‘Cool pope’ not so cool on gender

Welp, the “cool pope” is still the pope. Yesterday, the Vatican released the transcript of a conversation Pope Francis had with bishops from Poland, in which he appears outraged that children are taught everyone can “choose their gender.” Which is not exactly what’s happening.

In a transcript of the meeting released by the Vatican, Pope Francis said, “Today the children—the children!—at school you are taught this: that everyone can choose their gender.” He used the phrase “il sesso,” which in Italian translates to sex, but appears to be used here to refer to gender (translated by Google Translate and the author’s mediocre fluency). He blames textbooks, the institutions that give schools money, and “ideological colonialism” for this development.

Then, quoting Pope Benedict XVI, he said it was “the epoch of sin against God the Creator.”

Pope Francis has in the past shown tolerant views on things like gender equality and gay rights, but here he shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between sex and gender and how gender works. And many are calling him out for his views online.

Presuming the pope was indeed speaking about gender (one’s sense of self as male, female, transgender, or nonbinary), he misses that for many, gender identity does not always correlate to sexual assignment at birth. It is not an issue of choosing gender so much as allowing children to freely accept the gender they are, not the gender they’re told to be. And gender expression, though influenced by cultural expectations and personal comfort, is indeed a choice.

Jaya Saxena

Jaya Saxena

Jaya Saxena is a lifestyle writer and editor whose work focuses primarily on women's issues and web culture. Her writing has appeared in GQ, ELLE, the Toast, the New Yorker, Tthe Hairpin, BuzzFeed, Racked, Eater, Catapult, and others. She is the co-author of 'Dad Magazine,' the author of 'The Book Of Lost Recipes,' and the co-author of 'Basic Witches.'