What is Gender Wholeness?

Summary: Gender wholeness means feeling complete with regard to our own gender and experiencing a healthy sense of completion through the opposite sex. Understanding this definition requires that we break it down into its components.

Gender congruity

The first component—feeling complete with our own gender—includes a couple of different elements. For men, the first element has to do with how we experience our own masculinity. It seems to be a core need for those of both sexes to feel congruent with our gender. That means that if we are born male, we need to feel congruent, or in sync with, what we think a male is supposed to be. Naturally, this is a very subjective thing and every man will define masculinity somewhat differently. But whatever our definition is, we need to feel like we adequately—though not necessarily perfectly—match that definition.

Same-sex affiliation

The second element of feeling complete with our own gender has to do with our relationships with others of the same sex. Again, it seems to be a core need for those of both sexes to have relational bonds with others of our sex. Men need friendships and association with other men. We need “male bonding” and “guy time” in sufficient amounts or we start to feel lonely, bored, or empty. This is also a subjective thing and every man will need male friendship in different amounts and intensities.

The upbringing of most men prepares them to naturally meet these two needs and thus to experience what could be called “masculine sufficiency,” which means they feel adequately congruent with their gender and they have adequate friendships with other males. They experience sufficient amounts of masculinity both internally and interpersonally.

Our observations are that, for most men who have experienced same–sex attraction, one or both of these needs has been left unmet resulting in some degree of masculine insufficiency. We have also observed with much consistency that by removing the psychological and emotional barriers to meeting these needs, learning how to get them met, and then doing the work required to fulfill them, sexual feelings toward other men tend to decrease and feelings of personal masculinity and brotherhood toward other men tend to increase.

Genderedness

The second component of gender wholeness—having a healthy sense of connection with the opposite sex—also includes a couple of different elements. The first element has to do with something called genderedness, which refers to the reality of having two different sexes that are distinct and different from one another in terms of physical, behavioral, and psychological traits and cultural roles. Most people are very aware of those distinctions. They are aware of the blatant anatomical distinctions between males and females. And most are aware of the more subtle differences in the ways men and women relate, experience emotion, and communicate; in our perceptions, thinking styles, and values. Most men experience these differences cognitively, meaning that they know what the differences are. They also experience the differences on an emotional and physical level, meaning that they feel something different in the presence of a woman from what they feel around other men.

Complementarity

Genderedness is the foundation for the second element of healthy connection with the opposite sex, which is the sense of complementarity that the two sexes experience toward each other. Complementarity implies a favorable relationship between the two sexes where the natural traits of each sex fulfill, balance, and refine the other. Most men see the opposite sex as desirable and as having something valuable to contribute to them. And they see themselves as having something valuable to contribute to them.

Our observations are that most men who have experienced same-sex attraction don’t experience women as complementary to their maleness. Nor do they experience themselves as having much that they can—or want to—contribute to them. And while they may have a basic awareness of genderedness, many same-sex attraction men struggle a bit to comprehend the extent of the distinctions between men and women. We have also observed that those men who are able to strengthen or develop attractions toward women have experienced growth in their sense of complementarity.

So gender wholeness is about completion with our own gender—feeling sufficiently masculine and having sufficient connections with other men. And it is about having a healthy sense of completion through the opposite sex—experiencing the natural distinctions between the two genders and the way in which these opposites complement each other. In short it is wholeness within our self and wholeness with our opposite.