Why This Catholic Is Standing With Transgender Students

by James Rowe

It may seem like a cliché but as a Christian I often find myself often asking that age old question, “What would Jesus do?”
Last Tuesday, I asked myself this question after learning that HB 1008—an anti-trans bill that forces trans students to use restrooms and locker rooms that do not correspond with their gender—was passed by the South Dakota legislature.

It didn’t take me too long to answer this question.
I thought about trans students being singled out and forced to use separate restrooms and locker rooms from their friends and peers. While proponents of this bill say it is about protecting children, HB 1008 does the exact opposite—it causes direct harm to transgender youth and teaches their peers that it is okay to ostracize and bully trans students.

As I reflected on my Catholic teachings and recalled hearing stories about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, I was reminded of what many often call Jesus’ mission statement. Jesus stood up in the synagogue at Nazareth and read from the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

The very idea behind this harmful law is discrimination, plain and simple—and discrimination has no place in Christianity.

My Catholic teachings tell me that Jesus stood in solidarity with those who are most often bullied and ostracized by others—and I believe today, Jesus would have been in Pierre, South Dakota, standing at the steps of the Capitol building demanding that Governor Daugaard veto this harmful bill.

Every day at Believe Out Loud we work to love as God loves—this means standing in solidarity with those who are bullied and ostracized by others.

Today, Believe Out Loud’s community of LGBTQ-affirming Christians joined with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the ACLU of South Dakota, Reconciling Ministries Network, Freedom for All Americans, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the Transgender Law Center, and the Human Rights Campaign by submitting more than 80,000 signatures calling for South Dakota Governor Daugaard to veto HB 1008.

1,062 of these signatures came from Christians who support trans and gender nonconforming students.

Believe Out Loud’s Acting Campaign Manager, Reese Rathjen explains just how harmful HB 1008 would be for our young people if it actually does become law:

“I don’t think people truly understand the damage the bill would do—this bill requires trans kids to deny a core piece of who they are each time they use the restroom or locker room. This law devalues transgender kids and underestimates the beauty and diversity of God’s creation.”

HB 1008 is just one of more than 150 anti-LGBTQ bills proposed across the country. Of these proposed bills, 79 misuse religion to justify harm against LGBTQ people, and 44 specifically target trans and gender nonconforming people. Proponents of these bills are using Christianity to mobilize resentment against LGBTQ people.

They are using their faith to justify harm, and even worse, they are working to cement their harmful theologies into law.

In response, Believe Out Loud will continue to launch campaigns throughout the spring to make LGBTQ-affirming Christianity more visible than ever before.

As LGBTQ Christians and allies, it is our mission is to mobilize love—and we are doing just that!

Action Update: South Dakota Governor Prevents Anti-Trans Bill From Becoming Law!