War Against Sexism

The Pope is right.

Transpeople are part of a bigger war against sexism.

On his flight back from Azerbaijan, the Pope called teaching about trans possibilities part of a war against marriage, but it’s the same thing.   His marriage model is the heterosexist model of a human race divided by reproductive biology, who can each become whole only by coming together and making families.  That’s my sexist model.

Everybody knows this, even the gay and lesbian people who have learned to depend on a very clear separation of humans by sex.   Bisexuals narratives are regularly purged from their political movements as undercutting the “really one or the other” story line.   If desire isn’t fixed — a world of just Kinsey 1 or 6s — then it is a choice, and can be challenged.

Identity must be binary, and whatever we did before was just some kind of falsehood, some kind of cover or defence.   That’s the story and they stick to it.

The Roman Catholic church power structure is highly patriarchal.   Only those who are male can go beyond a certain point, can be ordained as priests.   It’s been that way forever and the men at the top want it to stay that way, no matter how much women are challenging the edges.

They do this, they tell us, because they know what is best for women and children.   By following the dictates of their belief, they take a paternal view towards women, protecting the angels who God has made for a special purpose which is not standing with real power in the church.

This argument has always been made by those assert they who keep people down out of kindness because they just aren’t capable of more, due to their skin colour, their heathen beliefs, their reproductive biology or their queer leanings.

When it is pointed out that this position allows them to consolidate power and economic benefits, well, they just coo and say that it’s too complicated for us to understand and we shouldn’t worry  our pretty little heads about things like that.   There is a reason men vote for the family and women are protected from such tawdry and difficult things, they said.

The women’s movement, the gay and lesbian liberation movement, well, it’s all been part of what many call a “war on marriage.”   God made us in a certain way, so when those in power impose structures that respect that way, they are just doing it out of respect, kindness, godliness and protection.

Those other movements, though, accepted that humans were easy to categorize into two boxes based on reproductive biology.

Transpeople and bisexuals , though, well, we say that reproductive biology doesn’t define and limit us, that who we really are is beyond that.

What happens when human reproductive biology becomes even more aided by medical technology?   Can males gestate babies, are there possibilities for ex-vitro development, or will we really be able to change the sex, the reproductive biology of a body?

It’s easy to imagine all of this coming.   And it’s easy to understand how that will rip apart power structures based on sexual binaries lead by people who claim to “protect marriage.”

"This is against nature," he said. "It is one thing when someone has this tendency ... and it is another matter to teach this in school."
 "To change the mentality -- I call this ideological colonization," the Pope said.
 The Pope said he still spends time with transgender people, leading them closer to God.

Are we against nature, or are we against the social structures, the power structures, that are based on some kind of reading of nature?

Transpeople claim that we express our nature in a society where that expression is very challenging because rather than understanding nature as a linked system, full of continuums, we want to impose constructed binaries on nature.   With such ideas deeply embedded in language, how to we find a way to express where we are beyond?

Nature made some weaker, less capable, more needing of being cared for by the strong and smart.    As much as our hearts may flutter at the thought of being cared for and protected, we know that to give our destiny to someone else is just abandoning our own agency, our power to speak and advocate for people like us.

Is it possible to be trans in the world, claiming that our nature lies in our knowledge, our heart rather than in our reproductive biology, and not be part of a war against sexism, against heterosexism?   Is claiming that war is a a war against “marriage” an essential difference, or is it just a political messaging ploy to marginalize and impeach our actions?

The road to equality is a road to equality.   Separate but equal never is, at least according to the US Supreme Court.    Trying to defend the things we like about separation is trying to resist equality, trying to keep the walls up to keep out any challenge to our traditional choices.

Does “closer to God” or “closer to nature” mean that we need to accept not only the way we are are born but also the social conventions traditionally written onto that biology, the meaning others assign to the externals?

Or does “closer to God” or “closer to nature” mean we need to go inside and explore beyond traditions, believing that spirit is the essence, not the body?

Personally, I have always been  in favour of gender but against compulsory gendering.   I find defining the boundaries of social roles by dint of reproductive biology to be sexist, in the same way that I find defining the boundaries of social roles by dint of skin colour & appearance to be racist.

There was a time when we wanted to assert that trans was sickness, a birth defect to be cured, that once we were fixed we could just take our place in the binary.   That assertion, though, was not inclusive or empowering, instead leaving us abject and denied a voice that encompassed all of who we are.

