Tuesday, July 28, 2009

O'Leary Exposed: NARTH Opponent of Trans Rights is Delusional, or a Liar

Dale O’Leary is a spokesman for the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), and claims to be a Catholic. His tagline refers to him as an: “internationally known lecturer and author of The Gender Agenda, One Man, One Woman and numerous articles.”

On June 25, 2009, Dale O’Leary posted a blog article filled entitled Legalizing Deception: Why “Gender Identity” Should Not be Added to Anti-discrimination Legislation.

His article makes several misstatements of fact, and builds on them to construct an argument against human rights for transgender people that requires refutation. So, let’s start with some of his gems:

In describing proposed human right legislation similar to GENDA, the bill pending in the New York State legislature, he states that enactment of such legislation “would mean that males dressed as females could use women’s restrooms and locker rooms.”

This is the first error – he does not seem to understand that women born transsexual were never really male, and men born transsexual were never really women – we’re born transsexual, with a brain that developed in one “sexed” direction, and a body that developed genitalia in accordance with the wolffian or mullerian duct system (both present in embryonic and fetal development of all babies) that developed in the other "sexed” direction.

He amplifies on his error with this paragraph:

No one can change sex; it is written in DNA on every cell of our bodies. The people demanding “gender identity and expression” protection are physically normal men or women, but according to the “gender” ideologues, what matters is not what sex you really are, but what sex you want to be or think you are. People could be sanctioned for simply using the correct pronouns when referring to a person who is obviously male, but wants to be female.”

O’Leary’s first sentence is correct – transsexual people do not want to change their sex, we want to conform our genital development to our brain development, in a society that arbitrarily recognizes only two sexes, male and female. He doesn't seem to understand the first thing about DNA, or he wouldn't be using DNA as an argument - my genetic blueprint resulted in me being different - but he must be thinking of the overly-simplified XY and XX concept. As to using the "correct" pronouns - O'Leary apparently does not know what the correct pronouns are, and would prefer to insult people by using the wrong ones intentionally as a provocation, rather than to respect others and their lives.

O’Leary builds further, referring to the desire of transsexual people to conform our bodies with our brains to be a “lie” and a “deception.” The lies and deceptions are coming from O’Leary and his ilk. O’Leary’s association with NARTH indicates that he is just another dangerous demagogue attempting to conform reality to his narrow vision.

He provides some junk psychology attributing gender identity, actually based on brain structures and developed in accordance with our personal genetic blueprint, to things like, “As children they may have been wounded, traumatized, abused, or rejected.” He deceptively spins the “deceit” angle. By constantly repeating his lie, he figures it might stick in the reader's mind.

He drops more lies into the mix: “While persons who want to be the other sex desperately want to believe that they were born with this problem, there is no evidence for this.

No evidence? That is either a baldfaced lie, or perhaps O'Leary is merely an ignorant fool pretending to be an expert. Apparently he has not heard of, or chose to ignore, any of the scientific evidence, such as:

  • Zhou, Hoffman, Gooren, Swaab A sex difference in the human brain and its relation to transsexuality (Nature 378, 68-70 (02 Nov 1995)
  • Lauren Hare; Pascal Bernard; Francisco J. Sánchez; Paul N. Baird; Eric Vilain; Trudy Kennedy; Vincent R. Harley Androgen Receptor Repeat Length Polymorphism Associated with Male-to-Female Transsexualism (Biological Psychiatry, Volume 65, Issue 1, Pages 93-96, 1 January 2009)

Instead, he goes to the pop-(pseudo)psychology writings of J. Michael Bailey, whose book The Man Who Would Be Queen is a poorly-written pop rehash of the poorly-constructed psychological theories of Ray Blanchard and Anne Lawrence with regard to the nature of transsexuality. And O’Leary doesn’t even get that right – Bailey, Blanchard and Lawrence posit that some transsexuals are “homosexual transsexuals” and others are “autogynephilic.”

O’Leary ought coinsider the idea that autogynephilia is a normal state of mind for a female person – essentially liking onesBoldelf as a woman. Only those who see women born transsexual as “really being delusional men” can come to the conclusion that “liking oneself as a woman” is a psychiatric disorder.

His quote of Anne Lawrence is a joke. I am personally an example of a transsexual woman who does not have an issue with reality, and the number of those who do have any issues, have issues that are based on internalized transphobia, often as the result of years of inculcation with erroneous social and religious beliefs that are antithetical to the truth.

The implication O’Leary paints for us is that transsexual people are delusional. He doesn’t even understand that which would constitute a delusion for a transsexual person.

If I were to be convinced that I was menstruating, pregnant, or claimed to have given birth to babies, those beliefs would be delusional. My mullerian duct system did not develop – I have no uterus or ovaries, and while I wish I did, that doesn’t make me delusional. A belief that I *am* a woman, even though I had a wollfian genital development, is not delusional, since it is based on the fact of my brain development.

We live in a society that expects two kinds of people – men, or women. There is no separate classification for those who are different. Many of us have sufficient identity with the sex opposite that we were assigned at birth, based on physiological structures in our brains, to be able to live in society in accordance with the way our brains developed. Others may well have a less-developed or differentiated brain structure, while still others may identity in such a way as to require that society recognize an “other” in addition to male or female.

The enactment of laws that protect us against job discrimination, discrimination in housing, insurance, and public accommodations (and yes, that includes bathrooms) is just. O’Leary panders to the fear-mongers and hate-mongers – and to the reparative therapists.

O’Leary uses his lies and deception to advance the idea that transgender people should not be entitled to reasonable accommodation under the law. He would rather impose his world-view on people it doesn't cover. Anyone who does not fit into that world view must be insane.

O’Leary claims to be writing the truth – but all I see in his article are lies. Perhaps he doesn’t believe he is lying – perhaps he is only delusional, after all.

He claims to be Catholic – and he may well be Catholic. After all, the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church doesn’t seem to understand sacred scripture as it relates to transsexual people. The current Pope Benedict doesn't comprehend the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, one would be expecting too much for the Pope to understand transsexuality.

I am appalled that some conservative Catholics have been at the forefront of the movement against human rights for my people. I am appalled that the Catholic hierarchy has seen fit to oppose civil marriage on a gender-neutral basis. O’Leary may well share in this lack of moral values. I would expect the “Cafeteria” Catholics out there, who have a well-developed moral sense sufficient to be able to discern the Truth, will reject the lies of O’Leary and his ilk (Paul McHugh, the eating-disorder specialist who heads the psychiatric department at Johns Hopkins comes to mind), much as they have rejected Church teachings on issues such as birth control, the treatment of women, and gay rights.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Chuckie Colson, Still Obstructing Justice

Chuck Colson, former chief counsel to President Richard Nixon, is perhaps best known for pleading guilty to obstruction of justice by creating an environment in which the Pentagon Papers defendant Daniel Ellsberg’s chances for a fair trial were damaged. He was also reputed to be deeply involved in the Watergate scandal, but was never charged or tried for this.

While working for Nixon, Chuckie believed his value was based on his willingness, in his own words, “to be ruthless in getting things done" – essentially a belief that an evil end justifies an evil means.

After spending time in prison, Chuck organized a not-for-profit organization devoted to prison ministry, and has a daily radio broadcast. The organization, Prison Fellowship, is based on the idea that the basis for every criminal act is a destructive decision.

Despite this central message, and seven months imprisonment for his own admitted crime, Chuck doesn’t seem to have learned the lesson of the destructive decisions that led to criminal behavior. He still seems to be devoted to obstructing justice, but now his prey is the LGBT community.

As a case in point, we have Chuck, who was trained as an attorney, seeming to show a complete and total ignorance of the First Amendment to the U.S Constitution, and the religious freedom it protects, in a column entitled “Gay Activists and Religious Freedom.”

Chuck starts by mentioning the New Jersey settlement by which Neil Clark Warren’s eHarmony dating and matchmaking website agreed to stop discriminating against gay and lesbian participants.

Colson believes that the settlement forced Warren to act against his “sincerely held religious convictions.”

This is, of course, not true. Warren runs a dating website that is not limited to people who belong to a particular religion. If, for example, Warren was a member of the Church of God the Creator (the religion for members of the KKK), which has no non-white members, he could market a private club dating service limited to members of the religion, who are all white, without running afoul of racial discrimination laws. But the moment the service is open to the public, then the state laws about racial discrimination become an issue – and African Americans should be able to use the service.

It’s the same thing with the gay issue – Warren’s website service does not limit itself to members of a particular religion, so if he is marketing the service to the public, he can’t legally discriminate against blacks, or gays.

Colson thinks that these laws adversely affect the rights of Christians (though Colson is not Christian, he’s a Christianist), Catholics, and Orthodix Jews with businesses in the public square.

Colson writes:

“It’s as if the First Amendment no longer exists. I can’t help but suspect that radical gays deliberately target outfits run by religious believers in order to force them to accommodate their political agenda—or go out of business.”

Can you imagine? The first thing is that religious believers should learn to avoid situations and businesses that could compromise their “sincerely-held religious beliefs.” People should not be in a business aimed at the general public if their religious beliefs require them to discriminate against minorities. Warren’s eHarmony business is lucrative – if he were to limit it to certified born-again-Christians, he would not be making the money he does (and he’d still run the risk of running into gay evangelical Christians – they do exist).

The First Amendment says, in its entirety:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

The right to one’s deeply-held religious beliefs is guaranteed – but there is no concomitant right that one may act to harm others by the exercise of these beliefs.

If the government were to support one religious belief, against marriage equality, it would be “establishing religion,” and denying the religious freedom of those who believe in marriage equality. Chuckie believes quite sincerely that the only people who are entiled to freedom of religion are Chuckie and people who believe the way he does.

True fundamentalist Christianists believe that it’s appropriate to stone to death gays and adulterers. They would love to act as fundamentalist Islamists do in countries where Shariah religious law holds sway, such as Iran and Iraq, where gays and adulterers are routinely executed at the behest of the mullahs.

