Nebraska high schools stuck with harmful ‘transgender’ policy
April 15, 2016 (Cardinal Newman Society) -- Nebraska’s high school athletic association voted to promote harmful gender ideology in schools last Friday, approving a policy that encourages students struggling with “gender identity” issues to undergo hormone therapy to participate on sports teams of the opposite sex. The bishops of Nebraska strongly opposed the policy, and stated they’ll continue to push for a requirement that student participation in sports be determined by biological sex.
The Cardinal Newman Society reported in January that the Nebraska School Activities Association (NSAA) Board of Directors adopted a policy allowing high school students to play sports based on their preferred gender identity. The previous policy recognized biological sex at birth as the determining factor for allowing students to play on boys’ and girls’ sports teams. The NSAA Representative Assembly decided against reinstating the sex-at-birth policy in a vote on April 8.
“Recognizing the truth about each person’s biological sex, and basing policies upon that fundamental truth, would serve the best interest of Nebraska’s students, families and schools,” Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha, Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln and Bishop Joseph G. Hanefeldt of Grand Island wrote in a joint statement expressing their opposition to the vote. The bishops had previously stated, “It would be unjust to allow a harmful and deceptive gender ideology to shape either what is taught or how activities are conducted in our schools.”
The strong response to this threat by Nebraska’s bishops should be applauded. Catholic schools across the country are facing intense pressure to accept and promote gender ideology, which separates biological sex from a proper understanding of gender. The Newman Society released a new resource last month to help Catholic schools protect their Catholic identity while compassionately addressing gender identity issues and other areas of human sexuality.
The resource, “Human Sexuality Policies for Catholic Schools,” provides policy recommendations for Catholic schools, including athletic and gender identity policies.
The Newman Society agrees with Nebraska’s bishops that participation in sports should be based on biological sex, and suggests as an athletic policy for Catholic schools: “Students are only eligible to participate on our school’s sport teams consistent with their biological sex. In order to maintain dignity, modesty, and respect for forms of physical contact between members of the opposite sex, at no time will members of the opposite sex wrestle each other in intra-school or inter-school activities.”
The new NSAA policy calls for a two-step process in addressing student requests to play on teams of the opposite sex. Individual high schools will make the initial decision, and if schools approve the requests, an NSAA committee “will weigh documentation from friends, family, teachers and doctors” before a final decision is made.
NSAA Executive Director Jim Tenopir said leaving the initial decision about participation up to individual schools was a way to accommodate the concerns of parochial schools, according to a local news report. Tenopir also said that the policy puts the legal burden of defending the decision on the schools and not the NSAA. Any school that denies a student request to play sports based on his or her preferred gender identity will likely — unjustly — come under fire from the media and face legal threats.
Addressing privacy concerns, the policy states that “transgender students will be required to use private bathrooms and locker rooms or those that match their biological sex.”
But the policy stipulates: “Male-to-female transgender students must provide documentation of at least a year of hormone therapy, an attempt to address competitive equity concerns.” The American College of Pediatricians recently published a statement describing the push for young people with gender identity confusion to begin hormone therapy as “child abuse.”
“Conditioning children into believing that a lifetime of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex is normal and healthful is child abuse,” according to the group. “Endorsing gender discordance as normal via public education and legal policies will confuse children and parents, leading more children to present to ‘gender clinics’ where they will be given puberty-blocking drugs. This, in turn, virtually ensures that they will ‘choose’ a lifetime of carcinogenic and otherwise toxic cross-sex hormones, and likely consider unnecessary surgical mutilation of their healthy body parts as young adults.”
Pope Francis has condemned gender ideology and the separation of sex from gender multiple times during his pontificate as harmful to individuals and society — including in his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, released the same day as the NSAA vote.
“[T]he young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created, for ‘thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation,’” the Holy Father stated in the document. “Sex education should help young people to accept their own bodies and to avoid the pretension ‘to cancel out sexual difference because one no longer knows how to deal with it,’” he also wrote.
In “Human Sexuality Policies for Catholic Schools,” the Newman Society suggests policy language teaching students, and parents, that accepting one’s given biological sex “is part of the divine plan.”
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“The Church teaches that sexual identity is ‘a reality deeply inscribed in man and woman,’ it constitutes but is more than one’s biological identity, and a person ‘should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity,’” the guide states. “One’s biological sex and gender expression are not to be disaggregated, but should be seen in harmony, according to God’s plan.”
Suggested policy language specifically dealing with gender identity makes clear, “A member of the school community who wishes to express a gender other than his or her biological sex is understood as operating outside of the ‘reality deeply inscribed’ within.” And assisting in this disconnect with reality by “agreeing to participate in any efforts to change natural gender expression is contrary to the pursuit of the truth.”
Authentic love, a gift of the self for the good of the other, requires that we compassionately dwell in the truth and assist those we love to do the same. The school recognizes that occasionally there may be instances where young people experience dissonance between their biological sex and the roles and norms advocated by society. Some young people might feel drawn to dress, act, and even manipulate their physical bodies in ways contrary to God’s plan. The school advocates that young people, working with their parents, bring these types of issues to their pastor as well as to other trained professionals who might best assist them in clarifying and defining issues of self (and sexual) identity in accord with Catholic teaching and God’s natural plan. The school’s pastoral and counseling services are available to all members of the school community.
As Nebraska’s bishops pointed out, “Any person who experiences gender dysphoria is entitled to the respect that is the right of every human person, as well as genuine concern and the support needed for personal development and well-being.” However, such support “must be provided with due consideration to fairness; the safety, privacy, and rights of all students; and the truth about the human person.”
Consideration for the truth about the human person is key, which is why Catholic schools need clear and strong policies rooted in truth and the faith. The cultural pressure to accept as “normal” and “good” cases of men who identify as women, individuals who identify as animals or another race, healthy people who identity as disabled, etc., is bound to get more intense — and even more disconnected from reality — in the years to come.
Reprinted with permission from The Cardinal Newman Society.