Massachusetts Bishops Offer Temperate Response to New Transgender Law

July 14, 2016

mcc-logoCatholic bishops in Massachusetts have offered a tempered, though not perfect, response to newly passed anti-discrimination law aimed at protecting transgender people. Their statement improves upon other church leaders’ responses to this contentious human rights issue in other U.S. states.

Republican Governor Charlie Baker signed the bill in law last Friday. Building on employment protections passed in 2011, the new law provides non-discrimination protections based on gender identity for all public accommodations in the state. The Massachusetts Catholic Conference, representing the state’s bishops, released a statement which said, in part:

“While the purpose and intent of the legislation is to provide protection and access to public accommodations for transgender individuals in the Commonwealth, the issue of its implementation will require both careful oversight and respect for all individuals using such public accommodations. . .

“The understanding of and respect for transgender persons has only recently commanded widespread attention. The complex challenge of crafting legislative protections for some in our community while meeting the needs of the wider population will require sensitive application of the legislation just passed.”

The Conference statement suggested debate will continue, citing contested gender and sexuality issues addressed by Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation, Amoris LaetitiaBut the Conference urged civility, concluding:

“Debate about this legislation and its implementation will undoubtedly continue in some form. It will inevitably touch on themes not easily captured by law. . .We urge respect in this discussion for all those whose rights require protection. In our parishes, schools and other institutions, the Church will respect the civil law while upholding the principles of our faith and our religious freedom.”

Public accommodation protections for transgender people have been hotly debated in the U.S., with more than 100 pieces of anti-LGBT legislation having been debated in state legislatures this year. Debates about these bills, and the broader issue of transgender public accommodations, have very often become rancorous.

The country’s Catholic bishops, for the most part, have responded poorly. North Carolina’s bishops welcomed that state’s HB 2 law which mandates restroom use according to assigned sex at birth, though one bishop later qualified his support. Bishop Joseph Kopacz of Jackson offered qualified praise for Mississippi’s HB 1523 law, a law which allowed for some discrimination.  It was described by one state legislator as “the most hateful bill I have seen in my career in this legislature.” Bishops in Nebraska actively opposed newly-approved policies to protect transgender student-athletes in the state’s schools. And at least two dioceses criticized President Barack Obama’s directive mandating public school students be able to use restrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identity. It is worth noting, too, that Vatican official Cardinal Robert Sarah, while addressing the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, referred to transgender rights as “demonic.”

Respecting transgender people should be a “fairly simple thing to do,” to quote Jesuit Fr. James Martin, but unfortunately this has been too difficult for many church leaders. Issues around gender identity and expression, civil law, and true religious liberty can be very complicated, as Bondings 2.0 has noted at least twice (here and here).

The church’s response should be respectful, a simple thing to do, but should not rely upon simple answers where nuance is required. The Massachusetts’ bishops response in this case should have highlighted more strongly Catholic teaching about opposing discrimination, but even with that deficiency, its tempered tone and willingness to dialogue is a step forward.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Westboro Baptist Church Targets Catholic University; More LGBT Campus News

June 7, 2016
12961636_1116402241725421_4715285919353902255_n

Students gathered at Loyola University Maryland

Graduation ceremonies concluded and degrees conferred, it is time for the final “Campus Chronicles” of this spring semester.

Below are several of many LGBT-related happenings in Catholic higher education. These testify, once again, to the good work that ensures campuses are safer and more inclusive spaces for LGBTQ students and staff, and also serve as a model for the rest of our church.

Westboro Baptist Church Pickets Jesuit Campus

Protests by the infamous Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) led to unity at Loyola University Maryland, Baltimore, where community members rallied in support of LGBTQ members.  WBC is a Topeka, Kansas-based church, founded by Rev. Fred Phelps, whose members travel across the nation with vile messages on their signs to protest LGBTQ equality.

