“Mail AND Female He Created Them” (not “OR”)

For a whole host of reasons, I’ve been inactive on this site for some considerable time. However, the latest Vatican document on gender, must have a response.  I am grateful to Fr James Martin SJ, for pointing out that there are some helpful points in the document: it is explicitly an invitation to dialogue, and recognises the importance of treating all people with respect, acknowledges the problems of discrimination and violence, refers to new developments in the findings from science and encourages “listening”. Fr Martin continues though, to point out that the document nevertheless proceeds to discuss the issue entirely on the basis of the claims of theologians, completely failing to either listen to trans people and their families, and ignoring the evidence from science.  Fr Martin’s analysis deserves close study.  I have a simpler, fundamental problem.

The fundamental flaw in the Vatican document is hidden in plain sight – in the title: “Male AND female he created them”.This clearly states “Male and female….” – but the text in fact interprets this as “Male OR female..”, ie assuming, that there is a simple binary divide. In fact, all the evidence from science (natural and social), and from lived experience, is that this is fundamentally unsound. Each of us, to some extent, is a combination of both “male” and “female” – ie, we all have elements that are masculine, and some that are “feminine”.

For some people, possibly most, one side or other dominates to a large degree, soithat our “masculine” or “feminine” side clearly coincides with our apparent biological sex. For some others, it is not so clearcut.  The existence of intersex people provides a clear illustration of the problem, For some people, external genitals do not coincide with internal genitals, or with chromosomal patterns, or with hormones, It is not even true that chromosomes are always either male or female.

Trans people are not intersex: their physical sexual characteristics may all conincide. The problem is that these physical characteristics may differ markedly from their internal, “brain” gender, giving rise to what is sometimes described as “gender dysphoria”. This is NOT about “choosing” one’s gender, but about recognising the truth of one’s gender – which may not coincide with one’s physical sex.

The Vatican’s placing their a priori assumptions about a simple binary divide, flying in the face of all the evidence of science, is the very definition of gender “ideology” – which is the epithet they use to demean gender theory (which is indeed, evidence based). Worse, some Vatican apologists accuse gender theorists of “ideological colonialism” – ignoring the historical fact that it was the colonial administrators and missionaries that imposed their binary gender ideology on cultures that accepted and celebrated a range of genders.

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