An initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

"We share a common humanity, but our sexual differences are essential to who we are."

Note: Over the next few weeks, we’ll be reading through the Viewer’s Guide for the video “Made for Each Other.” In the video, married couple Josh and Carrie reflect on the meaning of sexual difference. Each section of the Viewer’s Guide takes a quote from either Josh or Carrie and fleshes it out. The goal of the Viewer’s Guide is to help you, the reader, become more confident in promoting and defending the meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Section 6 is about the equality of man and woman and how sexual difference is relevant not only to marriage but to all human action and relationships.

“We share a common humanity, but our sexual differences are essential to who we are.”

Carrie’s line says something significant about men and women. Every woman and man share the same humanity and the same dignity as human persons made in the image of God. Each is a complete human person. They’re equal in their humanity and dignity, but they’re not simply the same. Their sexual difference, as a man or a woman, remains important at every level. This is why talk about sexual difference not only concerns marriage. Our sexual identity as a man or a woman is meant to be acknowledged and accepted. [i] It has significance for all the various ways we relate to others, whether we’re married or not, whether we’re a mother or father or not.

For example, the significance of male and female differentiation goes beyond reproduction or procreation. Various branches of science, such as those mentioned above, can show that men and women differ in a whole variety of dimensions. We may have conversations differently; take risks differently; form and process relationships differently; respond to threats differently. These differences do not imply that one sex is superior to the other. Men and women are different, validly different. Admitting this does not diminish either sex but serves to enhance their unity.

Of course, men and women differ among themselves, as well as differing from each other. Sex differences in each and every trait need not be present in each and every individual woman or man. But the structural differences between male and female bodies allow a husband and a wife to join together in the one-flesh union and bring forth new life together. 

Our maleness or femaleness is essential to our identity as persons. Our gender is not something that is pasted onto us as an after-thought, or that is an incidental part of who we are. Male and female are two different ways of being human, body and soul. When we deny our identity as sexually differentiated beings, we diminish our humanity.



[i] See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 2332-2333: “Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul….Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarity are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life.”

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