How does one deal with transgendered students?

Douglas McManaman
January 26, 2023
Reproduced with Permission

A significant number of my students about to begin their careers as teachers of Catholic youth often ask how best to approach transgendered students, or students in transition. Of course, the best approach will depend on the age and grade level of the child as well as what particularly is being asked of the teacher. It seems to me, however, that the best approach for teachers in the primary/junior and intermediate levels is that which I have seen adopted by my own daughter, who is a teacher in the primary/junior level: in short, she accepts them, loves them, treats them no differently than anyone else, and she delights in their unique gifts. After all, the purpose of the Catholic school is evangelization. This means our fundamental purpose is the proclamation of the good news of the gospel. The good news, of course, is the resurrection of Christ and all that it implies. But this proclamation is much more than uttering a set of propositions.

The vocation of teacher is a participation in the prophetic ministry of Christ, and in order to participate in such a ministry, one must "become Christ". And of course, this is precisely what takes place during Mass. Christ is given to us as food, to consume: "For my flesh is real food, and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him" (Jn 6, 55-56). And St. Paul is very clear about this radical appropriation of Christ in his letter to the Galatians: "I have been crucified with Christ and yet I am alive; yet it is no longer I, but Christ living in me (Gal 2: 20). What this means is that to the degree that I have died to myself such that it is Christ who now lives in me, to that degree it can be said that it is Christ who is loving these students, and if those students love such a teacher and how he/she relates to them, then what they love without necessarily knowing it explicitly is that they love Christ. The good news of the risen Christ, who now lives in and through you, is proclaimed to them every day that you enter the classroom. That is our primary task.

Having said that, there are two extremes that Catholic teachers must avoid. The first extreme involves actually teaching "gender ideology" in the classroom. The reason is that such an ideology is incompatible with the fundamental teachings of the Church, not to mention the basic principles of biblical anthropology, and teachers have a fundamental obligation to remain true to the way they advertise themselves, namely as Catholic teachers in a Catholic school, capable of assisting parents in what is their duty to teach the faith to their baptized children.

The other extreme to avoid is to actually take it upon ourselves to counter such students or oppose them. I would argue that our task is to love them and teach them the faith in which they were baptized, keeping in mind that we have a very limited role in the schools. Often educators take on too much, or are made to take on too much by senior administrators who tend to believe that everything that bears upon a child's life is for the school to manage or direct in some way. We have a very important but limited role, and some things are best left to parents.