REGINA — Dealing with transgender children is not a sexual issue, it’s an identity issue, said Catholic ethicist Rev. Mark Miller, CSsR, in a symposium address March 20 to about 75 participants at Holy Rosary Cathedral Hall, “and it’s not easy.”
The audience was comprised of Catholic school board officials, teachers and administrators from southern Saskatchewan Catholic school boards.
Miller was the keynote speaker in the first of two symposiums sponsored by the Saskatchewan Catholic School Boards Association (SCSBA) in advance of a document the SCSBA will issue as support for all Saskatchewan Catholic school boards. The second was scheduled for March 24 in Saskatoon.
Besides Miller, Evangelical Lutheran pastor Rev. Carla Blakley, a longtime advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) people, gave a lively and sometimes humorous description of her journey to become a Lutheran pastor, and the discrimination she encountered. Blakely said she is heterosexual, married with three daughters, and became an advocate for transgender people while working with a Lutheran bishop in Latin America.
Miller described what he called four moral principles in dealing with transgender issues: the need to listen; identity is something not easily laid down; the principle of uncertainty (we don’t know what we’re doing and we have to be flexible); and acceptance.
“It’s not our job to judge.” We need to see them as God’s children, said Miller.
Blakely described the challenges of not only dealing with children but their parents, and particularly the parents of other children. She distributed a glossary of acceptable words to use, noting that the language is rapidly changing. She introduced a three-person panel who shared their life experiences. Leo Keiser is the executive director of the University of Regina Pride Centre and a public speaker on trans wellness and queer issues. Laura and Pat Budd have been married 24 years and have two boys, 21 and 12. Five years ago Laura came out as a woman and the two described their transition from fear, to tolerance, acceptance and support from their small rural community. Both are active in their community.
“What we have together is love, acceptance and respect,” said Pat.
Regina Archbishop Daniel Bohan said he was generally pleased with the symposium. “It pointed out the challenge to us in dealing with people who have to deal with this in their lives.”
The three-person panel was very helpful, said the archbishop. “It took it out of the context of theoretical and it made me aware that we are dealing here with people in their lives, and we have to find a way to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to them and to help them benefit from that as well.”