Chuck apparently wishes to join with James Dobson and other Christianists, to oppose the passage of the Matthew Shepard Act because it impinges on the religious freedom of funadamentalist ministers to call on their flocks to stone gays to death.

Colson writes:

“The issue is critical. We all must learn how to answer the charge of “bigotry,” and winsomely explain why marriage cannot exist between same-sex couples; and how same-sex “marriage” will not broaden marriage, but radically and dangerously change its nature."

It is simply amazing that Chuckie can take Christianity and pervert it to support his personal bigotry, just as James Dobson, Maggie Gallagher and their ilk in the Christianist community seem to do. He asks that his followers learn how to lie, “winsomely explaining” the things they twist.

Colson’s May 12th column, “Same Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty, Why They Can’t Co-Exist” goes through the usual lies used by the National Organization for Marriage and the other perverted Christianist Organizations. These are the lies Colson wants his followers to spread in support of their bigotry - pretty much the same ones in the "Gathering Storm" ad.

Lesbians using the oceanfront Pavilion at a New Jersey Methodist Camp. The Methodist camp got its tax exemption based on the pavilion being open to public use. The tax exemption was lost, not because of “gay marriage” but because lesbians are part of the “public” and the pavilion had been used for similar purposes by non-Methodists. Parts of the camp still have tax exemptions because they are for religious purposes. This had nothing to do with marriage and everything to do with the pavilion being open to the general public.

Christianist Physician refusing in vitro fertilization for lesbian. Sorry, there is no excuse for a physician licensed by the state to discriminate against patients based on who they are. This doctor performs in vitro fertilization for a living – discrimination isn’t appropriate here. If the doctor has “sincere religious beliefs” she should have become a fundamentalist minister. Like the other cases, this wasn’t about marriage equality, it was because the services were offered to the general public, and the profession is licensed by the government.

Catholic Charities in Massachusetts stopping its adoption service. The only reason was that state taxpayer subsidy money was withheld because of the discrimination. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints still runs an adoption agency in Massachusetts using its own funds and limiting clientele to straight Mormons. Again, this has nothing to do with marriage equality and everything to do with unlawful discrimination, this time with taxpayer money..

The firing of the mental health counselor in Mississippi is more the result of the application of ordinary employment law principles, not “gay marriage.”

The Yeshiva University medical college housing case had to do with campus housing, not marriage – and the same “non-discrimination laws.” If the university was open solely to Orthodox Jews, it might have been a different story.

And it goes on . . .

Chuck quotes Maggie Gallagher, that paragon of perversity: “As marriage expert Maggie Gallagher puts it, same-sex “marriage” advocates claim that religious faith “itself is a form of bigotry.””

But Chuck, it isn’t religious belief that is a form of bigotry, it’s bigotry cloaked in the trappings of religious belief that is still bigotry, despite the illusion of "faith."

I can and have gone on in several of my blog posts to show that the Bible doesn’t support the Christianist antipathy for gays and lesbians. The Christianists are still entitled to their bigoted beliefs – but they should not be allowed to use them to harm others.

No one is going to force Chuck or Maggie to believe that homosexuality is a moral good. No one is going to force Chuck to marry a man, or Maggie to marry a woman. No one is going to force them to date black people either, or marry them – but if they own a restaurant, they’d have to seat and serve both the black and the gay customer, regardless of their personal “religious” bigotry.

Chuck, you’re still obstructing justice – will you ever learn your lesson?

I do pray that you do - before you, too, will find yourself numbered among the goats on the day of Judgment.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Separating Christ from Caesar: An Open Letter to Floyd Flake, Ruben Diaz, Sr., and Malcolm Smith

Monday, April 27, 2009

Reverend Pastor Floyd H. Flake, D. Min.
The Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York
110-31 Merrick Boulevard
Jamaica, New York 11433

Hon. "Reverend" State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr.
307 Legislative Office Building
Albany, New York 12247

Hon. State Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith
250 Broadway, Suite 1930
New York, NY 10007

Re: Separating Christ from Caesar

Recently I published an open letter in my blog addressed to New York’s new Roman Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan, in which I was critical of some misstatements he made in an interview made just prior to his installation.

On this eve of tomorrow’s Equality and Justice Day in New York, I think it’s appropriate to respond to the report in the April 26, 2009 Sunday New York Times about Reverend Floyd Flake’s negative preaching from the pulpit about the marriage issue (“Marriage Bill Poses A Test Of Loyalties: Church vs. State” by Jeremy W. Peters), and “Reverend” State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr.’s macho negative fixation on this issue that spills over from his church to his politics. I am also writing to commend State Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith for his understanding of the line between his commitment to equal rights for all, and his personal religious beliefs.

I would only wish that Reverend Floyd Flake and “Reverend” State Senator Diaz would be able to learn to separate their religious beliefs from their understanding of equal rights.

Unlike the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, which teaches that only the Church hierarchy has the right to interpret sacred scripture for the benefit of Roman Catholics, it has always been a cardinal rule of Protestants that each person can understand and interpret scripture on their own, with the grace of God. And various Protestant traditions do exactly that, disagreeing on many different doctrinal issues. So, unlike the situation with Archbishop Dolan, I don’t need to go so far as to consider Reverend Flake or “Reverend” State Senator Diaz to be apostates or heretics for having biblical interpretations on the issue of marriage rights that diverge from mine. All I need do is disagree with their interpretation of Scripture.

Among the founding principles of the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights are the two provisions in the First Amendment that deal, first with the relationship between the government and religion, and then with the rights of individual people. The first, called the “establishment clause,” prohibits the government from imposing particular religious beliefs on the people. The second, called the “free exercise clause” guarantees every American the right to freely exercise their own religious beliefs.

That free exercise clause is not totally untrammeled, however. Just because there are verses in sacred scripture that authorize believers to stone adulterers or gays to death, does not mean that the “free exercise clause” provides for the right to have such public stonings.

I am familiar with this particular aspect of the free exercise clause, because in my law practice some years ago, I was with a firm that represented a local hospital, and we had several “Jehovah Witness Baby Transfusion” cases. Jehovah Witnesses believe that a biblical verse that prohibits the eating of blood also forbids blood transfusions. Adults are free to refuse life-saving medical treatment for themselves on a religious basis, but there is a conflict when it comes to the rights of their infant children, in whom the state has a legitimate interest. Thus, in cases where an infant is born with a serious bilirubin issue that requires a blood transfusion for the child to live, and the parents cannot consent because of their religion, the physician and the hospital must obtain an immediate court order authorizing the transfusion.

The fact that the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy, Reverend Flake, “Reverend” State Senator Diaz and other religious leaders interpret the Bible in such a way so as to see a prohibition of same sex marriage, does not mean that the government should impose their particular religious interpretation on everyone who does not share that belief.

First, from a purely religious point of view, there is the same sex marriage of David and Jonathan that is found in 1 Samuel 18, confirmed in the latter part of the chapter as an actual marriage when King Saul declares that when David also married Saul’s daughter Michal, David became Saul’s son-in-law a second time. (Look to Darby or ASV for this translation of original Aramaic and Greek sources – St. Jerome fudged this in the Latin Vulgate, leading Douay-Rheims, King James and other Vulgate-based translations to have an error in this.)

Reverend Flake and “Reverend” State Senator Diaz can choose to interpret scripture differently – but they cannot claim that their interpretation is any better than Darby’s, or mine, or that of some ministers of the United Church of Christ, Quakers or Unitarians and others who wish to sacramentally recognize same sex marriages in the same way they recognize opposite-sex unions. This willingness to endorse marriage equality by some Christians and members of other religions is a free exercise issue that is not like stonings, baby blood transfusions or even handling poisonous snakes.

Reverend Flake, especially, should be mindful of the preachings of many earnest white Protestant ministers in the 19th century who railed from the pulpit that the involuntary servitude of African Americans was biblically justified, referring to the slaves as “Children of Ham” and referring to the Genesis 9:20-27 story in which Ham’s descendants (Canaan and his children) are punished by God – to be the servants of the children of Shem and Japeth.

Yes, those white ministers of religion believed that Christianity endorses slavery - and it was not limited to the teaching of St. Paul abjuring slaves to be obedient to their masters (Ephesians 6:5, Titus 2:9).

In the 1830’s and 1840’s and beyond, many ministers of religion opposed basic human rights for women, particularly married women, because altering the laws relating to marriage by giving women control over their own inheritances, or wages, or allowing women to vote, would destroy the sacred institution of marriage. After all, just as slaves were told by St. Paul to be obedient to their masters (see Ephesians and Titus citations above), wives were told to be obedient to their husbands (Titus 2:5).

The Times article closes with the following paragraph:
Ultimately, Mr. Flake said, the decision to support same-sex marriage and the consequences that decision may produce belong to Mr. Smith. “I told him he has to live with his conscience,” Mr. Flake said.

I really think that Reverend Flake should consider his own advice, and learn from his protégé State Senate Majority Leader Smith – while Reverend Flake has every right to interpret sacred scripture in the way that he does, and to decide to not perform a same-sex wedding in his church, he must live with his own conscience over his preaching from the pulpit that his belief must be imposed legally on everyone who doesn’t agree with his interpretation of the Bible, or, for that matter, whose religion or non-religion doesn’t recognize the Bible as the source of their beliefs.

Reverend Flake and “Reverend” State Senator Diaz really should be American enough to be able to separate their own personal religious beliefs from their political views.

After all, if they are not willing to speak up in favor of oppressed minorities like LGBT people, who will speak up for them when right wing Christianists and neo-cons seek to roll back the interpretation of the 14th Amendment to the 1870’s when the Supreme Court held it applied only to the federal government and not to the states. If equal rights for all are not cherished on the secular level in support of the bedrock principles under which the nation was founded and as they have evolved to improve over the years, how long will it be before African-American men are once again counted for census purposes as 3/5ths of a man, and women of any race are not counted at all. How long will it be before women are denied control over their own reproductive rights, and how soon will secular marriage be restored to the sort of thing it was in America before 1848 – a union in which the two become one, and that one is the husband – relegating the wife to the equivalent of the civil death imposed on convicted felons with life terms.

