Integrating my mind and body was an authentic mid-life transition that many who knew me supported and even called courageous, inspiring, and ethical. But in the eyes of the 99.9% of people who are blessed to have their gender and sex match, this uniquely personal act has been seen as a political statement, a psychological disorder, a character flaw, a weakness, a perversion, and a sin.
In the 17 years since my transition I have become active in working for equality of people of all genders and find many in the LGBT community question my Catholic identity. Many seem to believe that being transgender and Catholic is incompatible. I believe that reconciliation is the mission of religion so I have researched church policy on transgender people for the past 2 years.In the Catholic Church, as a transsexual woman, I don’t officially exist. Officially, the Catholic Church does not have a public policy on the range of gender expression, but considering their policies on gay men, lesbian women, divorced women, women priests, and women who abort, perhaps I should count myself as lucky that this is the case.
But the unfortunate reality is that, like in most churches, the Catholic hierarchy defers to the most socially conservative views concerning sexuality in an effort to maintain its aging power structure. In contrast, in a recent survey, lay American Catholics, who have learned well that Jesus always cared for the marginalized, show overwhelming support for the protection of transgender people. (“Strong Majorities Favor Rights and Legal Protections for Transgender People,” Public Religion Research Institute, November 3, 2011, http://publicreligion.org/newsroom/2011/11/news-release-strong-majorities-favor-rights-and-legal-protections-for-transgender-people/ )
The popular assumption is that, as a transsexual person, I can expect to be treated poorly by the institutional church hierarchy. Unfortunately, this assumption is borne out in recent news reports of a Vatican document secretly sent to bishops, and by the Pope’s own words. As Jeff Israely reports in a 2008 Time magazine article:
Without actually using the word, Benedict took a subtle swipe at those who might undergo sex-change operations or otherwise attempt to alter their God-given gender. Defend “the nature of man against its manipulation,” Benedict told the priests, bishops and cardinals gathered . . . .“The Church speaks of the human being as man and woman, and asks that this order is respected.” The Pope again denounced the contemporary idea that gender is a malleable definition. That path, he said, leads to a “self-emancipation of man from creation and the Creator.”
(Jeff Israely, “The Pope’s Christmas Condemnation of Transsexuals,” Time, December 23, 2008, http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1868390,00.html)
Respecting the order of men and women is very important to an organization that is controlled solely by persons of one gender. Consider, however, that the Creator does make transsexual (mind/body incongruity) and inter-sexed (anatomic incongruity) people, and that medical science can allow us to lead more normal lives alongside the 99.9% of people who have such trouble understanding these variations. Beyond anatomy, rigid gender stereotyping is important to a controlling patriarchy. For those who seek to maintain patriarchal power, accepting any transgender expression (e.g., cross-dressers, transvestites, drag queens, drag kings, androgynous, bigendered, and gender-queer people) is unacceptable for organizational justification, not a question of morality.
Excerpt from:Mother, Father, Brother, Sister, Husband, and Wife by Hilary Howes
an article in-
More than a Monologue Sexual Diversity and the Catholic Church:
Volume I: Voices of Our Times
Christine Firer Hinze and J. Patrick Hornbeck, editors