Switching sexes? Transgender ideology and the Church

| Jonathan Liedl | September 26, 2017 | 16 Comments

Before Oct. 14, 2015, Emily Zinos admits she didn’t give much thought to transgenderism.

At that point in time, the mother of seven and parishioner of Holy Family in St. Louis Park considered the ideology, which advances the claim that gender and sexual identity are not inherently tied to biological sex, to be a “fringe issue.” In her estimation, it was something that played out in celebrity tabloids and progressive academic circles, but certainly had no direct impact on her or her family.

iStock/MHJ

An email from the principal of Nova Classical Academy, a public charter school in St. Paul where Zinos and her husband, Nick, enrolled several of their children at the time, announced that was about to change.

Under pressure from the parents of a newly enrolled kindergarten student who claimed to be “gender nonconforming,” the grade school principal announced that Nova would be “taking steps to support [the new student]” by introducing transgender ideology into the classroom. Through books like “My Princess Boy,” children as young as 5 would be introduced to the idea that their sexual identity was independent of their biological sex.

The decision, made with no prior notification to parents despite Nova’s long-standing record of parental involvement in curriculum selection, quickly divided the tight-knit school community. Parents like Zinos protested, but the Nova administration remained steadfast. School officials said they were legally obligated to accommodate the requests of the new kindergartner’s parents. The school paid for transgender ideology training for teachers and provided presentations for parents. Eventually, Nova adopted a “gender inclusion policy” that mirrored the recommendations of transgender activists.

Emily and Nick had a deep affinity for Nova, and had sent their children to the charter school for 13 years since it first began operating. But they were not willing to subject their kids to what they considered a warped vision of human sexuality. With heavy hearts, they joined several other parents and pulled their kids out of the school.

“I had no idea that [transgender ideology] would move so powerfully or so quickly into my family’s life,” Zinos said.

No longer fringe

Zinos’ surprise is understandable. Only five years ago, if a male kindergarten student were to claim he was a girl, his behavior would have been classified as “gender identity disorder” according to the then-current edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, known as the DSM. At the time, the DSM considered gender identity disorder to be a mental health condition to be treated, not an identity to be affirmed.

But in its most recent edition of the DSM, published in 2013, the APA replaced “gender identity disorder” with “gender dysphoria.” The change stressed that the incongruence between biological sex and gender identity should no longer be considered a disorder, and was only a mental health concern if it caused “distress.” If a patient exhibits gender dysphoria, the APA now recommends “gender-affirming therapy,” a “therapeutic stance that focuses on affirming a patient’s gender identity and does not try to ‘repair’ it.” “Gender-affirming therapy” includes options up to and including hormone treatment and sex re-assignment surgery.

The APA’s shift, which came after transgender activists petitioned for changes to the DSM, correlates with the rapid and widespread ascendancy of transgender ideology in American society, culture and law over the past few years.

In June 2014, Time magazine declared in its cover story that transgenderism was “America’s next civil rights frontier.” Transgender ideology is portrayed as the new normal throughout pop culture, be it through positive characterizations in television programs like Amazon Studios’ “Transparent” and Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black,” or profiles of “trans” people by publications as varied as Glamour and Sports Illustrated. Target, which announced in 2016 that customers and employees would be able to use whatever bathroom facility “corresponds to their gender identity,” now sells “preferred pronoun” buttons so individuals can convey the pronoun with which they prefer to be addressed, independent of their biological sex.

Transgender ideology has also been normalized through legal and political channels. Among other moves, the Obama administration included transgender hormone treatment and sex-reassignment surgery as required coverage options for health insurers receiving federal financial assistance, removed restrictions on transgendered individuals from serving openly in the armed forces, and pressured public schools into accommodating transgender students’ bathroom preferences at the risk of losing federal funding.

Although the Trump administration rolled back some of these provisions, pending court cases could solidify their standing, establishing a constitutional right to gender self-determination and mandating an accommodation. In other cases, government entities may feel emboldened by the Obama administration’s advancement of transgender ideology.