Only three WBC members were actually present at the April protest, reported the Baltimore Post-Examiner. They were met by many more counter-protesters, including alumni, and at least one hundred current students. University officials barred WBC from campus, with University spokesperson Nick Alexopulos saying the school celebrated diversity and would “remain united. . .as One Loyola.”

WBC had targeted Loyola Maryland in part because of its two LGBT student organizations, reported The Baltimore Sun. Student Kelly Mueller defended these organizations in advance of the protests, writing in The Odyssey:

“When you attacked the Jesuits, the Theology Club, Spectrum, and OUT Loyola, you attacked our entire community, and we will not stand for it. . .If you come to campus, I hope you can see past your bigotry and recognize the true spirit of God’s love present on our campus.”

12439401_1116402225058756_145249102917082545_n

Sign used for WBC counter-protests

Spectrum, LGBT and Allies group,  said on Facebook that the counter-protest meant “the message of love prevailed.” WBC’s protests coincided with the University’s Sexual and Gender Diversity Awareness Week, which reports on social media said was quite successful. WBC had also planned to picket Archbishop Curley High School and Catholic High School of Baltimore, too, but there are no reports that they actually showed up at either school.

Other Notable Happenings

The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA will begin offering gender-neutral housing options next year to accommodate trans* students and those students seeking a more affirming LGBTQ living environment.

Marquette University, Milwaukee, announced the new LGBT+ Alumni Council which will expand development outreach to LGBT alumni and raise scholarship funds designated for LGBT students at the University.

Saint Francis University in Loretto, PA hosted its first LGBTQ Awareness Week in March, reported student newspaper The Troubador. Aimed at fostering a respect for everyone consistent with the school’s Franciscan mission, the week’s programming featured panel discussions, a film screening, and faculty lectures.

USA Today’s recent article exploring college athletics and Title IX religious exemptions positively featured the inclusive policies of two Catholic colleges: the University of Notre Dame and Fordham University. While a number of Catholic institutions have sought to exempt themselves from LGBT protections on religious grounds, this article reveals the positive steps which other Catholic schools have taken to protect all students in advance of new regulations.

Know more good news happening for LGBT inclusion in Catholic higher education? Let us know in the ‘Comments’ section below or send a tip to info@newwaysministry.org.

This post is part of our “Campus Chronicles” series on Catholic higher education. You can read more stories by clicking “Campus Chronicles” in the Categories section to the right or by clicking here. For the latest updates on Catholic LGBT issues, subscribe to our blog in the upper right hand corner of this page.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Church “a Source of Consolation,” Says Philippines’ First Transgender Politician

June 2, 2016
geraldine-roman-20160510_7c75e341f328484d8eb6549d209ae481

Geraldine Roman

Geraldine Roman, the Philippines’ first elected transgender representative to that nation’s congress, spoke revealingly about her Catholic faith in a recent interview with CNN.

Asked how her identity as a trans woman has affected her work as a Filipino congresswoman, Roman answered in the interview:

“What really hurt me the most was when they judged my relationship with God, because my entire life, I have tried my best to maintain a relationship with God and to be a good person. And for people who do not know me, who do not know my heart, to judge me, especially in public, it was painful.”

Roman said that she did not mind the questions and even criticism she faced for her gender identity and decision to undergo gender-confirming surgery. By doing her work and doing it well, Roman hopes to convince critics that “we’re just ordinary people and we deserve respect.”

Roman noted that she “[had] not heard any kind of condemnation from the Church,” whose bishops retain influence in the Philippines and frequently weigh in on political affairs. Indeed, the congresswoman cited the church as a “source of consolation” as she came to know and embrace herself:

“One is born a transgender person, so he or she has no choice. And when you have no choice about something, I don’t know why there should be moral judgment attached to that condition. Even before undergoing my sex realignment surgery, I’ve been a practicing Catholic, so just to be sure, I had to consult the Jesuits at Ateneo de Manila University, where I was educated. And they told me this: ‘Geraldine, the body is just a shell. If you think by modifying the outside, you can become a more loving, more generous, and happier person, go ahead, because what is important is the heart, and God looks at the heart and not what you have in between your legs.’

