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Vatican guidance on gender identity 'completely at odds' with approach in Irish schools, claims group

New guidance for Catholic schools issued by the Vatican rejecting the idea that people can self-declare their gender “ignores the real and legitimate experiences” of young trans people, according to Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI).

Launched this week in a bid to tackle what the Vatican deems an “educational crisis” in modern gender identity, the guide is “completely at odds” with the approach adopted towards trans and intersex students in many schools here, according to the group.

Entitled ‘Male and Female, He created them’ and issued by the Congregation for Catholic Education, the guide is intended to be used by those teaching in Catholic schools, as well as parents, students, teachers, members of the clergy and other relevant bodies.

“We are disappointed both with tone and timing of the release of this document, coming at the beginning of a month of celebration and positive visibility for the whole LGBTI+ community,” TENI chair Sara R. Phillips said.

“Unfortunately, the rhetoric we see in this document, including references to gender theory as aiming to ‘annihilate the concept of nature’, is consistent with previous inflammatory statements from this papacy, which has compared the impact of so-called ‘gender theory’ with the destruction caused by nuclear arms.”

The 30-page document criticises the understanding that gender is not binary, stating that modern gender theory “denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman” and “envisages a society without sexual differences.”

It also calls for “peaceful dialogue” and for the education of young people so that “no one should suffer bullying, violence, insults or unjust discrimination” due to their differences.

"Essentially, this involves educating for active and responsible citizenship, which is marked by the ability to welcome all legitimate expressions of human personhood with respect."

This latest guidance from the Vatican “contradicts” the Gender Recognition Act, which gives those over the age of 18 the legal right to have their preferred gender recognised, according to TENI chief executive Stephen O’Hare.

“The formulation of this document seems to have been put together in consultation with a range of theologians and experts in canon law, who you would expect to be working within the sphere of the Vatican,” Mr O’Hare said. “But it doesn’t seem that any medical doctors, psychologists were consulted, any member of the LGBT community or indeed any schools.

“We would have good relations with many schools, who work to support students in the best possible way.”

“Our concern is that this document, if it is influential, would be influential in a negative way," he said, adding that "TENI believes dialogue is the best way forward, not to dismiss the identity of trans and intersex students."