Someone sent me this editorial today from the NYT: “Is God Transgender?”
The article is by a rabbi who (intentionally? ignorantly?) thinks that metaphor and the “inconsistencies” of grammatical gender in the Hebrew Bible mean that God is either transgender or doesn’t care about gender distinction.
This is utterly absurd. While Dr. Michael Brown has already weighed in on this (with a lot of salient detail from the biblical text), I’d like to add that grammatical gender has nothing to do with “creating” biological gender or endorsing transgenderism. Grammatical gender is an artificial means by which inflected languages (languages that use suffixes, prefixes, and infixes on nouns and verbs) match words with each other for grammatical coherence. That is, it’s through grammatical gender that speakers and readers of a given language know what words go with what — which word is the subject or object of a verb, for example.
From a scholarly book on Hebrew morphology (perhaps the rabbi needs to read something about Hebrew):
In Biblical Hebrew, as in the other Semitic languages, there are two genders: masculine and feminine. Gender is a grammatical category that formally marks agreement between words in a sentence; thus, its primary function is syntactic. As is true of many languages with gender, the gender of substantives in Biblical Hebrew sometimes correlates with the natural sex of animate beings. But this correspondence is only partial; more broadly, all nouns, including inanimate objects, are classified as grammatically masculine or feminine. Therefore, not only animate beings are either masculine (like אִישׁ ‘man’) or feminine (like אִשָּׁה ‘woman’), but also inanimate objects (such as שֻׁלְחָן ‘table’ masculine, כִּסֵּא ‘chair’ masculine, אֶ֫רֶץ ‘earth, land’ feminine, יַבָּשָׁה ‘dry land’ feminine).
So … should we assume that a table has a penis? That dry land has a vagina? If my table lacks a penis is it a hermaphrodite table? Did someone give it a sex change?
How about German … The noun for “maiden, little girl” in German is das mädchen, which is grammatically neuter (some inflected languages, like German and Greek, have a neuter gender category). Are little girls in Germany considered sexless?
One could go on and on with this sort of linguistic idiocy and self-delusional political correctness that demonstrates our culture’s flight from reason. Once people have abandoned reason, there’s little one can do. You can’t . . . well . . . reason with them. This sort of nonsensical thinking about language doesn’t do anything to help people who truly struggle with gender identity.
 Joshua Blau, Joshua. Phonology and Morphology of Biblical Hebrew: An Introduction. Edited by M. O’Connor and Cynthia L. Miller. Linguistic Studies in Ancient West Semitic. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2010, 263.