“So for me, the Church I belong to has not treated me with rejection. In fact it has been a source of consolation for me, even during my growing years, when the internal struggle was very intense and I would often get depressed. The incidence of depression among transgender people is very high, until they have that definitive moment when finally, their body is aligned with their psyche, with their mind, with their heart. So the Church was a source of consolation for me.”

In a separate interview with PhilStar, she cited two other incidents of church ministers offering support. At her 10th high school reunion in 1994, the current principal introduced Roman to teachers as “the first alumna” of their all-male high school.  In addition,  Jesuits at Fordham University prayed for and ministered to her when Roman underwent gender-confirming surgery in New York.

Roman shared, too, about being raised in a “very Catholic” family which frequently discussed the meaning of their lives and God’s will for them. She credited her parents, both politicians themselves, with heavily influencing her involvement in politics. Her father taught her that every person has dignity as a child of God with “a special purpose in life.”

Roman concluded the interview with the hope she would not merely be “the transgender politician,” but Geraldine Roman the good legislator who helped people. Still, she remains committed to legislation that helps LGBT people because she understands firsthand the discrimination and difficulties such communities face. She identified civil unions as a goal, saying that while it is not marriage it is a starting point to ensure same-gender couples can access equal rights.

Roman’s words reveal how seamlessly one’s Catholic faith and desire to serve others pair with LGBT advocacy for the benefit of all, a revolutionary message for a very Catholic nation.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Complicating Catholic Understandings of Sex and Gender

May 23, 2016

SR-Church-Easter-candle-01 (2)Respecting LGBTQI people should be a “fairly simple thing to do,” as Jesuit Fr. James Martin remarked in an interview earlier this week. But understanding the diversity of gender identities can be complex even for committed allies, given how broad and nuanced transgender and intersex issues are. And sometime the consequences of not understanding and respecting can be deeply damaging.

Christians, including Catholics, have spearheaded anti-LGBT efforts like North Carolina’s HB2 law, ignoring the concrete reality that non-discrimination protections definitively improve LGBT people’s well-being. These opponents opt instead for faulty religious arguments to justify their opposition, arguments which theologian Katie Grimes took on at Women in TheologyShe posed a difficult challenge to anti-transgender Christians, asking:

“[W]hat in your life has lead you to believe that love, which God epitomizes perfectly, means wanting anything but happiness, in every sense of the word, for other people?”

Christian opposition to transgender identities is often rooted in literal readings of Genesis. They interpret creation story texts to mean God creates people only in the male/female binary. To such thought, Grimes responded:

“They twist the word of God in the shape of their own preconceptions.  They do not think to ask, ‘how do we know what makes a male a male and a female a female?’  They instead assume that God defines masculinity and femininity in the same way they do.”

Against arguments rooted in biological determinism, Grimes criticized how some Christians “deify the bodies . . we receive at birth.” She wrote:

“Besides turning natural law into a cliché (so babies with cleft palettes or heart defects ought not undergo corrective surgery?), this theory ends up unwittingly celebrating the very queerness it seeks to contain.  If we take this view seriously, then we would have to also say that God naturally creates many human beings (about 1 in 2000) whose bodies do not fulfill our socially constructed definitions of man and woman.”

Ultimately, Grimes concluded that anti-transgender Christians “sell God short” because they “assume that God’s imagination and creativity is no bigger than their own.”

Catholic opponents specifically, including some U.S. bishops, have cited supposed church teaching  in their objections to transgender equality. They claim there is clear and defined church teaching on gender identity that simply needs to be promoted. Melinda Selmys questioned the validity of this claim at her blog Catholic Authenticity, writing:

“Whenever I hear this, I suspect that the person making the comment has had little to no experience actually dealing with the transgender, queer or intersex communities. It’s basically a position that you can arrive at only if you’re taking the problems home, painting them out of their context and looking at them in a theological laboratory where everything is very simple and clear-cut.”

