As a gay, gender non-conforming, agnostic 15-year-old living in California, I love Pope Francis. I agree with almost none of the Vatican’s stances on political issues, but Pope Francis has been shaking things up for the better. He has taken the most accepting stance on homosexual people compared to any other Pope, saying, “Who am I to judge them?”
Many people in the LGBTQ+ community hoped the Pope’s progressive attitude would mean an end to the religious justification of homophobia, but on August 3, our bubble was burst when the Pope, speaking to a group of Polish bishops, said, “Today, in schools they are teaching this to children — to children! — that everyone can choose their gender.” One Newsweek article reported that the Pope said gender choice is the result of “ideological colonizing” and told the crowd, “We must think about what Pope Benedict said – ‘It’s the epoch of sin against God the Creator.’”
Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I have quite a few transgender friends. I have watched them struggle to figure out their identities, struggle to gain acceptance from family and friends, and struggle to make it through their teenage years, a time of intense physical change. I also have the experience of going to both a public and a private school. Public schools in California have a decent amount of sex ed, but there is no LGBTQ+ coverage. We learn how males and females reproduce. We learn about the anatomy and the differences between two sexes, but there is no discussion about gender.
In my current private school, we have not yet had sex ed or biology (it’s taught in 11th grade), but the teachers are accepting and willing to accommodate every student. They will use the pronouns the student asks them to. In English class, our teacher stressed the fact that they/them pronouns are completely valid and grammatically correct third person singular pronouns. The teachers aren’t “converting” people, just accepting them for who they already are. My grade of 92 alone has 4 trans students, 3 of which identify as non-binary and use they/them pronouns. An article in our school’s newspaper interviewed a few of our school’s non-binary students and also made this point: “Like being transgender, nonbinary isn’t a “choice” one makes. It’s a personal and legitimate situation.”
Contrary to what the Pope said a few days ago, gender identity isn’t a choice, just like sexual orientation. Cisgender people with no desire to understand the people they condemn have no right to revoke the rights of trans people. Gender dysphoria is enough of a struggle without society’s added disapproval. If the Pope takes the time to understand this community like he did with so many other disenfranchised communities, I’m sure he will be just as accepting.