A person waving a trans flag at Dublin’s Pride parade in 2019. (Szymon Barylski/NurPhoto via Getty)
The Church of Ireland appears to have admitted that non-binary people exist, but it still insists it will teach that male and female are the only two gender identities.
The Anglican church’s Church and Society Commission (CASC) made a submission to a public consultation on review of hate crime legislation in April, which clearly mentioned non-binary people.
CASC is a group within the Church of Ireland which serves to “provide oversight and direction of the Church’s work in respect of social theology in action”.
In response to the question of whether “gender and gender identity be included as protected characteristics in Northern Ireland hate crime legislation”, CASC wrote in its submission: “CASC agrees that it is only reasonable to include gender and gender identity as protected characteristics.
“In addition it is worth considering the definition of gender used in this characteristic.
“It should be sufficiently defined as to recognise the existence of and protect cisgender people but also intersex, transgender and non-binary people.
“An appropriate definition, which recognises that for many people gender is a spectrum made up of many different, fluctuating societal norms and that it is more often a person’s gender identity or gender expression by which they are perceived by can alleviate the need to specifically define separate protections for transgender, non-binary and other gender non-conforming individuals, while still ensuring they are adequately protected by the legislation.”
The Church of Ireland group also argued that hate crimes against trans and non-binary people should not be categorised as based on sexual orientation, saying it was “important not to confuse the issue of gender identity with that of sexual orientation; the majority of trans people identify their sexual orientation as heterosexual”.
The church’s response to questions on hate crimes against trans and non-binary people came as a welcome surprise, but unfortunately it was too good to be true.
According to the Belfast Newsletter, the church’s central communications office said in a statement that the church’s teaching that only men and women exist remained unchanged.
It said: “The Church of Ireland’s teaching recognises two genders – male and female – and is unchanged.
The commission would further clarify that when it expresses concern for those who may not agree with the Church’s teaching, this is based on the Christian example of the Good Samaritan.
“In this case, the consultation identifies certain groups as being particularly at risk and asks if they should be protected from hate crime.”
It added that CASC “exists as an advisory group… views expressed by [it] only become representative of the church as a whole when given approval by the general synod of the Church of Ireland”.