Selmys then listed eight scenarios drawn from her experiences as a Catholic which reveal the many complexities of gender identity, asking after each one what the reader would do. For instance, an intersex person assigned male at birth identifies as a woman upon reaching adolescence and feels called to religious life as a nun. Is this person accepted? Or a woman religious who cares for survivors of human trafficking knows she must minister to the trans survivors according to their gender identity if she is to be successful. How does the sister proceed? Or parents consult a canon lawyer about their intersex child. The canonist recommends corrective surgery while intersex adults criticize such surgeries as painful and violating. What do the parents do? Each of Selmys’ scenarios contains many intricacies that defy simple answers.

Failing to engage gender identity issues in their fullness has negative pastoral, as well as political, consequences. For instance, a Catholic priest in New York said being transgender is the same as considering oneself a chicken because “something has gone wrong in my feelings. . .I need help.” Fr. Andrew Carrozza’s op-ed continued in this vein, attacking transgender people in the name of faith. The priest’s approach is unfortunately similar to other Christian opponents who have refused to listen to transgender people’s experiences, and relied upon the same faulty religious thought critiqued by Grimes and Selmys.

Mollie Wilson O’Reilly criticized Carrozza in Commonweal, and her comments are broadly applicable to Catholic opponents of any form of LGBT equality. While affirming a place for the church in conversations about sexuality and gender, Wilson O’Reilly wrote:

“Carrozza is making the gentlest version of the church’s basic claim that we have nothing left to learn about human sexuality. This claim is simply not plausible to a growing number of people, especially young people, and volunteering it with placid confidence in the face of something as complicated as gender identity and public accommodations for transgender people is not doing anything for the church’s credibility.”

She added that ” ‘naive’ [is] the kindest word that comes to mind” for pastoral ministers like Fr. Carrozza who believe “gentle ridicule” is an appropriate response.

The writer H.L. Mencken once said, “For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”  Catholics must resist the temptation to reduce transgender and intersex issues, even if such distillation is well-intentioned. And it is worth asking, too, whether the questions raised about gender identities are themselves even complex enough. We have to ask and keep asking the right questions–and answer and keep answering in dynamic ways to avoid simple and wrong answers.

As Katie Grimes made clear, this debate matters beyond correcting the wrongness of simple answers. Simple answers employed in the name of the church are actively harmful in justifying prejudice, discrimination, and, at times, even violence against LGBT people. We must commit ourselves to complicating constantly our understandings of gender and of sexuality to ensure we are always reading the signs of the times in new ways, with new eyes and open hearts.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Fr. James Martin: Respecting Transgender People “Fairly Simple Thing to Do”

May 19, 2016
MartinInclusion

Share this graphic on Facebook

Jesuit Fr. James Martin again affirmed LGBT inclusion, saying transgender people using restrooms according to their gender identity “seems a fairly simple thing to do.” Meanwhile, U.S. bishops intensified their criticism of expanding transgender equality.

In an interview with the National Catholic Reporter, Martin was asked about the federal government’s new directive mandating transgender students be allowed to use gender-segregated facilities, like restrooms and locker rooms, according to their gender identity. Martin responded:

“I don’t know a whole lot about that issue, but I would say that I don’t understand the problem with letting transgender people use bathrooms that they feel comfortable in. Personally, I think it’s overblown and that people’s responses are really strange. I don’t know that much about transgender people but that’s all the more reason for us to try and treat them with dignity.

“I thought the comment from Attorney General Lynch was beautiful, that we are with you, we’re going to try to help you. Just as the church needs to treat gay and lesbians with ‘respect, compassion and sensitivity,’ which is in the catechism, it should be the same with transgender people. And letting them use the bathroom seems a fairly simple thing to do.”

Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo and Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha, representing the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committees on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, and on Catholic Education, called the federal directive “deeply disturbing” in a statement. They said the directive failed to balance “legitimate concerns about privacy and security” and “short-circuits” ongoing conversations about gender. Malone and Lucas quoted Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia which says youth must “accept their own body as it was created.”

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, pushed back against the bishops’ statement and their use of Pope Francis to justify discrimination:

“We believe, as do many Catholics, that our transgender kin reflect the immensity and diversity of God’s creativity. They challenge us to humbly re-examine traditional beliefs about sex, gender, identity, and human relationships, and to acknowledge the limitations of our current understanding in these areas. We urge the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to engage in dialogue with transgender youth and adults, as well as their families, so they can better understand the pastoral and practical needs of these communities.”

Fr. Martin also commented on Pope Francis’ impact on LGBT issues  generally. Martin said it is “hard to overstate the impact” that Francis’ papacy has had in welcoming LGBT people. But the Jesuit priest criticized the institutional church for not providing more outreach to LGBT people, and offered three points to enhance pastoral care and improve ecclesial inclusion:

“First, by listening to their experience. Usually LGBT people are preached at instead of listened to. Second, by going out [of] their way to make them feel welcome. Third, by including them in leadership positions as anybody else would be, as Eucharistic ministers and lectors and things like that. But the first thing is listening to them. What is their experience?”

What is readily apparent from these Catholic responses to the federal directive protecting transgender students in public schools is who has listened to and come to know LGBT people–and who has not. Too many bishops have not asked themselves nor informed their ministry with the question proposed by Martin, “What are the experiences of LGBT people?” Pope Francis’ own deficiencies on matters of gender and sexuality, readily apparent in Amoris Laetitia, seem to stem from a failure to ask this question more publicly and proactively.

LGBT non-discrimination protections, for students and for everyone else, can be readily defended using Catholic teaching. But personal stories and relationships are perhaps more powerful sources for our theology and our advocacy today. So before another top Vatican official condemns trans identities as “demonic” or more U.S. bishops keep opposing LGBT civil rights, perhaps a pause for listening and for dialogue would be an appropriate next step. After that, respecting LGBT people should easily become a “fairly simple thing to do.”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Top Cardinal: Transgender Rights Are ‘Demonic’; Marriage Equality Is ‘Poison’

May 18, 2016
p1010111

Cardinal Robert Sarah speaking at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast

A top cardinal at the Vatican attacked transgender civil rights as “demonic” and compared marriage equality to “poison” during a speech before high-profile U.S. Catholics.

Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship, keynoted the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast yesterday morning in Washington, D.C. His address about family and religious freedom in the contemporary world narrowed into particularly harsh LGBT condemnations. Sarah attacked transgender equality in his speech, saying family is threatened:

“[T]hrough a demonic ‘gender ideology,’ a deadly impulse that is being experienced in a world increasingly cut off from God through ideological colonialism.”

Sarah said efforts towards “tolerance” were really religious persecution, part of an “insidious war” in the U.S. and worldwide to dismantle Catholic teaching. He criticized transgender non-discrimination legislation being debated in many states by his denial of trans identities altogether. He said “nothing could be simpler” than people assigned male at birth using a men’s restroom.

Sarah used portions of his address to attack marriage equality, too. He said the devil is “intent on destroying the family” through “distorted impositions of the family,” including same-gender relationships. The cardinal said non-traditional family arrangements “cause damage to little children” such that children experience “a deep existential doubt about love.” Marriage equality and other legal recognition of non-traditional arrangements is comparable to “putting bandages on an infected wound” while the wound “continues to poison the body.”

