A bit of good news about Catholicism and Omaha

People love to bash the Catholic Church. But, Catholicism in America is, operationally speaking, controlled largely by each diocese and its bishops and cardinals. Those leaders exist across the left-right spectrum.

Then there are the Jesuits, who ultimately answer to the Pontiff and Rome, but who often chart a more progressive path independent of local diocesan bishops who do not control the Jesuits or their schools.

Such is the case in Omaha, of all places, where the panic over transgender students reared its ugly head when the Diocese of Omaha issued an edict about transgender issues in local schools.

Under the new policy — set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023 — students may be expelled, and teachers could be fired, if they ask to be identified as transgender. 

But the biggest names in Catholic schools in Omaha, including Duchesne (all girls) and Creighton Prep (all boys) have made it clear they will not be following the rules of the archdiocese:

“We exist to care for our kids. That’s why we’re here,” said Father Matt Spotts, president of Creighton Prep High School.

Spotts told 6 News he’s had to emphasize this point repeatedly after the Archdiocese of Omaha issued a new transgender policy requiring staff to treat people according to their biological sex at birth.

Spotts said Creighton Prep has different guidelines and doesn’t plan to make any changes.

“Every single student that walks through our doors is created in the image and likeness of God. That’s one of our most important and fundamental values,” he said.

Like most Catholic high schools in the Omaha metro area, Spotts said, Creighton Prep is independent and not required to follow the new policy.

“That is something that’s hard for a lot of folks to grasp,” he said.

Other independent Catholic high schools in Omaha include Duchesne, Marian, Mercy, Mount Michael, and the Jesuit Academy. Only three high schools are governed by the Archdiocese of Omaha: Gross, Roncalli, and Skutt.

The new transgender policy has caused so much confusion that many schools are sending out emails to parents to clarify.

It should also be noted that 9,000-student Creighton University, arguably the most prestigious 4-year university in the region if you’re not considering football prominence, had last year its first openly gay undergraduate student body president. That didn’t cause so much as a ripple in the area.

Creighton also was a leader in local COVID responses, requiring all students, staff and faculty to be vaccinated. The university fought (and won) when several students took Creighton to court over the requirement.

You can read the rest of the article about the trans policy, and the schools’ letters sent out to parents, at this link.

Catholics and Catholic thought are not monolithic, although they are often presented as such. That these schools and this university are pushing back against conservative policies proves that.

An aerial view of part of the Creighton campus.

NYT columnist: when it comes to women, far left and far right try to erase them

The New York Times runs far too many pieces like this to be able to deny that someone in charge over there has an obsession with trans issues:

But today, a number of academics, uber-progressives, transgender activists, civil liberties organizations and medical organizations are working toward an opposite end: to deny women their humanity, reducing them to a mix of body parts and gender stereotypes.

As reported by my colleague Michael Powell, even the word “women” has become verboten. Previously a commonly understood term for half the world’s population, the word had a specific meaning tied to genetics, biology, history, politics and culture. No longer. In its place are unwieldy terms like “pregnant people,” “menstruators” and “bodies with vaginas.”

Planned Parenthood, once a stalwart defender of women’s rights, omits the word “women” from its home page. NARAL Pro-Choice America has used “birthing people” in lieu of “women.” The American Civil Liberties Union, a longtime defender of women’s rights, last month tweeted its outrage over the possible overturning of Roe v. Wade as a threat to several groups: “Black, Indigenous and other people of color, the L.G.B.T.Q. community, immigrants, young people.”

It left out those threatened most of all: women. Talk about a bitter way to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX.

The noble intent behind omitting the word “women” is to make room for the relatively tiny number of transgender men and people identifying as nonbinary who retain aspects of female biological function and can conceive, give birth or breastfeed. But despite a spirit of inclusion, the result has been to shove women to the side.

You can read the rest here.

I think the “trans menace” is overblown so crazily far out of proportion to its actual effects on everyday life that it says a lot about the gender-based pathologies that frame much of our political discourse.

New York Times Magazine publishes seminal article on trans issues

An article in the New York Times Magazine takes a serious look at the battlegrounds that mark childhood trans issues in America today.

In short, it’s a mess.

On one end of the spectrum are right-wing kooks who want to erase trans people and issues from American culture.

On the opposite are many trans “true believers,” radicals who say that any child at any stage of development should be the sole arbiter of how their trans journey unfolds.

Caught in the middle are many trans-competent clinicians and researchers who say that trans kids should receive the best, most sensitive care possible within, as much as is currently possible, science-based research and treatment plans.

In 2011, de Vries and her colleagues published the first of two landmark studies about medical interventions in adolescence. Among the first 70 patients who received puberty suppressants at the Amsterdam clinic after their initial assessment at the mean age of about 13½, the researchers found “a significant decrease in behavioral and emotional problems over time.” A second study published in the journal Pediatrics in 2014, of about 55 of those who went from puberty suppressants to hormone treatments at the mean age of about 16½, showed that five years after starting hormone treatments and at least one year after surgery, they had the same or better levels of well-being as a control group of cisgender adults their age. None of the 55 regretted their treatment. (The 15 of the original 70 who were not included in the follow-up study did not take part mainly because of the timing of their surgery.)

