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Will 'transgender rights' drive Catholics out of public schools?

Mary Hasson

Restroom Sign by Maliz Ong (CC0 1.0)

The Massachusetts Board of Education recently issued formal “guidance” to the state’s public schools, telling them how to implement new laws protecting against gender identity discrimination. The Board of Education insists that schools must not only provide equal access to educational activities programs but also proactively “create a culture” that would make gender-nonconforming and transgender kids “feel safe, supported, and fully included.”

The result? Transgender children must be allowed to use the restrooms and locker rooms of the opposite sex, if they so choose. Teachers will “work with” other students who object to the invasion of privacy, helping them over come their “discomfort” and embrace the agenda of tolerance. In addition, schools must “eliminate” gendered policies such as dress codes (e.g., rules requiring girls, but not boys, to wear dresses to prom, or traditions that dress boys in blue graduation robes while girls wear white) and classroom management strategies that divide children by gender (e.g., a boys’ line and a girls’ line for the water fountain). Transgender children will have the right to insist on being called by any name or pronoun they choose, regardless of its biological mismatch. And other students must go along with it or face “discipline.”

In its rush to support the “progressive” agenda for transgender rights, the Board of Education has thrown privacy and safety – for the other students – right out the window. That’s bad enough. The full impact of its decision, however, is even worse.

It’s an insidious strategy that promotes a view of the human person utterly incompatible with Christianity.

The Massachusetts policy systematically foists a perverse orthodoxy on every teacher and child within the system. It promotes the core belief – the big lie – that there is no such thing as human nature or natural distinctions of male and female. Instead, the Board of Education embraces the idea that each person is a god unto him or herself, creating a gender identity and sexual expression based on feelings, or one’s “internalized sense” of self, regardless of biology.

The indoctrination (“education and training”) will be part of every Massachusetts school’s “anti-bullying curriculum, student leadership trainings, and staff professional development.” And the Massachusetts Board of Education clearly expects all students and teachers to get with the program. The entire school community must help create a “safe and supportive” culture for transgender and gender non-conforming students.

Catholic parents who send their children to public school in Massachusetts now have to worry not only about the system’s hostility to religious belief but also about its hostility to basic truths about the human person.

Parents in other states have reason to worry as well. Laws in sixteen states, plus the District of Columbia, prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity.  Some states are moving to promote transgender privileges in schools – including access to opposite-gender restroom and locker room facilities. In other places, families with transgendered children are suing to insist on unfettered access to restrooms and locker rooms.

In New York, transgender activists argue that unlawful harassment of a transgendered student occurs if others make “repeated, deliberate use of pronouns and names that are inconsistent with a student’s gender identity … (or ask) … inappropriate, unnecessary questions about their gender identity, anatomy, and/or any medical treatment that is related to their gender identity.” A child who sees a boy in a dress, for example, and calls him “he,” will be guilty of harassment.

In Chicago, the Board of Education is considering new health education standards that teach a non-judgmental attitude towards gender identity, including transgender identity. Chicago’s new policies “align with the new national standards.”  (Although it’s a topic for another day, I wonder how many parents even know that the left has created and is pushing “National Sexuality Education Standards” in every public school district in the country. “Public schools were specifically chosen” to promote a flawed anthropology and an immoral approach to sexuality.)

Is the growing pushing for transgender rights in schools really a problem for Catholics?  Can’t we all just be nice and get along? Why does it matter how schools approach gender identity?

Pope Benedict answered those questions in December 2012. He said that when “sex is no longer a given element of nature that man has to accept and personally make sense of,” but instead is viewed as “a social role that we choose for ourselves,” human beings lose sight of "an essential aspect of what being human is all about.”

When “people dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being,” then they deny the truth that “male and female He created them.”

The implication, according to Benedict, is that man rejects God as Creator and loses the sense of his own dignity and value. “When freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God.” When human beings deny the truth about themselves, they deny the truth about God.

It’s bad enough that children in public school must learn in an environment that no longer recognizes God. But it’s even worse when that educational environment no longer recognizes basic truths about the human person.
Catholics in the past have been able to opt-out of public school sexuality education classes; it’s impossible to opt-out from a pervasive culture based on a flawed anthropology.

So the question is: What will we, as a Church, do in response?

Topics: Church teaching , Education , Faith , Parenting , Sexuality

Mary Rice Hasson, the mother of seven, is a Fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington, D.C. She blogs at wordsfromcana.

View all articles by Mary Hasson

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