About three weeks ago, Bondings 2.0 reported on the case of Mark Krolikowski, a Catholic high school music teacher who claims he was fired because he is transgender and had been coming to work with longer hair and manicured fingernails.
Equally Blessed, a coalition of four national Catholic organizations that work for justice and equality for LGBT people in church and society, has published an essay in support of Krolikowski, and all transgender people, on the Washington Post’s “On Faith blog.” The essay is authored by Jim FitzGerald, executive director of Call To Action, an Equally Blessed coalition partner. The essay is worth a read not just because of its support for Krolikowski, but because it provides some good information on the life experiences of transgender people. For example, FitzGerald states:
“In an extensive 2011 nationwide survey hosted by Penn State’s Consortium on Higher Education, 78 percent of transgender people said that they had been bullied or harassed as children. Forty one percent said they had attempted suicide. Thirty-five percent had been physically assaulted and 12 percent had been sexually assaulted.
“Discrimination against transgender people is pervasive. Like Mark, 47 percent of those who responded to the survey said that they had suffered employment discrimination. Nineteen percent had suffered housing discrimination and a similar number had been denied health care due to their gender identity.”
Some progress is being made to correct old prejudices:
“Until recently the U. S. medical establishment treated transgender people as though they were mentally ill. The fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual includes a category called “gender identity disorder,” but, in a significant breakthrough for transgender people and our society’s understanding of gender identity, the soon-to-be published fifth edition does not.”
Despite this progress in the scientific world, the religious world has a lot of catching up to do:
“As Catholics, we regret that the leaders of our church and other conservative Christian organizations are leading the fight to deny transgender people their full human dignity and equal treatment under the law. In a recent address, Pope Benedict XVI argued against the very concept of gender, saying that one’s sexual identity is determined entirely by one’s biology.”
Given the increasingly-known fact that Catholics are generally very supportive of LGBT issues such as marriage equality, it should not come as too much of a surprise that Catholics are also supportive of transgender equality, too:
“Whatever their beliefs about human sexuality, members of the pope’s own church in this country reject discrimination against transgender people. A 2011 poll by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 93 percent of U. S. Catholics believed that transgender people deserve the same legal rights and protections as other citizens. The survey also found that approximately three-quarters of Americans-from across the political and religious spectrum-believe that Congress should pass employment nondiscrimination laws to protect transgender people. A similar majority favor Congress’s recent expansion of hate crimes legislation to protect transgender people.”
The case of Mark Krolikowski shows how strongly a wide discussion of gender and sexuality is needed in the Catholic Church.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry