Thursday, March 23, 2017

You Can't Tell Me Who I Am

I grew up Catholic in a part of the Midwest where Catholics were a majority religion; all the non-Catholics I knew knew lots of Catholics themselves, and seemed to consider us pretty mainstream. Now I live where Catholics are rare, and fundamentalist evangelical Christians much more prevalent. Quite a few people around here have odd and incorrect ideas about Catholics and Catholicism. I've gotten used to people, for instance, telling me that I worship the virgin Mary.

I do not. I explain that no, I don't, and neither do any Catholics: it's against doctrine. But once when my husband was saying so, the person to whom he was speaking insisted that yes, Catholics absolutely worshipped Mary. My husband said no, he had been raised Catholic, and never once in his life had he worshipped Mary. The person said, yes, I know you do. At which point my husband said, astonished, You have no way of knowing what I do and don't believe.

I would like to take this a step farther. You do not know better than I do who I am. And also You do not know better than I do how God made me to be.

I've been feeling this rant come on for awhile now. I have some transgender friends. (Honestly? You probably do too.) I was sharing a meal with one of those friends the other day, and said friend told me that a member of their extended family (yes, it's a plural pronoun, but it's also a neutral one) had been telling them that God made them to be the gender they were assigned at birth.

Which is, no matter how you look at it, crazy.

My friend Donna Gephart just put this up on her Facebook page, a link to an article about a bus some people are driving around the United States in an effort to convince us all that transgender people are not actually transgender. The bus features an outline of a girl stamped "XX" and a boy stamped "XY," which tells you all you need to know about the scientific accuracy of those driving this bus, since plenty of people are something other than just "XX" and "XY," and there are also endocrine disorders such as androgen insensitivity syndrome and if you don't already understand all that you can google it. What I find astonishing is the lengths that people are currently going to to proclaim something that does not in any way affect them at all. Honestly, if you feel your gender was correctly assigned to you, great! But it doesn't mean you can tell me mine was, or that either of us can speak to anyone else. You, frankly, have no idea about anyone but you.

Here's why it matters: because making people feel that God does not or can not love them is a sin. Because making people feel that they are somehow sinful because of the very essence of their being, the very way that God in infinite love and complexity created them, is a sin.

Here's why else it matters: the legalization of gay marriage caused gay teen suicide rates to drop. Why? Because, as is also true for transgender people, (here is a good link), rejection and lack of social support increases suicide rates; acceptance decreases them. Actual lives of actual people are at stake here. The people driving the bus risk nothing of themselves, but pose a real risk to society.

Forty percent of transgender people have attempted suicide.

Let us acknowledge that the only way accepting gay and transgender people increases their numbers, is that it causes fewer of them to kill themselves. I don't know about you, but I don't want "helped drive someone to suicide" on my immortal soul.

I can't make you gay, or transgender, by allowing you to be gay, any more than I can prevent you from being gay, or transgender, by denying your reality.

Neither can you make me worship Mary. It's just not who I am.