The following comes from an August 3 New York Times article by Mike McPhate:

Leaders of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups expressed dismay on Wednesday after Pope Francis said that schoolchildren are being taught they can choose their gender as part of what he called an “ideological colonization.”

Marianne Duddy-Burke, the executive director of DignityUSA, a leading organization of L.G.B.T. Catholics, said the comments represented a “dangerous ignorance” about gender identity, which is no more a choice than height or hair color.

“It’s very troubling that the pope would say this,” Ms. Duddy-Burke said on Wednesday. “It also shows that the pope doesn’t understand the danger that his words can mean for gender-nonconforming people, particularly those who live in countries with laws or cultural pressures that put these people at risk for violence.”

In his remarks, the pope said the idea of choosing gender was being taught with schoolbooks supplied by influential donors and countries.

“This is terrible,” he said, according to the transcript.

“It’s not all that clear who he’s mad at and what’s upsetting him,” said the Rev. Thomas J. Reese, a Jesuit priest and senior analyst for The National Catholic Reporter. “But there’s something underlying there. And I think it’s primarily that he feels that this kind of stuff is being pushed down their throats.”


L.G.B.T. leaders said Wednesday that the pope had failed to grasp that one’s gender identity is discovered, often at a very young age, not chosen. Ms. McBride, of the Human Rights Campaign, noted that transgender people have been a part of humanity throughout time and across cultures.

“There have been times where he’s demonstrated compassion,” she said of Francis. “Then there have been other times where his words have been not only hurtful, and frankly harmful, but really demonstrating a misunderstanding of what it means to be transgender.”