Last Friday, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released a letter titled: “Created Male and Female: An Open Letter from Religious Leaders.” Therein, they express the religious belief that people with gender dysphoria should not be treated through gender affirmation. They offer no real alternatives and they go well beyond religious doctrine.

Medical science is just that — science. I understand faith. There are some very smart people who are religious. As a nonbeliever I disagree with them and believe that faith has dangers associated with it. One of those dangers is present when people attempt to conform science to religious belief. When that occurs, faith becomes superstition.

Selected passages:

As leaders of various communities of faith throughout the United States, many of us came together in the past to affirm our commitment to marriage as the union of one man and one woman and as the foundation of society. We reiterate that natural marriage continues to be invaluable to American society.

I cannot really quarrel with the necessities of opposite-sex marriage or I wouldn’t be here. However, same-sex marriage is just as “natural” as opposite-sex marriage. Essentially calling it unnatural is in the pejorative.

We come together to join our voices on a more fundamental precept of our shared existence, namely, that human beings are male or female and that the socio-cultural reality of gender cannot be separated from one’s sex as male or female.

They can believe in unicorns for all I care. However, what they are claiming, not as belief but as truth, is at odds with medical science. There is a clear understanding that a small minority of people have incongruent gender and natal sex or what is called gender dysphoria. Its cause is unknown and there is no known medical intervention to address gender dysphoria.

A person’s discomfort with his or her sex, or the desire to be identified as the other sex, is a complicated reality that needs to be addressed with sensitivity and truth. Each person deserves to be heard and treated with respect; it is our responsibility to respond to their concerns with compassion, mercy and honesty. As religious leaders, we express our commitment to urge the members of our communities to also respond to those wrestling with this challenge with patience and love.

Actually gender dysphoria “needs to be addressed” through medical science. Denying science is neither truth nor honesty. Compassion and mercy require that people receive the best medical care available in accordance with the best science available. The alternative is to regress to the notion that the Devil is responsible for the things that ail us. That is where the superstition comes in.

Children especially are harmed when they are told that they can “change” their sex or, further, given hormones that will affect their development and possibly render them infertile as adults. Parents deserve better guidance on these important decisions, and we urge our medical institutions to honor the basic medical principle of “first, do no harm.” Gender ideology harms individuals and societies by sowing confusion and self-doubt. The state itself has a compelling interest, therefore, in maintaining policies that uphold the scientific fact of human biology and supporting the social institutions and norms that surround it.

This has little to do with what children are told. Some children inform us that their gender is at odds with their sex. For those kids it is a certainty as rock solid as anyone else’s grasp of gender. The bishops cite “the scientific fact of biology” while, at the same time, attempting to discredit the scientific fact of gender. Once and for all there is not such thing as “gender ideology!” An ideology is a belief system. Gender is subject to scientific scrutiny. The very basis of science is evidence. I would expect these men who are religious leaders to be intellectually honest. Apparently that is not a reasonable expectation.

What they are demanding is for medical science to conform to their religious beliefs. Then they are demanding that public policy conform to their religious beliefs which are not supported by science. If people listen to these men then they are going to kill children. Gender affirmation mitigates the depression and anxiety associated with gender dysphoria (which can be very severe). Take that away and kids are more vulnerable to self-harm. This is precisely when faith becomes superstition.

The movement today to enforce the false idea—that a man can be or become a woman or vice versa—is deeply troubling. It compels people to either go against reason—that is, to agree with something that is not true—or face ridicule, marginalization, and other forms of retaliation.

That represents a complete disregard for the concept of gender. As they say, the dishonesty is “deeply troubling.” Then there is the idea that religious beliefs form truth which is, well… false. These folks are due every bit of ridicule hurled in their direction if they are going to subject kids to maltreatment in order to comply with religious dogma. That is not retaliation. Rather, it is one means of telling parents: “Don’t listen to these crackpots.” If these men are marginalized then they brought that upon themselves for their foolishness.

We desire the health and happiness of all men, women, and children. Therefore, we call for policies that uphold the truth of a person’s sexual identity as male or female, and the privacy and safety of all. We hope for renewed appreciation of the beauty of sexual difference in our culture and for authentic support of those who experience conflict with their God-given sexual identity.

I do not doubt their desire for health and happiness. I am offended at the idea that this has anything to do with privacy and safety — the talking points for so-called “bathroom bills.” In that regard, they are expressing hate. “Authentic support?” What does that even mean? Prayer? Oddly they are accepting the concept of sexual identity while not accepting the science of sexual identity.

So, in summary, they are trying to influence others to substitute their religious beliefs for medical science. They cite no science that conforms to those beliefs and they offer no alternatives. Hopefully a parent will be more concerned for the well-being of their child. He or she will seek out the best clinician that they can find who is experienced in treating pediatric gender dysphoria. A clinician who is a member of the Catholic Medical Association should be removed from consideration.

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.