It is one thing to teach the members of one’s own congregation your interpretation of scripture for their religious education, and quite another when you use the pulpit to preach politically that your interpretation of a religious writing must serve as the source for the law that applies to everyone.

I am joining with over 2,000 New Yorkers tomorrow in Albany – our voices will be heard in favor of passage of the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA), the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), and the Marriage Equality bill. I would like nothing better than for Reverend Flake and “Reverend” State Senator Diaz to have a revelation to see the light and support civil rights under the secular law, even if they continue to interpret scripture the way they do. I invite both of you to join with us tomorrow.

In peace and with a deep regard to both human rights, I remain,


Joann Marie Prinzivalli
Serva Servarum Deae

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bathrooms - An Ironic Experience at the State Capitol

Yesterday (Tuesday, April 21, 2009) I took a trip to the New York State Capitol in Albany to witness the Assembly debate and passage (for the second time in two years) of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA, A5710/S2406) in that chamber.

The floor session was scheduled to begin at 3:30 PM, so I made sure I got myself a good seat in the Assembly gallery, which is accessed from a fourth-floor hallway in the State Capitol building. I took a look at the agenda, and realized that it might be some time before the bill came up for debate and a vote, so at about 3:45 PM, with a quorum not yet present, I decided to make a brief stop at the nearest restroom, which happened to be just on the other side of the metal detector and security staff at the entrance to the gallery.

I nodded to the security staffer in the dark suit and red buttoneer, went past the metal detector, and on my way to the stall passed by two older women who were on their way out. In passing, I noted that they might be Capitol cleaning ladies, wearing colorful crocheted patchwork smocks.

As I got into the stall, I started hearing knocking. With the bad acoustics, it seemed to me as if the knocking was coming through the wall to my left. Then I heard a man’s voice saying “hello, hello.”

After getting the necessary body functions taken care of and leaving the stall to wash my hands, I heard the continued knocking, and the man’s voice say, “you’re in the wrong bathroom.” At that point I realized the knocking and hallooing might be aimed at me. I looked around – I didn’t see any urinals in there, and I thought, and weren’t there a couple of older women just in here? And then I saw the security gentleman standing politely at the open bathroom door.

Anyway, at this point I stepped through to the anteroom and then out of the bathroom, and it turned out the knocking and “hallooing” had indeed been coming from the nice, respectful, Capitol security gentleman with the red buttoneer, who repeated the assertion that I had been in the wrong bathroom. I looked around at the glass sign above the door which clearly said “women” and then looked at the security man and told him, “No, that was the correct bathroom.”

His response was to say that “a couple of ladies” had complained. It must have been those cleaning staffers who were on their way out as I was entering.

Then he asked me, “Do you have I.D.?”

Now, I know that may have crossed the line – we don’t ask people for their I.D. when they use the bathroom. However, he was a Capitol security staffer in charge of the metal detector, and asking for I.D. is a permissible thing in connection with that process, though I hadn’t been asked for it when I passed through the metal detector. Regardless of whether he was entitled to see identity papers, I decided to take the easiest course, and opened my handbag, pulled out my driver’s license and handed it to him, with my as-yet-unwashed hands, to take a look for himself.

This was apparently satisfactory. So I asked, “Do you think I can go back in and wash my hands now?”

He had no problem with that.

I have never been confronted with this situation before, though I have heard of situations like it. There was that time a few years ago when I was on line at the Steak Escape fast food counter at the food court at the Palisade Center Mall, when I noticed a group of teens furtively whispering and alternately peering at me. One of them approached me to ask the time – and after I looked at my watch and gave it to him, he returned to the group to announce, “she’s a woman.” Apparently my voice passed muster.

I can just imagine what it might have been with the security staffer at the Capitol if I had not had my driver’s license corrected in accordance with New York DMV regulations – a situation that confronts many trans women who are early in transition, and have not yet gotten legal name changes and documentation in order.

I also thought of what the situation might have been like had the security staffer entered the ladies’ room to pound on the stall door and demand my immediate egress. That would have been frightening and upsetting, and I would have made a rather indignant and immediate protest and complaint. As it was, the situation was only mildly annoying.

I thought of just how ironic this was, being “clocked” by a couple of Capitol cleaning ladies who hadn’t even spoken to me, on the very day the Assembly was about to consider passing GENDA again.

And, of course, this entire experience turned out to be an ironic preface to the floor discussion between Assemblymember Gottfried and a Republican member whose name sounded to me like “Condon” (but there is apparently not a “Condon” in the Assembly)[ADDED NOTE: According to Caprice Bellefleur, who was watching the proceedings on television, the Republican member with the questions was Assemblymember Conte, who ended up voting for the bill - so it seems as if this Assemblymember was satisfied with Assemblymember Gottfried's explanations on the floor.], which predictably turned to the usual but politely-stated outrage over the so-called “bathroom issue.”

The “bathroom issue” seems to be based on the bogeyman that the law would encourage crossdressed male sexual predators to be lurking in bathrooms waiting to pounce on women. GENDA would not protect sexual predators, even if they disguise themselves.

However, GENDA would protect that poor early-transitioner who doesn’t have her I.D. in order from being barred from the correct bathroom.

The idea that innocent transgendered and transsexual women should be barred from the appropriate public rest rooms because cisgendered women might feel “uncomfortable” is reminiscent of the policy of racial segregation once practiced in the American South.

The comfort level of white women was “protected.” They were "safe" from having to share the use of toilet seats that were also used by women of color. In many places, there were three facilities – Women, Men, Colored. One might presume that “colored” men and women were supposed to have no problem sharing the same toilets – I guess African-American women were expected to deal with men the seat left up in public facilities, while white women only had to worry about other white women peeing on the seat.) Their segregated white childen were “protected” from exposure to African-American kids in the classroom. In hotels and restaurants, their only contact with African-Americans was with menial cleaning and kitchen staff, and perhaps entertainers, but they were assured that they would be sleeping on sheets that were not shared with African Americans (perhaps not thinking of the fact that the laundress and the maid had at least touched these items). Of course, there was always the shared bus, but even that was separated based on who could sit where.

My own discomfiture is with these ostensibly cissexual cleaning ladies (that’s what they looked like, anyway, with their crochet-patchwork smocks – they certainly weren’t dressed like Capitol professional or office staff – they looked more like the shabbily-dressed denizens of seedy bingo parlors) thinking their feeling of “uncomfortability” with transsexual women (or women they “clock” as transsexual or transgender women, who might just be butch-looking cissexual women, or cissexual women exhibiting symptoms of Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)) entitles them to bar people like me from using the correct public restroom.

If they feel that uncomfortable, I welcome them to “hold it” until they get to the privacy of their own homes. Their comfort level issue should not force me out of an appropriate public restroom. Of course, if they were educated on the issues, they might have a lessened sense of discomfort. They’re not being asked to share the ladies’ room with men, after all.

I actually felt bad for the security staffer – once he had the complaint, he felt it appropriate to use his position of apparent authority to make me prove my entitlement to use the bathroom facility near his security station. I doubt that he was aware of any guidelines as to how to approach this situation, or whether he had the necessary jurisdiction to make the inquiry. And I am sure that he felt terribly uncomfortable about the entire situation, especially after he reviewed my driver’s license to see the big capital “F” on it.

Perhaps he was unaware that the City of Albany already has an appropriate local law protecting transgender people from discrimination like this. I wonder whether there is some policy that the Capitol, being state property, is exempt from the application of local anti-discrimination law, or whether the issue has been raised.

I am not sure who supervises the cleaning personnel (or Capitol staff, if that’s what those two women were). My best guess with regard to the security gentleman, since he was not a uniformed state trooper, is that he is probably a civilian State Police security screening technician associated with the State Police Security Services Unit.

In any event, it might not be a bad idea for some basic sensitivity education to be provided so that gaffes like this don’t happen in the future. I am going to bring this quietly to the attention of State Senator Tom Duane, whose office is just a little way down the hall from the bathroom in question, and trust the good senator to know exactly what to do and who to contact.

Next week is Equality and Justice Day – and there will be hundreds of trans people in Albany, in the throng of over 1,600 people expected to be there for GENDA, Dignity for All Students, and Marriage. I’d hate to see situations occurring where someone without the right documentation gets barred from the appropriate bathroom.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

An Open Letter: The "Unchanging" Church and Marriage

April 16, 2009

The Most Reverend Timothy Dolan
Archbishop of New York
1011 First Avenue
New York, New York 10022

Re: The “Unchanging” Church and Gender-Neutral Civil Marriage: An OPEN Letter

Your Excellency:

At the outset, I wish to welcome you to your new post as the apostate* spiritual leader of the millions of Roman Catholics in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York (NOTE: *apostate? This is a technical apostasy only applicable to the members of the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, since the Mystical Body of Christ remained with me when Father David Clifford, the associate pastor of my former parish in Valhalla, New York, asked me to not come back in August 1999 because my transition was “causing a scandal in the church.” Prior to that I spent 15 years at that parish as the cantor for the 8:00 AM Sunday Mass, and I sang with the choir. I was involved with the parish Home School Association. I also spent three years studying for the priesthood at a Roman Catholic seminary. But all this is merely a footnote.)

Unfortunately you chose, at a press conference held just before your installation as Archbishop, to make at least two erroneous statements about Church history in a single phrase, namely, that the Faith “remains changeless and has for 2,000 years.”

