It’s not often that you see the beauty of gender magically rendered by a pair of ice skaters. But Virtue and Muir managed that feat in their exhibition skate last week.
I found myself watching their performance over and over, spell bound. The perfect blend of music and movement, it’s like watching the story of man and woman wordlessly told atop two thin metal blades. A beautiful, intricate dance—not between two people, but expressly between a man and a woman.
The most contentious conversation in our culture now is about gender. The last time I wrote about how the boy scouts might ought to actually be biological boys (in the Charlotte Observer), I was wary to open my email for a week.
I want to suggest that watching this man and woman act out our real lives together on top of a pair of skates cuts through the whole gender discussion.
What you see, I think, in their skate is what the Bible means by the “glory” of being created in the image of God…as a man. As a woman. We bear that image in gendered being. The way we are made declares the glory of God, and nothing less.
Truth and goodness and beauty all wrapped into four exquisite minutes on skates—this is at the essence of Virtue and Muir’s performance. And those are elements at the core of gender.
In truth, the cells of your body do not lie. I could suppress my estrogen (which I am mourning the loss of) and cut and paste body parts until I look entirely different, and I’d still be a biological woman.
And goodness, yes, that’s what we are called to for the sake of the other. Meaning, for example, that a man is called to become fully man so that he might experience the joy of giving out of that distinctive well, poured out for others. The coming together of man and woman brings life literally, the utter goodness of a baby, a new generation.
But beauty—beauty takes your breath away as Virtue and Muir skate. He holds her high in the air, her red skirt blowing in the wind as she almost appears to rest in his hands, confident his strength will support her.
Beauty and strength coming together as one whole that is greater than either alone.
I want to suggest that “gender dysphoria” which is the distress of not feeling at home in the body you have, is something most of us experience during our lifetimes. To varying degrees, at various times, and for many reasons. Who hasn’t struggled with the dysphoria that stems from the question of am I “woman enough” or “man enough?”
I know I have.
The comfort is that our gender isn’t based on feelings. A woman with anorexia, skinny as a rail, will insist that she is fat because she feels fat. If she persists in that belief and continues to starve herself, psychologists will label her “delusional.” Feeling fat does not make it so.
So, too, in the world of gender. Our biological self is a bedrock reality. It’s truth we spend a lifetime growing into. Our gender is a corner of creation where the Living God has shared with us a piece of his glory.
Though, sometimes, I’d have to say that glory is seen best on top of two sets of skates.