Vatican takes a step back, says gender not a choice

VATICAN-GENDER/ Members of a gay activist group hold signs in front of St. Peter's square in the Vatican December 16, 2012 protesting against the Roman Catholic Church's rejection of homosexuality and gay marriage | Reuters

The Vatican published an official document on Monday June 10, rejecting the notion of the gender spectrum. The document titled 'Male and Female He Created Them' was issued as a guidebook for Catholic schools and educators to counter the spread of what the pope has called 'cultural colonialism' and an 'educational crisis' in sex education.

The pope has previously displayed microscopic tolerance in his actions and statements. When asked about the possible homosexuality of a priest at the Vatican in 2013, his response, “Who am I to judge?” was a significant presentation of the possible beginning of the Vatican’s journey towards modernity. However there is still a lack of acceptance in the Catholic society.

The pope has made statements condemning the teaching of gender fluidity in schools. He said in 2016 that “It is one thing for people to have a homosexual tendency or even to change sex, but it is another thing to try to teach along this line in schools, to change the mentality.”

The new document seems to be published in sync with the pope’s latter statement. It states that people cannot choose their own gender, that gender is a binary concept and that homosexuality arises from a “confused concept of freedom”. The document also states that the natural differences between men and women are often ignored and they are presented as “merely the product of historical and cultural conditioning.” This misrepresentation, it says, is contributing to destabilisation of the notion of family as an institution.

The document has been denounced by LBTQ+ Catholics. It has been criticized as taking a huge step back in the acceptance of homosexuality. Francis DeBernado, director of New Ways Ministry, a US based advocacy group for LGBT Catholics has said that things that are not evident at birth such as genetics, hormones and brain chemistry, determine gender. DeBernado in his statement said “People do not choose their gender, as the Vatican claims, they discover it through their lived experiences.”

There is also criticism about the timing of the release of the document, as June is celebrated around the world as ‘pride month’, when LGBTQ+ marches and fests are conducted. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, an event of historic importance for the LGBT community.