What Does the Church Teach about Gender Identity?
And how do we respond to children seeking gender transition
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It’s Pride Month, and controversies over gender ideology are raging. The release of the documentary “What Is a Woman?” by Catholic political commentator Matt Walsh is causing a stir, revealing deeply disturbing facts about the dangers of pediatric gender transitions. These dangers are the reasons states such as Arkansas, Ohio and Florida are moving toward bans of pediatric “gender affirming” care, with Texas even attempting to prosecute some cases as child abuse. Meanwhile, respected professors argue that these moves to protect children are an “affront to science and medical ethics.” Canadian parents face jail time for “misgendering” their children, a crime classified as domestic abuse, and legislation in France could see parents losing custody of their children for opposing a child’s gender transition.
In the midst of this polarizing and deeply important debate, many Catholics wonder what the Church has to say on these issues.
What the Church teaches
“Male and Female He Created Them,” by the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education, is the most recent magisterial document to address gender ideology. The 2019 document offers guidance for schools navigating the clash of postmodern gender ideology with the Church’s teachings on the reality of biological sex as the foundation of our God-given identity. The document critiques society’s dualistic tendency to separate the body from the self, arguing that we are called to accept and embrace ourselves as God has made us.
Our contemporary cultural narrative asserts that biological sex differs from the social construct of gender, and that gender consists merely in the way we have been socialized to behave. If that is true, then gender identity is nothing more than the constellation of cultural associations surrounding the ideas of “man” and “woman.” This is problematic for many reasons, but central among them is the fact that it reduces the concepts of “man” and “woman” to stereotypes: Men are rational and aggressive, while women are emotional and like to shop, etc. The postmodern view of identity is one in which we create ourselves in our own image; individuals “identify themselves” with whichever constellation of ideas resonates most.
The Christian view is entirely different. Gender ideology seeks to impose individual will on the physical world and the social arena. As Christians, we understand that…