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‘Pope’s call for greater understanding of different sexualities isn’t a victory for LGBT community’

By Attitude Magazine

On Friday 8th April, the Vatican published its Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia” – “The Joy Of Love”. The pamphlet, which acts as official guidance to the Catholic Church urged religious leaders, as well as the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, to show greater understanding to lesbians and gays, preaching that “every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration”.

Although he didn’t support same-sex marriage, Pope Francis’ call for a greater consideration could be seen as a step forward. And while the change is seemingly small, the potential benefits are huge. Not just for Catholic lesbians and gays, but for any of us employed by, related to or in contact with Catholics who have used the church’s hateful stance on our sexuality to harm us.

Or it would be huge, if “greater understanding” wasn’t followed by a reaffirmation of the Vatican’s atrocious stance on trans people: “biological sex and the socio-cultural role of sex (gender) can be distinguished but not separated… it is one thing to be understanding of human weakness… and another to accept ideologies that attempt to sunder what are inseparable aspects of reality. Let us not fall into the sin of trying to replace the Creator… Creation is prior to us and must be received as a gift”. In other words, treat the lesbians and gays a bit better, but being trans is still a no-no. This, plus the refusal to acknowledge bisexuals, makes The Joy of Love a lot less, well, Joyful and Loving.

Some news sites have reported the Exhortation as positive for the LGBT community, even though trans people have gained nothing from it, which is irresponsible. What’s good for the gays isn’t always good for everyone else. Assuming that our struggles, as gays and lesbians, reflect those of the whole community has allowed us to move forward while trans people are left behind. While we enjoy same-sex marriage, trans women are detained in men’s prisons. Trans people are forced to jump through endless hoops and bureaucracy to have their gender affirmed through surgery and recognised by law, while we’re much more protected from people interfering with matters relating to our sexuality.

But there’s a bigger issue here. Should lesbians and gays accept admittedly small pushes towards acceptance from institutions that demonise trans people? Can we really sit back and watch the Catholic Church evolve on sexuality without questioning their fixation over trans people and their bodies? As the gulf between LGB rights and trans rights widens, we need to start saying that, if you’re not willing to uplift trans people too, your acceptance isn’t good enough.

Having faced mistreatment and violence for hundreds of years, it’s tempting for us to quietly enjoy the world becoming more tolerant of different sexualities. But we owe it to the trans community to criticise any move that excludes them. After all, it was Marsha P Johnson, a trans woman, who threw the first brick at the Stonewall Riots, and trans people have been supporting us ever since. What’s more, our equality hinges on trans equality. Many lesbians, gays and bisexuals are also trans, and liberation isn’t something that can be enjoyed by the half measure. What’s marriage when your body is under constant scrutiny?

We’re in the middle of an incredibly important time for trans rights. From Laverne Cox on the cover of Time Magazine to gender neutral restrooms, trans issues are gaining a foothold in the mainstream. But momentum can slow, and even reverse. Our solidarity, our patience and our understanding is needed, now more than ever. So let’s make sure that when we as lesbians, gays and bisexuals step forward, our trans siblings step forward with us.

Words: Josh Lee