The Name Of Nature In Vain: Catholic Fundamentalists v. Transgender, Nonbinary And Intersex People
How dare they?
How dare the Vatican and so-called ultra-Catholics invoke nature as a justification when their creed is based precisely on human superiority above nature, when they claim that being human implies having an immaterial, non-biological soul free from the constraints of nature?
How dare they deny the very possibility of the existence of transgender and nonbinary people on the assumption of unnaturalness? How dare they, when the core of their doctrine is based on the demonization, repression and regulation of natural impulses?
Well… Despite their general rejection of nature as a behaviour guide, the Catholic Church has dared use “nature” to condemn sexual behaviours for a long time. Having eparated the sphere of family and sexual-affective relationships from the other aspects of human life, they furtively helped delineate a realm where the moral duty and proper ways of reigning over nature are identified with the laws of nature themselves. And this is something that can only make sense if what they call nature is a fake image of it. For why would there be a need of moral rules otherwise?
We can say, then, that they have used a notion of nature to control nature in a twisted use of words that—thanks to ignorance, constant unquestioned repetition and certain complementary socio-political processes (Michel Foucault, I’m thinking of you <3)—has been perceived in Western culture(s) as, please mind the irony, natural. Incidentally, this separation of realms and presentation of one of them as saturated by nature supports (1) binary gender roles and (2) the distinction between the male-only public sphere on one hand and, on the other, the private sphere were women (associated with sin, lack of reason and—Surprise!—nature) belong.
Even I, a long-time appreciator of surrealism and the art of the absurd; I, who have enjoyed so much the works of Luis Buñuel and Boris Vian, as well as Carroll’s games pushing the limits of logic in the Alices, can’t find pleasure in the paradoxical use that the Vatican, catholic fundamentalists and the far right make of the concepts of nature and science.
On June 10, continuing their years-long attack of what they call “gender ideology” (which includes feminist theory) or, directly, queer theory(right name, wrong interpretation), the Vatican released a document titled “Male and Female He Created Them,” in which the concepts of transgenderand intersexwere criticised for being “provocative” and a menace to the “concept of nature.”
Before this, in March 2017, a Spanish (neoliberal, totalitarian) ultra-Catholic organisation called HazteOír (self-baptised as CitizenGoin English, in case you want to take a look at the messages of these enlightened beings) drove around some of the main Spanish cities what was later called the shame bus, a bus in the surface of which the following message could be read:
Boys have a penis.
Girls have a vulva.
Don’t let yourself be fooled.
If you are born a man, you are a man.
If you are a woman, you will always be a woman.
This bus parked in front of several schools so that children could read it. In fact, this was one of their main goals, the other being to encourage people like them to not be afraid of expressing their opinions in public. And I couldn’t believe it when I heard a representative of the organisation state that their claims were objective and scientific, that they could be found in any biology book.
Well, to be honest, I could believe it very easily because, unfortunately, I’m used to hearing this kind of sh*t. Philistines taking the name of science in vain, defending that homosexual behaviours are unnatural despite scientific evidences of their occurrence in the animal realm. Philistines associating a p*ssy or a d*ck with one of two pairs of chromosomes (XX or XY) and specific behaviours and identities despite the evidences that things aren’t that easy. And I’m not talking right now of the more theoretical distinction sex/gender: Current research points to complex processes where gonads, several genes, the neurological system, hormones and the environment interact in our development (in everyone’s development) as individuals whose brains are not classifiable according to a sharp binary biological distinction; and also in the development of a number of individuals who don’t present the stereotypical sexual traits or genotype-phenotype coherence (that is, intersex people).
I must admit, nevertheless, that biology schoolbooks (probably the only biology books the folks in HazteOír have ever opened) contribute to the image of a direct relation between chromosomes XY or XX, genitals, reproductive capabilities and sexual and affective behaviour, in addition to that of compulsory complementarity between males and females.
By the way, given their sudden love for biology, I’d love to know what these fundamentalists think about evolutionism.
It goes without saying that the shame bus was a flagrant attack to the physical and psychological integrity of minors. First, they seemed to forget that not all children’s genitals correspond to the model of mutually exclusive penis and vulva. Second, they ignored the fact that, according to recent surveys, rates of transgender and nonbinary children and teenagers who have suffered bullying at school revolve around 75 percent, while the numbers for transgender and nonbinary adolescents having attempted suicide reach a 45 percent. Despite the obvious hate speech crime, this campaign was explained by tribunals as free (though perhaps disgusting) speech.
Anyway, my point in this text is to highlight the tremendous contradiction that the use of “the concept of nature” to attack sexual and gender realities implies. Because even if non-normative sexual and affective behaviours were absent in the animal realm, how could anyone (religious or secular) be entitled to criticise them drawing on a distinction between what’s natural and what’s not? How could anyone do that when we, the entire modern Western (traditionally Christian) world, take pride precisely in the idea that humans are not mere animals? I can’t imagine the concept of unnaturalness being used to repudiate the railway or the police force, or agriculture or science, or doctors or buildings, or etiquette or marriage, or money or the Catholic Church. Why should it, then, be valid when it comes to gender and sexuality?
But this is not just a problem of logical invalidity. And I can’t finish this text without mentioning a terrible aspect of the nature discoursethat scares me. Nowadays, the invocation of nature has turned into a dismissal of the very possibility of existence of non-normative people. That’s why the experiences, claims and ways of life of many are being called ideology.
Transgender, nonbinary and militant intersex neighbours are no longer ill. They are wrong, because that which they claim to be is impossible.
They are wrong. Or they are unreal.
Illness is one thing. Not being real is a very different one. The ill need to be taken care of, but what must we do with someone that’s not real? Perhaps banishing them from “the reality” of family and community. Perhaps culminating their non-existence with violence.
P.S.: Luckily, the views criticised here don’t represent all Catholics. Several priests, bishops and theologians have advocated for the full acceptance of LGBTQ people in equality of conditions with the rest of Catholics, and groups and organisations such as New Ways Ministry have been established to support LGBTQ believers and welcome them into Catholic communities where they are allowed to be themselves.
P.S. 2: Trans-exclusionary feminists, you’re on my list.