David Cloutier, associate professor, theology, published an essay in Commonweal on transgender identity and the Church.
The Church & Transgender Identity
Date: Feb. 27, 2017
Author: David Cloutier and Luke Timothy Johnson
The phenomenon of transgender identity is difficult to discuss, and not least because each side tends to present it as beyond discussion, an open-and-shut case. One side views accepting an individual’s chosen identity as paramount and resistance not as simply erroneous, but downright offensive. Moreover, there is a (correct) recognition of the real struggle and suffering experienced by trans people. Yet the other side views the plain reality of male and female biology as so obvious (and often as a matter of religious truth) that it can envision no possibility of acceptance. What has increasingly resulted from this opposition are not reasoned arguments, but acts of coercion—whether in the Obama administration’s well-publicized anti-discrimination directives compelling schools and hospitals to accommodate “an individual’s internal sense of gender,” or in such backlash responses as North Carolina’s infamous “bathroom bill.”
Such fractious approaches to questions of social change signal that important things are at stake—and make it all the more important for us to have a careful and civil discussion. To this end I would like to consider two questions. The first is seemingly simple: What does a claim to transgender identity mean? The second is more complex: How does the debate over transgender identity and rights impact the common good? ...