The Truth about the New Laws on Gender
By Christopher Dodson
North Dakota Catholic Conference
North Dakota recently enacted several laws related to gender and gender dysphoria that are either misunderstood or purposely mischaracterized by vocal opponents of the laws.
Let us start with some basic principles. The Catholic Church teaches and acknowledges that human beings are created male and female from fertilization. Sex is an objective reality that cannot be changed. To deny one’s biological sex is to deny the dignity bestowed on us by God. Gender, therefore, cannot be separated from biological sex. The concept that gender is subjective or fluid is a man-made ideology contrary to objective, biological reality and disrespectful of nature and human dignity. These truths are not just doctrine. They are knowable through natural law. For some people, their perceived gender does not conform to their biological sex. They should be treated with respect. Some of these individuals suffer from emotional distress due to the incongruence. This is known as gender dysphoria. Persons suffering from gender dysphoria should be respected and offered appropriate psychological treatment to treat the distress.
One of the laws enacted restricts applying non-psychological treatment to minors suffering from gender dysphoria. Additional principles from Catholic teaching apply to this issue.
The first principle is that a medical intervention must have a good intention. In the case of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and sex reassignment surgery the purpose — indeed, the only purpose — is gender transitioning or providing a step toward gender transitioning. They may be called “gender-affirming,” but in reality, they act on the physical body so that it takes on the characteristics of the person’s self-identified gender.
Certainly, some practitioners will contend that the purpose of these interventions is to alleviate stress or reduce anxiety, but the chosen method to address those conditions is gender transitioning. Gender transitioning is ultimately a fiction or a battle against nature. The body cannot change its sex and — going back to the first set of principles above — attempts to do so are contrary to the dignity of the person.
Another criterion for determining whether a medical intervention is ethical is whether the intended effect is achieved by a harmful action. In this regard, all three interventions used to achieve gender transitioning — puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and sex reassignment surgery - clearly fail.
Puberty blockers do only one thing. They suppress normal and healthy bodily development. The administration of cross-sex hormones does not treat any disease. It only interferes with the normal and healthy functioning of the human body. Sex reassignment surgery does not treat any pathology. It is the alteration or removal of healthy organs and tissue, an act also known as mutilation.
Some argue that as a result of these interventions, the individual might have less stress, anxiety, or depression. These are what are called “consequentialist” appeals. They attempt to justify a harmful act by appealing to an indirect, though possible, good consequence. These arguments ignore, however, that the act itself harms the body and that the act itself does not directly treat gender incongruence.
Unfortunately, violations of these principles of medical ethics have become common, which is why the legislature acted to protect children. Children should not be subject to medical interventions that harm, sometimes irreparably, healthy bodily functions, organs, and tissues for the sake of forcing the body to look or feel like something it is not.
Another misunderstood new law concerns parental rights in public schools. The new law states: “Unless otherwise required by law, a school district, public school, or public school teacher may not: a. Adopt a policy concerning a particular student's transgender status without approval from the student's parent or legal guardian; or b. Withhold or conceal information about a student's transgender status from the student's parent or legal guardian.”
It does not force a school to “out” a student’s “transgender status,” as some school officials have claimed. It merely states that a school cannot adopt a special policy because of a student’s status without approval from the parent and that the school cannot purposely withhold or conceal such information from the parent.
Some have claimed that concealing a child’s transgender status is necessary to protect the child from harm by a parent. The law, however, does not apply when other laws — and there are many of them — require the school to protect the safety of the student. Moreover, if the child is at risk of such harm, appropriate authorities should be notified.
Understandably, emotions can run high when it comes to issues regarding gender. That is not an excuse, however, to ignore the facts and the law.
What We Do
The North Dakota Catholic Conference acts on behalf of the Roman Catholic bishops of North Dakota to respond to public policy issues of concern to the Catholic Church and to educate Catholics and the general public about Catholic social doctrine.