Let’s take the second error first – the length of time the “Faith” has been around: Christianity was not founded until after Jesus Christ was crucified (and in accordance with the Faith, rose from the dead and ascended to Heaven). One might consider that the “foundation” at the earliest could be considered to have taken place at the original Pentecost – which means you’re over twenty years shy of two millennia. One might date the founding of the Roman Catholic Church to as late as the Great Schism of 1054 C.E., which split a then-somewhat-unified Christianity into two great groups – the rites of the Orthodox Churches and their various Patriarchates, and the rites (now pretty much a single Latin rite) associated with the Patriarch of Rome, who at that point was asserting the doctrine of papal supremacy; that the Pope was no longer primum inter pares among the patriarchal successors to the Apostles. If we take this later date, the Roman Catholic Church, while one of the successors or “daughter Churches” to the Christianity established at Pentecost and first doctrinally formalized at the first Council of Nicaea in 325 C.E., may be conceived, based on the time of this schism, to be something on the order of 45 years shy of one millennium.

That leads us to the second error, that the faith is “changeless.” Of course, this idea of changelessness can be dated, again, to either the formalization of the Faith in 325 C.E. at the time of the adoption of the Nicene Creed, or to 1054 C.E. when the Roman Church used the casus belli of its addition of the filioque to the Creed, changing it from the original. But that idea of changelessness in the faith, regardless of the date to which we can trace it, can only go to the so-called “core beliefs” that are shared by all who accept the tenets contained within the Nicene Creed (for our purposes, while I believe the Eastern Patriarchs were more correct on the filioque controversy, we’ll also leave that controversy to the side).

In your press conference you transferred that concept of “changelessness” from those central tenets of the Faith that are truly (well, except for the Great Schism) unchangeable for Catholic and Orthodox Christians, to those various bits and pieces of Church tradition that have only got only a rather relative and sometimes dubious longevity in practice, and to some of those doctrines adopted at Church Councils (sadly, none since a time prior to 1054 C.E. have been truly “universal” and thus can’t be seen as binding on Christianity – so the universally accepted councils, for those not steeped in Church History are Nicaea I - 325 C.E., Constantinople I – 381 C.E., Ephesus – 431 C.E., Chalcedon – 451 C.E., Constantinople II – 553 C.E., Constantinople III – 680-81 C.E., Nicaea II – 787 C.E.).

For example, the doctrine of papal infallibility dates only to 1870 C.E. – The Immaculate Conception dates only to a papal dogmatic declaration of 1854 C.E..

So let’s take a look at the current “controversial” things to which you seem to want to append the idea of “changelessness.”

Abortion: The Church’s initial teachings on “ensoulment” and abortion are based on writings of Aristotle, St. Jerome, St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas – all of whom believed that “ensoulment” occurred several weeks after conception. Pope Innocent III, to whom one might ascribe “infallibility” (though there is the story of one Pope trying and condemning a deceased predecessor – try sorting *that* out), made it Church doctrine around the 13th century that abortion was permitted until fetal animation (called “quickening” Aquinas posited that girl souls were implanted at 90 days after conception, while boys got souls after only 40.

Of course, this medieval and Aristotelian-based philosophical stuff ignored the majestic message of Sacred Scripture, in which the infusion of the soul (and the soul’s taking leave of the body) is inextricably intertwined with breathing – the soul itself involves the “breath of God” or “the breath of life.”

It was not until the 19th century that the Church started to change its position on abortion – and, of course, we have Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae that is largely responsible for the Church losing its moral compass on the ideas and concepts of ensoulment and what constitutes a human being. Human life is a continuum, but a human being does not exist until birth and breath. Humanae Vitae prohibited Catholics from the use of any sort of artificial birth control.

It’s clear what the current Church hierarchy teachings are on abortion and birth control – I submit that while these may be binding on those Roman Catholics who accept the apostasy of the Church hierarchy in its misguidance of the flock, it is in no way appropriate for the hierarchy, and that means you, your Excellency, to take action as the agent of a foreign power to interfere with the constitution and laws of the State of New York and the United States as they apply to those citizens and inhabitants of the United States and the State of New York who do not subscribe to your hierarchical apostasy.

Let’s move on to priestly celibacy and the ordination of women. While these are certainly matters reserved to the hierarchy, it is exasperating when you take advantage of innocent Roman Catholics who are supposed to be members of your flock, who have not had the opportunity to take a seminary course in Church History, to misinform them that these things are “changeless” doctrines of the Church. Shame on you, your Excellency!

As you well know, the doctrine of priestly celibacy in the Western Church has its roots in canon XXXIII of the Spanish Council of Elvira (295-302 C.E.) – and this Western doctrine was expressly not adopted at Nicaea I in 325 C.E. – at which the Church Fathers merely confirmed the prohibition of mulieres subintroductas (no women in a bishop’s priest’s or deacon’s household except a female relative. Church tradition discouraging or forbidding priests marrying after ordination does predate the Council of Nicaea I. At various times in the West, similar prohibitions were adopted at various synods. The final thrust in the Roman Chuch came at Lateran Council II, at which the Church pronounced any marriage contracted by subdeacons or any members of higher orders to be invalid – leaving any conjugal relationships by clergy in the Western Church to be seen as mere concubinage. The celibacy doctrine was further reinforced at Lateran IV and Trent.

Still, the Church in the Modern World may well be prepared for changes in the doctrine – the large numbers of priests who are unable to keep to vows of celibacy and chastity, and who in attempting to suppress their sexual natures turn to alcohol abuse, child sexual abuse, seduction of widows and divorcees, and other matters one might deem to be “scandals in the Church.” While the apostate* Church response to the child abuse scandal has been a witch hunt to remove priests who were naturally endowed with a same-sex sexual orientation, you must know that does not address the root of the scandal.

As to the ordination of women? The early church ordained women. There is evidence in the writings of St. Paul that women were deaconesses, and as late as the 8th century C.E. there were bishopesses, priestesses and deaconesses (in these latter cases, these women were wives, respectively, of bishops, priests and deacons, with whom there were no longer supposed to be conjugal relations, but both husband and wide were to devote themselves to ministering to the flock).

Neither priestly celibacy nor the ban or ordination of women is “changeless” doctrine. However, the apostate hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church has the power to change these things, at a Council, or upon a pronouncement by the Pope (neither of which seems to be likely). You, your Excellency, are certainly correct in asserting that you do not have the power to change these things. You do, however, have the power to privately (publicly would be scandalous, of course) express opinions to the Pope and your fellow bishops that a loosening of doctrine in these areas might be beneficial to the Church. (You also may truly believe that current doctrine rooted in long tradition should not be touched.)

Let’s move now to marriage, a matter which I take very seriously. I am most deeply disappointed in your opposition to the state recognizing civil marriage on a gender-neutral basis. I am aware of your history of anti-marriage activism in secular civil matters from when you were stationed in Wisconsin, where you strongly supported that state’s 2006 constitutional amendment prohibiting gender-neutral marriage and abused your episcopal power and authority to silence the vocal moral opposition of nearly 150 of your priests to this immoral, vile and heterosexual supremacist measure.

Based on this, I must come to the conclusion that your Excellency is really not such an Excellent personage, after all. I am well aware that you are constrained to obedience to the immoral and unethical pronouncements of Joseph Ratzinger (the apostate* anti-Pope Benedict XVI, and the chief architect of the retreat from Vatican II’s encounter between the Church and the Modern World) and the apostate* Roman Catholic Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the subjects of heterosexist supremacy and the institution of marriage.

You and your apostate* Church hierarchy are certainly entitled to limit sacramental Holy Matrimony to those who are approved and qualified to receive the sacrament by the apostate* Church rules. That is, at least one of the parties must be a Roman Catholic, and the other party, if not Roman Catholic, must solemnly agree that any children of the marriage are to be raised within the Roman Catholic Church in order to receive a dispensation and participate in the Sacrament. Longstanding but not “changeless” Church doctrine also requires the participants in a sacramental marriage to be members of the opposite sex relative to each other. (The early Church blessed same-sex unions, such as that between Saints Sergius and Bacchus, based on Sacred Scripture, which in 1 Samuel 18, we see a sacred marriage covenant entered into between God’s anointed, David, and King Saul’s son Jonathan, while later in the same chapter, when Saul gives to David Saul’s daughter Michal in marriage, accurate translations (such as Darby and ASV) make it clear that Saul proclaims that this marriage to Michal makes David Saul’s “son-in-law a second time” (the first time being in the marriage with Jonathan). This bit of Scripture is not taken out of context – and while it is clear that there are many references in Sacred Scripture to heterosexual marriage, this one reference makes it clear that same-sex marriage covenants, as well as polygamy, are sanctioned by Scripture, though not by current understandings of Church tradition. I grant that Jerome fudged the translation of the Vulgate in this chapter, leading King James, Douay-Rheims and other Vulgate-based translations into confusion, so you might dispute the reference to “son-in-law a second time – after all, it is Church doctrine that the Vulgate is the “official” Bible of the Catholic Church.

So we have long-standing but not “changeless” Church doctrine that deals with the Sacrament of Holy matrimony.

Where you and the apostate* Church hierarchy fall into deep immorality and error, is in the insistence that Church doctrine in the area of marriage must be applied in the secular law, despite the strong American secular traditions of the free exercise of religious belief, and the guarantees of individual rights and equal treatment under the law.

Your proclamation that you “don’t shy away from these things” and will work to oppose the gender-neutral marriage bill that Governor David Patterson is about to introduce, makes you an enemy of the American people and the social contract that is the basis and foundation of the United States of America and the State of New York.

There is an uneasy balance between the “majority rule” of democratic institutions, and the “tyranny of the majority” when democratic rule is misused and abused to create special rights for the majority in oppression of the minority. In this case, your erroneous position on civil marriage puts you on the wrong side of the principles of justice, fairness and equal protection under the law.

Your position pits you against the children being raised by same-sex partners in stable relationships. Your position pits you against same-sex partners with long-standing relationships who are forcibly separated under the immigration laws of the United States. Your position pits you against transsexual people – as you well know, the Church held in a sub secretum document published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2000 C.E. (leaked to Catholic News Service in 2002 C.E.) – it’s the Vatican’s position that transsexual people cannot be allowed to marry anyone (male, female, or other), must live lives of celibacy, and may not be admitted to holy orders or even be members of a religious order, congregation or convent (even third-order Franciscans!).

