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Sr. Helena Burns: Dealing with ‘the gender talk’

  • June 9, 2021

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Dealing with 'the gender talk'

Sr. Helena Burns, FSP

Parents generally loathe having “the sex talk” with their children. Today they will also need to have “the gender talk.” Let me explain.

We live in times of a radical disconnect from the body, from biology, from science. Something called “gender ideology” — brought to the fore by the French philosopher Michel Foucault in the 1960s, codified and popularized by the American philosopher Judith Butler in the 1990s — has gotten the upper hand in society. Everywhere. A father in B.C. was jailed recently for insisting on calling his daughter “she.”

Gender ideology, although it may be well meaning, is a false approach to understanding the human person. The fact that false gender ideology is now enshrined in law demands that we teach our youth the whole glorious truth about the human person, body and soul. Dictionary definitions have been changed. School curricula are filled with unscientific information. Shampoo ads feature “transitioning” children. Celebrities declare themselves “gender fluid.”

Let’s revisit “the sex talk.” The vast majority of young people are raised on the “starvation diet” when it comes to sex and the body. Their parents have only one talk about sex with them and many have no talks. So where do children and teens learn about the birds and the bees? Sadly, from the media, from their peers, from porn.

Parents, as first educators of their children, need to get over their embarrassment, educate themselves and use solid, age-appropriate resources with their progeny. And not just once! The ideal is to have discreet, respectful, reverent conversations all through the growing-up years. Ideally, kids will have an open, trusting relationship that enables them to talk with their parents about everything, including sex. Silence about sex won’t cut it. Silence is quite literally killing our kids.

And now, as mentioned, parents (and grandparents, perhaps!) will need to talk with their children (and grandchildren) at a very young age about “gender.” I know parents in Ontario who simply tell their kids: “You’re going to hear all kinds of things about boys and girls, men and women — even in school — that just aren’t true, that are different from what we’re telling you at home. So when you hear those things, let us know and we’ll talk about it!”

Young people are taught today that “’sex’ is your body, what you’re ‘assigned’ at birth; and ‘gender’ is your soul, your true self, whatever you feel you are, and it doesn’t necessarily match your body.” This is a recent invention of gender ideology. Our bodies already have meaning, inscribed by the Creator. Our bodies and souls match, unless we’re experiencing a dissociative, psycho-affective disorder. We need to tell our youth that gender and sex are the same thing. Every cell in our bodies is gendered, so we can’t actually change our sex/gender.

Biology only finds two human genders. Even intersex people are still male and female. Rather than being “neither” male nor female, they’re “both.”  When we’re confused, when society is confused and confusing, where do we look? To God, creation, the Bible, the Church, science. Being male and female is not only biology, it’s also theology! The fact that we are “made in the image of God: male and female He created them” is our definitive answer. And everyone without exception is included in that statement. Otherwise, God would be excluding some of His own beloved children and He would never do that.

No matter what we’re struggling with: same-sex attraction, gender dysphoria, body dysmorphia, trauma from sexual abuse, etc., it’s a variation on a theme of male or female, because there is nothing else. God loves us, the Church loves us and there is pastoral care for us. Our fickle and often deceptive feelings are not absolute and should not be the basis for making serious decisions or taking definitive, irreversible action. See the Catechism of the Catholic Church #1768.

Gender ideology activists have crafted very clever and catchy slogans. We cannot just hope our youth will simply figure out the truth about humanity on their own. We need to be able to deconstruct gender ideology with the beauty and simplicity of the truth.

In this post-Easter season, let’s remind ourselves that the destiny of the human body is resurrection. These very bodies that we are today will be resurrected, glorified and reunited with our souls on the Last Day.

“Drawing young children’s attention to the body’s meaning affirms the goodness of the body. He or she then becomes capable of communicating love” — John Paul II.

Find some helpful resources here: and

(Sr. Helena, fsp, is a Daughter of St. Paul. She holds a Masters in Media Literacy Education and studied screenwriting at UCLA.  Twitter: @srhelenaburns)

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Dear Sister Helena, perhaps God works in more mysterious ways than we are able to grasp from within the confines of our humble human pedantry. In many cultures, there are people of alternative genders who are respected for their unique...

Dear Sister Helena, perhaps God works in more mysterious ways than we are able to grasp from within the confines of our humble human pedantry. In many cultures, there are people of alternative genders who are respected for their unique perspective. There is no doubt that we are obsessed with the body and with sexuality in contemporary culture. But to make life uncomfortable for LGBTQIA2S+ people could not possibly be Christian. Jesus never dwelled on legislating the body. He left that sort of thing to the Pharisees. Jesus was more concerned with teaching us a deeper kind of holiness, devotion to God, and the meaning of sacrifice.

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