Saturday, July 11, 2015

Droppings from the Catholic Birdcage: Commonweal Catholics, Trans Folks, and How Much "We" Love "Them" (But Not "Their" Choices and Actions)

A thread about transgender people now underway at Commonweal suggests to me that trans folks are in the process of becoming the new battleground over which "liberal" Catholic folks fight out the same condescending battles they've long fought over gay folks — those dismissive us-vs.-them battles that claim the center for us and people like us, while othering gay (or trans) human beings and defining them as not-the-center. As not us.

Abe Rosenzweig is taking a lot of heat in this thread for daring to stand up to the usual liberal Catholic pretentiousness exhibited by a number of Commonweal regulars in the thread, who claim to love them some transgender folks while defining trans people as not us, not like us, not human in the same way we are human — not Catholic, obviously, like we are Catholic. 

Goaded by another commenter in the thread, Abe Rosenzweig sums up the possible "questions" on which the conversation turns: Is it all just a bit gnostic, this transgender stuff? Is it mental illness? Is it like cancer? (Read the thread, and you'll see why A.R. is framing "the" questions of the thread this way.)

I'd add to Abe's questions the following:

When did "we" become "us," and when did "they" become "them"? 
And aren't we more than a tad bit self-deluded when "we" claim that we love "them," while we frame our entire discussion of how much we love "them" with the caveat that we don't necessarily celebrate everything about "their choices and actions"? 
When did "we" become convinced that we can love "them" while we stand aloof from "their choices and actions" — as if any human being can somehow be ripped out of the context of her choices and actions, the choices and actions that make her who she is,  and loved in some disembodied way that ultimately costs me nothing, since I've insulated myself from her humanity by claiming that I can love her while disdaining her choices and actions? 
Who in the hell do "we" think we are, after all? 
Who died and went to heaven to make us the "we" group and those others the "them" group? 
And in God's name, what kind of Catholicism operates on the basis of these us-vs.-them assumptions that allow us, while patting ourselves on the back as exceptionally loving people, to separate ourselves from "them" in such a high and mighty, dismissive way?

The "liberal" American Catholicism of the Commonweal set stinks to high heaven. 

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