Earlier this spring, LGBT activists and allies gathered outside St. Pius V Catholic Church, Providence, Rhode Island to protest a talk by by Dr. Michelle Cretella, a pediatrician who is in favor of conversion therapy, and who is doubtful that trans folks exist.
“Dr. Cretella has been on the front lines of the fight against the transgender agenda for 25 years. She has seen firsthand the severe mental and physical abuse that children have endured at the hands of medical professionals who are willing to ‘transition’ a child from boy to girl or girl to boy, a feat that is biologically impossible.”
More than 40 LGBT people and allies, many holding biblically-inspired signs of protest, gathered first on the sidewalk outside the church before the event. As the program began,
10-15 protestors entered the sanctuary. The Providence Journal reported that the protest was mostly peaceful, with the church providing the demonstrators with hot chocolate while they marched outside.
During Cretella’s talk, one woman vocally protested while holding a sign that said “LIE” and was escorted out, but she was not arrested. Galen Auer, a spokesperson for LGBTQ Action RI, which organized the demonstration, was pleased with how the protest unfolded. Uprise RI reported:
“Our presence at St Pius tonight achieved exactly what we hoped to achieve — to provide information to our community and support the transgender youth who deserve to know that their experiences are valid. I don’t believe that St. Pius teaches hatred for the LGBTQ community, or that tonight’s event was motivated by hatred, but we know that factually misinformed rhetoric like Michelle Cretella’s has the potential to harm trans kids regardless of her intentions, which is why every major medical association in the country disagrees with her position on this subject.”
Dr. Cretella was speaking as a representative of the American College of Pediatrics (ACPed), a much different organization from the widely respected American Academy of Pediatrics, which supports transgender people. The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the American College of Pediatrics as:
“A fringe anti-LGBT hate group that masquerades as the premier U.S. association of pediatricians to push anti-LGBT junk science, primarily via far-right conservative media and filing amicus briefs in cases related to gay adoption and marriage equality. [The American College of Pediatrics] opposes adoption by LGBT couples, links homosexuality to pedophilia, endorses so-called reparative or sexual orientation conversion therapy for homosexual youth, believes transgender people have a mental illness and has called transgender health care for youth child abuse.”
Dr. Cretella’s talk began with a discussion of bullying in schools, but the talk quickly devolved into pseudoscience. She believes that gene expression sets gender expression, and that is always consistent with biological characteristics.
Mainstream medical associations, such as the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, have spoken out against arguments like Dr. Cretella’s. The Society posted an online statement that observed:
“As acceptance has grown suppression and denial has decreased, and requests for help and acceptance has increased.”
Auer, the demonstration organizer said that increased acceptance is a good thing for trans youth:
“Gender-affirming care has overwhelmingly positive effects on the care of transgender people, including transgender youth.”
While churches are able to host a variety of events that match up with their religious convictions, the perpetuation of false narratives and pseudoscience by an pediatrician is liable to do much more harm than good. Incorrect information given by a physician is likely to cause lasting damage to young transgender people within the Providence community and beyond. Catholic parishes need to do more sensitive pastoral outreach and education on transgender issues.
–Kaitlin Brown, New Ways Ministry, July 9, 2018