Social Issues

Who Gets to Decide Others’ Gender Identities?

Who gets to decide others' identities? - image of trans pride flag

Last week, I heard in the news that the Vatican released a statement essentially saying that transgender identities simply doesn’t exist.  It seems unlikely to be a coincidence that this was done during Pride Month.

Dismissing transgender identities brings to mind a similar question to what’s raised by the abortion debate bubbling away in the United States.  Why do certain groups feel that they have the right to broadly dictate which individual experiences (in the case of gender) and choices (in the case of reproductive rights) are or are not valid?

The Vatican and Catholic education

The document announced by the Vatican, “Male and Female He Created Them“, was put together by the Congregation for Catholic Education to address the “educational crisis” regarding how the issue of gender should be handled by Catholic schools.

The document rejects what it calls “gender theory”, which “denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisages a society without sexual differences, thereby eliminating the anthropological basis of the family.”  It argues that while some curricula “allegedly convey a neutral conception of the person and of life, yet in fact reflect an anthropology opposed to faith and to right reason.”  It adds that this has “undoubtedly helped to destabilize the family as an institution.”  Under gender theory, “human identity becomes the choice of the individual, one which can also change over time.”

The document explains that in the spirit of dialogue, it’s important to listen to what people espousing “gender theory” have to say, including: “The ideal presented is that the individual should be able to choose his or her own status, and that society should limit itself to guaranteeing this right, and even providing material support, since the minorities involved would otherwise suffer negative social discrimination.”  So the Vatican considers this a bad thing?

This quote, by referencing progress towards maturity, speaks to the document’s underlying purpose, informing Catholic education.  “In fact, it is from [their] sex that the human person receives the characteristics which, on the biological, psychological and spiritual levels, make that person a man or a woman, and thereby largely condition his or her progress towards maturity and insertion into society.”

Who gets to decide?

While the Vatican obviously can and does make decisions about things pertaining to the Catholic faith, I still wonder why they feel entitled to dictate to the faithful what identities are or are not acceptable.  What’s most concerning about this particular document is that it’s intended for use by Catholic schools.  This means there are going to be kids attending Catholic school and being told that who they are inside—well, that simply does not exist.  Not because God told Moses on the mountain “thou shalt not be transgender”, or because Jesus didn’t welcome trans people with the same love shown to the rest of his followers, but because the Vatican has decided that only a certain way of being is acceptable.

There’s also an unmistakable whiff of hypocrisy given the numerous instances of child sexual abuse by priests that the Church hushed up and dealt with by shuffling priests off to another parish.  It’s not acceptable for someone to identify as transgender, but pedophiliac priests, many of whom engaged in homosexual acts, are welcomed and allowed to be in positions of power and administer sacraments.

Potential for harm

The potential harms associated with this stance on the part of the Catholic Church are high.  Children are placed in Catholic schools because of their parents’ choices, whether or not they themselves have made any sort of conscious choice to adopt the Catholic faith.  Transgender individuals are already at an increased risk of suicide, and if a kid’s school is teaching them that what they’re feeling is entirely unacceptable, and in fact simply doesn’t exist, what kind of outcomes is that likely to produce?

Conversely, what are the potential harms to accepting people as they are?  Obviously, the Church isn’t going to jump up and suddenly embrace transgender identities or start marrying homosexual couples, but can’t there be a comfortable medium of live and let live?  Why not welcome people as they are and let God do the judging?  Because when organizations start telling people who they can or cannot be, and what choices they can or can not make, we move away from love and towards division and strife.

Personally, my choice is love.

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20 thoughts on “Who Gets to Decide Others’ Gender Identities?”

  1. I am so sick to death over the Catholic Church voicing their opinions on how others MUST Live! Bullshit!
    Boy, if you didn’t mention the fact that priest all over this world have abused children, this comment would have been significantly longer and louder.
    Why can’t everybody just be what and who they want to be? Is it hurting another person? NOPE! Is it affecting anyone else’s life if they a transgender, gay, black, white, green, or purple? NOPE!
    Some people like the US government should stay the **** away from a woman’s vagina and uterus!
    Some people better step off their high pedestals and horses, and shut the **** up!
    Let people just live without conflict for once!

      1. Honestly I’m just sick of religious dogma in the first place. Man made rules to control the masses. The Catholic Church does have a special kind of hypocrisy going on though.

        1. It’s unfortunate in so many ways, and if they backed off the man-made rules they’d probably have more people interested in getting involved with their churches.

  2. I love this article, but especially the way you end it. I agree that we are causing a lot of strife and separation by constantly giving people rules on who they should or shouldn’t be while also putting a lot of opinion into scripture as if their opinion is fact. I too am for loving others, because I believe that while Jesus DID correct and lead us from sin…he loved first and foremost and without holding any of it back…because he VALUES us and isn’t just out to make us robots of perfection.

  3. I’m not terribly surprised that some major Christian religion or other has come out with that kind of thinking and put it down in writing. I think a person is allowed to be whatever they want to be. However, having said that, I think perhaps things have swung a bit too far too. I have never been gender ‘confused’ nor felt wrong in my own body or any of the reasons given by transgendered individuals as to why they felt the need for such a striking and life altering change; but. I also think children (under the age of 12 and perhaps under the age of at least 16) can’t and should not be allowed to make such decisions FOR THEMSELVES. They might know irreversably, that they’re in the ‘wrong body’, but they also might have been influenced by the huge amount of media attention that is given to ‘famous’ people who’ve made the change. Children might be influenced to do it because it’s trendy, not because they even know what they are (yet). And maybe they do. The thing is that religion, politics, and any other factor like that has no business dictating to a person what they can or cannot do. The person, for themselves, must choose. Free will. But common sense also needs to factor in, in my opinion.

    1. And I think that common sense factor should ideally be coming from parents rather than external influences. But then again, sadly common sense isn’t so common…

  4. girl i’ve literally got a post scheduled for next week telling people to basically mind their own business and stop being anti-trans.. great minds think alike! :’)

  5. Leave it to the catholic church to do this! They think they can control everything and its a disgrace that they can get away with this kinda bullshit!

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