On transgenderism: Common ground, and real differences, between Catholics and radical feminists

On transgenderism: Common ground, and real differences, between Catholics and radical feminists

Woman holding transgender sign. Via Shutterstock.
Woman holding transgender sign. Via Shutterstock.

.- This article is the second part of Mary Farrow's two-part series on the Church, gender-critical feminists, and transgender ideology. Part one was published on Feb. 10.

In their efforts to teach the truth in the face of the transgender ideology, Catholics are finding an unlikely ally: trans-exclusionary, or “gender critical,” feminists, who say the transgender movement hurts women.

But while there are some points of common ground between Catholics and gender critical feminists, there are also important points of disagreement, even on the issue of what gender is.

One point of unity between the Church and trans-exclusionary radical feminists is agreement that the growing transgender movement is especially dangerous to children, who will often outgrow feelings of gender dysphoria naturally, or are led to believe their gender differs from their biological sex simply because they have atypical toy preferences for their biological sex.

“We agree that children should not be subjected to medical experimentation by doctors who profit from ‘affirming’ children, especially girls, in transgender or non-binary identities” in ever-increasing numbers, Mary Rice Hasson, the Kate O’Beirne Fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. and director of the Catholic Women’s Forum, told CNA.

Kara Dansky, a board member of the Women’s Liberation Front, agreed, telling CNA that children going through the typically-turbulent time of puberty deserve care and guidance, but not medical treatments that could cause them permanent harm.

“A child who is confused about her or his sex definitely deserves compassion and care and guidance to understanding that they're not born in the wrong body. Their body is fine just the way that it is (barring physical, medical ailments that should be treated appropriately), but we're all born in the bodies that we're born in,” she said.

“And we need to learn how to love ourselves physically and emotionally,” Dansky added. “So any child who is struggling to figure out what sex they are really needs caring, compassion and concern and guidance, but not sterilization and mutilation.”

Hasson said she hopes parents are aware of how the growing transgender movement is “radically reshaping how our children understand themselves and others, in ways that are incompatible with Christian beliefs. We need to be compassionate and kind to those who embrace transgender ideology, but we must be wise, and educate and guard ourselves - and our children- against the lies it proposes.”

On Causes, churches, and homophobia

On the causes of transgenderism, feminists and Catholics have both points of agreement and of disagreement.

Feminist Mary Kate Fain, who grew up in a conservative Evangelical church and community, said she thinks that in some cases, an overly rigid take on gender roles has contributed to the rise in the transgender phenomenon. For example, she said that feminists have long fought the gender norm that the only way to be a woman is to desire to stay home, cook in the kitchen, and raise children.

Feminists have argued that women can partake in any role in society that she wishes, Fain said.

But today, she said, a pervasive social message has become: “If you want to stay at home, work in the kitchen, and be feminine, have children, then you must be a woman. And therefore, if you don't want to do any combination of these things, you must not be a woman.”

Fain also said that from her perspective, some communities with rigid gender roles also speak about homosexuality in particularly negative or disparaging ways. That can lead children in these communities who experience same-sex attractions to believe they were born in the wrong body, Fain believes.

She added that she has friends from such communities who, upon experiencing same-sex attractions, choose to identify as transgender or non-binary (neither male nor female), rather than face the stigma of identifying as gay or lesbian.

“We're seeing this new ‘trans-the-gay-away’ movement happening, and people think that it's progressive, when in reality this is happening in some of the most conservative areas across the globe,” Fain said.

“It's happening in Iran where the government outlaws homosexuality on pain of death, but they're paying for homosexual people to transition in order to no longer be gay. Then we see it in the United States, where the most red states are where you have the highest rates of transgenderism, and it's no wonder that this is deeply linked to homophobia,” Fain said.

But Hasson cautioned against the assertion that homophobia in Christian and conservative churches is a significant contributor to the rise in transgenderism in youth. She said the assumption that most Christian churches with a biblical view of homosexuality are homophobic is unfair.

“I can’t speak to the views of ‘conservative’ or 'evangelical’ churches as such. But I can say that those who adhere to biblical morality, like Catholics who adhere to Catholic teaching, are frequently charged with being ‘homophobic’ because they believe that homosexual sexual activity is wrong, or that the homosexual inclination is not what God intended, because sexual desire should be ‘ordered’ rightly towards the opposite sex,” Hasson said.