For instance, the Minnesota Department of Education has approved the use of a “transgender toolkit,” a 29-page document including many of the Obama administration’s transgender guidelines for public schools. Despite public opposition to the “toolkit” and the fact that the Obama executive order is no longer in effect, the department is supporting the document’s use in Minnesota public schools.

Rejection of a gift

This explosion of transgender ideology into mainstream politics and culture may be a relatively new phenomenon, but according to Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, the deeper agenda driving it is not.

“Transgender ideology is the latest part of the push to create a gender-neutral society,” said Adkins, whose work promoting the public policy initiatives of Minnesota’s bishops has underscored the expansion of transgender ideology in state politics. Adkins cites same-sex marriage and so-called “third-wave feminism” as other currents in this movement, which he said seek to “erase all societal distinctions based on sex,” replacing them with a concept of sex as something interchangeable and subjectively determined.

Such a view of human sexuality, Adkins said, is rooted in a “false anthropology” that gets who we are wrong, and therefore distorts one’s relationship with God.

“Transgender ideology rejects the truth that we are a body-soul composite, and that our biological sex is not incidental to who we are as people, but is a gift from God,” he said. The Catechism of the Catholic Church underscores this truth, teaching in paragraph 2392 that each individual’s personal dignity is derived from his or her created status as a man or woman.

“Each of them, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept [his or her] sexual identity,” the Catechism teaches.

Pope Francis has frequently condemned transgender ideology, characterizing it as an exploitation of the human person as God created him or her, and “the annihilation of man as the image of God.”

And there are those in the scientific community who share Pope Francis’ negative assessment of the claims of transgender activists.

The American College of Pediatricians, a group of predominantly Christian doctors who work with children, released a review of scientific studies surrounding transgenderism, and found that the clinical approach advanced by activists and increasingly adopted by mental health practitioners “is founded upon an unscientific gender ideology, lacks an evidence base, and violated the long-standing ethical principle of ‘first do no harm.’”

Other critics of transgender ideology from the scientific community include Dr. Paul McHugh, who served as the psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, where sex-reassignment surgery was pioneered. Johns Hopkins abandoned the practice after research found that it was not improving the mental health of patients, and McHugh continues to speak out against it as a solution to what he maintains is a psychological disorder.

When it comes to gender dysphoria and children, McHugh frequently cites research that shows that most — as high as 80 to 95 percent — of such children grow out of feeling that their biological sex doesn’t correspond to their perceived gender. A 2016 article he co-authored in “The New Atlantis” stated, “…there is little evidence that the phenomenon of transgender identity has a biological basis. There is also little evidence that gender identity issues have a high rate of persistence in children. … There is a clear need for more research in these areas, and for parents and therapists to acknowledge the great uncertainty regarding how to interpret the behavior of these children.”

Proponents of transgender ideology argue that they are promoting a liberated understanding of sexuality, one that frees individuals from repressive societal dictates. But Catholic experts point out that this view extends from a flawed understanding of human freedom.

“This is a freedom separated from truth,” said Father John Floeder, a professor of moral theology at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity. “It evacuates the world of objective meaning and goodness.”

Father Floeder also argues that despite transgender activists’ assertions that “they do not define what a person is or what they should do,” transgender ideology implicitly advances the normative idea that each and every human being “has the freedom to define [him or herself],” a deeply flawed conception of human nature.

Reshaping society

Pope Francis has characterized this coercive tendency of the transgender movement as a form of “ideological colonization,” in which influential countries spread transgender ideology by tying it to incentives like foreign aid.

But this dynamic also plays out within a country itself. Institutions and individuals in America face increasing pressure to accommodate transgender ideology — or risk serious professional and economic backlash.

