By Richard Watkins
English, Irish, Dutch and Italian. That is how I would always describe my ethnic make-up as a kid. I don’t know if all that is actually true, but that’s how I remember it. These days, if asked (and a lot of times even when not asked) I say that “I’m Sicilian. Well…half. The other half is European mutt.
Watkins? Sicilian? No. That’s the mutt. But, if my mother were my father, my last name would be Mercurio.
The fact is, I identify as being Sicilian, and not necessarily as mutt even though I don’t speak Sicilian. Or been to Sicily. Or made anybody an offer they couldn’t refuse.
Now, does the fact that I prefer lasagna to bangers and mash, Roberto Benigni to Rowan Atkinson or the leaning tower of Pisa to Big Ben mean anything to anyone other than me? It shouldn’t, should it?
What if a law were passed that said I can’t consider myself Sicilian because I don’t look Sicilian enough? My hair isn’t slicked-back enough. My skin isn’t olivey enough. My eyebrows aren’t thick enough. I don’t have a perpetual 5 o’clock shadow or an alpaca pelt on my chest.
Recently, there has been a rash of proposed legislation targeting the LGBTQ community and more specifically, transgenderism. Many of these proposed laws would restrict LGBTQ issues in school curriculums, permit religious exemptions to discriminate against LGBTQ people and limit trans people’s ability to play sports, use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity and receive gender-affirming health care.
Proponents of these initiatives, as a way of justifying their argument, often claim that it is simply a matter of cytogenetics and anatomy. If you’re born XX you’re a woman, if you’re born XY, you’re a man. Or, if you have a particular body, you’re a man, if you don’t, you’re a woman. End of story.
Oh, if it were only that simple.
It is a well established fact, if you’re one to believe in science and peddle in truth, that some people are born with both an XX and XY set of chromosomes thus resulting in both male and female body parts. Where do they fall? Not that simple anymore, is it? And what about those who were born without either fully developed male or female organs? And what about those who were born with male parts, but those male parts were removed for some reason other than for “reassignment purposes”. Where do these folks fit into the proposed legislations?
Let us not forget, it was Isaiah in 56:3-5 that said “The foreigner joined to the LORD should not say, “The LORD will surely exclude me from his people. Nor should the eunuch say, “See, I am a dry tree.” For thus says the LORD: To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths, who choose what pleases me, and who hold fast to my covenant, I will give them, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; an eternal name, which shall not be cut off, will I give them.”
And was it not Philip who, upon being commanded by an Angel of God to “Get up and head south on the road that goes dwn from Jerusalem to Gaza…” did just that where he encountered an Ethiopian eunuch to whom he proclaimed the Good News and baptized in Jesus’ name?
And was it not Paul who wrote to the Galatians “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Of course, the argument could be made that these proclamations are old, archaic and do not necessarily reflect the nature of today. To that, I would ask that you read Pope Francis’ letter to Jesuit Priest James Martin precisely on this issue. In the letter he response to the question “What would you say is the most important thing for LGBT people to know about God?” by answering: “God is Father and he does not disown any of his children.” Further, he writes in response to those LGBTQ Catholics who have experienced rejection from the church: “I would have them recognize it not as ‘the rejection of the church,’ but instead of ‘people in the church’. The church is a mother and calls together all her children. Take for example the parable of those invited to the feast: “the just, the sinners, the rich and the poor, etc.” A ‘selective’ church, one of ‘pure blood’ is not Holy Mother Church, but rather a sect.
Obviously, these stances against transgenderism have nothing to with chromosomal make up or anatomy or based on the teachings of the Gospel as many claim. Unfortunately, it is about the lack of understanding as to why someone feels the way they do or why they self-identify in a manner that is different from a more conventional and socially accepted self-identification.
It is easier for these people to fear than it is to try to understand. And with fear comes the spreading of fear. And with the spreading of fear comes following by those who also fear. And with following comes control. And with control comes power. And with power comes demagoguery. And with demagoguery comes dogma.
To that, I say this: Lean not on your own understanding. Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. And you shall love your self-identifying neighbor as you would have them love your self-identification.