In this area of interference in the civil law, you, your “Excellency,” represent the worst in the abuse of Church doctrine to suborn the processes of secular affairs that have nothing to do with the Church.

While you may have to accept the pernicious and immoral pronouncements of the apostate* Church hierarchy, in particular the vile Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons of July 31, 2003, you are not obliged to blindly follow this. You have a right, as a person who may well have an ounce of moral fortitude in your soul, to take this particular declaration of Church policy in such a way as to permit you to take the high road on this issue and not actually interfere in the process of recognition of the civil rights of the minority. It is not a sin of omission to refrain from taking action to oppose civil laws that would permit government to cease oppressing the minority that your superiors in the apostate* Church have immorally and in an ultra vires manner ordered you to oppress. You may have the moral compass to refuse immoral orders of your superiors – indeed, you have the duty to refuse these orders.

I warn you, however, your “Excellency,” that your interference in secular and civil law in this area will be met with vigorous opposition. If you succeed in your quest to stifle this legislation, you will find me as a strong advocate in opposition to your apostate* Church.

Among the things I might consider:

- laws that would require all of the clergy and members of the hierarchy of your apostate* Church in the United States register as agents of a foreign power. (This thinking is not original on my part – Cardinal Law had to be dissuaded from claiming diplomatic immunity on this sort of basis when his diocesan priestly sex scandal caused him much grief.)

The fact is, the only religion in the world with which the United States maintains a diplomatic ambassadorial relationship is the apostate* Roman Catholic Church, by virtue of its temporal administration of the Vatican City-State. It makes perfect sense to see Catholic prelates who seek to apply principles of the 2003 abomination of a doctrinal message in interfering with American legislative and judicial processes as “agents of a hostile foreign power.” This would not be an unwarranted breach by the State of the separation of government and religion, but an appropriate and necessary reaction to a religious cancer that has already interfered enough in secular affairs.

- laws denying the hostile foreign power apostate* Roman Catholic Church the right to own tax-exempt real estate in the United States, with the exception of embassies and consulates (cathedrals, Episcopal residences and diocesan administrative offices would qualify, assuming we are continuing to maintain diplomatic relations with the Holy See, but not the ownership of parish churches and schools – these would also have no break from local taxation, since they are used by the hostile foreign power to interfere with the internal affairs of the civil law of the United States and the several States; they may even be subject to seizure).

In addition to legislation along one or more of these lines, and the denial of tax exemptions, there are other things I might consider advocating. Since you, and other bishops, on behalf of the apostate* Roman Catholic Church hierarchy officially act in a hostile manner toward the rights and freedoms of the People, as the agent of a hostile foreign power, with the purpose of subverting the American system of government and establishing a sort of Christianist theocracy, I would urge the federal government to break off diplomatic relations and expel all of the hierarchy (or at least those acting in such a hostile manner) from the territory of the United States until such time that the Vatican agrees to not interfere in the domestic affairs of the United States or the several States and at least as to the United States, rescinds the July 2003 document which is the basis for malicious interference in secular affairs.

I admit that these may seem to be somewhat “fringe” positions to take – but they would represent an appropriate response to your proposed active interference on behalf of the apostate* Church in secular matters, if it should be successful (I would not bother to advocate that the apostate* Church be treated as a “hostile foreign power” if you fail, hostile though the hierarchy may be by its actions to people like me). You cannot expect to be able to abuse your position of power as Archbishop of New York without risking the potential adverse consequences of violating the boundaries between Church and State, particularly when the Church you represent is also a Sovereign State in its own right.

Now that I have gotten the unpleasant matters out of the way, I do welcome you to New York. I understand that in areas other than these controversial areas of apostate* Church immorality and hostility to the interests of the people of the State of New York and the United States, you are reputed to be a fine preacher and a prelate who gets along well with your priests, at least with those who are quiet about matters which they might otherwise express disagreement.

While I have shaken the dust of your apostate* Church that has rejected me, from the sandals on my feet, I do retain a certain interest in Catholic matters. While my faith has unraveled to the extent that I am more theologically comfortable with Unitarian Universalism than I am with the sort of things I had to suspend my disbelief to accept that are among the minutiae of Roman Catholic teachings, including some things that are articles of faith under both versions of the Nicene Creed (oh, I *could* believe in some of these things, but the Church’s failures in moral theological maters has made me suspect of its authority in other areas in which it claims to be the possessor of the sole and complete Truth – so it makes me question things like the Church’s understanding of the “Virgin Birth,” the “Immaculate Conception,” the “Assumption” and even a truly central tenet such as the Resurrection. These days I think Thomas Jefferson had a better grasp of the Nature of Jesus than any Catholic theologian – but then again, that’s my personal faith development after having been rejected by the apostate* Church).

In any event, I do hope that despite our doctrinal, political, and other differences, that you serve the Catholic population of the Archdiocese of New York in an appropriate way as a good and faithful Shepherd of this large and diverse flock. I may be among the Other Sheep, exiled and outcast from that flock for being different, but that does not prevent me from wishing you well in those aspects of your work that involve ministering to the legitimate spiritual needs of the Catholics under your jurisdiction.

With warmest regards,

Joann Marie Prinzivalli, Serva Servarum Deae
State Director, New York Transgender Rights Organization (NYTRO)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

On Maggie Gallagher, Marriage and Religious Liberty

Nearly a week late, on her Tuesday, April 7, 2009 column entitled Gay Marriage and the future of religious liberty, nationally syndicated right-wing columnist, President of the so-called National Organization for Marriage (which, curiously, is an anti-marriage group), and Ossining, New York resident Maggie Gallagher makes the claim that laws that make marriage gender-neutral threaten the religious liberty of the citizens of those states that enact such laws.

She claims that same-sex marriage “asks religious Americans to surrender a core belief” vaguely citing both Leviticus and Genesis, but like most Bible-thumpers, completely ignores the message of 1 Samuel 18, in which David, the anointed of God, enters into a same-sex marriage covenant with King Saul’s son Jonathan, and later in the same Chapter, when Saul also gives David his daughter Michal in marriage, Saul says that this makes David his son-in-law a second time. Maggie claims that opposite-sex-only-marriage is a core belief of Christians, but she ignores the Biblical evidence for gender-neutral marriage.

Her argument is specious – the adoption of gender-neutral marriage laws does not force religious Americans to give up any belief at all with regard to their religious beliefs with regard to marriage. In fact, the adoption of gender-neutral marriage laws involves an affirmation of religious freedom.

The Catholic Sacrament of Holy Matrimony between a man and a woman is not adversely affected by making civil marriage laws gender-neutral – a man may still sacramentally marry a woman in a Catholic Church. But now, Quakers, Unitarians and others whose deeply held religious beliefs sanction the religious marriage of two men, or two women, may now exercise the freedom of their deeply-held beliefs.

Maggie also envisions a dystopian future where courts will ban private discrimination within the churches. To an extent, this is utter nonsense. However, when it comes to dealing on the secular plane with people of different religious beliefs, the law should brook no discrimination. Religious freedom, like the freedom of speech, is not an absolute and untrammeled right of one religious tradition to impose its beliefs on all. That would be like Maggie Gallagher, whose organization seeks to do just that.

But when religious groups venture into the world of commerce, respect for other beliefs must be paramount. Mormons can ban anyone without a Temple Recommend (even other Mormons) from their temple precincts – but if they operate a business, they should be obliged to obey non-discrimination laws in the conduct of that business – particularly if they receive government funding or tax relief.

Still, I believe there is a legitimate church-state issue here that Maggie does not seem to comprehend or raise – government should have no authority over religious marriage or the regulation or sanctioning of religious marriage. New York’s domestic relations law has several sections pursuant to which clergy are authorized to perform marriages in the State of New York, and provides penalties for clergy who do not perform marriages in accordance with state law. This is an unwarranted intrusion into religious freedom. Clergy should have no right to preside over a secular marriage (unless they do not discriminate against anyone with a valid government-issued license), and the government should have no say about the termination of any religious marriage contract.

The distinction between secular and religious marriage is most apparent in the area of divorce laws – while under current unconstitutional law, a Catholic priest might preside over a combined secular/religious wedding, a catholic tribunal may only terminate or void the religious sacrament, while the divorce court may only terminate the civil marriage contract. It’s the same in Jewish tradition, where the Jewish religious marriage contract can only be terminated by a “get,” while the state only requires that the husband agree to obtain a get as a condition of the civil divorce decree being obtained. (This, too, is an intrusion into religious liberty.)

We should look to the more enlightened European countries, which strictly separate the secular civil marriage performed by a civil official, from a religious sacrament, contract or blessing. Such a true separation of church and state would help ease the confusion in the minds of ignorant people like my neighbor Maggie Gallagher and her ilk. She objects to being called a bigot, even though to those who are not ignorant, her position on imposing her personal bigoted narrow un-Christian Christianist beliefs on everyone is clearly seen as bigotry by anyone who has a modicum of decency or morality. To be charitable, perhaps she is truly ignorant or incapable of grasping truth, and not bigoted and mean-spirited on purpose.

If I can respect her civil rights under secular marriage laws, why can’t she accept that those rights should be equally available to persons other than the heterosexual majority?

While I could make a theological argument based on 1 Samuel 18 to the Roman Catholic hierarchy to implore it to change its stance so that it sacramentalizes marriage on a gender-neutral basis, I would expect the hierarchy to make its own rules with regard to sacramental issues. I do not expect the Catholic hierarchy to butt its way into civil marriage, but the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has done so, in a document that is offensive to anyone who respects the founding principles and the social contract upon which the American republic was created.

Maggie Gallagher and her errantly-named NOM group also want to impose Christianist religious bigotry on the civil institution of marriage.