North Carolinians found this out in 2016. After lawmakers passed a measure that, among other things, would require municipalities to conduct bathroom usage based on the given sex of individuals, the Tarheel state found itself in the midst of a high-level, highly coordinated boycott. Bruce Springsteen and other big-name musicians canceled concerts. Gov. Mark Dayton barred Minnesota state employees from making work-related trips to North Carolina. PayPal pulled-back a planned 400 employee expansion into the state, and sports organizations like the NBA and NCAA canceled major national events.

One estimate placed the total amount of revenue lost due to this backlash at just over $395 million. Under this staggering financial pressure, the North Carolina legislature acquiesced, and repealed parts of the controversial bill in April.

MCC’s Adkins doesn’t find such developments surprising. “Transgender activists are very strategic, very organized, very well-funded, and they know how to work within institutions,” he said. He also points to a new wrinkle in their advocacy —the emergence of what has been called “cultural cronyism,” or the alliance between progressive social causes with large corporations.

“The shock and awe of cultural cronyism makes it difficult to speak out,” he added, noting that “fear of being labeled a ‘bigot’ shuts down critical thinking and common sense.”

This dynamic may be playing out within the mental health professional community in Minnesota. Several Catholic therapists and counselors in the Twin Cities were contacted for this story, and while each acknowledged their concerns with transgender ideology and its wide-spread acceptance among the top levels of the mental health community, none of them were willing to go on the record, for fear of professional repercussions.

According to Adkins, this type of unspoken coercion played a role in the Minnesota State High School League’s December 2014 decision to pass a “transgender student athlete policy,” opening the door for students to compete on gendered sports teams based on their perceived sexual identity as opposed to their biological sex. Despite serious public resistance to the proposal, the MSHSL passed the measure by a 19-1 vote, with only a narrow exemption secured for private Catholic schools.

Adkins noted that the athletic directors who supported the measure were not necessarily dyed-in-the-wool progressive activists, but were in many ways pressured by the fear of litigation. This pressure has also likely contributed to decisions by groups like the Boy Scouts to admit members based on subjective sexual identity, Adkins said.

“We’ve reached a cultural tipping point, where reasoned arguments about policy carry no weight with even normally, fairly well-educated folks,” he noted.

And there may be implications for Catholic institutions ahead. As the conversation concerning transgenderism shifts from mere legal equity to mandated accommodation, as it has, for instance, with same-sex marriage, Adkins points out that the Church will increasingly come in the movement’s cross-hairs. For example, Catholic hospitals could risk losing federal funding if they refuse to perform sex reassignment surgeries. Catholic colleges could also face similar repercussions if they require students to live in dormitories that correspond to their given sex.

In many cases, such as the MSHSL transgender policy, religious freedom exemptions allow Catholic entities to operate in a way that is faithful to an authentic understanding of human sexuality. But Adkins pointed out how fragile these can be.

“People should not feel comfortable [about the exemptions holding up],” he said. “Federal First Amendment protections have been gutted, and people are at the mercy of what state constitutions and state legislatures create or determine.”

While the broader culture may not yet subscribe to gender ideology hook, line and sinker, Adkins notes that the window for action is closing, and politicians are hesitant to increase religious liberty protections.

“Religious liberty is now a dirty word,” he said, arguing that Republican politicians’ reticence to taking stances for traditional sexual ethics can be connected to the business community’s growing alliance with progressive social causes. “No one wants to touch this issue with a 20-foot pole.”

Souls at stake

As a longtime hospital chaplain at North Memorial Hospital in Robbinsdale and now pastor of St. Paul in Ham Lake, Father Jim Livingston knows transgenderism is an issue with which Catholics are wrestling. He’s had recent conversations with parents of a transgender adult, parents of a child with gender dysphoria and a teacher of a transgender student. All want to do what’s best for the individuals struggling with their gender identities and their families, while affirming their Catholic beliefs in the good of creation and the immutability of gender.

In his work as chaplain, Father Livingston also ministered to men and women he suspected of being transgender, although none raised the subject in their conversations, he said.

