Transmissions: Embracing trans dignity

  • by Gwendolyn Ann Smith
  • Wednesday April 17, 2024
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Illustration: Christine Smith
Illustration: Christine Smith

There are three stories that have recently crossed my desk, each of which are unrelated, but together paint a very descriptive image of what's wrong with the way non-trans people are speaking about trans lives.

First, the North Dakota Republican Party asked its members to vote on 15 resolutions during its convention, with all but a proposed push for criminal penalties for women who get abortions passing. The other 14 covered a wide array of topics, from fighting against the use of eminent domain for carbon capture to demanding the United States withdraw from the United Nations.

The resolution that caught my eye was neither of those, but one that opposed adding sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected class within the Peace Garden State. Of particular note was the party's language aimed at transgender and nonbinary people.

"The North Dakota Republican Party advocates an affirming approach to biological identity and supports the restoration of gender dysphoric individuals, that they may embrace and be comfortable with their natural biological state," the resolution read.

Let's sit with that for a moment, and focus a hemisphere away, from North Dakota to Vatican City in Rome.

After a few years of somewhat positive news, including a statement that transgender people could be baptized "under certain conditions," the Roman Catholic Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith released "Dignitas Infinita" (Infinite Dignity). The 20-page document spelled out the Catholic Church's stance on "gender theory," declaring that to be transgender is to try to "make oneself God."

As you can guess, the church prefers to keep who is and isn't a deity firmly in its own hands.

"It follows that any sex-change intervention, as a rule, risks threatening the unique dignity the person has received from the moment of conception," the declaration stated.

Finally, a visit to jolly old England, where a report was commissioned with a goal of improving gender identity services under the National Health Service. The report is widely known as the Cass Review, from the name of its author, Dr. Hilary Cass.

Rather than looking to improve transgender care in the U.K., and in spite of wide criticisms about impossible wait times and substandard treatment, the report instead calls for even more restrictions on gender-affirming care for transgender people under the age of 25, but stops short of a complete ban on such services.

It also suggests that conversion therapy may be a viable option for transgender people, and even expects one to see a clinician before even undergoing social transition. Conversion therapy, which attempts to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity, has been widely debunked by numerous professional medical associations.

In the review, Cass claims that people are somehow "influenced" into being transgender, and that being transgender itself may cause anxiety and depression. It also dismissed 98% of the existing studies on transgender health care as invalid, simply because they weren't "double-blinded." Never mind that doing so would be ethically impossible to carry out. (A double-blind study is one in which neither the participants nor the researcher knows which treatment participants are receiving until after the clinical trial is over.)

It is obvious that each of the above examples is about transgender people, but I also want to point out the obvious issue with them all: it is clear that there is not a trans voice in any of them.

The Cass Review is obvious. Not only did Cass dismiss any report that shows how trans care has positively affected actual transgender people, but she did not even bother to include trans voices in the report. The voices of transgender youth — the very people she was seeking to help, supposedly — were tossed out for being somehow "biased" in discussing their own care.

If Cass had listened, the argument of "influence" would fall away, let alone the notion that being trans itself leads to depression and anxiety: it's not being trans that does that, it is how we, as transgender people, are treated by society.

Likewise, "Dignitas Infinita" talks a lot about dignity — it is right there in the title — all the while it denies transgender people their own dignity in the eyes of their God. We're not seeking to be their God; we just want to be allowed to be human.

They couch us as some sort of "theory," when we are flesh and blood. Once again, we're humans, we walk among you. You can talk to us. Yet, rather than seeing our dignity and, yes, the spark of the divine that they might otherwise claim to possess, they treat us as undignified at best — and something bordering on heresy at worst.

And then there is the North Dakota GOP.

We don't need much prompting to know the Republican Party's stance on transgender people. The party has been making it clear, in words and action, that it would rather see transgender people eradicated, even as it, too, tries to hide behind phrases like "gender ideology," or "pronouns," or whatnot.

To that end, I want to note the one thing that bothers me the most about the North Dakota GOP's statement. It seems to want me, and other trans people, to "embrace and be comfortable with their natural biological state."

This is my "natural biological state."

In spite of the fact that my biology is distinctly different from what North Dakota Republicans may be expecting after three decades of medical intervention of one sort or another, I also know that I am exactly who I always knew I was, from about age 3 onward. I am indeed embracing, and comfortable with, who I happen to be, and if any of them had bothered to talk to a transgender person, maybe they would have the slightest glimmer of that.

No amount of conversion therapy, no amount of repression, and no number of ridiculous reports, dirtiness, or resolutions can change who a transgender person is — and we expect that to be honored.

That's our dignity speaking, and Republicans, the Vatican, and a British physician aren't allowed to write it off.

Gwen Smith never became transgender, she just is. You can find her at

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