When I was pregnant with my now-toddler, long before I knew he would be a little boy named Robin who has a fabulous sense of style (he loves the color pink and his fedora) and enjoys toy trucks and all things cats, I talked endlessly to the tiny human growing inside me. I wondered if they’d be kind to our animals, if they’d like to read, and if they’d be an adventurous eater (answers: mostly, yes, and not really). I wanted to know if they’d like to cuddle or if they’d be a wild thing, climbing up cabinets and riding their toy car down the basement stairs. I worried if I would be good enough at teaching them to be a good human. The pronouns I’d use to address said small human were the least of the worries and wonderings keeping me up at night.
For almost all parents—whether they find out their child’s sex at birth, during the 20-week anatomy scan, or through early genetic testing—there is a period of time between the pink line on a pregnancy test and when they find out whether they’re about to start receiving a pile of frilly dresses or dinosaur onesies. It is in this liminal space where the dreaming begins, where parents start talking to their child or imagining what their life will be like. Long before any pronouns or gendered interests, parents look forward to this well-loved person who is shortly to enter their lives.
“It was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” reads Psalm 139 (13–14). This is a truth Catholics know deep in their bones: God made each of us, and we are all fearfully and wonderfully made. We are comfortable with this idea, just as we are comfortable with the idea of talking to an embryo in-utero with no known gender or sex. So why, then, are so many of us so uncomfortable with the reality of trans and nonbinary people?
According to an article in Them, as of April 21, over 500 anti-LGBTQ bills had been passed in the United States. More than 100 of these impact trans people’s ability to obtain health care. These include a bill in Florida that allows the state to take children into custody if their parents seek gender-affirming care for them and one in Kansas that will revoke the license of any doctor prescribing gender-affirming care to a minor. (It’s important to state for the record that the vast majority of “gender-affirming care” for children is counseling. Teenagers may also be prescribed puberty blockers, which are FDA-approved and reversible drugs already commonly used for precocious puberty. Very few teenagers are undergoing any type of surgery.)
This legislation isn’t saving children. It is literally killing them. Gender-affirming care has been linked to a significantly lower risk of depression and suicide among trans people. Nearly half of trans teenagers have considered suicide over the past year. Trans people as a whole are more than four times more likely to be victims of a violent crime than cisgender people are.
On March 31, International Day of Trans Visibility, three communities of women religious—representing over 6,000 women—released a statement affirming that trans individuals are loved by God. “As members of the body of Christ, we cannot be whole without the full inclusion of transgender, nonbinary, and gender-expansive individuals,” the statement reads. “We seek to cultivate a faith community where all, especially our transgender, nonbinary, and gender-expansive siblings, experience a deep belonging.”
Every trans child and teenager struggling under these new laws was created and is beloved by God. Every single one was once a beloved baby, with parents who talked to them using both pronouns or no pronouns at all. If we can pray the psalms and truly believe that God made us all intentionally and with no mistakes, then we must stand up for these children’s lives, ensuring that they are given the tools they need to live as who God created them to be.
This article also appears in the June 2023 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 88, No. 6, page 9). Click here to subscribe to the magazine.
Image: Unsplash/Volodymyr Hryshchenko