Father Livingston is concerned about the social and moral impacts of a transgender ideology that tries to coerce people into recognizing a biological man as a woman, and vice versa. He finds this especially troubling with children. It’s confusing for students’ formation to be compelled to acknowledge a person is a gender that’s different from his or her sex, he said.

“Children have the right not to be exposed to a world full of lies, and I do believe it’s a lie to accommodate a person’s perception of themselves [as the opposite sex] in a public manner,” he said.

He is also troubled that people who resist the cultural pressure to affirm and embrace the new transgender ideology risk their jobs and professional opportunities, and he acknowledged that people who feel this pressure are put in difficult situations. He thinks that shouldn’t be the case.

“It’s like the story of the emperor without any clothes,” he said. “Everybody accommodated the emperor’s perception, except for one person [who] said finally, ‘That’s crazy,’ and it fell like a house of cards.”

Adkins said his deepest worries about transgender ideology hinge on its potential to alienate people from a right relationship with the creator God. He is concerned for individuals who are rejecting the gift of their God-given biological sex and, in doing so, may also be pulling away from the life of grace.

“We’re losing souls,” Adkins said. “People are mutilating themselves, they’re sterilizing themselves, and they’re in despair. They’re cutting off their connection to grace. Wittingly or unwittingly, they’re rejecting God’s plan. Those struggling with gender dysphoria urgently need our prayers.”

And the data suggest that the reach of transgender ideology is growing. According to the Williams Institute at The University of California, Los Angeles, 1.4 million adults in the U.S. now identify as transgendered, double the number from five years ago.

The exponential growth of those identifying as transgendered substantiates claims that transgenderism may be acting as a “social contagion,” a behavior that becomes more widely adopted as it becomes visible. There have been multiple reports of entire peer groups making pacts to “transition” together. Zinos, the mother who pulled her kids out of Nova Classical Academy, noted that shortly after the school welcomed and accommodated the transgender kindergartner, another elementary school student claimed that she was transgendered and is receiving treatment accordingly.

Adkins said that the lay faithful are looking to the Church for guidance, pointing out that one of the most continuously visited pages on the Minnesota Catholic Conference’s website is an article from 2014 entitled “Transgender person, human dignity and our response.”

“This issue speaks to the very heart of the human person,” he said. “We’re way behind on helping people understand how the way they’ve been created is a gift to be cherished and stewarded, not a problem to be overcome. Until people acknowledge that Jesus is Lord and we are not, we’re not going to get anywhere.”

Adkins added that the Church needs to get better at speaking to people’s hearts, rather than just their minds, and that Catholics can help demonstrate the truth of the gift of sexuality by living it out in credible and creative ways. The Church’s response to the sexual revolution, including teachings such as St. John Paul II’s theology of the body, is a rich foundation, but he believes it now needs to be applied more explicitly to the specific challenge of transgender ideology.

Father Floeder agrees that it will take more than words to present a compelling alternative to transgender ideology. “We need to reject and argue against these ideologies, but at the same time, we also need to understand and reach out to individuals.”

— Maria Wiering contributed to this story

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  • Dianne S

    Funny how a group of people who believe in the most improbable things like resurrection and miracles think trans people are deluded. Very ironic indeed.

    • stumpc

      Pretty simple. There is incredible evidence for the life, death and resurrection of Christ. No one has ever changed their chromosomes.

      • Marina

        Show me a proof of it’s resurrection and also I need a proof that it was sent by god?
        Show me a proof how could a woman get pregnant by not having sex with a man.

        It’s your religion something one may call a delusion, not a scientist fact like the one that hormone imbalance with dominating hormones of the opposite sex will create the brain structures of the opposite sex and the newborn will grow feeling and identifying like the sex opposite of their one assigned at birth.

        • Charles C.

          “Proof?” What “proof” do you have of anything in history?

          You might think that it requires “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” to convict someone, but that’s not the word used. It’s “evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.”

