I can separate church and state just fine in my head. Right now, I would happily make both of them small enough that I could drown them in a bathtub.
As I write this, both houses of the U.S. Congress have just passed the “tax scam” bill, which Trump will gleefully sign. This bill, aside from increasing the U.S. debt by more than $1,000,000,000,000, is also an anti-health-care bill and an anti-environment bill. I’m not going to write any more about it; you can read and watch and listen to thousands of clear-sighted, carefully argued denunciations of it from all points on the political spectrum, from everyone who isn’t a slave to the Republican donor paymasters.
Instead, I will turn my fury to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, another group which theoretically has kindness, charity, and the best interests of all people at heart. Amy Littlefield reports at Rewire that, in a letter entitled “Created Male and Female,” this group of men has taken it upon itself to declare that transgender people do not really exist, and to strongly imply that transgender children (who presumably also do not exist) should not receive gender-affirming care.
“Children especially are harmed when they are told that they can ‘change’ their sex or, further, given hormones that will affect their development and possibly render them infertile as adults,” the letter claims. “Parents deserve better guidance on these important decisions, and we urge our medical institutions to honor the basic medical principle of ‘first, do no harm.’”
“First, do no harm.” I have a great idea. How about first, stop telling people that you know what harms them better than they do. I am, of course, fine with telling children “don’t swallow those pills” or “don’t touch the stove; it’s hot.” I am profoundly not fine with telling anyone “I know who you are in a deep way, better than you do, and I know it will do no harm for me to get my way about you instead of you being able to tell the truth about you.” And the U.S. Conference of Bishops does harm by superimposing their simplistic beliefs on individuals’ truths.
These men don’t care what the medical establishment has learned, nor do they care what scientific evidence may refute their position:
In a recent survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), respondents with supportive immediate families were less likely to report homelessness, serious psychological distress, and attempting suicide; 37 percent of respondents with supportive families had attempted suicide versus 54 percent of those with unsupportive families.
“The danger of advice like [the letter] for families is that it is giving parents who don’t understand what it means to be transgender and who are desperate for information and guidance for how to best protect the children that they love … the worst possible blueprint for what to do,” the NCTE’s [Harper Jean] Tobin told Rewire.
While the USCCB letter calls for “compassion, mercy, and honesty” for the transgender people whose existence it simultaneously negates, the letter omits any mention of structural threats, like the killings of at least 26 transgender people in 2017.
When I get past the steam coming out of my ears, I really don’t have much to say. Trans people have existed throughout history and across cultures, as have nonbinary people. Treating people, especially children, with the real respect of taking each other seriously and believing our stories about ourselves is the only way out of the mess we have made in this world.
As long as our political and religious leaders refuse to do anything of the sort, as long as they continue to either believe or pretend that they know who we are better than we do, and they know what we need better than we do, AND they have every right to enrich themselves and/or hold onto their power at our expense, we’re at their mercy.
Historically and currently, counting on that “mercy” seems like a bad idea.