Cultural Oppression Targets Transgender Experience

In December conservative leaders in the Catholic Church issued what they call an “open letter” about transgender issues. The contents of that letter expound their opinion that the growing acceptance for transgender people in society is “deeply troubling,” according to the authors and signatories of that letter.

The letter is titled “Created Male and Female,” and it firmly states the stance of those who contributed to it that they believe a transgender person is a “false idea.” The document goes on to claim that this “false idea,” apparently “compels people to either go against reasonthat is, to agree with something that is not trueor face ridicule, marginalization and other forms of retaliation.” The verbiage in the letter also references the Catholic Church leaders’ urging to, “uphold the scientific fact of human biology.” It is curious that a religious institution would invoke science and reason to be used in their corner. It’s an easy argument to pose that Christianity itself goes against reason and is just a bunch of people who agree on something that isn’t true.

I tend to believe that truth is relative and open to varying ideas and subjectivity. I’m cautious not to condemn the Christian religion as a whole. In fact, more progressive Catholic organizations and other denominations of Christianity strongly oppose the open letter published in December. That being said, for Catholic clergy to claim that the transgender experience is something that is “untrue,” is laughably ungrounded. A transgender person has tangible and visible reality. The truth of that can be seen with our eyes. On the other hand, Jesus working in someone’s life cannot be directly observed. That is something that can only be believed in and for the sake of this argument, far more intangible. The doctrine of the Christian faith certainly has no reasonable or scientific evidence to back it, whereas there is significant scientific research into the physiological origins of gender identity in the human brain.

To unpack the other half of the sentence quoted above from the “Created Male and Female” open letter that reads, “compels people to either go against reasonor face ridicule, marginalization and other forms of retaliation,” no one is ever compelled to be ridiculed or marginalized. People only become victims of those who are doing the ridiculing and marginalizing, which in this case, are the authors of this open letter.

Like same-sex marriage before it, the transgender experience has become a pressing point for the bigotry of those who seek to impose their rigid beliefs upon the rest of us. Again, I tread carefully not to over-generalize about religion at large, there’s no doubt religion has done a lot of good for a lot of people, but this is a prime example of an instance where particular kinds of religious convictions can become dangerous and harmful. The writers and signers of the open letter arrogantly assert that they are the authority on what is right or wrong. This kind of “us vs. them” mentality inherently stirs heated conflict because it divides people into opposing positions. Civilization has matured to a point where cultures ought to find means of understanding one another. The drafting of the “Created Male and Female” letter could be called out as culturally immature and petulant.

New Ways Ministry, one Catholic organization that opposes the open letter called its message, “dangerous because it distributes false information which can lead to attitudes, policies and practices which will do physical and emotional harm to transgender people, a community already with a high risk of becoming victims of hate crimes.”

I typically presume that the sort of ideas and beliefs expressed in the open letter “Created Male and Female,” belong to people in the dark who have no substantial knowledge of the transgender experience. I would doubt that any of the authors or signers personally know or have spoken at any length with transgender people. The opinions have been formed on the basis of an uncivilized archaic fear of the unknown or fear of the other. Such fears are meaningless relics from bygone eras and they have no place in our modern, inclusive and free society.

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