With the social distancing protocol that we are practicing during the COVID-19 pandemic, most people find that they are suddenly spending more time with family members. Let’s be honest! While this is a wonderful opportunity for the family members to bond and stay strong together, the togetherness within the family home can also bring frictions to the family. When there are different generations reading the news or watching TV shows together, we tend to forget that we are showing ideas to people perceiving the information with very different lens. Each generation learns its cognitive framework from their own social culture. Members of the family will, inevitably, have starkly different views on social issues. Without warning, arguments and fights are pursued and defended anytime of the day.
I usually spend the downtime before bedtime by watching a bit of mindless TV shows. By that, I mean watching shows that do not give me thought-provoking questions and keep me wide awake at night. So, it was surprising the other day when I watched an episode of Supergirl on the PVR. I admit that I do not pay that much attention to the details of the show during my down time. I must have completely missed the character Nia Nal revealing herself as a transgender at her debut episode in Season 4. Anyway, I had not registered that fact until the show suddenly presented, in Season 5, the storyline of her transgender roommate being targeted and how Nia Nal had to defend her own community. As far as storylines go, a good old story on justice, on heroes defending the weak, and on heroes ultimately bringing down the offenders, always makes for a good night’s sleep. However, as I was not aware of Nia Nal as a transgender character earlier, that sudden realization seemed a bit odd. It felt like the show was trying too hard to showcase characters outside of the traditional male-female binary model. Supergirl already has a super strong sister Alex Danvers, who was presented in a same sex relationship in Season 2. While I enjoy watching the storylines of Alex and her sisterly relationship with Supergirl, and find Nia Nal intriguing with her dreams and power, I feel that two LGBT characters within one tight group seemed too unrealistic to me. When I protest this to one of my adult daughters, I was quite surprised with the comment of “That’s normal!”
I wonder what is normal? What is really true and real?
Personally, I admire the gifts that every one of my friends bring into the friendships, LGBT or not. In terms of statistics, the number of my LGBT friends relative to my entire circle of friends do not seem to match up to that proportion that is portrayed in many sitcoms. I once took a university course on gender issues. The professor mentioned how it is important to address others in the way they attribute themselves. However, when she put out a questionnaire in the beginning of the term to get to know her students, giving the students a choice on gender for Female, Male and Non-binary, she got an overwhelming number of responses from the 20-plus age group choosing the Non-binary category. That seemed to her that it was simply youthful students trying to be “different.” So, what is real and true? Do we get to choose gender according to some utopia that we, as humans, dream up? Are we to believe that choosing our own gender is one of our rights?
And…how might we, as Catholics, perceive the normalcy on Gender and Sexuality presented to us in social media?
The separation of gender and biological sex did not get much attention until the 1970’s. Was the idea of gender a social construction? The cognitive frames we develop are dependent on what we perceive around us. If we do not have a strong understanding on the issue of gender ourselves, how may we be aware of the social blindness that we are thrown into. It seems to me that, as Catholics, we ought to know and understand our Church teachings on gender and sexuality first and use that as our guide. Unfortunately, a lot of the Church teachings presented to us or interpreted to us are misguided and misrepresented in social media. We owe it to ourselves to learn those teachings from someone we can trust. I am, therefore, looking forward to the WHY@Breakfast webinar to be presented by Teresa Hartnett towards the end of the month. https://whyatbreakfast.com/ If the diocese can trust her in leading workshops on the subject to priests and seminarians, we are in very good hands. When we are better equipped to be aware of the differences between myths and truths out there, we may start to live in the present world, which is full of new gender ideas, with confidence. We may then have meaningful conversations with our family and friends on the subject, even when we are jolted accidentally by a viewing of Supergirl!
May 23rd, 2020
Gender, Sexuality and the Catholic Church
Speaker: Teresa Hartnett,
Director of Family Ministry, Roman Catholic Diocese of Hamilton
Webinar begins at 9:30 AM EST
Register by email: firstname.lastname@example.org