“So there’s an unfortunate tendency for those who identify as gay or lesbian to cry ‘homophobia’ when a Church teaches against same-sex sexual relationships or behavior,” she noted.

Hasson said most churches today that teach a biblical view of sexuality do so with the distinction of the action and the person. - the Church’s rejection of homosexual acts is not a rejection of the person, but of the act of sexual relations outside of marriage, which the Church holds is only possible between a man and a woman. 

“But there are a significant number, including Catholic churches, that rightly reject the expression of sexuality towards a same-sex partner (which is always outside of marriage, as understood by the Church). We need to push back on the left's talking point that Catholic teaching is by definition ‘homophobic.’”

Furthermore, Hasson said, she doubts the assertion because Christian parents by and large would not prefer that their children be transgender instead of homosexual, as both transgenderism and homosexuality go against God’s plan for human sexuality.

“...conservative churches and evangelicals who are against homosexual behavior are generally not going to accept assertions of a trans-identity,” Hasson said.

“They both involve deviations from God’s explicit design, plus no parent would prefer a trans-identity over a same-sex attraction issue with a child, given the chemical castration and surgical interventions that are becoming commonplace ‘treatments’ for identity confusion.”

Hasson acknowledged that there are some fringe Christian communities that could be perpetuating truly homophobic attitudes. She also added that she is aware of a small subculture of Catholics who hold overly-rigid gender roles, such as that women shouldn’t wear pants and are not capable or fit to hold jobs outside the home.

“I think it's not healthy when someone does that and that strain of Catholicism is nothing new,” Hasson said, though she added that the sliver of truth there is that there is a different between men and women, and there are certain social cues used to distinguish between men and women that vary from culture to culture.

“Within that narrow slice, my sense is that someone who's growing up and feels constrained, if they feel some sort of weight of conscience like - ‘Oh, my gosh. I'm being a terrible woman,’ - they're also going to be getting a message that there are men or women,” Hasson said.

She said she didn’t necessarily see how someone who failed to fit into rigid gender stereotypes would then assume that they were actually a different biological sex.

“The most fundamental thing is whether you are a female, and that just doesn't change,” she said.

“And the fact that someone has put you in a box as to how to express that, it would take quite a leap of logic or something to talk that around and say, ‘Oh, that means I must be the opposite sex,’ when everything else that you would be taught in that same environment would say, ‘No, you are one sex or another.’ And your body tells you that. And science tells you that.”

First-person voices

A growing number of people who were given medical treatments to transition their gender, and then regretted it, are now speaking out against the push to medically treat minors with gender dysphoria.

Keira Bell, a 23 year-old woman in the UK, has recently joined a lawsuit against the gender clinic that began her gender transition when she was 16 and wanted to be a male.

At 16, Bell was given hormone blockers to stunt her development as a female, and then was given male hormones. Bell said the treatments gave her symptoms of menopause, depleted her sex drive and weakened her bones, and may have rendered her infertile. At the age of 20, the National Health Service paid for a surgery that removed her breasts, the Daily Mail reported.

It was not long after the surgery that Bell started to question her gender transition. She told the Daily Mail that she felt “stuck” between male and female, and that she didn’t feel she fit with either gender. At the age of 22, she decided to detransition back to female, and to fight giving such treatments to other young people. She said she felt like a “guinea pig” that was experimented on by the gender clinic, without much thought given as to how the treatments would affect her life in the long-term.

Bell is now considered a key witness in a high-profile case against Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the gender clinic where she had gone for treatments. The lawsuit was brought against the clinic by a psychiatric nurse formerly employed at the clinic, who is arguing in the suit that children are not capable of consenting to the powerful and experimental puberty blockers and hormones being prescribed to them.

Bell is just one of many people - many of them women - who are speaking out after having gone through experimental gender transitioning treatments as minors and who are now in the process of detransitioning.

Charlie Evans, a 28 year-old woman living in the UK, is in the process of detransitioning after identifying as trans since her teenage years. After sharing her story, Evans was contacted by so many men and women who regretted their gender transitions that she was inspired to found The Detransition Advocacy Network, a non-profit that seeks to support men and women who regret their gender transitions.

Evans told The Telegraph that she attributes her own desire to transition as a young person to abuse that she suffered outside of her family, that made her hate her own body so much that she wanted to cut parts of it off. That experience seems to be common among the people who contact her Detransition network, she added.

“...you can’t be born in the wrong body – it’s our minds that need treatment, not our sex,” Evans said.

Tags: Catholic News, Transgender

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