A concerned parent with daughters who attend the Sacred Heart High School Hammersmith has forwarded me the following extract from a recent newsletter. These are, apparently, the exact words of the headteacher:
“…..In recognising Jesus as our teacher through the Gospels, the first impulse for us as a Catholic school must be to promote greater wholeness for transgender individuals by listening, caring, supporting and offering community. This means at a minimum, offering very basic gestures of welcoming respect, such as using the young person’s preferred pronoun and addressing them with their preferred name, recognizing their intent to live as the person they believe God created them to be, and refraining from any judgement.
This week our assembly theme was ‘Just be yourself, be proud of who you are’. At KS4 the following prayer was used:
Updated: the parent has now sent me a copy of the school newsletter, which is linked to here: Transgender Awareness Sept 2017
This extract is concerning for a number of reasons.
Firstly we don’t only recognise Jesus as a mere ‘teacher’ through the Gospels. He is a lot more important than that, He is our Saviour, Our Sovereign Lord, the one who died to redeem us from sin and death.
Secondly should our first impulse, upon recognising Jesus as our teacher/Saviour, really be to promote greater wholeness (whatever that means) for transgender individuals by listening, caring, supporting and offering community?
No reasonable Christian would have any problem with either listening, caring, supporting or offering community for individuals suffering from gender dysphoria, indeed those elements ought to be vital in terms of offering care, but why would a first instinct for any Catholic individual or institution be to promote a greater wholeness for transgender individuals?
Presumably wholeness is about an individual reconciling their feelings about their gender identity with the physical reality? Is recognising the person’s confusion about their identity really best addressed by confirming the dissonance and playing along with the delusion that they really are of the opposite sex and using new pronouns and preferred names?
This may be the most courteous and respectful way of dealing with adults, but when official research tells us that over 80% of children who experience a form of gender dysphoria will eventually orientate back towards their natal sex; is confirming that Janet is now John, really the most helpful and compassionate approach?
John Whitehall, Professor of Paediatrics at Western Sydney University, notes that protestations by children that they belonged to the opposite sex used to be seen as one of the warning signs of childhood sexual abuse and cites research to claim that up to 90% of children who question their sexual identity will revert back to their natal sex by puberty. The best approach is one of watchful waiting.
The American College of Pediatricians has this to say:
Gender dysphoria (GD) in children is a term used to describe a psychological condition in which a child experiences marked incongruence between his or her experienced gender and the gender associated with the child’s biological sex. Twin studies demonstrate that GD is not an innate trait. Moreover, barring pre-pubertal affirmation and hormone intervention for GD, 80 percent to 95 percent of children with GD will accept the reality of their biological sex by late adolescence. The treatment of GD in childhood with hormones effectively amounts to mass experimentation on, and sterilization of, youth who are cognitively incapable of providing informed consent. There is a serious ethical problem with allowing irreversible, life-changing procedures to be performed on minors who are too young to give valid consent themselves; adolescents cannot understand the magnitude of such decisions.
There is then a serious and legitimate question to be asked about whether or not affirming a child in their feelings is the right ethical approach, especially as it could well set them down on a path of irreparable harm.
Should children be being told that the initial Christian impulse ought to be to validate people’s feelings of dysphoria? That it is the only kind, loving and Christian thing to do? What ever happened to telling the truth in love?
If we’re going to get theological here, then why not look directly at Scripture and see what that has to say about sex being fluid or malleable? God creating man and woman equal, but distinctly different. Of course the human dignity of individuals must be recognised and nobody with this distressing condition ought to be unfairly discriminated against, or subject to any kind of bullying, but not pandering to a delusion or taking the word of a child too young to get married, to drink alcohol, to smoke, to consent to sex or to get a tattoo, does not amount to treating them like the lepers or outcasts of the Gospel.
By allowing a child to use a different name or pronoun to signify a different sex to the one into which they were born, it sends an unhealthy and unhelpful message to children that sex or gender is simply all about outward appearances and is easy to change. It forces children to suspend their critical faculties for fear of being labelled bullies or bigots and turns them into liars. Sex is not determined by name or pronoun or uniform and even when people go the whole hog with gender reassignment surgery, they still have to take huge amounts of synthetic hormones for the rest of their lives in order to fight against the DNA coded into every single cell in their bodies. Even surgery will not render you the biological sex of your choice. But the consequences and grim realities of surgical gender reassignment or hormones or puberty blockers which will render you sterile for the rest of your life, or the lifelong neurosis about whether or not you can pass as the opposite sex are not laid out in this fluffy and compassionate description of Jesus teaching us to promote greater wholeness.
In any event, recognising an intent that a person wants to live as the way they believe that God created them to be, implies that God made some kind of mistake and gave them the wrong body. That somehow His will was thwarted?! A position which is, if nothing else, at odds with the Catholic faith.
To cite Section 155 from Pope Francis’ recent encyclical Laudato Si:
“The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation. Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology. Also, valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment. It is not a healthy attitude which would seek “to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it”.
Finally the head concludes with the ‘refrain from judgement’ canard. This is crazy stuff. Of course we must make judgements about the best way to deal with any particular ethical situation that comes our way. Making a judgement on whether or not it is appropriate to affirm and validate feelings of gender confusion in children and adolescents is absolutely not the same as making judgements about the state of somebody’s soul – the only thing which Christians are commanded not to judge. Doctors have to make clinical judgements on how best to treat transgender patients all the time, which is why lobbyists are frantically campaigning to change this, claiming that their feelings must be paramount and a request for treatment must be immediately expedited.
So many Catholic schools seem to be taking this approach that it’s old news. There seems little point in besieging the school with complaints as would have happened in the early days of the blogs. No doubt the school and the powers that be in the CES will disregard any expressions of parental disquiet as being the transphobic witterings of the serf class from whose backward thinking and peasant attitudes they are determined to rescue their students.
But this is exactly the sort of situation engendered and encouraged by the CES document on LGBT bullying. How long before examples of transphobia are included in various lesson plans and pupils are asked to look for and challenge transphobic attitudes amongst their parents?
Have the Sacred Heart High School really thought this through? Are they now saying that they will accept transgender pupils in their school? Girls and transgender boys will be accepted but not biological ones? It’ll be interesting to see whether or not this will be challenged in court and the issue looks set to blow apart the concept of single-sex education.
Parents choose to send their children to Catholic schools in the hope and expectation that they will receive a solid grounding in the faith, that their own faith will be supported and that they will get to escape this nonsense. The betrayal is profoundly depressing.