Comments by Pope Francis blasting the concept of gender fluidity have come back into the public eye after U.S. President Donald Trump announced that his administration would prohibit transgender Americans from serving in the military.
The pope's comments on gender theory came in August 2016 during a meeting on the Vatican's annual World Youth Day. The pontiff asserted before a gathering of Polish bishops that gender fluidity was being taught to children in schools.
"Today, children are taught this at school: that everyone can choose their own sex," Francis said, according to the Catholic Herald. "And why do they teach this? Because the books come from those people and institutions who give money... God created man and woman; God created the world like this and we are doing the opposite."
The pope added: "Thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation."
Francis' comments were not well-received among LGBTQ Catholics, who had previously applauded his more moderate stance towards homosexuality. Marianne Duddy-Burke of DignityUSA described the pontiff's remarks as "troubling."
"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," Duddy-Burke told The New York Times.
Human Rights Campaign spokesperson Sarah McBride noted that Francis' take on transgender people conflicted with his friendlier stance towards other LGBTQ church followers.
"There have been times where he's demonstrated compassion," McBride said. "Then there have been other times where his words have been not only hurtful, and frankly harmful, but really misunderstanding of what it means to be transgender."
Francis biographer Austen Ivereigh asserted that the pontiff's quarrel was not with transgender people but with the concept of gender fluidity.
"His view is that gender is a gift of God -- it's part of the created world," Ivereigh said. "And that gender ideology, which says that gender is something that you can choose and select, is an abstract ideology which doesn't correspond to that human reality."
Francis had been previously critical of gender fluidity. In February 2015, the pontiff lumped nuclear weapons, genetic engineering and gender theory together as threats to humanity.
"Let's think of the nuclear arms, of the possibility to annihilate in a few instants a very high number of human beings," Francis told the National Catholic Reporter. "Let's think also of genetic manipulation, of the manipulation of life, or of the gender theory, that does not recognize the order of creation. With this attitude, man commits a new sin, that against God the Creator."
There is evidence that humans have engaged in gender fluidity since early history. There are written records of transgender people existing in ancient Greece and Asia. In 1992, a scholarly study found that at least 130 different indigenous tribes accepted gender fluidity, according to HuffPost.
On July 27, Trump took to social media to announce that he would reinstate a ban against transgender service members in the military.
"Please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military," Trump tweeted out.
Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, promptly issued a memo announcing that the transgender ban would not be implemented until the military received thorough guidance from the White House, The Associated Press reports.
"In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect," Dunford said.