          That’s all there ever is, just evidence. Whether you accept it as proof or not is between you and God. Even if we were to send a video camera back to the Tomb, and filmed Christ coming out of it, or filmed His Ascension, anyone could still say it was faked by Hollywood special effects.

          Asking for scientific, logical, proof means the person asking doesn’t understand what proof and evidence are, or they’ve found a simple and thoughtless way to justify to themselves their failure to even consider all of the evidence.

          That’s sad.

      • Dianne S

        You are funny. 🙂

  • Paula Ruddy

    Do I read this right? The Catholic Church’s position is that there is no objectivity to the experience of transgender people? They are pathological or lying or following a craze? They are pressured by political “activists” to claim a different gender than their biological gender in order to create a genderless society? Corporations, government, educators, and health professionals are all intimidated by the “activists”? And Jason Adkins advocates for heart over mind in approaching this issue? God has determined each person’s gender and it is our gender that makes us in His image and likeness? The generalizations and lack of moderation in judgment, the lack of respect for individual experience leave me aghast. How did we get to this point in our Archdiocese?

    • Charles C.

      Dear Paula Ruddy,

      As you have helped explain things to me several times, I thought I would try to return the favor. No, you didn’t read it right. People come to think they belong to the opposite sex through several paths, and Mr. Adkins mentioned or implied some of them.

      The kindergarten student can have no understanding of his true sexuality or his feelings on the subject. Some children go through the stage where they want to be the other sex for various reasons then, as pointed out, grow out of it. Unfortunately, the society is being trained (as explained by Mr. Adkins) to treat the feelings of a small child as meaningful and binding on society. That we have reached that point is indeed the work of transgender activists and their allies. Those same people were responsible for the change in the diagnosis of the condition a few years ago.

      Even older children, in their teens, go through a normal period of trying to understand and adjust to their bodies. Rather than provide honest, truthful guidance “Every cell in your body says you’re a boy, please tell me why you think you aren’t,” society’s approved response is to provide no guidance and let the child wander through his questioning with the only advice being “If you think you’re a girl, then you’re a girl.”

      You’ll note that this thinking doesn’t apply elsewhere. Rachel Dolezal discovered this after acting on her belief that she was Black and leading a state NAACP chapter. It is allowed to think you’re another sex, but not another race. I’d like to think that I’m seven and a half feet tall and the NBA will draft me any day now, but scientific measurements tell me that I’m not.

      I know you expressed amazement that activists can intimidate educators, government officials, etc., but I assume you’re just being rhetorical. Universities are intimidated by activists every week; and politicians, really? The reason Chick-fil-A is famous is because they were one of the few companies that didn’t give in to activists interested in sexual issues.

      There are some people who, after years of life conclude that they do not belong to the sex which their bodies tell them they do. I’m sure their thoughts are real and legitimate. Neither the Church nor Mr. Adkins denies their thoughts and beliefs. The problem is they believe something which is provably false by scientific tests.

      It is not healthy for anyone to completely and passionately believe in a lie. Even Pope Francis (friend to social justice types world-wide) has criticized the acceptance of this lie.

      I wish transgender people well and I hope they get whatever help they need in order to learn to accept the truth about who they are. Believing a falsehood, and trying to bring life into conformity with it by surgery, costumes, and by forcing other people to support and approve of that false belief is no answer at all.

      If Bob wants me to call him Darla I will, there are stranger names out there. But if he wants me to call him “she” or pretend he is a woman, it won’t happen. It’s bad enough that one of us believes an untruth.

      Finally, how did the Archdiocese get here? The Archdiocese and the Church, didn’t “get here,” it’s where they’ve always been on this question. Ask, rather, how did society get to the point where it was pushing for acceptance of the idea that boys are really girls if they say they want to be.

      • Marina

        You the one who believes in things like becoming pregnant without a sexual intercourse and walking on water are still talking about falsehood ?

        • Charles C.

          Dear Marina,

          You are quite right, I do believe in those things, and a bunch of other miracles besides. I don’t see how anyone can be a Christian if they don’t believe in miracles.