Transpeople tell the world that who we are and who we need to be in the world is defined by something other than our reproductive biology.    We say that the compulsory gender roles placed on us are crippling, destructive and deny us the ability to connect with our creation in a profound way.

That is a position against sexism, against separating humans by reproductive biology, even if some choose, for their own reasons, to call it a position against marriage, against family.

I don’t want to be at war with anyone, but if they choose to see me as an enemy of all that is right, holy and virtuous, well, that’s a battle they chose to pick.

Humans moving beyond the constructed social oppression around reproductive biology just seems to be a quest against sexism.

At least it does to me.

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3 thoughts on “War Against Sexism”

  1. The Catholic Church may be one of the few places where patriarchy still exists in the world. Even in the home, so many grow up these days without a father present–leave aside any question of “Father knows best.”

    There is a “war against the family” or “war against traditional values,” and so often the deterioration seems to come about when self-fulfillment or self-determination is made a higher value than seeking to discern and fulfill the role that God has ordained for us.

    In my case, I did not grow up with a father present, because the bond of marriage was taken so lightly (although my parents got themselves married in the Church, and they ought to have been aware of the deeper layers of significance in the sacrament) that my mother could seek a divorce simply because she was not as happy as she thought she should be, and assumed it would be more exciting to invite another man into our home and into her bedroom in place of my father.

    I understand this is common enough these days. The anti-patriarchy feminists have too often been “pro-choice” in a way that simply destroys, undermines, and eats away from within any attempt to build up a strong and just society in a troubled and difficult world–a struggle to establish order which sometimes requires self-denial and mortification from its members, as the Church has always known.

    I support patriarchy. It has become such a dirty word, but this is a shame. Patriarchy is simply leadership by fathers. The masculine role is one of a certain kind of leadership, stewardship, and fostering of a community or a household that can at its best be called fatherly.

    It is archetypal. Surely many women would be capable of carrying out the job of a priest, insofar as it is simply a job, insofar as the priest is simply a minister. But this is a degraded, decadent way of regarding the priesthood. Human beings, human life, and even human gender, have their full meaning only when they are rooted in a deeper layer of meaning, in God’s supernatural order, which is reflected in the human soul at a deep level–surely this is the reason distinctions of man/woman, masculine/feminine have been so readily accepted throughout the ages, and meaning has been found therein. The cosmos is Hierarchical, not some level field of “equality.” It is important to the order of Church and society that a masculine man fill the role of priest.

    I think your characterization of patriarchy as condescending paternalism, “don’t worry your pretty little head,” is unfair. No doubt men have lived it out this way in the past, but then we know that this is a sinful world where things are prone to go awry. I would not be so certain that the answer lies in banishing patriarchy from the earth. So often the travesty of the good fills the vacuum when the true good is not able to be present to hold its rightful place in the order of things. We need healthy patriarchy, not absence of patriarchy.

    I am trans. I do not know what this means for me in the Church. I feel this T is a reality rooted deeply in me, and I do say today in good conscience that I feel called to express it in the world. But I may be wrong. I may not have it exactly right. I try to remain open to the idea that I may one day see otherwise.

    I certainly do not want to heedlessly trample over the goodness of traditional understanding, all caught up in loudly demanding my “rights.” If I am going to ask others to change their thinking, to see differently, I must be prepared to carry my share of the burden, which means giving it time and accepting certain sufferings as necessary to the process. I am different. I am on the outside. So it is for me today. I am also loved.

    Yes, understanding evolves in the world. But I have had my fill of SJW-style “liberalism” or “liberation,” and like a longing for a wholesome meal that makes itself keenly felt after finishing a jug of ice cream for dinner five nights in a row, I really, really want to spend some time steeping myself in the alternate perspectives which are on offer in the world of the Church.

    I am tired of the message that because I am Queer I must be a leftist, and must not be deeply religious. My Christian identity is more important than my LGBT identity.

    (Thanks for listening.)

    (I guess I fight on the side of sexism in this war.)

  2. I very much approve of fathers, of the paternal interest in the world. I believe that gender in its purest form is about the commitment to children, about procreation & child-rearing and that commitment isn’t just from the people who bear the children it also must be from those who deliver the seed and also from other men and women who form the network of whatever gender models we are using in culture.

    Not all cultures have seen a pair-bond as the right way to have that commitment to children. Communal arrangements have often given more robust and deeper support. One reason for this the point you bring up, that when a pair-bond relationship ends one of the parents can end up separated from a child who needs a whole family.