The First Amendment to the American Constitution expressly guarantees freedom of religious expression, not just to conservative Christianists, but to all Americans. The same Amendment also prohibits the government from establishing religion. The only way to accomplish both the religious freedom and the non-Establishment is to separate religious and civil marriage, at the commencement, during the marriage, and also at and after the termination. A civil divorce should not be sufficient to end a religious contract, nor should a religious annulment be permitted to end a civil marriage – it should be the same way at the beginning.

While the government may not establish religion, it can, and perhaps should, respect the binding nature of religious sacramental contracts and blessings, requiring that any existing religious blessing or sacrament be dispensed with prior to permitting a party to enter into any new civil marriage or as a prerequisite to formally granting a divorce (though a civil separation would be available to those under a religious disability). But perhaps that should be the extent of the government/religion connection in the area of marriage.

Such an arrangement would strengthen the religious freedom of Mormons to enter into their more solemn form of marriage with sealing, or a fundamentalist Christian “covenant marriage,” or the Catholic Matrimonial sacrament. After all, a contract should be respected, even if it is a contract entered into under religious auspices.

However, a civil marriage should be required for any of the secular civil rights and responsibilities of marriage to inure.

Interestingly, this separation also creates a hope for some senior citizens in nursing homes who may choose to enter into a religious-only marriage so they can sleep together without sin, while keeping their estates separate and their social security checks intact.

In any event, the picture Maggie paints of gender-neutral marriage laws is bleak and uninviting – but it is all based on a tissue of lies, innuendo and falsification.

Maggie’s final question is “Is Vermont the beginning of a new willingness on the part of the powerful gay-marriage movement to let Christians be Christians?”

Ah, but the question should be asked of Maggie herself – is she and her curiously-named anti-marriage organization willing to let Christians be Christians rather than forcing the state to impose Christianist bigotry on everyone?

Jesus Himself recognized a separation of religion from the secular law when He said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (cit. all the synoptic Gospels: Matthew 22:21, Mark 12:17 and Luke 20:25). Perhaps Maggie might consider respecting these wise words of Jesus, and keep her religious bigotry out of civil laws that respect all religion, even atheism.

Perhaps Maggie may some day become enlightened. Perhaps she may one day be given the efficacious grace of the Spirit so that she may grow in Wisdom and Understanding, and that she will see the inherent error of her current position. Like Pastor Rick Warren, whom she skewers in her column, perhaps she may one day start down the road to a change of heart - in which her organization might some day truly and really be *for* marriage and not really against it. Perhaps only time will tell.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sharing Umbrellas?

In the US, some of the earliest human rights ordinances that were adopted (as early as 1975) treated trans within the definition of sexual orientation. Most later laws and ordinances have made a distinction. But that doesn’t stop some people from seeing “trans” as a sexual orientation.

Some will say that the LGBT “umbrella” (or (or "GLBT umbrella" for those who don't believe in "ladies first") is responsible for the problem. It's the "LGBT Umbrella" that creates the confusion - three "sexual orientations" coupled with "gender identity and expression." Of course, the reason for the inclusion of T (which always comes at the end in the four-letter versions), as well as I (for Intersex) and one or more Qs (for Queer and Questioning), is because all of these identities, orientations and expressions are not shared by the majority of people, who are Cisgendered, Cissexual, Conforming and Heterosexual.

There’s also a controversy about the "transgender umbrella," which has nothing at all to do with sexual orientation – but creates a great deal of agitation among transsexual separatists who claim they don’t fall within the shadow of that umbrella.

Unless it’s properly understood as being reflective of sexual minorities and not only sexual orientations, the "LGBT Umbrella" can create confusion - three "sexual orientations" coupled with "gender identity and expression."

And yes, the transsexual separatists do have a point – the “transgender umbrella” can be misunderstood. (In fact, the separatists themselves often misunderstand it.)

When I do one of my "Trans 101" lectures, I talk about "the binary of sex and gender" and explain that for most people, sex and gender are conflated - male is synonymous with man, and female is synonymous with woman. I also explain that in English, we don't really have good language to easily express the differences, so I use some terms as "terms of art" that take on a slightly unconventional meaning.

Then I start with four basic characteristics to break down sex and gender:

Gender Identity (GI)
Sex Assignment (SA)
Gender Expression/Social Role (GE)
Sexual Orientation (SO)

(You see, sexual orientation gets to be a part of sex/gender, but not the overarching thing)

Then I go with the "Either/Or" of the binary:

GI . . . Masculine . . . Feminine
SA . . . Male . . . . . . . . Female
GE . . . Man . . . . . . . . Woman
SO . . . Attracted . . . . Attracted
. . . . . . .to women . . . . to men

A bit over 90% of the population will identify as one or the other of these "either/or" columns.

Then I get into Both/Neither in each characteristic, bringing in bigender (GI), agender (GI), intersex (SA - for both *and* neither), alternate presentation (GE), mixed presentation(GE), neutral presenation (GE), attracted-to-both (SO), and attracted to neither (SO).

Then we go through how there is such a diversity of identities in that less-than-10% of the population.

Gender Identity and Gender Expression are Cisgender/Transgender characteristics. Sex Assignment is a Cissexual/Transsexual/Intersex characteristic, and Sexual orientation is a Heterosexual/Homosexual/Bisexual/Asexual characteristic.

It's clear to me that those with a reversed polarity in any of the characteristics, as well as those who are "both" or "neither" should be covered in human rights laws.

In a recent e-mail conversation I had with a Canadian trans-activist, I agreed that it is an error for the Canadian Rainbow Health Coalition to include aboriginal two-spirit people *solely* under sexual orientation. Of course, just like everyone else, two-spirit folks do have sexual orientations, they also have gender identities and gender expressions, *and* sex assignments!

As to including "all gender-non-conforming people" as homosexual? That seems a *lot* like a retrogression to the 1960's and 1970's - when the public perception of "trans" was as a kind of "gay." I guess that there is a bit of education that remains to be done.

BTW, on the "transgender as umbrella" thing - if you were to take my little matrix, it shows that both those who accept the "transgender umbrella" and those who reject it, do have a point. Transsexual relates to "sex assignment," Transgender relates to "gender identity" and "gender expression."

But transsexual people, like gay people, don't live in a vacuum. Transsexual people have gender identity and gender expression as well as a sex assignment (or in some cases, a sex re-assignment). For someone assigned as "Or" at birth, having a gender identity that is "Either" is one of the bases for seeking a change of SA. (And part-time crossdressers are often "Both" in gender identity and thus don't seek a change of SA.)

A part of the problem with the way some transsexual separatists view the situation, is that they will focus exclusively on the sex assignment aspect of things, and will even deny the existence of “gender identity.” (And for some, I actually have to refer to “gender identity” as “sex identity” because they will claim “gender identity” doesn’t exist, or refers to the Butch/Femme scale, while taking the definition customarily associated with “gender identity” and calling it “sex identity.” This is, of course, a matter of semantics.)

I am a firm advocate of replacing the “skinner box” psychology-psychiatry-as-equivalent-of-alchemy-astrology idea of “Gender Identity Disorder” with a recognition of Harry Benjamin Syndrome, a medical condition, not a psychiatric one.

I am also a firm believer that people who are born with HBS never really belong in their original sex assignment, and are not really male-to female (MTF) but are Women Born Transsexual (WBT), or not really female-to-male (FTM) but are Men Born Transsexual (MBT). This terminology change would reflect the recognition that people with HBS develop in such a way that their BSTc develops with a characteristic neuronal density related to target sex, not birth-assigned sex, while the mullerian or wollfian duct system developed in accordance with birth-assigned sex (except for those individuals with an intersex condition that is not solely centered in the brain development). The existence of the studies related to the BSTc and the long androgen receptor gene goes a long way to establishing HBS as a reality. I also believe that there is a need for study of the causes of whatever it is that causes non-transsexual transgender identities – is it related to HBS, or is it a completely different phenomenon? Could there be situations where the long androgen receptor gene is only partly expressed? What does the BSTc look like for part-time crossdressers who indicate that they are expressing an inner “feminine identity?” We don’t have answers to questions like these, so we’re in a situation where there is a lot more gray area than one might like, regardless of whether one is a separatist or not.

The fact that there are some ostensibly-heterosexual part-time MTF crossdressers who have an organization that excludes gays and post-op transsexuals doesn’t mean they are the root of some vast “transgender conspiracy” even if the founder of that organization had poorly-conceived understanding of the nature of transsexuality. The fact that there are some who advocate in favor of destroying the binary of sex and gender for everyone (rather than expanding it so that it isn’t just a binary and includes everyone), does not imply that anyone who is not a post-op is a member of this straw-man “transgender conspiracy.” The fact that there are mentally ill and socially pathological people who also have a sexual fetish for opposite-sex articles of clothing does not make them representative of all people “under the umbrella” (and in fact, if these people do not have an “opposite” or “bi” gender identity, those folks are not really under the “transgender” umbrella in the first place), does not support the existence of a vast “transgender conspiracy.”

I can understand and appreciate the fact that there are certain aspects of “reasonable accommodation” to which post-ops should have easier access and recognition, by virtue of having undergone the surgical procedures, which should be recognized as prima facie evidence of entitlement, while those who are pre-op or non-op should have more hoops to jump and perhaps a degree less accommodation. There is a huge difference between this and a common transsexual separatist position, which is that surgery should be the bright line for everything. It is also hugely different from the “straw man” transgender conspiracy created by some transsexual separatists that supposedly advocates that surgery shouldn’t be a consideration for anything, and that everything should be based on identity alone. (And I am sure there are perhaps a few out there who fit the “straw man” definition – after all, there is a diversity among advocates, and some may well fit into the boogie-trans category, monsters waiting under our beds and in our closets. But a few extremists do not represent the entire “umbrella.”)

