The Vatican Rejects Gender Fluidity
June 25, 2019
Recently, the Vatican published a document that said that people can’t choose their gender. This is accurate. Gender identity is about how a person feels inside and for some people, this does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. For some, it is more fluid. However, the Vatican is also insisting that someone’s gender identity—which, again, is not chosen—should match their biological sex or sex assigned at birth. They reject the idea that for some, this is not the case.
Gender fluidity can include having a gender identity that fluctuates between two genders, having no gender or being multiple genders. The document from the Vatican, called, “Male and Female He Created Them: Towards a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education” and issued by a department at the Vatican dedicated to Catholic education, says that people can identify solely as men or women because these genders correspond to traditional ideas around procreation and how kids are made. This is consistent with what Pope Francis has said in the past. The document—intended for Catholic schools and teachers—refers to “an educational crisis” when it comes to a more accepting and flexible view of gender. But isn’t it more of a crisis to insist that people force themselves to identify as something that does not represent them?
Since this document was released during Pride month, a lot of people have criticized it for fueling hatred and discrimination toward trans and gender-nonconforming people during a period of honor and celebration and for potentially further confusing people who might be questioning their gender. An advocacy group for LGBTQ Catholics called New Ways Ministry found fault with the document because it seems to express that gender is solely determined by genitalia, but gender identity is about how a person feels inside as a masculine or feminine person, a blend of both or something else altogether.
Other advocates took issue with the lack of representation of LGBTQ people in the document and hope that this criticism opens a conversation about gender in the Catholic Church. For instance, activist and Jesuit priest Rev. James Martin said, “The real-life experiences from LGBTQ people seem entirely absent from this document,” according to an Associated Press article. He then voiced his expectations for future inclusivity in the Catholic Church.
Gender fluidity is important because it allows people to express their gender in a way that feels most affirming for them. To deny this is to deny people’s true identity and experience.