By Rev. Michael Patzloff, Chair of the Welcome & Reconciling Ministries Committee
John Wesley summarized God’s desire for our lives in his “Three Simple Rules.” Wesley said that if we could “Do No Harm, Do Good, and Attend to the Ordinances of God (or, more simply, Stay in Love with God)” that we would be following God’s plan for our lives. If we are honest, our ability to uphold these three “simple” rules is difficult to say the least but gives us a starting point and must be seen as more than aspirational.
The problem that arises when talking about doing no harm is whose definition of harm, do we embrace. Human sexuality and gender identity is one that has caused confusion and strong feelings in many. While this is not unusual for United Methodists on many topics, gender identity and transgender persons has not eased the conversations.
The Book of Discipline (BOD), which is used to guide and unite us in our actions in a world that is ever-changing. In ¶161, Section G, states “we affirm that sexuality is God’s good gift to all persons and “we call everyone to responsible stewardship of this sacred gift.” The confusion arises when sexuality and gender identity are seen as the same thing. While there is affirmation that persons “regardless of age, gender, marital status, or sexual orientation “are entitled to have their human and civil rights ensured and protected against violence,” the question remains: what do we mean to be “protected from violence,” to do no harm?
Two anti-LGBTQ bills have been assigned to committees in the legislature. This normally implies the signers on the bill will try to get these items passed quickly. They are as follows:
- SB 1130 (Sponsor: Senator Warren Petersen): This bill bars physicians and providers from providing gender transition surgery to anyone under 18 years old. Assigned to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
- HB 2011 (Sponsor: Representative John Kavanaugh): This bill requires written permission by parents for students to join clubs or groups involving gender identity or sexuality. Assigned to House Education Committee
*The Senate Judiciary Committee will be hearing SB 1130, a medical care ban targeting transgender children and penalizing providers. The bill makes transition-related care, including hormone blockers, child abuse for healthcare providers.
SB1130 would make providing transition-related care a class 2 felony presumptive sentence 5 years, max 12.5: https://www.azleg.gov/ars/13/00702.htm
Bills like these stigmatize transgender people and prevent them from accessing age-appropriate, medically-necessary, and lifesaving medical care.
They go AGAINST accepted professional standards of care relating to transgender youth, grounded in scientific research and supported by medical experts. Medical care bans allow legislators to override what transgender youth want, what their parents think is best, and proven treatment supported by every major medical association.
They punish responsible, well-trained doctors if they provide the medically-necessary, best practice care that these youth need.
Denying best practice medical care to transgender youth can be life-threatening – it has been shown to contribute to depression, social isolation, self-hatred, risk of self-harm and suicidal behavior, and more.
Criminalizing a parents support of their transgender child i can also be life-threatening, as it violates the bond between parent and child, and by threatening the family, places the entire family’s well-being on the shoulders of a child. (Provided by The Human Rights Campaign)
The second bill is of great concern. The limitation of club membership based on parental permission limits the ability for the young person to make decisions regarding their understanding of their worth and the worth of others. All clubs and groups, (one may assume the use of the word students implies such groups and clubs to be associated with a school), are overseen by a faculty advisor and must conform to the set objectives by the school administration. The crux of the matter lies in a difference of opinion between the parent(s) and their child. If a student wants to join a sanctioned group and the parents do not agree with the group/club’s stance or purpose, parent(s) can refuse to sign the necessary permission form, disallowing their child from living out their social witness. This is more than just regarding gender and sexuality. The door is opened to political affiliation, religious/spiritual groups, environmental groups, etc. The youth/child’s choice is entirely given over to the parent(s).
Health is a condition of physical, mental, social, and spiritual wellbeing. (BOD ¶161, Sec V) The limitations placed on a child/youth and the parent(s) by the bills listed above could have a devastating impact. We as United Methodists must work diligently to ensure that we open the possibilities of our world, instead of limiting them by legislative decree.
*The response has been updated from its original version.