Monday, December 21, 2009

LGBTI and the United Nations

Last week I paid a visit to the United Nations on behalf of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-Fam), a group that monitors social policy at the UN, especially with respect to family and the dignity of life.

Attending a UN meeting is preceded by a flurry of official hubbub. One must be identified, cleared, photographed and given a pass to enter the halls of this strange insitutiton. After stopping in at three different offices close to but not inside the UN, I got my clip-on affiliate ID for the day and proceeded to the UN proper,through security screening and into the cafeteria to eat a sandwich and breathe in the air of the multicultural and peace-loving UN movers and shakers.

This particular meeting, a panel discussion entitled 'Opposing Grave Human Rights Violations on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,' aimed to bring attention to acts of violence and discrimination against LGBTI people as part of celebrating the 61st Anniversary of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Notice that's LGBT with an 'I.' For the uninitiated, you have L for lesbian, G for gay, B for bi-sexual, T for transgender or transsexual and I for intersex. The five panelists from India, Honduras, the Philippines, Uganda and Zambia gave what essentially amounted to personal testimonials about the injustices and hurts they've endured as members of one or another sexual orientation group.

All five panelists were free in citing religion as the cause of oppression of LGBTI persons. The Rev. Kaoma, an Anglican priest from Zambia specifically charged "conservative Christians" from the United States as being responsible for the criminalization of homosexuality in Uganda. The Honduran panelist declared that (Catholic) Opus Dei must cease and desist in its anti-homosexual actions. Religion should not be 'motivation to hate.'

Sass Rogando Sasot, a founding member of Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines and apparently something of a heroine in her particular sexual orientation community in the Philippines, told us that the root of LGBTI oppression is believing that 'there's only one way to be male or female'. She explained that we are duped into thinking that gender is defined by 'what's between our legs.' According to Ms. Sasot, gender can't be based on biology because there are people who don't conform to gender norms!

I wonder if she would also argue that lying, cheating, stealing and murder must all be moral and licit acts because there are people who engage in these activities. The problem with what Ms. Sasot and other panel members had to say is that they've turned the natural world upside down. Our biology does matter. In Prof. Robert George's words, our body is not a 'mere instrument of the person, the body is intrinsically part of the personal reality of the human being.' We are not, says George, "consciousnesses, or minds, or spirits inhabiting and using nonpersonal bodies. A human person is a dynamic unity of body, mind, and spirit."

The LGBTI group relies heavily on the language of human rights to plead their case. But being a homosexual or a transsexual or an intersex person isn't any more of a human right than being a hypochondriac or a baseball fan or a traveling salesman. Despite their trying, the world was not created by five LGBTI panelists and their supporters. God created the natural order of the world with two sexes, male and female. There are many kinds of people in the world with a range of talents, personalities, but there are not many ways to be male or female that are moral, normal and that contribute to the general good of society. There is one way to be male and another different way to be female, and, contrary to our culture's almost manic belief in the supremacy of the individual, we are not free to do or be whatever we want. (The LGBT community themselves make that quite clear--we are not free to disagree with them, we're not free to prevent them from marrying, etc., etc. )

I, along with all rational people of good will, including the Roman Catholic Church, deplore violence against gays (and all the other letters) in much the same way we deplore violence and despicable acts of torture and repression against any people.  Yet, it is a challenge at times to believe that panel discussions like this one are for real. But this discussion varied only a bit from the side-events I attended last spring at the UN's Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) conference. The LGBTI activists I heard speak there have co-opted the language of both the feminist and the civil rights movements of the 60s. They speak of 'bodily autonomy,' and the right to control 'decision-making around our bodies.' They freely toss around the phrases 'sexual rights ' and 'reproductive rights.' They see themselves as the invisible and dismissed members of society who suffer ostracism at the hands of their families and are persecuted with forced pregnancy, 'curative rape' (?), beatings, murders, imprisonment and torture at the hands of their respective governments. But, as they describe it, with courageous resistance and activism they are on a 'trajectory toward justice.' They even use an occasional phrase with a pro-life ring to it as in 'being free from getting killed is a fundamental right' and the 'right to life of LGBT people'.

This is one of those times when a document like the Manhattan Declaration helps to articulate the difference between the two sides of the culture chasm. As the Manhattan Declaration states,
there are those who are disposed towards homosexual and polyamorous conduct and relationships, just as there are those who are disposed towards other forms of immoral conduct. We have compassion for those so disposed; we respect them as human beings possessing profound, inherent, and equal dignity. . . We, no less than they, are sinners who have fallen short of God’s intention for our lives. We, no less than they, are in constant need of God’s patience, love and forgiveness.


  1. STRAP has no requirements concerning one's sexual orientation as you suggest. It is an organization representing people whose gender identity differs from the gender they have been assigned. Members sexuality is irrelevant.

    btw. From where in the bible did you develop and expertise on gender? Are you confident you can determine the correct sex, male or female of all intersexed people? Perhaps their are limitations to the male/female doctrine you espouse?

  2. What is STRAP? Don't know what you mean by 'intersexed people.'

    As for being confident about determining someone's gender, yes, I'm quite confident. It's just like the song says,

    My tiny baby brother, who's never read a book,
    Knows one sex from the other,
    All he had to do was look,"
    That comes naturally!

    Some things in life are easy.