“One of my sons attends a large public high school where it is not uncommon to see kids in various states of “gender fluidity”—but not simply in the sense of “feminine” boys and tomboy girls as I saw back in my large public high school in the 1980s. No, these kids are either formally “transitioning,” or else experimenting with opposite sex alter-egos, both of which have become trendy and faddish.
As parents, we are often lulled by a misguided compassion that keeps us from sharing the truth, even in a loving way. If your compassion (or fear) leads you to silence about or sympathy for sin, you could be unwittingly playing into the hands of a culture that denies truth and risks the eternal fate of so many souls.
Kids do not need wishy-washiness. They need us to graciously, firmly, stand up for the truth.
Remember the words of St. Paul, who hoped that “we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him Who is the head, into Christ” (Eph. 4:14-15). Your gracious confidence in these discussions is paramount, so ask the Holy Spirit to give you plenty of it! After all, Jesus said “Ask and it will be given to you!” (Matt 7:7).
He Said, She Said?
The use of pronouns used for people who identify as transgender can be a source of conflict in the culture and at school. Your teen might be caught up in a discussion about a transgender celebrity, or have a biologically male classmate who now has a female appearance, a new name, and demands to be addressed with “she” and “her.”
Ironically, these pronoun battles present an opportunity for Catholics to “turn the tables” on critics and point out how they are imposing their morality on us. After all, it’s one thing for a person to claim to be transgender, but quite another to force others to go along with this claim against their will, even requiring Catholics to speak words they don’t believe.
If your teen gets cornered on this subject, or even challenges you on it, return to first principles: It’s wrong to lie. Additionally, a lie becomes more serious when it is spoken about something significant. This shifts the focus from your child (or you) to the real issue. Here’s how this might play out:
Tom: Why do you keep saying [man who claims he’s a woman] is a he? That’s really hurtful!
Mary: I’m not trying to hurt anyone, but please see where I’m coming from. It’s wrong to lie, and if I say [man who claims he’s a woman] is a woman, that would make me a liar.
Tom: But it’s not a lie! If she says she is a woman then she is a woman.
Mary: Wait, are you saying that merely saying or believing you’re a woman makes you a woman? Why should I believe that? Can a person change his race or his species in the same way?
Tom: Well, it’s her own sense of self that matters!
Mary: But that still doesn’t make it true. There’s no evidence, in science or in anything we can measure, that “gender” exists except in the imagination. Morally, I am not allowed to lie for anyone. I hope you can respect that my faith requires me to be honest and speak only what is true.
What’s in a name?
I don’t think it’s a big deal to refer to this person by a new, preferred name. Some girls have “male” names and some boys have “female” names. But incorrectly using sex-specific pronouns like “he” and “she” in order to accommodate someone’s feelings forces us to lie. Lying is not only a sin, but in this case it denies another person’s God-given dignity and God’s created order.
(Ed. I wrote to the book publisher/authors the following. “as a Catholic who no longer teaches in a government school, I can tell you the student who objects will be summarily “executed” academically. Before the truth argument, I would humbly submit to the authors objective statements about objective dangers that cause physical harm, even death, would be harder for all opposed to summarily dismiss, if the student is given the unexpectable privilege of defending themselves.
From experience, government schools go to great effort to conceal what exactly they are teaching to students by preventing any evidence, save the deeply awkward and impressionable minds of their children and their memories, to wander home after school, even if inquired with about school by parents. Parents, in general, are equally disabled from contesting heresy, biblical or moral.
I might offer arguments and their distaste by all, generally, in being equivocated. Take the argument from morality, terribly important, to mortality, terribly objective, unnuanced, and undeniably permanent.
-Accidents (unintentional injuries), homicide, suicide, cancer, and heart disease. Accidents account for nearly one-half of all teenage deaths.
-As a category of accidents, motor vehicle fatality is the leading cause of death to teenagers, representing over one-third of all deaths.
“You can go 120 mph and not wear a selt belt if that’s your true self. Everyone will support your choice. It’s ALL about YOU!!”
“Living is a lifestyle choice. Whatever you want. It’s all about YOU!”
“I can handle a baby at sixteen!”
“I’ll NEVER change my mind! Nothing ever will!, etc.
Extreme, or not, I realize, however to engage in conversation about the more easily deniable, due to the vagaries of the human mind, the extreme is, at times, needed to pique the conscience into a reasonable conversation regarding the latter.”)
Identity or Reality?
When a person has a body dysphoria unrelated to sex or “gender,” everyone understands that the person needs help. When an anorexic looks in the mirror, she might see someone who is obese, even if she weighs much less than everyone else her age. We don’t tell that girl, “That’s right, you are overweight, and we will help you lose the weight that’s right for you.”
Instead we say, “What you perceive yourself to be, well, that isn’t you. In reality, you are dangerously underweight, and because we love you, we aren’t going to help you harm yourself.” That is the loving response.
What about people who think they are a different race or ethnicity? In 2015, the head of the Spokane NAACP, Rachel Dolezal, was discovered to have two white parents. While the organization for black Americans does have white leaders, some of its members claim Dolezal misled them into thinking she was black. Forced to resign from her position, Dolezal still claims she is black, even though her genetics say otherwise. She says, “I feel like the idea of being trans-black would be much more accurate than ‘I’m white.’ Because you know, I’m not white.”
You can see the irony that if Dolezal had claimed she was a black man, then her “progressive” critics would have said she was only half right. Yet, how can we tell a person she’s wrong about her sincere sense of her racial identity, but right about her sense of gender identity—when both exist only in the imagination? There is no logic to saying we affirm your “sense” of being a man, but we condemn your “sense” of being black. Your teens will see the contradiction here.”
Love & truth,