Sunday, July 20, 2014

When Is A Policy A Non-Policy?

At first glance, this almost seems like a reasonable document.  There are lots of "The schools shall do this" and "shall provide that" statements, and it almost looks as though they made reasonably well informed effort.

Almost?  Why do I say "almost"?  Like most documents, you have to read it through a couple of times before you see the gotchas in it.

First off, this policy is piecemeal.  It creates a set of obligations for the schools, but it is mysteriously nebulous about how far and how long any given accommodation will last or be provided.  For example, if one looks at the form, it looks to me as though an administrator could quite easily play all kinds of games with it.  Oh?  The class is going on a field trip?  Your daughter (who happens to be trans) needs to use the washroom?  Oh gosh, I guess they'll have to use the boys bathroom unless you asked specifically for an accommodation for this field trip.  Sending parents into a constant barrage of requests (which may or may not be dealt with "in time").  Or, what happens when your transgender child transfers from one school to another because you have moved, or they are graduating into a higher level of school?  Guess what?  Parents get to run through that same rigamarole again.

There are a thousand ways that a hostile school administration could choose to interpret this policy to undermine the student.

But there is more to this policy that should make the parents of any transgender student incredibly nervous.
The Catholic faith, informed by biblical theology, teaches that the body and soul of the human being are so united that one’s sexual identity is rooted in one’s biological identity as male or female.3 Thus, in Catholic teaching, one’s sexual identity is considered “a reality deeply inscribed in man and woman.”4 This means that the Catholic Church teaches that gender is given by God and that the body reveals the divine plan. As such, humans are not free to choose or change their sexual identity.

In the Catholic Faith, a person’s biological sexual identity and his/her gender identity are treated as one and the same. For the purposes of this policy, the CISVA has chosen to use the term “gender identity”.
Here is the first place where we need to stop and give our collective heads a shake.  The CISVA is trying to change the working definitions of the terminology at play to suit their theology.  First of all, let me be abundantly clear here:  Gender Identity is NOT to be conflated with Sexual Identity.  The two are discrete and distinct elements of personality and discourse.  This policy makes the fundamental error that the two are equivalent with each other.

You can argue that the Catholic Catechism treats the two as one in the same all you like, and you're still fundamentally missing the point.  The objective evidence outside of the Catechism paints a very different picture.  The fundamental argument boils down to "you can't change your chromosomes", which of course is something of a ridiculous reductio ad absurdum position which completely ignores the complexity of human genetics and development.

But, it is this same reductionism that gets us around to the first attempt at an escape hatch clause in this policy:
When considering appropriate administrative strategies for accommodating gender expression and gender dysphoria in students, it is important to distinguish between “gender transitioning” and “gender non- conforming behaviours”.

“Gender transitioning” is the process of changing the presentation of one’s gender to accord with the internal sense of one's gender identity.

The Catholic school has a responsibility for the spiritual development of its students. Gender transitioning is contrary to Catholic teaching, and therefore the Catholic school cannot support any transitioning actions.6

By contrast, “gender non-conforming behaviour” is a form of gender expression that refers to behaviours outside of typical gender stereotypes or “norms”. The CISVA recognizes that what constitutes “gender nonconforming behaviour” depends to a great extent on the social and cultural context. Similarly, the extent of conformity of one’s behaviours with one’s sex is not absolute and often changes according to the age of the child. A student can engage in a variety of gender nonconforming behaviours without definitively altering his or her gender to that of the opposite sex.
Wait a second.  This is a policy regarding the accommodation of transgender students.  By definition, some percentage of those students will be pursuing gender transition.  Saying that you "cannot support any transitioning actions" is effectively neutering the entire purpose of this policy.  Worse, it creates an ironic double standard which basically says that an effeminate boy or a tomboy girl can be "accommodated", but the minute that child chooses to move towards living in their desired gender role, suddenly those accommodations go out the window.

To justify this position, the policy references the following sources:

The referenced paragraphs of the Catechism state:
2333 Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarity are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. the harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarity, needs, and mutual support between the sexes are lived out.

2393 By creating the human being man and woman, God gives personal dignity equally to the one and the other. Each of them, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity.
The Charter For Healthcare Workers states the following: 
144. Pius XII, , Oct. 8, 1953, in AAS 45 (1953) p. 674; cf. Pius XII, , Sept. 14, 1952, in AAS 44 (1952) 782-783. The principle of totality is applied at the outbreak of the illness: there alone is verified "correctly" the relation of the part to the whole. Cf. ibid, p. 787. "Where the relationship of the part to the whole is verified, and to the extent that it is verified, the part is subordinated to the whole, which can in its own interests dispose of the part (ibid). The physical integrity of a person cannot be impaired to cure an illness of psychic or spiritual origin. Here it is not a question Of diseased or malfunctioning organs. And so their medico-surgical manipulation is an arbitrary alteration of the physical integrity of the person. 
It is not lawful to sacrifice to the whole, by mutilating it, modifying it or removing it, a part which is not pathologically related to the whole. And this is why the principle of totality cannot be correctly taken as a criterion for legitimatizing anti-procreative sterilization therapeutic abortion and transsexual medicine and surgery. It is different with psychic sufferings and spiritual disorders with an organic basis, that is, which arise from a defect or physical disease: on these it is legitimate to intervene therapeutically.
So, based on the statements in the Catechism which were last updated in the early 1990s, and a speech given by a pope in the early 1950s, you are going to deny accommodation to students who may be transitioning?  There is sixty years of independent research into transgender issues that paints an far different picture.  Apparently the CISVA and the Vancouver Archdiocese are still firmly stuck in the 1950s (if they got that far).

This policy is not an "accommodation" policy, it is a sad, unfortunate attempt to create a hostile environment that allows the CISVA schools to claim they are doing something to support transgender students while undermining those students and their parents on the basis of declarations made over 60 years ago.  

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