          “And if Christ be not risen again, your faith is vain, for you are yet in your sins.” (1 Cor. 15:17)

          Let me steal an example from C.S. Lewis, whose book “Miracles” is valuable for anyone.

          If you put a dollar in a drawer and close it, what will you find when you open the drawer the next day? A dollar. UNLESS someone has been fiddling with it. You can’t account for that.

          Scientists will tell you that they can predict what will happen, but only if one assumes that only the natural forces they understand are in play. If some force comes from outside the world of nature, above nature (or Super-natural), all bets are off and anything can happen, such as walking on water.

          But can a boy be a girl? one of the first principles of logic, and logical thinking, is that A cannot be not-A. Green cannot be “not green,” a fish cannot be a “not fish,” and a boy cannot be a “not boy.”

  • Ehnebic99

    Insanity is definitely taking over. The persecution is supposed to be pretty bad, and it’s already palpable. It really does look like it’s too late to stop it.

  • Dominic Deus

    Dominic Deus here. Well, as discussions on meaningful topics go, this one is pretty decent. So far it hasn’ attracted any Neo-Nazis, white supremacists or Breitbart troll squads. (Breitbart uses the Disqus platform and its readers can quickly scan for red meat issues that strike their peculiar interests and comment.) My first order recommendation would be to refuse to engage with them ( they’re trolls after all) and then don’t let them hijack the discussion. You don’t need them to work this through.

    My second recommendation is don’t credit anyone, including me, with knowing the “truth” on this matter. Aside from the elusive nature of actual truth, this whole area is relatively new and everyone is fining their way including to you. So show some humility. Assuming you have been wrong as many times as I have
    (adjusted for age ;-), we both have a lot to be humble for.

    There is no transgender ideology. The issue hasn’t been around long enough for that to develop. What there is/are, are people confused, often suffering, children almost invariably bullied, sometimes viciously and a select group of people who feel compelled to have an opinion and evangelize about it. Enough already. Just give that a rest.

    If you are in medicine, like me, “first do no harm” and though that certainly means proceed cautiously but also means do not deny the suffering of others. If you already have your mind made up

  • Dominic Deus

    Dominic Deus here. This is a re-post of my original post which was categorized as “spam” and moderated out. Being from Minnesota, I take that as high praise. Here it is again with just as much fat and salt as the first time:

    Dominic Deus here. Well, as discussions on meaningful topics go, this one is pretty decent. So far it hasn’ attracted any Neo-Nazis, white supremacists or Breitbart troll squads. (Breitbart uses the Disqus platform and its readers can quickly scan for red meat issues that strike their peculiar interests and comment.) My first order recommendation would be to refuse to engage with them ( they’re trolls after all) and then don’t let them hijack the discussion. You don’t need them to work this through.

    My second recommendation is don’t credit anyone, including me, with knowing the “truth” on this matter. Aside from the elusive nature of actual truth, this whole area is relatively new and everyone is finding their way including you. So show some humility. Assuming you have been wrong as many times as I have (adjusted for age ;-), we both have a lot to be humble for.

    There is no transgender ideology. The issue hasn’t been around long enough for that to develop. What there is/are, are people confused, often suffering, children almost invariably bullied, sometimes viciously, and a select group of people who feel compelled to have an opinion and evangelize about it. Enough already. Just give that a rest.

    If you are in medicine, like me, “first do no harm” and though that certainly means proceed cautiously, it also means “do not deny the suffering of others.” If you already have your mind made up, especially based on some premature definition of “transgender ideology”, you are forgetting that our opinions exist only to serve the interests of our patients, not to establish our personal bonafides.

    If you are a religious scholar, like me, you are not in the business of judgement. We are in the realm of the spiritual, even mystical. All things are possible. If you don’t think so, stop with the talk of miracles and Mysteries of Faith.

