Bishop’s Policy on Transgender Students and Others Demonstrates the Danger of “Willful Ignorance,” Say DignityUSA Leaders
February 10, 2020. Leaders of DignityUSA, the world’s largest organization of Catholics supporting justice, equality and full inclusion of LGBTQI+ people in the church and society, are calling a new policy in the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, headed by Bishop Thomas Paprocki, “perilous to the physical and mental health of transgender and nonbinary people.”
The so-called “Pastoral Guide” on Gender Identity acknowledges the widely accepted reality of Gender Dysphoria, but bizarrely likens it to anorexia. According to the American Psychiatric Association, “Gender dysphoria involves a conflict between a person's physical or assigned gender and the gender with which he/she/they identify.” Although issues around Gender Dysphoria may be complex, to equate it with a condition of self-harm like anorexia shows a fundamental and dangerous ignorance of current psychological and medical understanding, according to Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA.
“The approaches prescribed in this document are of deep concern,” Duddy-Burke continued. “The guidance this document gives to schools and other Catholic organizations on dealing with transgender and nonbinary people and families could cause real harm,” said Duddy-Burke. “It denies the truth of their realities and says parents who help their transgender kids get the kinds of services they need are subjecting them to ‘child abuse and genital mutilation.’ Once again, Bishop Paprocki is displaying a dangerous and willful ignorance of current medical and mental health standards.”
Linda Roberts, a transgender woman who heads DignityUSA’s Transgender Support Caucus, stated, “The demands that students be called by names and pronouns consistent with the sex assigned at birth, that they be denied use of restroom and locker facilities consistent with who they know themselves to be, and that they play sports based on the gender assigned at birth add tremendous burdens to children who have probably struggled for years to accept the truth of their identity. This policy will add to their sense of exclusion and shame and will make it more difficult for families to do the right thing for their transgender and nonbinary children.”
Roberts said, “This kind of pressure presents very real risks. A 2015 study by the National Center for Transgender Equality found that 40% of transgender people attempt suicide at some point due to societal discrimination, ridicule, violence, economic hardship, and other negative experiences. Statements by the Church that medical or therapeutic treatments prescribed by medical or psychological professionals to deal with gender dysphoria are harmful, immoral or reckless only contribute to this serious problem. This kind of negative judgment also denies transgender and nonbinary the support of spiritual community. About 40% of trans people who have been part of a faith community have left because of a fear of rejection, and almost 20% have left because they were actively rejected. Does the Catholic Church really wish to adopt policies that overtly turn people away from God - was it not Jesus who recounted the parable that it was worth pursuing the one lost lamb even though 99 remained?”
Duddy-Burke added, “It is long past time for our Church to stop making policy about transgender and gay people without including our expertise and trusting that our lives, too, incarnate the Divine. God speaks through all of us, not just bishops, cardinals and Vatican officials. To make these kinds of decisions based on flawed beliefs and long-disproved theories is cruel. It will lead to more people leaving the church in disgust at its intransigence, and worse, will mean our Church has the blood of more people who succumb to despair on its hands. We call on Bishop Paprocki to immediately withdraw this policy, and to enter into real dialogue with transgender people, families, and medical and mental health professionals with genuine expertise in this area."
DignityUSA works for justice, equality and full inclusion of LGBTQI people in the Catholic church and society. Founded in 1969, it is a founding member of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics.