Skip to main content
No Access

Trans Formations in the Vatican’s War on “Gender Ideology”

This essay traces the Vatican’s decades-long, worldwide, multifront war on what it has come to call “gender ideology” from its very recent incarnation in Donald Trump’s United States back through its origins in the past century, highlighting the central role that concerns about transgender rights have always played for the two popes who have most directly shaped the contours of this war, Benedict XVI and Francis. Among the claims of the essay is that the conceptual apparatus behind the Vatican’s anathematization of the complex of feminist, reproductive, and LGBT rights issues it has for a quarter century lumped together as “gender ideology” was already fully developed a decade before the 1995 Beijing Conference, in the report that Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Benedict XVI, issued about the state of his Church in 1984. Another is that the papacy of Francis, far from calling a truce, has given new energy to this war. The essay explores ways in which events in their respective homelands of Germany and Argentina shaped each of the two popes’ strategies for this war and how events in the United States delayed the opening of a US home front in the war on “gender ideology” until the very recent past.