In addition to Cardinal Sarah, the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast featured Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Bishop Paul Loverde of Arlington, and Fr. Paul Scalia, a priest of the Arlington diocese who is son of late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Pope Francis appointed Sarah as the Vatican’s top liturgist in 2014. These are not the cardinal’s first or even worst negative words in relation to LGBT people. During the 2015 Synod on the Family, Sarah said the LGBT rights movement had “demonic origins” and compared it to Nazism and fascism.  Bondings 2.0‘s Francis DeBernardo, who covered the meeting from Rome, deemed Sarah’s comments the Synod’s “most homophobic remark”. The cardinal previously said marriage equality supporters sought to “destroy the family in Africa.

Is there a rational response to such repeated and irrational comments by Cardinal Sarah? I offer two thoughts.

First, contextual differences may account for a certain, limited amount of his remarks’ intensity. Speaking about spiritual warfare, including the demonic, is far more normative in Guinea, where he was archbishop, and other African contexts. Referencing the demonic is absolutely jarring in a U.S. Catholic context. Cultural differences, Guinean and Roman alike, may also account for the ways in which he misconstrues religious liberty in the U.S. and feeds a narrative of persecution proposed by this nation’s bishops. Sarah should have avoided partisan politics and spoken in a pastorally-sensitive manner during his address.

What is truly inexcusable are Cardinal Sarah’s metaphors about LGBT people and their relationships as a “deadly impulse” and “poison,” as well as his failure to engage contemporary understandings of gender and sexuality before issuing such harsh condemnations. His address shows almost no attention to pastoral realities, nor even the realities of public policy in the U.S. about which he ostensibly is commenting. Cardinal Sarah’s remarks about LGBT people and their civil rights are inconsistent with Pope Francis’ desire for a church of mercy. Rather, his remarks are dangerous words which he should retract and for which he should apologize.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Catholics Weigh In On Obama Administration’s Directive for Schools’ Bathrooms

May 16, 2016

Catholics have entered the national debate concerning transgender people using the bathroom of their identified gender.  This week, the debate spread nationally as President Obama’s Education and Justice Departments issued a directive to all public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom and locker room for the gender with which they identify.

Two Catholic dioceses have already weighed in opposing the debate, but a columnist for a national Catholic magazine is calling for a more compassionate response.

Bishop Thomas Tobin

Bishop Thomas Tobin

Rhode Island’s Bishop Thomas Tobin weighed in on Obama’s directive, saying to NBC 10 News:

“This seems to becoming just a politically driven agenda where is all this coming from, this transgenderism, affecting something as basic as the use of bathrooms and shower rooms and sports teams.”

Tobin called for compassion for transgender people, but at the same time denied their identity by quoting Scripture.  He told the news program:

” ‘I have no doubt there are some people for physiological or psychological reasons, and those people deserve all the support, respect, cooperation and assistance we can offer them.’

“But he finds the situation challenging.

” ‘I go back to the very basics and in the book of Genesis we read, ‘God created the human family.’ Male and female, he created them. There was no third option.’ “

By quoting Scripture out of context,  Tobin disregards the gender-diverse people mentioned in the Bible, such as the Ethiopian eunuch baptized by Philip (Acts 8:26-40).  The Ethiopian eunuch’s story is the first account of a Gentile converting to Christianity.  Moreover, Tobin fails to recognize that transgender people are not a “third option.”  They are living true to their experience of gender, beyond the biological markers, in their psychological, emotional, and spiritual lives.

Although Catholic and private schools are not included in the Obama administration’s directive, one school in Tobin’s diocese, Mt. St. Charles Academy, Woonsocket, has already made provisions for transgender students to use the facilities appropriate for their gender.

The Diocese of Lafayette, Indiana, also issued a statement concerning the new federal regulations, again, even though Catholic schools are not affected by it.  WFLI 18 television news quoted from the diocese’s opinion:

“Our first thought is that our Catholic schools are caring for other people’s children. Our Church-sponsored institutions (health care, universities, Catholic Charities) are rightfully upset when government agencies do not account for our concerns prior to issuing regulations. By the same token, Church leadership understands how upset our school parents might be if we changed important practices before accounting for their concerns.

