Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Based on What?

Catholic Hospital Refuses Transgender Surgery

Reports from the Bay Area this week have detailed the situation faced by Charlene Hastings, a 57 year old transwoman who desired breast augmentation. She had engaged the services of a plastic surgeon, Dr. Leonard Gray, who was willing to provide the procedure, but the hospital to which he was affiliated, Seton Medical Center, balked.

Seton Medical Center is a Catholic institution run by the Daughters of Charity and they hold that providing any surgical procedure for a transgender is “against their religion”.

Now, I don’t want to get into a battle of beliefs, nor demean those beliefs expressed by the Catholic church – which is notoriously unfriendly to transgenders – or the hospital. But my question, as should be the question asked every time someone cites their faith for a reason for their actions, is “Based on What?”. In this case, where is it in the Bible that prohibits gender transformation?

The best argument that is usually offered is that 'God made you a Man' (or Woman) and that’s that! And yet, if you’ve perused and considered the Lessons offered through this blog, you will find that there is nothing in the Bible that says one can’t change, that the Bible is incomplete regarding gender and that there may even be citations for encouraging and supporting gender transition. In reality, the gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John relate narratives that are entirely about transformation.

Ms. Hastings has engaged the services of an attorney and is suing for discrimination. According to Kristina Wertz of Transgender Law Center, California law – which in general is the most supportive for gender identity or expression – allows religiously based medical facilities to deny abortion services, but there is no such “exemption” for denying transgender surgeries. And it should be noted that, in this case, this isn’t “The” surgery (i.e. Gender Reconstruction Surgery), which may also factor into the legalities.

What other procedures would Seton deny Ms. Hastings based on her status as a transgender woman? Probably not an appendectomy – that happens to anyone. But what about a mastectomy to deal with an estrogen-fed breast cancer - that isn't likely to occur to a male?

In a larger sense, I keep reading and hearing that phrase – “its against my religion”. When you hear that, ask the person, “based on what?” and wait for your answer. There is a lot in the Bible that we no longer follow. Most people have no idea what “their religion” truly says.

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