and mental health, especially for transgender and non-binary individuals. Such affirmation supports their rightful place in the world and counters the misrecognition they might face elsewhere.

Promoting Inclusivity: By using the correct pronouns, we foster an inclusive environment where everyone feels seen and valued. This inclusivity is fundamental in spiritual communities that uphold the values of love, acceptance, and unity.

Pronouns as a Spiritual Practice

Blessing Through Language: View the act of using correct pronouns as a way to bless the individual. Like a verbal blessing, it affirms the sacredness of their life and identity.

Honoring the Divine in Each Other: Many spiritual traditions teach that recognizing the divine in each person is essential. Using correct pronouns is an extension of this practice, where acknowledging someone’s gender identity is akin to acknowledging and honoring the divine within them.

Gender Reclamation: Reclaiming Gender Identity as a Spiritual Practice

As we have seen, gender diversity is deeply embedded in many spiritual traditions. Today, there is a movement towards reclaiming this diversity as inherently divine and spiritually significant.

Rituals and Ceremonies: Encourage the use of specific rituals that honor various gender identities. This could include blessing ceremonies for individuals affirming their gender identity, which celebrate this affirmation as a sacred event.

Inclusive Theology: Push for open theological discussions that support the legitimacy of gender diversity. These discussions can help transform traditional doctrines to embrace inclusivity.

Community Engagement: Foster activities that allow for the sharing of diverse gender experiences, which can cultivate empathy and deepen understanding within spiritual communities.

Pride Flag with the signs that say "My pronouns are:' 'Xe/Xem/Xir, Hie/Hym/Hiz, Ze/Hir/Hirs, E/Em/Eirs, ne/nem/nears, tey, tem, ters"

Affirmation of Gender Identities

Using Positive Affirmations: Introduce affirmations that celebrate and accept one’s gender identity as a sacred aspect of the self, such as, “I fully embrace and honor my gender as a perfect expression of divine love within me. My true self manifests the richness and diversity of creation.”

Practical Steps for Communities

Education & Awareness: Promote educational efforts about the importance of pronouns and provide guidance on how to respectfully ask and use them.

Creating Spaces for Sharing: Offer regular opportunities for community members to share their pronouns and gender stories, enhancing communal bonds.

Policy & Practice: Recommend that institutions adopt policies that respect and use correct pronouns in all forms of communication, setting a standard for dignity and respect.

Gender Diversity & Folx with Faith

As we have explored the rich intersections of gender and spirituality, it is clear that embracing the full spectrum of gender identities is not just a matter of social justice—it is an expression of divine love. Folx with Faith is committed to upholding this truth by creating safe, affirming spaces where everyone, regardless of their gender identity, can find community and connection. Whether through our virtual platforms or in-person gatherings, we strive to be a sanctuary of acceptance, where every individual is recognized and celebrated as a perfect manifestation of divine love.

Together, let us continue to weave these threads of understanding and compassion into the fabric of our spiritual lives, ensuring that our communities reflect the boundless inclusivity and love that truly define the divine. In doing so, we affirm that our expressions of divine love are not only about believing in inclusion but also about practicing it in every aspect of our communal and spiritual lives.

Join the Folx with Faith Community

Whether you’re looking to connect with others, start your own journey, or find support, we’re here to help. Click below to take your next step:

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

Get the latest insights and stories.

Newsletter Sign Up

Upcoming Events

Join us for upcoming events.

Event Registration

Find or Start a Group

Find or start a local Folx with Faith Chapter.

Folx with Faith Groups

Resources & Blog References for Gender Diversity & Spirituality


American Medical Association (AMA):
Advocating for the LGBTQ Community

AMA Article


Human Rights Campaign Press Release:

The American Psychological Association Strongly Condemns Legislative Attacks on Healthcare for Transgender People & Emphasizes the Danger of Wide-Spread Misinformation Against LGBTQ+ Youth

HRC Press Release


NPR: A Guide to Understanding Gender Identity Terms

Covering the complexities and evolving understanding of gender identity, reflected in discussions about the correct use of pronouns and terminologies, highlight the importance of respect and accuracy in language to support transgender and nonbinary individuals effectively.

NPR Article


Trans Spiritual Care Initiative

The Trans Spiritual Care Initiative, led by Sojourn Chaplaincy at San Francisco General Hospital, is a pioneering training program initiated in 2017 to educate chaplains, clergy, and healthcare providers on providing gender-affirming spiritual care, specifically aimed at supporting transgender and gender non-conforming individuals within healthcare and religious institutions.

Trans Spiritual Care Initiative

Leave a Reply