The Vatican Says People Can’t ‘Change’ Gender But They’re Wrong

by : Emma Rosemurgey on : 11 Jun 2019 17:26
Pope FrancisPA Images

While people all over the world are wearing their rainbow colours with pride in support of the LGBTQ+ community, the Catholic church has gone one step further in oppressing the rights of trans people by rejecting the idea you can change your gender to match how you identify.

Just over a week into this year’s Pride month, the Vatican has issued an official statement insisting the sexual ‘complementarity’ of men and women is to produce children. However, the point the church seems to have widely overlooked is the fact sex and gender are two entirely different things.


A person’s sex is based on their biological characteristics, like chromosomes and internal and external sex organs, while gender doesn’t have a base in science, instead based on the societal constructions and belief systems put in place that deal with masculinity and femininity.

PA Images

The document, titled Male and Female He Created Them, was written to help Catholic teachers, parents, students and the clergy in addressing the ‘educational crisis’ when it comes to sex education, according to the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education.

However, LGBTQ+ Catholics have been quick to stand up against the church in saying the statement only contributes towards the bigotry and violence against gay and transgender people.


Not only does it perpetuate the discrimination already faced by thousands of transgender people all over the world, but it also causes deep conflict for those people who consider themselves to be both transgender and Catholic.

Pope FrancisGetty

Sam Cresswell, a trans youth worker for the Proud Trust in Manchester, told UNILAD:

I think it’s very painful for LGBT young people to read these sorts of comments, particularly transgender young people and those who might consider themselves as being Catholic, or even Christian in some degree.

It can cause a lot of pain and also it can also give this representation that it must be the opinion of all Catholics which can cause young LGBT people to feel like they won’t be accepted, therefore they can then carry the prejudice that people of faith are transphobic, and of course if they’re Catholic themselves then it can cause a big conflict in their identity.


These thoughts were echoed by Jesuit priest and author James Martin, who wrote on Twitter:

[The document] rightly calls for ‘dialogue’ and ‘listening’ but sets aside the real-life experiences of LGBT people. Sadly, it will be used as a cudgel against transgender people, and an excuse to argue that they shouldn’t even exist.

The document is mainly a dialogue with philosophers and theologians, and with other church documents; but not with scientists and biologists, not with psychologists, and certainly not with LGBT people, whose experiences are given little if any weight.

But what’s arguably most concerning is how these sorts of comments may further confuse individuals, who are already facing an internal battle in coming to terms with who they really are.


Sam Cresswell continued:

For a lot of trans people, they’re not choosing to be trans, the reality is we’re all complicated beings with lots elements to our identity and it doesn’t feel like a choice. So, for many trans people, it’s not that they’ve chosen to be transgender, it’s simply that they are. And for many Catholic transgender people they feel that’s the way god made them.

A study, conducted by the University of Texas at Austin’s Research Consortium, looking at religion and the LGBTQ+ community, found gay and lesbian young people who reported religion as being important to them, were 38 per cent more likely to have had suicidal thoughts than those who reported religion was less important to them.


With that in mind, the Proud Trust has put together a resource for anyone feeling conflicted between their religion and their sexual orientation or identity.

The Vatican Says People Can't Change Gender But They're WrongPexels

When asked whether LGBTQ+ and religion can co-exist, the organisation says:

One way of thinking about our own identity is like the rose. We have many different aspects, just like the redness, the scent, and the feel of the rose. But none of those aspects can be separated from the rose. Perhaps that’s why it can feel so uncomfortable, or even painful, when we try to hide some of those things in certain places.

There may be periods in our lives where some parts of our identity feel more prevalent than others or that we give more of our attention to, but that doesn’t mean the other parts of us go away. They will always be there, informing and shaping who we are. And this is why it can feel impossible to choose because all of our parts make us who we are, even if at times they feel conflicting.

Perhaps it’s time the world realised how other people identify has absolutely nothing to do with you. We’re looking at you, Pope Francis.

If you’ve been affected by any of these issues, and want to speak to someone in confidence contact the LGBT Foundation on 0345 3 30 30 30, 9am until 9pm Monday to Friday, and 10am until 6pm Saturday, or email [email protected]oundation

Alternatively, people can contact the Proud Trust People at [email protected] – they support LGBTQ+ young people up to the age of 25 and offer training and support for schools, colleges and universities too.

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Emma Rosemurgey

Emma Rosemurgey is an NCTJ trained Journalist who started her career by producing The Royal Rosemurgey newspaper in 2004, which kept her family up to date with the goings on of her sleepy north east village. She graduated from the University of Central Lancashire in Preston and started her career in regional newspapers before joining Tyla (formerly Pretty 52) in 2017, and progressing onto UNILAD in 2019.

Topics: Featured, LGBTQ+, Pope Francis, Pride Month, Religion, trans, transgender


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