Some transsexual separatists claim that the inclusive “transgender umbrella” folks are invading their space and claiming that “we are all the same.” The first thing, is that there is not a person with HBS who does not fit into the “set” (set theory was taught to me in the 5th grade with “new math” and I have always found it fascinating) of “people whose gender identity is opposite that expected for persons assigned the sex they were assigned at birth.” That is a “set” that excludes anyone without HBS. But they’re also members of a *larger* set – that of “people whose gender identity is different from that expected for persons assigned the sex they were assigned at birth.”

With the set of “opposite” one includes only persons whose gender identity is opposite that associated with birth assignment. With the set of “different” one also *includes* those whose identity is bigendered or agendered as well as opposite-gendered. That’s the “transgender umbrella” by definition. The only people who aren’t under the shadow of that umbrella are the cisgendered cissexual people who form a large majority (larger, if we include non-trans folks who have a cisgendered cissexual identity while having heir differences in sexual orientation!)

The last thought brings us to the next – what about sexual orientation? It seems that many but not all WBTs who have an issue with the “transgender umbrella” also have an issue with the “LGBT umbrella.” Many but not all of these are heterosexual based in reassigned sex. Perhaps it’s because they, once having completed surgery, desperately want to be included with the Cisgendered Cissexual Conforming and Heterosexual majority, and they see anyone who thinks of them as falling within the minority umbrella (LGBT or transgender) as holding them back from recognition.

The fact is that those transsexual separatists, by aligning with an oppressor majority, attempt to currying favor with that majority by claiming that by virtue of surgery they’ve joined the majority – and it’s those others, those sexual minorities, who shouldn’t have rights. (And there are some who might be transsexual separatists in some regards, who are actually enlightened enough to understand that there are some shared rights.)

Some transsexual separatists who identify as lesbian or bisexual may not have a terrible problem with gay and lesbian people, but see the “transsexual umbrella” as keeping them away from recognition as cissexual, or at least cissexual enough to be accepted as cissexual.

Some of the loathing I see expressed toward “transgender” is aimed at those who are bigender. This phenomenon is very mucg similar to the treatment of bisexual people in some gay and lesbian circles.

It is perhaps axiomatic that people whose polarities are “opposite” bus still within the binary, might have a tendency to look askance as those who have an aspect that falls outside the “Either/Or.” A “Both” identity, orientation or expression, can be viewed badly by those whose desire is to assimilate. (And no one seems to want to bother even thinking about the “Neithers.” It’s as if they didn’t exist – but they do!) With those who are post-op, the assimilation is more acute by virtue of having undergone surgery to fit in, than it is with gays and lesbians who take this view, whose resort in seeking human rights is that “the only difference is in the bedroom” – thus showing a willingness to leave behind those who don’t look straight (or in the case of transsexual separatists, “pass.”)

There are some transsexual separatists who also see “passing” as a factor – they believe that non-passable folks with HBS perhaps shouldn’t have surgery, because they make the passable ones look bad. (There are not too many transsexual separatists with this uncharitable view, but I have seen it expressed).

And yes, there are those "transsexual separatists" who object to the *term* "transsexual separatist." This may be because the term "separatist" has an odious bit of semantic baggage, though they'll indicate that they're not "separate" at all, just "not transgender." (Which, of course requires different definitions of the terms from those communly understood.)

So, is it possible that people can set aside their differences and work together? Is it possible for people to recognize that the “transgender umbrella” does not imply that “we are all the same” but only that “we all share a single characteristic even though we are all different?”

Perhaps not - there will probably always be some who feel a need for separatism. I hope they are and remain a tiny minority. I do hope it is possible to respect the differences while still accepting the umbrella – by looking to our commonalities rather than solely focusing on our differences, we can get farther together.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Going toe-to-toe with the Christianists

Today on one of my favorite blogs in the whole world, Pam’s House Blend, we get the otherwise cryptically-named article by Pam Spaulding herself entitled:

And Blankenhorn and Rauch think these people will compromise on marriage?

(The cryptic reference to Blankenhorn and Rauch is to an op-ed piece on compromise in federal recognition of civil unions that ran earlier in the week in The New York Times, A Reconciliation on Gay Marriage, by By DAVID BLANKENHORN and JONATHAN RAUCH
Published: February 21, 2009 )

I won’t go into the proposed “compromise” here – that’s not the thrust of Pam’s thoughtful essay.

What Pam writes about here is the right-wing Christianist rhetoric about gays that rings lodly in the halls of Congress and the inner recesses of our state legislatures. Today’s featured nutcase is Colorado State Senator Scott Renfroe, a Republican from Greeley, Colorado.

Renfroe was quoted in opposition to a bill to grant insurance benefits to gay partners of state employees (a bill that passed in the Colorado Senate after his less-than-inspiring speech) as saying “I oppose this bill because of what my personal beliefs are. I think that what our country was founded upon was those beliefs also.”

What are Renfroe’s beliefs? He certainly can’t be a Christian. Then again, even Pope Benedict XVI isn’t really a Christian. People with the sort of belief about LGBT people that Renfroe has, if they claim to be Christians, are lying. They’re Christianists – people who pervert and twist the kerygma of the message of the Good News, and use it as a justification for attempting to take their bigoted feelings about people who are different from themselves, and make their bigotry the law of the land.

How do we deal with the Christianists? Toe to toe on the theological level.

Every time they cite Leviticus 18:22:

"Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination"

We should turn the other cheek with 1 Samuel 18:3:

“Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul”

and 1 Samuel 18:21 (KJV and most other translations are confused):

"And Saul said, I will give him her, that she may be a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him. Wherefore Saul said to David, Thou shalt this day be my son in law in the one of the twain,"

giving the impression that David will be marrying one of Saul's two daughters. So let’s not use the old KJV or other mistranslations of this verse. The literal and accurate Darby gives us:

"And Saul said, I will give him her, that she may be a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be upon him. And Saul said to David, Thou shalt this day be my son-in-law a second time."

The first time was with Saul's son Jonathan, the second with Saul's daughter Michal). That means David and Jonathan were married.

The American Standard version (ASV), also a reasonably good translation, differs from Darby in only two words:

"And Saul said, I will give him her, that she may be a snare to him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him. Wherefore Saul said to David, Thou shalt this day be my son-in-law a second time."

John Nelson Darby was the leader of the Plymouth Brethren movement in the 1800s. He was extremely gifted in linguistics. Darby is reputed to be a very rich and accurate translation. By going to the available original language sources rather than translating from St. Jerome's Latin Vulgate, (Douay-Rheims does the best job of that, but most non-Catholic Christianists think that the KJV was "authorized" by God rather than King James . . . ), Darby gets to the essence of what otherwise looks like a completely fumbled passage. After all, when homophobes do the translating, they're more likely to try to obscure the meaning of anything quite as powerful an example of same-sex marriage clearly stated in the Bible as the sacred covenant between David and Jonathan.

How does this relate to Leviticus 18:22? Simply put, at worst this verse from the "holiness code" relates only to a single kind of male-male sexual activity. Some theologians will also link this prohibition to the story of Sodom, and indicate that it relates only to the practice of anal rape, commonly used in the ancient Near East as a way to humiliate a defeated enemy by "using him as one would use a woman" (which has nothing to do with a loving gay relationship). Others would link it to a prohibition of sacramental religious relations with transgendered priestesses of Near East agricultural goddesses (Astarte, Ishtar, etc.), relating more to Caananite religion as the forbidden "competition" for the Hebrews at the time of Leviticus.

The Christianists and their erroneous understanding of Sacred Scripture can be challenged, and should be challenged, on their own theological turf. Too often LGBT people will turn away from Christianity, thinking that the Christianists are the bearers of the Good News. They are not - they pervert the Bible with their Un-Chriatian foul bigotry spawned by Satan. Unless they repent they will be numbered among the goats on the Day of Judgment, asking in their confused false righteousness:

"Lord, when saw we thee . . .a stranger, . . . and have not ministered to thee?

Then shall he answer them saying, Verily I say to you, Inasmuch as ye have not done it to one of these least, neither have ye done it to me.

And these shall go away into eternal punishment, and the righteous into life eternal."

- Mt. 25:44-46 (Darby)

This relates back to one of my favorite passages, Isaiah 56. I often will cite verses 3-5, but see 6-7:

Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant;

Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.

- Isaiah 56:6-7 (KJV)

Strangers are not only those who are from foreign countries and cultures, but also those in our midst who are different by our natures or circumstances from the majority - whether it be based on race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, etc.

Real Christians embrace the wonderful diversity in God's creation, while Christianists, even the Pope, abhor it. Like the men of Sodom, their desire is to obliterate us, to humiliate us, to deny us human rights and common decency, solely because we are different, because we are "strangers," because we are aliens in our own native land and culture.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Marriage Equality in the Year of St. Paul

Until June 29, 2009, the Roman Catholic Church is celebrating a special jubilee year dedicated to commemorate the approximate 2000 years since the birth of St. Paul the Apostle.

In honor of St. Paul, let’s start this essay as a meditation on his writings on the issue of the purpose of marriage, expressed in 1 Corinthians 7:8-9:

8 Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am.

9 But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

In addition to this passage from St. Paul, let’s take a look at the recent reports coming from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina, reported in an article in The Raleigh News and Observer on Sunday, February 15, 2009, entitled Push is on for same-sex celibacy: Raleigh diocese directs ministry at gays, lesbians

I learned about this from a blog essay written by Pam Spaulding, the proprietress of the Pam’s House Blend blog (a blog I highly endorse for its well-written essays), entitled Raleigh, Charlotte dioceses pushing same-sex celibacy, NC marriage amendment

Now that I’ve identified the sources of the reportage, let’s get to meat of the reports.

