The increasing acrimony of the battle of ideas surrounding the issue of gender identity makes a sensitive discussion of the human reality at its heart almost impossible
It seems very likely that gender dysphoria, the distresses caused by a mismatch between someone’s natal sex and their sense of gender identity, has existed throughout history, though expressed differently in different ages and cultures.
The use of hormones and surgery to address gender dysphoria began in Europe in the 1950s but legal change has been slower. Only in 2004 did the United Kingdom provide for legal status in the “acquired gender”. The Government was forced to act in response to a judgment of the European Court of Human Rights. At that time the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales supported a call by the Church of England for conscience clauses to be included in the proposed Gender Recognition Bill. The bishops took the opportunity to restate Catholic teaching that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.
Their briefing note opposed “full legal recognition with the right to marry in that gender” but argued for provision of “appropriate medical and psychological help and support” and, for those who choose to do so, support “to ease their life in society when they choose to live permanently as a member of the opposite sex”. The note was not a formal teaching document but reflected the views of respected Catholic theologians at the time. It contained no hint that, apart from the question of marriage, living as the acquired gender would be incompatible with full participation in the life of the Church.