An alien ideology enters Catholic education

In his memoirs the apologist Frank Sheed wrote: “Of two contradictory views, one must be wrong. Bigotry means believing your opponents must be dishonest.” To question the current ideology that gender is different from biological sex – merely a social construct in which nothing is but thinking makes it so – is certain to invite charges of bigotry, so I might as well go the whole hog and suggest that a school which proclaims that “Catholic doctrine and practice permeate every aspect of the school’s activity” is stretching a point when it contacts parents to tell them that “as a Catholic school” it must “promote greater wholeness for transgender individuals”. This would include “using the young person’s preferred pronoun and addressing them with their preferred name, recognising their intent to live as the person they believe God created them to be, and refraining from any judgment”.

I am prepared to believe that this is well intentioned according to the tenets of the ideology whence it derives. But such an ideology is at odds with Catholic teaching and biblical anthropology. As such, it has no place in a Catholic school.

In Catholic thought, sympathy and sensitivity for the inherent dignity of someone who believes that God got it wrong when he made them male or female does not extend to affirming them in their belief that they know better than the Creator – or, indeed, in the belief that it is possible to become a member of the opposite sex. It is only possible in a science fiction world where gender is a social construct and biological sex can be transplanted. While the non-judgmental affirmation proposed sounds very caring, it might only encourage them to inhabit a dissociative identity, which actually needs to be recognised as a part of themselves that grew out of pain or rejection of their sexuality through some trauma or psychological imprint. To suggest that this is, in fact, their true identity, because they feel this acutely at a stage of profound transition and development, could be characterised as deeply irresponsible.

Among the many inherent contradictions of such an ideology is the belief that my gender is only imposed on me by societal norms. But the conviction that I am in the wrong body could not possibly have been imposed from without by a distorted psychosocial nurturing, but must be the expression of a divine voice within and is not subject to “judgment”. Would one take the same line with other manifestations of teenage reactions to societal norms? Does it promote “greater wholeness” not to judge a teenager who takes vast quantities of anabolic steroids because he worries he is too puny because he has a 14-year-old physique?

I suggest that the etiology of the belief that I am in the wrong body is similarly damaged and should be seen as a symptom to be explored and healed, not a solution which carries an incontrovertible veracity. “Transitioning” is the mutilation of reality, a kind of self-harm which is a way of articulating a deep pain, and which, like all self-harm, may serve temporarily to bring it relief. But the unintegrated, dissociative part remains with those who have “transitioned”, which is why they continue to suffer disproportionately from mental health issues and risk of suicide. However much this is projected onto the outside world’s “transphobia”, it is the consequence of a failure to integrate all the aspects of who I am by denying my bodily reality.

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