    You value your beliefs as primary and I respect that. It’s not me who is pointing out that your trans identification and your church identification are at odds, it is the anointed leader of your church.

    I respect those who work for change from within, though in large hierarchical organizations the effects of one person at the bottom rarely creates change. The cultural and spiritual beliefs you hold are yours, as is your affiliations.

    Responding to the intention to silence teaching about trans identity because it is “ideological colonization” isn’t me setting to battle your church or your beliefs, rather it is the leader of a church setting out to battle people like me. My narrative shouldn’t be taught in school because it constitutes a “war on marriage.”

    Every one of us has relationships where we need to make accommodations to the pronouncements and beliefs of others. Choosing to hang in there, to be where we find support for our heart even when parts of us are judged is hard but can be important.

    There are many loving Roman Catholics in the world, many who hold transpeople with caring. Even the Pope says he does this, but in his context it is to “bring us to God,” which seems to mean helping us understand where we sin against marriage and need to change or at least silence our choices.

    I responded to the head of a large, patriarchal organization’s attack on my beliefs, suggesting that part of the motivation is maintaining long lasting sexist power structures.

    Demeaning any who hold the faith that organization maintains was not my intention.

    1. I did not feel that you were intending to demean those who hold the faith.

      I wonder what the Pope does mean in this context. How is it he has held trans people with caring, and what does he mean by bringing us to God? The Church says we are all sinners: there is probably not one of us who would not be exhorted to some kind of change. There are high standards of morality, and great mercy also for those who fall short of them, which is all of us.

      Of course, it is a different thing if one feels that the very basis of one’s being in the world is being called disordered, rather than one particular facet of one’s behavior or one’s domestic arrangements. This is a difficult place to be in for trans people.

      Yes, I am sure motivations are not always pure among the Church hierarchy. Wanting to hold on to power no doubt comes into it. Also being unsettled by the prospect of change, and how values which are held dear could still be upheld in the face of developments which may be necessary.

      But I think there is also legitimate uncertainty how to proceed in cases of trans people. Being that trans people are people, and children of God, we do of course deserve compassion and respect at the level of persons. But I can understand how any move towards a fuller embrace of trans people, one which affirms their self-understanding or expression of their gender, can seem impossible to some.

      The “gender ideology” that is sometimes referenced by those in the Church who appear to speak against trans people seems to be understood by them as saying that people can “choose their gender” at will. That is not, however, my understanding of trans. I may have chosen to take particular steps to express my understanding of my gender in the world, but I did not choose my gender identity, any more than I chose the configuration of my body at birth.

      I wonder how this perspective would play with the Church hierarchy. I suspect many have not made a serious engagement with trans narratives in this way. There may be bias against it, but I also believe most are fundamentally people of goodwill, and could be brought round in time.

      Of course, they could also argue that I am mistaken in my understanding, or that, regardless of what I may think, my gender was definitively established by the medical establishment at my birth, and anything else is delusion and distortion of God’s intentions for me.

      Or… maybe I am not wrong, but the best road to take to understanding and accommodation may not perhaps be that proposed by the mainstream trans narrative.

      The remark about “ideological colonization” is interesting. It seems he has used the term before. This article (https://www.ncronline.org/news/vatican/francis-warns-against-ideological-colonization-family-reaffirms-contraception-ban) from January, 2015, includes it.

      ‘Obliquely referencing historical colonization of the Philippines and his native Argentina, he continued: “Just as our peoples were able to say no to the period of colonization, as families we have to be very wise and very strong with fortitude to say no to these initiatives of colonization that could destroy the family.”

      ‘The pontiff then suggested that families pray to St. Joseph “to know when to say yes and when to say no” to such colonization.

      ‘Manila Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle called Francis’ words about Paul VI “a stroke of genius.”

      ‘Speaking in a press conference Friday night, Tagle said the pope “affirmed the teaching of Paul VI regarding the openness of the family to life … but then he reminded all us, too, that Pope Paul VI was very sensitive to particular cases.”

      ‘There was “sensitivity to particular cases while remaining faithful to the tradition,” Tagle said.

      ‘Vatican spokesman Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi said at the press conference that Francis’ words could be put in the context of the upcoming Synod of Bishops, which among other issues may consider whether Catholics who have divorced and remarried may return to Communion.’

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