Boston, MA. May 18, 2016. DignityUSA, the organization of Catholics committed to justice and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people strongly rejects the US Conference of Catholic Bishops statement on the Obama Administration’s May 13, 2016 “Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students.” The Bishops’ statement demonstrates an unfortunate lack of understanding of the realities transgender children, their families, and their communities face, and actually undermines the Bishops’ stated purpose of ensuring that children “should always be and feel safe and secure and know they are loved.”
“The Bishops’ premise, quoting Pope Francis, that ‘the young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created’ (Amoris Laetitia [AL], no. 285) is simply unworkable for transgender youth,” said DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke. “Any guidance and policy development that flow from this assumption will be damaging to many young people and to their families. It would contradict the truth that for some people gender and biological sex simply do not match, and that people in this situation are often aware of the conflict from a very young age.
“Transgender children and their families often deal with very challenging situations every single day. Gym class, using a bathroom, or simply walking down a hallway are often uncomfortable and even unsafe for many transgender students. Many families have to repeatedly advocate to keep their children from harm. Messages that deny that children may, in fact, have a gender conflict are not helpful to these families,” Duddy-Burke continued.
“We believe, as do many Catholics, that our transgender kin reflect the immensity and diversity of God’s creativity. They challenge us to humbly re-examine traditional beliefs about sex, gender, identity, and human relationships, and to acknowledge the limitations of our current understanding in these areas. We urge the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to engage in dialogue with transgender youth and adults, as well as their families, so they can better understand the pastoral and practical needs of these communities,” said Duddy-Burke.
Linda Roberts, a transgender member of DignityUSA’s Washington, DC Chapter said, “Contrary to the Pope's assertion regarding ‘human formation,’ transgender individuals suffer from a proven, documented medical condition termed ‘gender dysphoria.’ This psychological condition is marked by anxiety as a result of a contradiction between one's gender identity and the sex assigned at birth. The recommended treatment for this condition is to live in the gender with whom one identifies. At a minimum this involves presenting and living in the opposite sex from that assigned at birth and, in many cases, may include hormonal and/or body composition changes to adapt to the identified gender. A further element to happiness for these individuals is to have society accept and support their transition in all ways appropriate. Lack of treatment for gender dysphoria may result in a number of serious reactions, including attempted suicide (applicable to over 40% of transgender persons according to recent studies), depression, social withdrawal and other negative outcomes. “
Roberts added, “Not recognizing, accepting and supporting transgender people and the psychological condition with which they are afflicted is contrary to the USCCB's contention that the Catholic Church ‘consistently affirms the inherent dignity of...every human person and advocates for the wellbeing of all people, particularly the most vulnerable.’”
Duddy-Burke concluded, “DignityUSA fully supports the Obama Administration’s instructions to schools, and believes they offer solid guidelines that will make transgender students safer, healthier, and better able to learn. We hope that our bishops will refrain from making any further effort to resist or challenge the Letter, and that Catholic and public schools will implement policies and practices that support the transgender students they serve.”