Nicholas Hardesty Sieze the moment for April: How to respond to the transgender movement
One day, Charles Dickens sat in a coffee shop. Actually, it was a “coffee room,” as indicated on the glass door of the establishment. Dickens had read that sign and frequented rooms like it many times. But, on this day, he happened to read the sign from inside the establishment. It read: “mooreeffoc.” This new word startled him. Suddenly, the sign was new and so was the room. Dickens realized that everyday things can take on a strange new meaning when viewed from a different angle.
Today, the transgender movement challenges us with another radically different way to view the world. This movement takes the ordinary categories of male and female and asserts that gender is assigned, it is not fixed, and a person can determine, regardless of what the body reveals, that he/she actually belongs to the opposite gender.
What should we believe? How can we seize this moment to share our faith in a loving way?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states it plainly: “Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity” (no. 2333). “Man may not despise his bodily life. Rather, he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honor since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day” (no. 364). “Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law” (no. 2297).
“This is a hard saying, who can hear it?” (John 6:60). This topic certainly challenges us all. Let’s distill it down to the Good News. All of the church’s teachings have some “Good News” component to them. Find that and you find the key to understanding the doctrine and explaining it to others.
Here is the Good News the church proclaims to people who struggle with their gender identity:
• You are loved. You are not a mistake. You are a child of God and deeply precious to Him. We want to love you like God loves you. We aren’t always very good at it, but we are trying.
• Your body and mind are God’s gifts to you. Sometimes the body and the mind can cause us great suffering, as when a 90-pound woman looks in a mirror and sees a fat person, or when a healthy young man develops bone cancer. In your case, you feel trapped in the wrong body. All of this is extremely difficult. But we believe it’s possible for all people to value who they are exactly as God made them. We have to believe this is possible, or we’d be left with a lot of hopelessness in this world.
• Your body reveals who you are. When someone punches me, I don’t say, “Why did you hit my body?” Instead, I say, “Why did you hit me?” We all respond this way because we intuitively know that human beings are body and soul intertwined. Our bodies are a self-revelation of who we are. That is why we must care for them and build them up.
• We want to see you flourish. Gender theory is harmful to you. It says you are a mistake. It says the best medical practice is to halt your body in its normal, healthy functioning, or to completely replace your power for reproduction. It advocates medical treatments with no solid proof of positive outcomes, and with many negative ones. It is harmful to you, and we don’t like that very much.
Ultimately, we must love and encourage without alienating or stigmatizing. We must acknowledge the suffering of others while also advocating for a “still more excellent way” of understanding the human person (1 Corinthians 12:31). We all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. But, it requires reading the world from the proper point-of-view.