In the biggest “disappointed and sickened but not surprised” revelation of the whole century, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) has laid out new guidelines for how Catholic schools should treat their trans, non-binary and gender-diverse students. As you might expect, it’s fucked.
The ACBC released Created & Loved on Tuesday, an ironically-titled 12-page guide breaking down religious principles on gender diversity and how they should be applied in schools.
Firstly, there are some surface-level good ideas like encouraging schools to offer unisex toilets and change rooms, use of correct pronouns and gender-inclusive school uniforms. You know, the bare minimum. But those policies mask a fundamentally heinous approach to trans and non-binary care and education which could have disastrous effects on mental health.
The ACBC also urged schools not to rush to affirm trans or non-binary kids’ genders because they say it’s likely just a phase that will “pass safely”. Uh oh.
Let’s break down the bullshit, shall we?
The Catholic school gender identity guidelines paint the growing number of gender-diverse kids as a “social trend”
The gender identity guide was created for principals and leadership teams to “keep up to date on these changing social trends” and ensure their schools understand “the principles of a shared Christian anthropology”.
Why is that a red fkn flag? Well, gender diversity is not a trend.
The urge to paint transness as some fleeting social movement undermines the need for trans, gender diverse and non-binary people to receive affirming care. It belies a fundamental belief that most people aren’t actually trans or gender diverse and are instead just trying on a “trend”. This is a recurring theme in the document.
It states “gender incongruence” is often “psychological”.
“Research data strongly suggests that for the vast majority of children and adolescents, gender incongruence is a psychological condition through which they will pass safely and naturally with supportive psychological care,” it reads.
I don’t know about you, but this desire for kids to “pass” through their gender dysphoria doesn’t sound like supporting their identity. It sounds like asking them to quash it.
The guide says gender and sex can’t be fully separated
The guide says “the use of ideas, words and images that are in conflict with the generosity of the Christian vision should be respectfully avoided”, specifically regarding the fact its belief that sex and gender are separate and that gender can be fluid.
The guide also says gender is a “subjective personal choice”, which is essentially a polite way of saying gender fluidity and non-binary identities don’t exist.
It casts gender identity as something that can be changed with some good ol’ fashioned Christian values — kind of like the way homophobes insist sexuality is a choice.
As you might expect, the guide is also really big on ideal male and female identities.
It acknowledges gender can be influenced by a number of factors, including family, social media, culture and time.
It even goes on to acknowledge that “rigid cultural stereotypes of masculinity and femininity are thus unfortunate and undesirable because they can create unreasonable pressure on children to present or behave in particular ways”.
But instead of using that to lift up and support trans kids, it instead doubles down on the idea “that the complementarity of male and female is part of the goodness of creation”.
So essentially, the Catholic Church wants less rigid gender stereotypes so kids won’t even have the chance to think about whether they might be gender diverse.
The guide is against gender affirmative practices
The Catholic schools gender identity guidelines oppose gender affirmation and essential medical interventions like puberty blockers, hormones and gender-affirming surgery. In a particularly gross assertion, the ACBC says it’s against the latter because gender-affirming surgery can result in infertility.
There’s also your classic BS masquerading as concern about whether puberty blockers and hormones are unsafe and about whether young people can “consent” to those procedures. In fact, the effects of puberty blockers and hormone therapy are very safe and largely reversible.
The guide implies gender diversity is a product of trauma
The document implies gender dysphoria must somehow be connected to family trauma instead of being a legitimate human experience.
It says there’s a “high correlation between childhood gender incongruence and family dynamics”.
It suggests schools implement the “biopsychosocial model” of so-called mental health care, but it frankly already sounds like something dug out of a dodgy 1970s psychology book.
“By discovering the child’s and family’s stories, practitioners are able to understand the gender variance felt by the child or young person within the context of family and their domestic environment,” it said.
“They treat adverse childhood experiences alongside the gender incongruence by using a trauma-informed model of mental health care.”
The gender diversity guide says Catholic schools should avoid the words transgender and cisgender
This is self-explanatory. If you don’t say them, they don’t exist.
The Catholic schools gender identity guidelines suggest terms like “gender dysphoria” and “gender incongruence” should be used instead of the word transgender.
It wants to trivialise and erase these words and the people who hold these identities so the church doesn’t have to deal with them anymore.
So what happens in Catholic schools now?
At the end of the day, this guide is only advice, mere suggestions to schools. No school boards or teachers have to listen to any of it, but it’s possible some will.
Victorian government policy says state schools “must work with students affirming their gender identity to prepare and implement a student support plan” that is created in consultation with students and parents when possible.
A Department of Education and Training spokesperson also told the Age Victorian government schools must support trans and gender-diverse students by encouraging them to wear their preferred uniform and use their preferred pronouns.
“Young transgender Victorians are 15 times more likely to attempt to take their life than other young people,” the spokesperson said.
“When gender-diverse people are embraced and supported at school, they have better social, educational and health outcomes for life.”
But obviously, most Catholic schools aren’t state schools so they can make their own rules, to an extent. It’s not unlikely some will take the advice on board.
But advocates say times are changing and the guide is a desperate and futile attempt to halt progress.
Legal director at Equality Australia Ghassan Kassisieh said the document was a “begrudging acknowledgement by the bishops that community attitudes and laws in some states and territories are no longer on their side”.
We can only hope.
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