Catholics Wrong About Being Trans
The Church has NO teaching on what it means to be trans.
The Church has NO teaching on what it means to be trans.
[In the last episode of Trans Call-In Radio, I promised talking with a Catholic priest about trans identity. Fact is, one Catholic priest’s (including the Pope’s) view of trans issues is not definitive. So, instead of the usual cheeky Trans Call-In motif, I’m presenting this straight on, to capture it in a more direct way.]
Up front, you need to know that:
(1) I’m Catholic (but not in the way the Vatican wants me to be);
(2) I used to be, when I hated myself, a conservative Catholic who taught in a Catholic high school and accused trans persons of self-mutilation, only to later discover I was trans (MtF). I was wrong then in what I said and hideous for the anguish I caused. But I can now tell you what the Catholic Church gets wrong and hideous. All I can say about what’s changed in me is—”and now for something completely different …”
Strike One—They Get Their Own Teaching Wrong
First, there is no set-in-stone Church teaching on the trans experience. Period. You won’t find it in the Catechism.
Yet, a sincere Catholic-priest friend of mine has publicly said “I understand and am sympathetic to persons with (and I will call it this) a ‘condition’ (same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria), but I do not believe forging an identity based on this condition and then acting out in ways which I believe (as does the Church) are contrary to human dignity is the proper way forward.”
This is one priest among others who is preaching what they think is Church teaching. It isn’t.
That doesn’t stop Pope Francis and the Congregation for Catholic Education from using their bully pulpit to call trans people an annihilation of nature. But there’s no dogma to back that.
Strike Two—They Get Science Wrong
Not only do they get their own teaching wrong—Strike One—but they hideously trot out 800-year-old “science.” Strike Two.
Catholic professor, Robert George, labels the transgender experience a “gnosticism,” claiming that “sex changes are biologically impossible [because it reverses] so many already-differentiated organs and other sexual traits that one wouldn’t end up with the same organism. (I suspect that that point is reached at least quite early in utero.)”
Wrong. The brain-structure changes that determine gender identity happen LATE in utero. The proven evidence that trans persons’ brains correspond to their gender identity, regardless of what sexual reproductive organs they have, demonstrates a biological REALITY that shows George’s argument to be the “impossibility.” Ignorance armed with a philosophy degree parading expertise in biological science is not just ignorance but the harmful agenda of the demagogue.
The Real Science on Being Trans
This Harvard Blog covers the contemporary understanding of brain-structure biology behind the transgender experience. Here are three of the NIH studies on which the Harvard Blog is based:
In addition, this ScienceDirect article pithily relates that trans individuals’ brains are aligned to the gender with which they identify, not to the shape of their genitalia or arrangement of their chromosomes).
gender dysphoria [is] not a pathology, but a mismatch between who we truly are and who the world tells us we are)
Biological sex is not just XX/XY chromosomes. This Scientific American article sums up the reality behind chromosomes, sex, and gender. Read this trans person’s take on that.
The Gender Binary Fallacy
Gender is NOT what we have between our legs. That’s sex (i.e., the reproductive plumbing in question). Gender is a social construct. In the West, that construct is a dualistic reduction to male and female (the gender binary).
The European/Western assignment of gender solely as male or female is lonely among world and historical cultures, as this article on Gender and Genetics from the World Health Organization relates. Multiple Native American, Indian, South American, African, Inuit, Asian, Pacific Islander, Australian Aboriginal, and other cultures recognize multiple genders.
The Real Deal—Gender Identity
Gender Identity is not a social construct but rather our deeply held, internal sense of ourselves as masculine, feminine, a blend of both, neither, or something else. That includes our chosen name. Many of us were mistakenly assigned a gender [social construct] at birth that does not match our gender identity [a biological and psychological reality]. This was my case for 50+ years, miring me in gender dysphoria — itself, not a pathology, but a mismatch between who we truly are and who the world tells us we are).
Strike Three—Whiffing At A TERFy Shadow
The Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education (CCE) recently promulgated that “Gender theory … speaks of a gradual process of denaturalization, that is a move away from nature and towards an absolute option for the decision of the feelings of the human subject.”
The Pope and a Vatican Congregation saying so doesn’t make it Church teaching. It just makes it loud balderdash. Pope Francis and the CCE trade the proven biological basis of gender identity for their own subjective feelings.
The “gender theory” to which Pope Francis and the CCE errantly refer is the ideology of certain radical feminists (by which I do NOT mean all feminists, by any means) who condemn trans persons (look up “TERF”). That radical theory seeks to obliterate gender distinctions. Trans people are all about gender identities being natural, distinct, or blended without eradicating distinction. Science shows that trans persons’ experiences are not subjective “feelings.” The Pope and a Vatican Congregation saying so doesn’t make it Church teaching. It just makes it loud balderdash. Pope Francis and the CCE trade the proven biological basis of gender identity for their own subjective feelings.
Will the Real Gnostic Stand Up? (Ahem … Prof. George)
If anything, the Western gender binary is the subjective, gnostic construct that denies what is scientifically true of our bodies, brains, and psychological identity. Understanding that I’ve always been a woman connects me with my bodily existence in a way I hadn’t previously been. I wasn’t baptized as a “boy” or a “girl”; I was baptized a child of G-d. Trans people are so much more in touch with their bodily reality than any ivory-tower professor, who isn’t being killed or denied human rights and dignity because of his biologically proven identity. Trans people, sadly, are. And some Church blowhards enable it.
Understanding that I’ve always been a woman connects me with my bodily existence in a way I hadn’t previously been. I wasn’t baptized as a “boy” or a “girl”; I was baptized a child of G-d. Trans people are so much more in touch with their bodily reality than any ivory-tower professor.
If It’s Broke, Don’t Fix It?
Last, for those who say it isn’t “right” to change what G-d has made — we every day—including Catholic priests—alter our bodies in one way or another: vaccinations, taking pain reliever, orthodontia, heart stents, contacts, hair coloring, rogaine, viagra, plastic surgery, diets, gastric bypass, surgeries to correct genetic/physical defects. None of those are “denaturalization.” Rather, something doesn’t square with our bodily reality; thanks be to the grace of human endeavor, inspired by the Holy Spirit in which Catholics believe, for the medicine we have developed, with many Catholics responsible for these advances.
When Your Ideology Is Broke, Fix It
What is broke is the cocksure attitude engendered in some by the Catholic Church that everything is black-&-white-decided (as if it ever was). Advice from personal experience: if you don’t know what you’re talking about, shut your yapper and let those who are actually going through it be the teachers. I learned that lesson, and, damn, I’m glad that today I’m a fabulous babe for it.
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