Q&A with Fr John Flader: Law would address a vital issue

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Years ago the idea of “gender fluidity” did not exist. God created us male and female, and everyone accepted that. You didn’t choose your gender. You were born with it. PHOTO: Unsplash/Delia Giandeini

Dear Father, I understand a bill before the New South Wales parliament aims to prohibit the teaching of gender fluidity in schools. What is this and why is it so important?

The Education Legislation Amendment (Parental Rights) Bill 2020, currently before the NSW Legislative Council, aims to protect the rights of parents in the education of their children, with special emphasis on prohibiting “the teaching of the ideology of gender fluidity to children in schools.” Years ago the idea of “gender fluidity” did not exist. God created us male and female, and everyone accepted that. You didn’t choose your gender. You were born with it.

As I have written before, the theory that gender is not stamped in our nature, indeed in every cell in the body, but rather is something that each person is free to choose for himself or herself, burst into the public domain following the publication of Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity in 1990 (cf. J. Flader, Question Time 5, q. 690).

The book is considered the seminal work on gender ideology. According to the theory, humans are not male or female, as we have always thought, but rather somewhere on a spectrum with up to 63 genders. Gender, according to the theory, is just a social construct; it is what we make of it, what we want to be.

Since the publication of that book, gender theory has gathered momentum all over the world, and it is a pivotal element in the Safe Schools program pioneered in Victoria and now used in other Australian states. Roz Ward, a co-founder of the program, has stated that Safe Schools is not an anti-bullying program but rather is about the promotion of sexual and gender diversity.

If a child is suffering from anorexia or depression, we don’t encourage them to eat less or end their life, and we shouldn’t encourage someone suffering from GD to try to change their sex.”

To assist children who feel they belong to a different gender, South Australia already has a mandatory policy for all state schools to allow students to choose the bathroom, uniform, sporting team and sleeping quarters which correspond to their chosen gender identity, without the consent, consultation or even notification of their parents. This is dangerous. Parents, after all, are the ones who know their children best and who are in the best position to make decisions about their wellbeing. They should not be excluded from this process.

What is more, according to the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) of the American Psychiatric Association, as many as 98 per cent of gender-uncertain boys and 88 per cent of girls will accept their biological sex by late adolescence. To encourage them to change their gender when they are young would thus make it harder for them to accept their biological sex later.

When a young person believes he or she is of the opposite sex to that of their birth, they are suffering from a mental disorder which DSM-5 recognises as Gender Dysphoria (GD). What the child needs is psychological or psychiatric help, not encouragement to live as someone of the opposite sex. If a child is suffering from anorexia or depression, we don’t encourage them to eat less or end their life, and we shouldn’t encourage someone suffering from GD to try to change their sex, but rather counsel them to accept it.

What is more, a report by the American College of Pediatricians in June 2017 says that the effects of taking cross-sex hormones (testosterone for girls and oestrogen for boys) and sex reassignment surgery to aid gender transition can be severe. The rate of suicide in Swedish adults who used these means was nearly 20 times higher than in the rest of the population. And 62 per cent of male-to female transgender persons and 55 per cent of female-to-male persons suffered from depression, much higher than in the rest of the population.

In the US, a survey conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and National Centre for Transgender Equality found that 41 per cent of transgender persons had attempted suicide, dwarfing the 4.6 per cent in the overall population. Moreover, cross-sex hormones are associated with such dangerous health risks as cardiac disease, high blood pressure, blood clots, stroke, diabetes and cancer. To give these treatments to children who are too young to give valid informed consent is simply child abuse.

In view of all this, the bill to prohibit the teaching of gender fluidity in schools is of fundamental importance and it should be supported by all.

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