“We should be cautious about the unintended effects that can arise when certain aspects of student sexuality or gender traits are spotlighted at ages where this might not be helpful to them. Given that both science and law are still hunting for adequate definitions of gender identity, it appears that the government is asking educators and parents to go along with a ‘best guess’ strategy.”

Much is wrong with the Diocese of Lafayette’s statement.  It is wrong to say that parental concerns were not accounted for.  Parents of transgender children have long had concerns for their youths’ safety, self-esteem, and identities.  Raising the specter that this policy will confuse other children is simply irresponsible.  The new bathroom policy provides an opportunity for education and sensitivity-training to help children better understand and respect their peers and themselves.  Finally,  science currently has a good, solid understanding of gender identity, and law is attempting to catch up with that.  This last argument by the diocese is clearly a red herring:  science and law have been clear about understandings of sexual orientation for decades now, but the diocese has not changed their views or policies on that topic yet.

Judith Valente

Judith Valente, who writes for America magazine, penned a column on the bathroom debate, noting that although Catholic schools are exempt from the regulations, these institutions should be prepared that changes may come their way in the future.  Unlike the two Catholic responses quoted above, though, Valente argues for a more compassionate response to transgender people.

Valente quotes Curt Richardson, an attorney and human resources director for Illinois’ Unit 5 school district, which has already confronted the bathroom issue and made appropriate accommodations for transgender students.  Richardson said that he tells parents who oppose the decision:

“If you’ve ever been around trans individuals, the amount of harassment they receive is just tremendous and then [there is] the correlation to suicide rates among transgender individuals. So you have to ask yourself, why would anyone subject themselves to that kind of harassment just to get in the girl’s restroom?”

Valente also recounted the painful experiences of a transgender student at an Illinois Catholic high school:

“I recently spoke with a student from an Illinois Catholic high school who was born female and now identifies as male. The student said administrators were uncomfortable discussing the transgender experience, let alone changes to bathroom or locker room policies. He said he had been sent home on one occasion for wearing a suit and tie to a school dance. Many teachers and students, he said, continue to call him by his female given name, though he had asked to be called by his preferred male name.

” ‘It’s really hard to be in class and just trying to learn, and somebody calls out your birth name and it’s like, oh, that’s not my name,’ the student said. ‘It’s really embarrassing and it makes me feel bad. And even though it’s all the time, it still hurts.’

“The student is active in several school clubs and has many friends among classmates but says he is considering transferring to another school for senior year. He wishes he could stay. ‘This is not something that is new, this is not some phase or fad that is going on right now. These are my feelings, this is who I am, this is part of me and part of the world,’ the student said. ‘There are so many people that are like me that are normal, people who just want to live their lives and not be hurt every day.’ “

Valente also interviewed Cameron Hurley, who graduated from Unit 5 schools, and who was one of the people who worked to change that district’s policy to accommodate transgender students.  Hurley underlined some reasons for the policy which are not often mentioned in the public debate:

“Hurley says one of the biggest arguments for giving transgender individuals the right to choose their restroom is that they put themselves at risk if they use a bathroom that corresponds with their anatomy but not how they look.

” ‘I pass as male, and if you’re going to force me to use the women’s restroom because I haven’t changed my anatomy to your liking that could be reported as a man in the women’s restroom, and then it becomes dangerous when police become involved in things like that,’ Hurley said.

” ‘Trans people are like everyone else. They want to go into the bathroom, do what they have to do and get out,’ Hurley added. In states that have anti-discrimination laws, there have been no reported incidents of anyone being attacked by a transgender person in a public restroom, he said.”

Bishops and diocesan officials would do well to be more like journalists:  actually going out and interviewing the people involved in and affected by proposed policies.  If these Church leaders would listen more, they can be educated to the reality that people experience.  Listening and accompanying, two traits that Pope Francis said bishops need to practice, really need to be used in the bathroom debate.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,336 other followers