Friday, December 19, 2014

Nonsense from the USCCB about gender identity

Archbishop Cordileone, one of the
 authors of the USCCB statement. 
On December 5, 2014, four chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore and Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York)  issued a statement that included the following sentence, with reference to the US Department of Labor “Final Rule” to implement President Obama’s July 21, 2014 Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity:

Additionally, the regulations advance the false ideology of “gender identity,” which ignores biological reality and harms the privacy and associational rights of both contractors and their employees.

Let’s start with “false ideology.”

Gender identity is not a “false ideology.” It is not even an “ideology” at all. The only false ideology in the picture here is the distorted and fundamentally unsound heterosexist and cissexist “moral” theology advanced by the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church, which is based on superstition, lies, and nonsense, having nothing at all to do with an understanding rooted in science or nature. 

Gender identity is actually one (and a very important) aspect of biological sex.

It is physiologically based in the biological structure of an individual’s brain.

Everyone has a gender identity – most people happen to have a brain-based gender identity that is congruent with the genital tract (mullerian or wolffian) that developed as they went through gestation.

However, there are a number of individuals who have one or another genetic factor that led to their brain developing entirely or partially along one “sexed” path, while their genital tract development, occurring during a different period during gestation, went partially or entirely along the other sexed path. 

There are many different kinds of genetic and developmental difference.

For those whose brain developed entirely or partially along the opposite sex path from the genital tract, which developed entirely the other way, we have the term transsexual or transgender.

For those whose genital tract development differs from the expected path, there are various other forms of intersex terminology.

The bottom line is that the assignment of sex on a binary basis into male or female is not a reflection of a biological reality that includes a multiplicity of sexed outcomes.

The science is out there – the Catholic Church hierarchy has willfully blinded itself to the science.  Examine the genes that lead to a “long androgen receptor” or to enzymes that super-efficiently process testosterone.  Watch them as they influence brain development – and then see the outcome.

In 1965, even the best medical science did not understand the nature of these variations in human development – but parts of this knowledge have been in place since the late 1990’s and some of the genetic pieces have been known since 2008.

While the large majority of people turn out to be “cis” (cissexual or cisgender), those who turn out to be transsexual, transgender, or intersex are human beings, too – and should be endowed under the law with the same rights against discrimination as anyone else.

The Roman Catholic catechism is silent on the issue of transgender or intersex people.  However, the Roman Catholic Church’s sacred scriptures contain three interconnected passages that make it clear that transgender people are special to God.

Isaiah 56, Matthew 19:12, and Acts 8 are all intertwined in such a way as to imply that people like me are special in the eyes of God.

No one should be allowed to use “religious faith” as an excuse to discriminate against other people in the public square.  The fact that these bishops demand special rights above and beyond what they do within the confines of their churches and among the adherents of their faith is an outrage.

Federal contractors must and should be held to a greater and more moral accountability than that allowed or required by the false, bigoted and objectively disordered and immoral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, or any other religion that holds to beliefs that are harmful to members of any oppressed minority.

I call upon Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore and Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, to retract their statement and go out and learn some science before they make greater buffoons of themselves than they did in this statement.  And this column does not even address the apoplexy they have over the issue of sexual orientation.

Put simply - if they want to fire gay organists and music directors for their churches, they have that right.  But if they are acting as a federal contractor providing services wholly or partly at taxpayer expense, they have to be able to play nice with others - or get off the taxpayer-funded gravy train.


  1. Joanne, thanks for the information contained in your blog post. Most helpful to me! My question is this: what about a second baptism for a trans person? If someone was baptized in a different faith, with a different gender identity and sexual orientation, wouldn't a second baptism be appropriate for a person's new identity?

    1. Sorry for the time lapse in my answer. Technically speaking, one baptism is sufficient.

      OTOH, many trans folk see transition as a rebirth - and if a different sect is involved, I don't see an issue with a new baptism. As it is, the RCC has ibvalidated many baptisms because the celebrant used gender-neutral language (e.g., Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier) for the Trinity - using that logic, if the baptism done originally referred to the child by the wrong gender and technically wrong name - why not (at least if you're doing it again) consider the original event to be invalid for the same reasoning used by Cardinal Navarrete (I do hasten to add that the determination of efficacy is something that should be up to the individual).

      There are also sects that don't accept infant baptism that would insist on a rebaptism for an adult convert. And there are sects that accept only a baptism by immersion and not by pouring of water - again, their rules would require a new baptism.

      There is also an increasing movement of people formally rescinding a baptism - either because they have been thrown out or have left Catholicism. In such a case, a rebaptism in another sect would certainly be appropriate.

      Finally - baptism is a sacrament of "rebirth" - the traditional form, by immersion, is, in a sense, a recreation of the baby's emergence from the amniotic sac and taking the first breath (which in truly traditional Judaeo-Christian thinking, is the moment of "ensoulment" notwithstanding the Catholic Church's insincere prattle about conception). FOr a trans individual who has emerged from transition as heir true self, a spiritual rebirth could be seen as being in order. It's certainly up to the individual, but there isn;t a single answer!.