For the first time, a long-term, peer-reviewed study showed positive outcomes after medical treatment in adolescent patients who’d gone through Cohen-Kettenis and Delemarre-van de Waal’s protocol. They had all been through a version of the type of assessment the December draft of the SOC8 adolescent chapter would recommend years later. They had experienced gender dysphoria since childhood (according to their families), lived in supportive environments and had no interfering mental-health conditions. As is often the case in medicine, the question for those drafting the SOC8 would be how to apply the findings of a particular cohort to the growing numbers of teenagers lining up at clinics in a host of countries.

In the United States and Canada, meanwhile, two dueling approaches to therapy for young children, before they reached puberty, were vying for supremacy. At what is now called the Child and Adolescent Gender Center at the University of California, San Francisco, Diane Ehrensaft, a developmental and clinical psychologist, was counseling families to take what she and others called a “gender affirming” approach, which included a social transition: adopting a new name and pronouns for a child who expressed such a preference, along with letting kids dress and play as they pleased.

For years, Ehrensaft’s intellectual foil was Ken Zucker, a psychologist and prominent researcher who directed a gender clinic in Toronto. Between 1975 and 2009, Zucker’s research showed that most young children who came to his clinic stopped identifying as another gender as they got older. Many of them would go on to come out as gay or lesbian or bisexual, suggesting previous discomfort with their sexuality, or lack of acceptance, for them or their families. Based on this research, in some cases Zucker advised parents to box up the dolls or princess dresses, so a child who was being raised as a boy (a majority then) wouldn’t have those things to play with.

It’s a great article, but it’s hard to know who’s correct at this point because data is relatively scarce and because the treatment outcomes for trans children’s care involve self-reported feelings by patients and parents about their mental health and general well-being.

There are currently no biomarkers or other measurable physical differences which marks someone as trans. As opposed to, say, the treatment of an infection, which has endpoints that are easily verifiable, including no longer detectable pathogens, normal body temperature, etc. (That is not to say that being trans is a disease. Only that measuring the effects of short- or long-term treatment plans can be wobbly.)

Without large-scale, reproducible peer-reviewed research, there is a void in concrete knowledge that has created a vacuum into which activists on the far right and the far left have inserted themselves and created clinical and political chaos.

Nonetheless, I came away from reading this article knowing many things I did not know before, along with the usual confusion about whose information to trust as what is in the interest of trans kids overall.

U-Wyoming students boo U.S. Senator for anti-trans remarks at graduation

Republican Cynthia Lummis seemed taken aback by the reaction, tried to explain her stance, then gave up and moved on

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) got more than she bargained for when she tried to demagogue trans issues in her graduation address at the University of Wyoming last weekend:

University of Wyoming students booed U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis during her speech at the school’s commencement ceremony on Saturday following her comment that “even fundamental scientific truths, such as the existence of two sexes, male and female, are subject to challenge these days.”

Lummis, a Republican and UW alumni, paused and smiled amid the jeers and attempted briefly to explain her comment.

“I’m not making a comment on the fact that there are people who transition between sexes,” she said.

But she dropped the matter as the boos continued and finished the rest of her prepared speech.

University President Ed Seidel sent out a statement following the ceremony:

“One of our speakers made remarks regarding biological sex that many on campus take issue with,” he wrote. “While we respect the right of all to express their views, from students to elected officials, we unequivocally state that UW is an institution that supports and celebrates its diverse communities …”

Lummis said later in an emailed statement that her “reference to the existence of two sexes was intended to highlight the times in which we find ourselves, times in which the metric of biological sex is under debate with potential implications for the shared Wyoming value of equality.”

She also apologized in the statement for her comment that sparked the booing, saying that it wasn’t her intention “to make anyone feel un-welcomed or disrespected …”

“I have appreciated hearing from members of the University of Wyoming community on this issue, and I look forward to continuing this dialogue,” she wrote.

I’m sure that conservatives will whip up their followers with cries of cancel culture, but the fact is that even if student boos interrupted Lummis’ address, it did not cancel it.

Lummis, it should be noted, was one of the people who supported efforts to overturn Biden’s lawful election in favor of Trump, according to this article with a confusing headline.

Note that Lummis’ remarks start around the 50:11 mark in the video below.

This is an issue I ponder every time I read stories about highly-valued athletes and scholars rejecting scholarships and jobs at universities and colleges in deep red America. Who stops to think about how actions such as those of Sen. Lummis reflect badly on the state and its companies and institutions?

Young people are growing up in an America where gender issues and long-assumed cultural norms are up for debate. They are maturing around trans people whom they likely find admirable and non-threatening.

If I were a prized football recruit from a high school in a more enlightened part of America, it would not be an attractive prospect to go play football in a state where ignorance is the norm from local officials. Especially if I were a member of a potentially targeted group, or cared for someone who is a member of any group the GOP has decided to target in exchange for support from MAGA types.

At any rate, good for the U-Wyoming students who chose to prove they are not in lock-step with the right-wing leaders around them.