'Drag Queen Story Hour' Controversy Has Many Aspects Bishop Joseph M. Siegel
Over the past several weeks, there has been a great deal of publicity about the Drag Queen Story Hour program being sponsored by one of the Evansville public libraries. The controversy has many aspects, including the use of taxpayer funds, promotion of diversity, transgender issues and the role of parents in forming their children.
Certainly, concerned citizens have every right to express their concerns regarding the use of their tax money in providing programming at our public libraries. I would encourage people who contact our public officials to share their views in a respectful manner. In dealing with controversial issues, it is crucial in public discourse to maintain a level of civility, and avoid condemnations and insults. Every person, even those with whose opinions or actions we deeply disagree, is worthy of love and respect as a child of God.
In trying to understand the purpose of this event, I went to the group’s website (www.dragqueenstoryhour.org). It seems clear from what is presented on this site that there is more to this program than just entertainers dressing up as women to read to children. The site explains: “DGSH captures the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of children and gives kids glamorous, positive and unabashedly queer role models. In spaces like this, kids are able to see people who defy rigid gender restrictions and imagine a world where people can present as they wish, where dress-up is real.”
The question of gender identity is deeply debated in today’s society, especially among professionals in the field of psychology and I am certainly no expert. Dr. James Schroeder, a Catholic child psychologist who practices in the Evansville area, offers an excellent study on this issue which can be found at http://james-schroeder.com/index.plp/transgender.
For the Church, the issue is grounded in our view of Christian anthropology. Christian anthropology is the study of the human person from a Christian/biblical perspective and looks at how the spiritual and physical aspects of humanity are related to each other. In his writings on Christian anthropology, Msgr. Charles Pope, an author and priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, notes that the core of this study is our belief in the fundamental union of the body and spiritual soul. Over the centuries to our day, some have attempted to divide body and soul, either claiming that only the body or material reality matters, or conversely that only the soul or intellect is important. This latter claim is what one often hears from proponents of transgender theory, who state that a person can legitimately claim, “I am who I feel I am, not what my body tells me.” In this case, a person may have the body of a male, but feels that he is actually a woman, and so he wants to be identified as a woman. Much as the Church has compassion for those experiencing this struggle, she cannot accept this theory because it denies that the body reveals the truth of our nature along with our spirit/intellect. We cannot divide the two.
In the same way, Christian anthropology teaches that God created humanity male and female, and that we are given our gender by God, which is revealed to us by our bodies which were created by God. There are not dozens of different genders, as some claim. No matter the surgical procedures one undergoes, no matter what drugs one takes or clothing one wears, a person cannot change his or her sex. Our biological sex is part of who we are and is intrinsic to our being. Pope Francis himself has criticized a gender theory that proposes that “everyone can choose their own sex,” as the “exact opposite” of God’s creation and has expressed concern about an “ideological colonization” that attempts to teach children that gender can be self-selected. However, to persons struggling with gender confusion, the Holy Father reminds us, we must show great care and understanding. The Church strives to accompany them and their families with love, patiently sharing the fullness of the truth of the human person, as revealed by God and expressed in both the body and spiritual soul.
Ultimately, parents have a special responsibility to help assist their children in reaching authentic psychosexual maturity as a man or woman. This is a challenging task, especially in our age of extensive social media with its mixed messages and the influence of a culture that promotes relativism on most moral and ethical issues. While exposing young children to a variety of experiences and helping them to be tolerant of other’s opinions is good and valuable in their formation, introducing them at an early age to drag queens at a story hour probably isn’t helpful in assisting them in an authentic development of their gender identity.
This library program has thrust our community into issues that have been debated in our country for some years. As Catholics, we have the right and at times even the responsibility to contribute the fruits of our two millennia of theological reflection and lived faith to the public debate.
In doing so, we always strive to speak the truth with love, as we were so often reminded by Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will guide and direct the discussions and deliberations on this issue, not just in the coming weeks before this library event, but also in the months and years to come.