    If you are in the business of being human, like me, it would be wise to consider how greatly our ignorance exceeds what we know or even think we know, and recall that no other human, not even one, is exactly like us. With that kind of diversity built into our genome,we should be reluctant to declare all that is known is all there is to know.

    And finally, if you are a sexual being, like every other human on earth, it would be wise to contemplate the mystery, the majesty and the grace of God that ordained all of us, every one, were conceived female, lodged in the womb of our mothers as such, grew as such until Divine Providence or embryology or genomics determined that some of us *had* to be male for better or worse.

    With all this in mind, write me if you can a BRIEF essay on why you still think it’s a good idea to judge transgendered issues as deranged, false, contrary to whatever, and sinful. Or you can just take a pass and allow creation to inform you more before you decide what you think. Don’t be afraid. You will find lots of people around that campfire saying, “I don’t know. Let’s just roast marshmallows and talk about it s’more later.” **

    ** That was a joke. Humor. Lighten up.

  • Patty Thorsen

    We need to begin with basic human respect for all individuals regardless of gender identity. Speaking for myself, the starting point is being open to individuals who cross my path who identify themselves as being transgender. Being open to asking questions, rather than passing judgments and making sweeping generalizations about an entire group of people is essential. Sexuality, faith, religion are not individually much less collectively simple issues decided in one day, much less in one moment. Being open, and dedicated to learning about what we do not understand and/or have exposure to is essential. As a single, heterosexual 57-year-old woman, I do not have sole ownership of understanding these issues. Not by a long shot. Yet, I can surround myself with individuals who challenge me to be my best, and go beyond what I imagine possible in this regard.

    • Charles C.

      Dear Patty Thorsen,

      “Being open to asking questions, rather than passing judgments and making
      sweeping generalizations about an entire group of people is essential.”

      May I ask which questions you believe are essential?

      Assume, for a moment, that a person says that doctors tell him he is male and he accepts that as true, then there is no question or problem is there?

      The only time there is some “confusion” is when a person says that physically they are one sex, but they believe they are another sex. What do you ask? “Why do you think you are not what your body says it is?” “How long have your beliefs and your physical reality been in conflict?”

      There is a problem which needs to be compassionately dealt with, but we have to identify that problem first. The problem is not “I see myself as something other than how I was born, and society won’t accept my view of the matter.”

      • Patty Thorsen

        The questions I would ask are based on the individual, and flow from the context of our relationship, in a work or volunteer setting, or at church or in the community. I no more question the sexuality of someone who identifies themselves to me as being transgender, than I question the sexuality of someone who identifies themselves as heterosexual, or homosexual for that matter. So, my starting point is of respect for the individual. When someone has entrusted me with the fact they are transgender, a basic question I ask is, “how do you prefer that I address you, in terms of pronouns.” The answer I am given varies based on whether the individual has come out, something which takes courage, and something I celebrate with them as their friend, regardless of how long or deeply we have developed a friendship. I am not in a position to judge someone who has identified themselves as transgender to everyone, and not just me. I have not sat down and plotted out a list of questions I must ask someone who identifies themselves as transgender. My point is more that I want to build a relationship where the individual who identifies themselves to me as being transgender knows that any questions I may ask them are based solely out of a genuine desire to know them and understand them to the degree that is appropriate to the situation. I believe these are issues that are new to us as a society. I pray I may offer compassion as we navigate our way toward a better understanding of what it is to be transgender. It is no small task. I am willing to learn.

        • Charles C.

          Dear Patty Thorsen,

          Thank you very much. I see that I was misunderstanding you, so I dealt with a slightly different issue.

          It seems that your desire is to, and forgive me for I do not know how to phrase this, be “nice” to everyone. That is admirable, and is something I have difficulty with.

          You seem to focus on the person, while I was looking at the issue. (your way is arguably better.) It is not surprising, therefore, that I was a bit confused.

          But remember that love is the desire for another’s greatest, ultimate good. Sometimes achieving that good means having to face some painful truths or take some unpleasant steps to make things right.