November 2012 marked the first time gender identity was included as a specific protected classification in a United Nations General Assembly anti-discrimination resolution. This wording is significant because it elevates gender identity to the same level as race, creed, religion, and sexual orientation. Yet this term is ambiguous and there is no clear agreement as to what discrimination on the basis of gender identity means. Bringing such uncertainty into the language of international law opens the door for broad assertions of rights for those who claim to be “transgendered.”
In its broadest, most widely agreed upon sense, discrimination means to single out a person or group for unfair or unjust treatment. The United Nations declared that no one should be subject to summary execution or extrajudicial killings on the basis of race, creed, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Certainly, no one advocates that those with a gender identity disorder should be vulnerable to the capricious use of capital punishment. However, once gender identity makes its way into the anti-discrimination lexicon, many will conclude that being transgendered is a variant of normal identity, rather than a disorder. (This has already happened with the term “sexual orientation,” which is interpreted to mean acceptance and promotion of homosexuality.) Including gender identification as a protected class reduces gender to a subjective identity. Maleness or femaleness becomes an arbitrary construct made at the whim of the individual and all are expected to accede to the self-proclaimed gender identity. Failure to do so is seen as discriminatory.
As recently seen in the state of Washington, protection against discrimination on the basis of gender identity can be interpreted to mean that a man who dresses as a woman has the right to be considered as truly a woman. At Evergreen College in Olympia, Washington, a 45-year-old student with male genitalia declared that he is actually a woman. The school claimed that because gender identity is included in the state’s anti-discrimination statutes, this student must be treated as a woman in all aspects of college life. This includes allowing the student to use the women’s locker room at the college pool and fully expose himself to all the females who share the locker room. Those who object to this policy are labeled bigots and are said to be infringing upon this student’s right to determine his own sexual identity.
The belief that gender is a personal choice has made it fashionable to go to great lengths to avoid “imposing” a gender identity on children. Egalia is a “gender-neutral” publicly funded pre-school in Sweden. The school does not refer to its students as boys or girls, but only as “friends”. They do not use any gender specific pronouns. In fact, they have made up a new Swedish word, “hen”, to replace “han” and “hon”, the Swedish pronouns for “he” and “she”. They have banned stories like “Cinderella” or “Snow White” in favor of books featuring gay and lesbian couples, single parents, and adopted children in order to avoid reinforcing gender stereotypes.
Some parents have gone so far as to hide the sexual identity of their children to avoid any cultural influences on their gender identity. A Canadian couple was profiled by the BBC after deciding to conceal their baby’s gender from everyone, including their own parents. They named their child Storm and intend to let the child explore various gender roles so that Storm can decide whether to be male, female, or some combination of the two.
However, as Abraham Lincoln said, “calling a tail a leg does not make it a leg.” God created us male and female. Those born as males have one nature and those born as females have a complementary nature. Each equal in dignity but distinct in character. A man can have traits that are often thought of as feminine, such as being communicative or nurturing. That does not alter the fact that he is a man. A woman can have traits that are often thought of as masculine, such as being assertive. That does not alter the fact that she is a woman. It is abnormal for a man to believe himself to be a woman or for a woman to believe herself a man and it is most definitely not an act of love to encourage such delusions. Rather, it undermines human dignity to deny the reality of an essential element of human nature.
In his 2012 Christmas address to the Roman Curia, Pope Benedict characterized the rejection of innate male and female sexual identities as a denial of God. He warned that this threatens not only individuals, but also the very existence of families and the wellbeing of society as a whole:
Man and woman in their created state as complementary versions of what it means to be human are disputed. But if there is no pre-ordained duality of man and woman in creation, then neither is the family any longer a reality established by creation. Likewise, the child has lost the place he had occupied hitherto and the dignity pertaining to him… The defence of the family is about man himself. And it becomes clear that when God is denied, human dignity also disappears. Whoever defends God is defending man.
It is interesting that it is often the people who tout diversity as a lynchpin of a healthy society who seek to suppress sexual diversity and create a genderless, androgynous culture. As Pope Benedict points out, this philosophy that radically redefines what it means to be human is at the heart of the assault on marriage and the family. When male and female become meaningless labels then marriage as a union of one man and one woman becomes unnecessary. Indeed, the need to limit marriage to two people no longer makes sense when complementarity is denied. When the unique roles of husband and wife are obliterated, the status of children also changes. They become mere commodities obtained for the benefit of an amorphous adult partnership instead of distinct human persons with intrinsic dignity born of the fruitful union of a man and a woman.
It is misguided and dangerous to confuse gender differences with gender inequality. Acknowledging that men and women are different is not tantamount to saying one is better than the other. And while it is noble for the United Nations to affirm that those who suffer from a gender identity disorder must not be subjected to persecution, such an affirmation must not be construed to mean that gender is fungible. Those who identify as transgendered must be treated with dignity and love, yet to deny the reality of innate sexual identity undermines both. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, God’s creation of both man and woman is a reflection of the Creator’s wisdom and goodness. We reject this gift at our peril.
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Denise Hunnell, MD, is a Fellow of Human Life International, the world’s largest international pro-life organization. She writes for HLI’s Truth and Charity Forum.