Americans are accustomed to mutable truth. Politicians often lie openly. Moral relativism commonly and craftily excuses falsehood. The media regularly and unabashedly fabricates and manipulates according to the agenda du jour—and high on today’s agenda is the issue of transgender normalization. From North Carolina’s House Bill 2 (which legally requires people to use public restrooms according to the gender on their birth certificate) to high-profile state boycotts, to retailers like Target establishing policies that open their bathrooms and fitting rooms according to patrons’ determination, the battle has been strange—and part of the reason for this is that it is a battle for reason itself. It is not simply a duel over bathrooms and gender identity.
People’s comfort is the euphemism in this debate. It is a battle over cultural identity itself. The latest conflict is over the Obama administration’s recent directive to public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice in order to ensure that “transgender students enjoy a supportive and nondiscriminatory school environment.” Though the letter does not carry the force of law, the threat of federal funding loss resonates. The attack on truth is here, and transgenderism is the newest angle in the culture war, and hence its heavy-handed, unconstitutional validation into the environment of education.
Transgenderism is a new breed of civil rights. With the African-American civil rights movement, for example, there were justifiable appeals to constitutional and natural law principles. They impressed upon society nothing more than the truth of things and required that people lived accordingly. Transgenderism, on the other hand, imposes the polar opposite. It requires that lies inform the law and guide the land, throwing norms such as sex-segregation out the window by giving the concept of gender an entirely new spin. The term “trans-sexual” has conveniently disappeared because it is not loose enough for the agenda. Sex is immutable. Gender is a grayer area. Sex is about biology. Gender is about psychology. Gender, as a state of being, is an airier thing and therefore more suitable for the purposes of turning the truth into something transient. But sex is at the heart of the matter, for if the absolute can be altered through ideology, then nothing is sacred or beyond the pale of human control. The lawsuit against North Carolina by the Department of Justice claims: “Transgender individuals are individuals who have a gender identity that does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. A transgender man’s sex is male and a transgender woman’s sex is female.” The transgenderism issue rests in the fact that the United States government is moving to define “sex” without reference to sex. It is the result of moral relativism and amoral inclusiveness.
The head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, Vanita Gupta, addressed the ongoing controversy at the University of Minnesota Law School commencement. “Even after the Supreme Court’s landmark gay marriage decision last year in Obergefell v. Hodges that guaranteed all people ‘equal dignity in the eyes of the law,’ we see new efforts to deny LGBTI individuals the respect they deserve and the protection our laws guarantee… Efforts like House Bill 2 in North Carolina not only violate the laws that govern our nation, but also the values that define us as a people.” The legal showdown between the Obama administration and North Carolina over HB2 is just a part of a wider public deliberation on transgender rights in schools and public life. The recent federal directive goes beyond the privacy of the bathroom into the realm of public education, standing for a reinvention of student privacy rights, education records, and sex-segregated athletics. It pushes the topic of transgenderism into the school, where young minds and opinions are formed—and that is where the federal government has gone too far.
It is beyond hard to believe that this is really a topic of debate. The madness of it is staggering and stultifying. The people must be stupid if they are to accept what is being foisted upon them with strange, suspicious force. But the school is a place where stupidity should have no sway. School is a place where reality and identity should remain sacrosanct. Any good school, not just Catholic ones, should have policies related to human sexuality that are consistent with the Church’s teachings and, as much as possible, not single out any individual or group in its efforts to lead all in the ways of virtue, the common good, and the truth. Such a school must reflect and teach that the human body is a gift from God and the wholesome integration of body and soul. The reason for this is the fact that these two entities are not distinct from one another, but united and dependent upon each other to express man as the paragon of creation. The sexes are complimentary, and a given sex is part of a divine order and a divine plan. Sexual identity, according to Church teaching, is “a reality deeply inscribed in man and woman,” and, though sexuality goes beyond biology, every person should accept his or her sexual identity without separating biological sex from gender identity. This should be the position of every school and its policies and procedures and pedagogy should reflect this truth insofar as its mission is to reflect truth: the correspondence of mind to reality—especially deeply inscribed realities.
Schools should never accept lies. Though this is manifestly the case in countless schools across the country, transgenderism is a new degree of falsehood. If truth is to be a measure of action, schools should address students according to the reality of their biological sex as based upon the physical conditions of their birth. That is the truth, and, as St. Paul says, the Word of God is a sword, making truth a sword—and the school should be willing to die upon that sword. A student who chooses to self-identity according to a gender outside their sex should be identified as one acting outside a reality deeply inscribed. Any support or reinforcement is a support and reinforcement of a departure from reality, no matter how earnestly experienced by either party. Acceptance in altering natural gender expression, however loving, is simply contrary to the truth and, therefore, contrary to the happy life. Loving acceptance lies not in a loving acceptance of lies. There is a paranoia of passing negative pronouncements even though negative pronouncements are called for. There is a fine line between condemning a lifestyle and condemning the person who lives it. As Pope Francis wrote in Amoris Laetitia concerning the “ideology of gender”: “It is one thing to be understanding of human weakness and the complexities of life, and another to accept ideologies that attempt to sunder what are inseparable aspects of reality.”
Despite all this, schools should recognize that it is not impossible that some students will sense dissonance between their sex and their gender, and struggle with customary roles that society places upon these physical and psychological designations. Some young people will feel drawn to act, dress, and alter their bodies in a manner contrary to the divine plan. Any school worth its salt, however, will not facilitate or embrace such disconnections with reality, but will work diligently with parents, pastors, and medical professionals to best provide a path to the truth of sexual identity and self-identity for its students in accordance with reason and God’s good providence.
Catholic education is an expression of the Catholic Church, for it shares the mission of evangelization and salvation according to the teachings of Jesus Christ. A good Catholic school is an institution that joyfully teaches the Catholic Faith in its fullness, which is, the Truth. The right to define reality denies truth, making the doublethink of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four part of the American Way and the American Church. What behaviors will be next to receive sanction—and even instruction in the classroom? Pedophilia? Polygamy? Zoophilia? What is truth? If objective identity is based upon nothing more than subjectivity, what is stopping the next unimaginable civil rights movement? The modern emphasis on feelings is at the center of this issue and threatens reason itself and to the perception of reality on pain of social excommunication, loss of employment, and discrimination lawsuits. There is no end to the confusion that can become commonplace when contradiction no longer matters, and this principle is inimical to any true education.