It seems that the Diocese of Raleigh is embarking on two initiatives related to marriage:

First, the Raleigh diocese is organizing a diocesan chapter of Courage, a group that encourages gay Catholics toward a celibate life, and

Second, the Bishop of Raleigh is planning on joining with the Bishop of Charlotte (also in North Carolina) on February 24, 2009 to endorse a proposed amendment to the North Carolina state constitution to define marriage solely as the union of one man and one woman, to enshrine in the state constitution a ban against equal marriage rights for non-heterosexual people.

I actually don’t object to the bishop starting up a Courage chapter – but I believe that Courage itself is too limited in its scope. It should be aimed at all unmarried Catholics, and not just those with a homosexual orientation. The reason is very much associated with 1 Corinthians 7:8-9.

While I would welcome an expanded Courage aimed at all sexual orientations, I strongly object to the bishops in North Carolina on the one hand trying to discourage promiscuity only for gays by pushing celibacy on them (which works only for those few actually called to a celibate life), and at the same time encouraging the adoption of a constitutional anti-marriage amendment that would serve the opposite purpose, as a secular encouragement of promiscuity in the gay population.

I also disagree with the Roman Catholic hierarchy on its objection to the idea of marriage as a sacramental covenant that is not open to non-heterosexual people. Holy Matrimony as a sacrament should be open to non-heterosexual couples on the basis of the sacred marriage covenant entered into between David and Saul’s son Jonathan (see 1 Samuel 18).

Why do I take these points of view?

Simply because anyone who reads and understands the Bible properly must know that the Church (and all Christian leaders) should, like St. Paul, be teaching that the highest calling for all Christians is to celibacy, while marriage, even though a sacremant as well as a civil right, should be seen only as the last resort for those Christians whose libidos are such that they cannot remain celibate.

By closing the option of sacramental marriage to gays and lesbians, the Roman Catholic hierarchy sets up those of them who cannot live a celibate life, and who, being unmarried *and* without an option to marry, cannot contain their sexual libidos, to a life the Church can in its gross immorality gleefully condemn as sinful.

(A preferable alternative and truly moral point of view is to understand that God does not require the impossible. If marriage is not a sacramental or secular possibility for gays and lesbians, any actions they take to assuage their libidinal feelings outside of marriage cannot be sinful – they have no option to marry, God does not require the impossible, and thus the Church cannot reasonably expect all gays and lesbians to be called to celibacy.)

By closing the option of sacramental marriage to gays and lesbians, the Roman Catholic hierarchy also actually encourages them to enter into lives of promiscuity – by providing no moral alternative. It is a wonder that so many gays and lesbians are able to find a way to live non-promiscuous lives with long-term partners in informal or even legally recognized domestic partnerships, civil unions, and civil marriages. And wise governments, seeking societal stability, will find ways to encourage marriage as a choice for all. The Church, however, ignores this phenomenon and paints a picture of a “homosexual lifestyle” that is purely sybaritic, self-indulgent, decadent and promiscuous. It is this “lifestyle” that the Church creates as a straw man – as if the only alternative for the gay population is celibacy.

On the Raleigh diocese website, this promiscuous “gay lifestyle” is the main reason for the creation of Courage. The diocesan webpage starts with a quote from “Mark,” a Courage member:

“I thought I had the homosexuality under control. I'd been a Catholic for five years, went to daily Mass, prayed the rosary daily, went on one or two retreats a year, and volunteered at my parish. Yet, after a series of crises occurred, I once again became involved in addictive, homosexual behavior. So what happened?”

“Addictive homosexual behavior” is a code word for that straw man “promiscuous gay lifestyle.” I’m not about to deny that such a lifestyle actually exists – but I will deny that it is the only path taken by gay people.

The diocese goes on:

In a recent interview, Fr. Check talked about his experience in counseling those with SSA. “The problem of same-sex attraction does not reduce well to a few words,” he said. “It is certainly no place for slogans or hastily formed conclusions. Most importantly, it calls for abundant and genuine charity, something that in my opinion tends to be conspicuous in its absence from much of the discussion of the topic.”

NCC spoke with a Raleigh woman active in Encourage. Her son was 23 when he announced defiantly – by email -- that he was gay. “I was devastated,” she says. “My son was sinning, alienating himself from me and from God, and I didn’t know how to parent him. All I could say to him was, ‘I love you with all my heart. Stay close to God.’” In her search for compassion and support, she learned about Courage/Encourage in 2004, and became an advocate for the establishment of a chapter in the Diocese of Raleigh.

The perception that people with SSA are happy is a myth, she says: “When my son is ‘acting out’ the SSA lifestyle, his whole personality changes. He becomes distant, cruel and defensive. When he’s not living it, he’s just the opposite, compassionate and empathetic.”

“The problem of same sex attraction is often vexing to those who struggle with it,” Fr. Check concurs. “Shame, loneliness, and a sense of hopelessness are the enemies. Often people with SSA also struggle with sexual addiction, drug or alcohol abuse, depression, anxiety or other mental illness. This remains true even in the places where sexual promiscuity is widely tolerated.”

This whole line of reasoning is specious. That mother would have done herself and her son a lot more good had she gotten involved with her local P-FLAG ghapter. This whole straw man “SSA lifestyle” (SSA = same sex attraction) is not any different from an OSA lifestyle (where OSA means “opposite sex attraction.” Let’s see how much sense the foregoing makes if we make the substitution (and also, as the Church seems to do with SSA, make the same assumption about OSA, that it involves lots of wild promiscuous sex parties):

In a recent interview, Fr. Check talked about his experience in counseling those with OSA. “The problem of opposite-sex attraction does not reduce well to a few words,” he said. “It is certainly no place for slogans or hastily formed conclusions. Most importantly, it calls for abundant and genuine charity, something that in my opinion tends to be conspicuous in its absence from much of the discussion of the topic.”

NCC spoke with a Raleigh woman active in Encourage. Her son was 23 when he announced defiantly – by email -- that he was straight. “I was devastated,” she says. “My son was sinning, alienating himself from me and from God, and I didn’t know how to parent him. All I could say to him was, ‘I love you with all my heart. Stay close to God.’” In her search for compassion and support, she learned about Courage/Encourage in 2004, and became an advocate for the establishment of a chapter in the Diocese of Raleigh.

The perception that people with OSA are happy is a myth, she says: “When my son is ‘acting out’ the OSA lifestyle, his whole personality changes. He becomes distant, cruel and defensive. When he’s not living it, he’s just the opposite, compassionate and empathetic.”

Of course, if a person living a real promiscuous OSA lifestyle then turns to God, the Church might encourage that individual to settle down into a marriage, if he or she can’t remain celibate.

The Church presents no moral alternative to gays and lesbians – only the (impossible for most) idea of living a celibate life. And the treatment of “internalized homophobia” blames the homosexuality itself for the effects of what one might fairly refer to as a “culturally-induced stress disorder.”

Let’s take another look at the last of the originally-quoted paragraphs:

“The problem of same sex attraction is often vexing to those who struggle with it,” Fr. Check concurs. “Shame, loneliness, and a sense of hopelessness are the enemies. Often people with SSA also struggle with sexual addiction, drug or alcohol abuse, depression, anxiety or other mental illness. This remains true even in the places where sexual promiscuity is widely tolerated.”

This is turning the whole problem upside-down! The side effects come from the lack of self-acceptance found in those who feel conflicted between the false teachings they have been exposed to about their natural orientation, and their experience of the orientation itself. The struggles cease when the individual comes to the realization that the Church is wrong, and that the individual can be good and moral and loved by God even if they are gay and having a chaste gay relationship.

The Church finds itself in this conundrum, and is itself the cause of so much of the grief (though secular society and parents and family members must also share some of the blame), because its moral theology starts with false premises about natural law. When the Roman Catholic hierarchy insists that "homosexual acts" are sinful for those with a "homosexual inclination," the hierarchy relies on a false understanding of Natural Law. Homosexual acts are only sinful for those with a heterosexual inclination (they should read and understand Romans 1 with the insight that an "act in accordance with (one's) nature" is not an "act against Nature").

The Roman Catholic Church insists on celibacy as a test for a priestly vocation - to insist that all whose sexual orientation is not heterosexual must be celibate or sinful is a perversion of the message of scripture.

The hierarchy should take a closer look at St. Paul – and to the story of David and Jonathan.

It’s about time that the Roman Catholic Church re-examined its schizophrenic teachings about homosexuality – on the one hand, that gays be treated with respect, and on the other hand, that homosexual activity cannot be condoned.

Such a teaching flies in the face of St. Paul’s teaching – sure, in context, Paul was writing directly about heterosexual people – but the point is extendable to non-heterosexual people as well.

God does not expect the impossible. For those of any sexual orientation who are called to celibacy, God will provide sufficient (and efficacious, if they exercise their free will to do so) grace for them to be celibate. For those who cannot remain celibate because they burn with libidinous passion, regardless of their orientation, a legal, moral and sacramental path must be made available for them to be able to live chaste lives within a marital bond.

To that end, an organization like Courage should be open to all unmarried Catholics – who, straight or gay, should be strongly encouraged to remain virginal, chaste and celibate as their primary goal – and that only those Catholics (and all other Christians) whose souls burn with sexual desire that they cannot completely control should be allowed to marry. (Of course, for those who are not Christian at all, there would be no need for the secular law to address the idea of celibacy as a calling – secular law should permit equal marriage rights for all as a matter of providing a level playing field.

To St. Paul, it’s clear that marriage for the Christian is not for procreation – that was a value suitable solely for those who lived before Christ came as the Redeemer, and for pagans and unbelievers. For those who have accepted Christ, and are not already married at the time they are baptized as Christians, the primary calling is clearly to celibacy. . . if they can handle it. Celibacy should not be the expectation only for priests, gays and lesbians.

Oh, and if I didn’t mention it earlier in this essay (I didn’t), the Church has painted itself into the same sort of moral corner with the trans population. We are not allowed to marry the same sex (or the opposite sex). We, too, are all expected by the Church to achieve the impossible (impossible except for a few) that God does not expect.

God does not expect the impossible - why should the Roman Catholic Church?