It’s 2017, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and other religious leaders from various sects thought it would be a good idea to sign an open letter that attempts to delegitimize the identities of transgender people, calling their existence a “false idea” that “goes against reason.”
“A person’s discomfort with his or her sex, or the desire to be identified as the other sex, is a complicated reality that needs to be addressed with sensitivity and truth,” the letter states. The letter’s signatories made sure to add the disclaimer that trans people deserve “to be heard and treated with respect” when they are “wrestling with this challenge.”
The letter, titled “Created Male and Female,” actually encourages parents to reject their kids who identify as transgender. In addition to the Catholic bishops, the letter was also signed by leaders from the Anglican Church in North America, the North American Lutheran Church, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, among others.
“Children especially are harmed when they are told that they can ‘change’ their sex or, further, given hormones that will affect their development and possibly render them infertile as adults,” the religious leaders wrote. “Parents deserve better guidance on these important decisions, and we urge our medical institutions to honor the basic medical principle of ‘first, do no harm.’ Gender ideology harms individuals and societies by sowing confusion and self-doubt. The state itself has a compelling interest, therefore, in maintaining policies that uphold the scientific fact of human biology and supporting the social institutions and norms that surround it.”
The above statement is a remarkable in the way it promotes the very thing that perpetuates “confusion and self-doubt” in kids struggling to find their identity. What these Catholic leaders are endorsing is parents telling their children that their inborn nature flies in the face of “scientific fact” and “human biology.” Trans people are products of human biology just as we all are. As ThinkProgress points out, parents who take this approach are more likely to alienate and destroy the mental health of their children.
When families reject their children for being transgender, it can significantly increase their depression and suicidal thinking. But when families affirm their kids in their gender identities, it’s one of the strongest buffers against those consequences, allowing them to be as happy and healthy as their peers who aren’t transgender. Trans kids are not full of “confusion and self-doubt,” and treating them like they are, as these religious leaders recommend, can be remarkably damaging.
According to the letter, the cultural movement to accept trans people as equal members of society is the real problem, because it “compels people to either go against reason — that is, to agree with something that is not true — or face ridicule, marginalization, and other forms of retaliation.”
The Catholic church’s “liberal” Pope Francis has only enabled this continued adherence to bigotry. Although he’s been lauded as pushing the church towards a more accepting stance on LGBT people, his rhetoric on trans people sounds reminiscent of the right-wing. According to the Associated Press, the Pope once referred to the teaching of trans acceptance in schools as “ideological colonization.”
“It’s one thing if a person has this tendency and also changes sex,” the pope said. “It’s another thing to teach this in school to change mentalities.” Just the day before, Francis claimed that transgender people are launching a “world war against marriage.”
We have a long way to go.
Featured image via screen grab (YouTube)