“Speak the truth with conviction but with kindness”

The Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) at Notre Dame and St. Mary’s College recently put a spotlight on two topics that are often held in tension: gender ideology and Catholicism. Mary Rice Hasson, Director of the Catholic Women’s Forum, presented the lecture “Redeeming the Gender Revolution: A Catholic Perspective,” on February 19 in St. Mary’s Stapleton Lounge.

Clare McKinney, Chairwoman for YAF’s Notre Dame chapter, told the Rover why she organized the talk. “It seems as if the automatic [response] these days is to call someone a bigot … if they don’t support gender ideology, but we wanted to show that there are real merits behind why the practice of transitioning, especially in children, poses risks and concerns.”

Hasson, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., opened her talk by describing Pope Francis’ response to gender ideology. Quoting the pope, she stated, “We need to accompany those who identify as LGBTQ … We need to accompany them as Jesus would. We need to never abandon them.”

At the same time, Hasson continued, the pope has emphatically spoken out against the mainstream gender ideology by calling it “the enemy of marriage” and a “global war on the family.”

Hasson noted how the mainstream ideology has permeated public school curriculums, beginning in preschool. One picture book about gender identity, Hasson recounted, delivers the message “that when you are born, your parents and the doctors look and they guess whether you’re a boy or girl, but only you know for sure—as if your body doesn’t matter.”

Of particular concern, Hasson noted, is that gender transition procedures have very little research to back them up. “Realize this is experimental, all these stages,” she said. “People are writing about it and talking about it like [this is] best [practice], but there is very, very little research on … what [the] repercussions are.” The rapid expansion of these medical procedures, she argued, demonstrates gender ideology’s failure to seek the root cause of gender confusion.

“The idea of figuring out what’s behind gender identity conflicts and gender dysphoria and a high rate of other current mental health issues … has been put on a shelf,” said Hasson. To highlight the symptoms of this neglect, she indicated a long-term study of people who have gone through gender-reassignment surgery and still show high rates of suicide. “That means we’re not serving people who are suffering,” she said.

According to Hasson, gender identity conflicts are indeed a genuine struggle and should not be ignored. “From the Church’s perspective, someone who is going through a gender identity struggle is struggling,” said Hasson. “No one’s saying it’s not real. No one’s saying someone doesn’t experience that and doesn’t need help.”

The compassionate response, she continued, must go hand-in-hand with truth. “What the Church is saying is that there’s a truth about your body, and let’s figure out what the right solution is,” said Hasson.

That solution, she concluded, is not discriminatory but rather the best kindness Catholics can offer.

“There’s no excuse for bullying,” said Hasson, “but that’s not the same as saying, ‘Okay, if you feel like a male but you’re born a female … [then] we’re going to affirm you in that.’ Because it’s not true.” She concluded, “We have to have the courage to speak the truth with conviction but with kindness.”

McKinney has received mixed reactions about the lecture. “I had numerous students … [say] that they appreciated hearing a perspective that affirmed the dignity of all persons but also wasn’t afraid to question gender ideology. But I also … was personally approached by a member of SAGA [Straight and Gay Alliance] and [was] told that I caused deep emotional harm to the LGBTQ community on campus.”

McKinney stressed that the talk was not meant to alienate anyone. “My aim was that all members of our community could broaden their perspectives and see that questioning [and] researching the process of transitioning and its effects on children isn’t hateful but necessary if we want to truly help those struggling with their identity.”

Sophia Buono is a senior majoring in the Program of Liberal Studies and minoring in Education, Schooling, and Society. She recently visited the South Bend Chocolate Company, where she received a Golden Ticket. To verify this fact and share in her delight, contact her at sbuono@nd.edu.