January 21, 2010

RADICAL RECONSTRUCTION: And now just Eve’s opinion, in case y’all are wondering: The more I think and read about transgender experiences and issues, the more I’m convinced that the Catholic Church can and (I pray) will accommodate some, though as I said above not all, forms of transgendered identity. Specifically, I think Catholic theology affirms many transsexuals’ accounts (and even, as I’ve tried to suggest in this review, offers added strength to their position).

The Church has not, as far as I know, spoken with any authority on this subject yet. A search at the Vatican website for “transsexual” and “transgender” (and variants thereof) produced one result, right here, which as you’ll see does not address “what should I as a transgendered person do?” at all. “Intersexed” and “intersex” produced zero results. Possibly I am not running this search right, but as I said, so far I haven’t run across anyone, on any side of these issues, citing saints’ theological writing or Church teaching which specifically addresses transgendered issues rather than simply sex difference in general. I’ll be looking for more books and articles from or addressing specifically Catholic, ex-Catholic, or dissenting (by which I mean, heretical!) Catholic positions. (Recommendations are always welcome!)

As for my own stance, you can build this argument yourself if I give you the premises, I think:

1. Surgery to give intersexed people bodies as much as possible aligned with their experienced sex is reconstructive, not mutilating (see above), thus a-okay by the Church.

2. Our physical bodies are composed not solely of big obvious parts like arms and penises, but also brain structures and hormones. Those, too, are our flesh. Those, too, we can’t gnostically reject.

3. We now know that there are differences in those areas for many transsexuals. I expect that we’ll learn much more about these differences with The Inevitable Forward March of Progress.

4.There’s nothing wrong with being a woman, or being a man–those are good things according to God. Thus transforming one’s body to be more obviously a woman or a man is radically unlike e.g. anorexia or apotemnophilia, two disorders to which anti-trans writers often compare transsexuality.

There, now you can run the argument yourself.

As I said, I don’t think the Church can accept all possible transgendered identities. The “always already a woman”/“always already a man” autobiographies Prosser discusses in chapter two are much more in line with Catholic thought, I think, than Feinberg’s stance. Also, it’s pretty obvious that we’re just at the very beginning of trying to work through the theology here, and so even the rudimentary argument-premises above only scratch the surface. (I’m not sure I need such a scientistic understanding of “the flesh” to get to an acceptance of transsexuality, for example, but putting the case this way was the easiest way for me to understand and express it.) But I do want to note that the theological issues here only barely overlap with the issues in Gay Catholic Whatnot; “LGBT” is an uneasy cultural alliance, not a Catholic theological category!

So yeah… that’s where I’m at.

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