The Pope and the Eunuchs
“I happen to believe that you can’t study men;
you can only get to know them.”
C. S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength
If you want to cut straight to the primary propositions of this admittedly longish essay, please scroll to the section Five Important Implications for Transsexuals Arising From Pope Francis’s Remarks. The first half of this piece addresses the current gaps and problems in how transsexuality is observed in mainstream Catholic opinion pieces.
Thank you for reading: I understand the intense emotions this subject evokes.
The First of October! Weather, golden. Contrition of withered leaves cross-hatched with burnished bronze sunlight. Easily my favourite season. Favourite month even. Starting off with my favourite saint’s Feast Day!
Last Saturday morning, typing on my blog (which is a pasture of rambly reflections) the inkling urge had itched its way from idea to draft. For the first time in ages, I wanted to write: something like a tribute letter to dearest St Thérèse of Lisieux, keeper of my tears and tender of the ikebana in my heart. How I love her, even referring to the saint of collected blossoms as my “heavenly BFF“, calling out to her gaze with an unrestrained childlike confidence, through wounded singing and temperamental prayers. St T: you who led me back to the Church; you, renowned for your lack of subtlety in terms of touching souls, who continually makes appearances in times of severe struggle. The scent of a rose-wreath wrapped around an old olive cross, dripping with the tresses of petals, each a pain of penance and a scapular of patience. Doctor, mystic, author of transformative Peace.
Beginning kicked off OK: first paragraph. But typing turned into sand, and my fingers choked on their own indecision. As a petition for intercession began in my head, for St T to approach Our Lady, as the zenith of love’s simplicity, on my behalf . . . as beseeching began — panic onset. An inexpressible ache except to those who have endured the inner delirium of sexual dysmorphia. The screen went blank with buried question marks:
In heaven, would St Thérèse refer to me as “he”to the cold shoulder of angels?
Me being who I am, uncertain of my continuing status in Canon Law or pastoral concerns . . . I’ve coped with the swelter of bad science made valid through media reiterations; of bishops launching contradictory declarations on “trans people” and “gender theory”, without ever defining either; of conservadox Catholic op-eds, eager for clickiest of controversies . . . and the incessant dismissal of transsexuals as deluded, hyper sexed, and loyal to filth and confusion. Overall, impossibly wrecked to approach the altar in clear conscience. As an actual transsexual (not transgender) Catholic trying to live faithfully and authentically according to the Church teaching — attending Mass daily whilst viewing a pulpit hardwaxed and polished by unclear opinions — the dread never departs. Has all hope or blessing been breathed out, once and for all, against me, like a defective candle snuffed in the brassy dark at the votive’s unseen end?
Whatever one’s individual opinion of transsexuality/gender theory/transgenderism, the earnestly practicing trans Catholic worships from a place of divine love but also human incoherence. Poster-board priestly invectives — which filter down to ground-level pewish derision — have borrowed heavily from the manual of insulting analogies: from the denigrating, the quaintly condescending. Worst: the eschatological similes of thermonuclear war; the apocalypse of insanity; and the Devil’s culminating hatchet job on the Divine Image of God. Every time “Catholic” and “transgender” appeared together in a headline, I flinch in readiness for the next cling-wrapped rebuke. Yes, there were some voices of support for us, but the cubiclist mentality of moral opining, assuming but not stipulating formal teaching, left little room for “shades of grey” engagement.
Sympathetic clergy, religious sisters, and congenial laity communicated to me in private, but avoided open interaction. How I wish I were a normal Catholic, I sighed. Because a transsexual Catholic is best not seen and most of all not heard. Don’t ask, don’t tell. Better yet, don’t come. Yet my faith informed me that it didn’t have to be this way: splitting my head against indifference. But who is listening? The editorials chastised us as pitiable but goat-headed. The marginal body like an irritating hangnail clipped from the corpus of the church. I’ve been expecting the excommunication order to come down against us from the CDF , quis ex, and that’d be the end. Such has the rhetoric ratcheted up into unsympathetic glee: the ultimate affliction of consumerist vanity — we, the fictional quasi-women who carve our likenesses out of the salubrious gloss of magazine covers.
In reality, the Catholic transsexual is a liminal verse, in a way the 21st-century version of Matthew 19: 12’s eunuchs:
“… there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”
And then yesterday! — the Pope offered a few surprising remarks — albeit in that most misinterpreted of all Vatican genres, the mid-air free-for-all colloquium. Notably, for the very first time, his observations shook me out of my chair with cautious optimism . . . we, as a Church, seemed to finally be coming into contact: and — “HEY,” I exclaimed, “THE POPE IS SAYING WHAT I’VE BEEN TRYING TO SAY!” Spirits lifted. Genuinely
The intercession from St T came through for me: my canonical fate had not been foreclosed, and my Church was developing a more nuanced approach, one of encounter rather than dismissal . . . And maybe, just maybe — a celibate, pro-life, trying-to-be-devout transsexual women like me … that I … that I could remain in the church I truly love and consider my life’s greatest treasure — being Catholic. Pope Francis offered to walk with me, not against me.
And my tears fell with the weight of mustard seeds.
Up to this point, the topic has been an utter, shambling, gelatinous mess, causing much grief and consternation.
Plenty of combox orators are slapping up next-day retaliatory strikes. The Catholic-hating LGBT press has pre-fabricated templates ready to retort and distort anything Pope Francis says. And then over there: alt-right sites like Breitbart, who could care less about abortion and believe women to be vessels of semen disposal, pressed their wine-stained lips against computer monitors with haughty rue. The amateur apologists, quick to judge but slow to analyze, threw their manicured hands up in dismay at another Francisism that indicates a slackening of the Holy See. Add to all of that dross of the so-called “objective” press — its mix-and-match, cut/paste byline hurry — and along comes another ding-ding round of piecemeal parsing of papal remarks. None of these approaches elucidate, but pile selective readings, prejudicial definitions, and conclude with emotion-guzzling summaries. By tomorrow, expect another dozen pin-the-poison-dart-on-the-pope headlines to be making the retweet rounds by the thousands.
Of course in not one of these articles will you hear the voice of a practicing transsexual Catholic. Apparently, we don’t exist. Talk over us, not with us.
Yet! And yet! An article by Inés San Martin, who seems to be Crux’s de facto expert on all things trans, offered a more rational and sympathetic approach to transsexuality in her reporting on recent comments from Pope Francis on transsexuality and gender theory, without conflating the two, as usually happens in both secular and religious press. (Oh — and by the way, Ms San Martin — why not actually talk to some of us trans Catholics? We’re here. We want to help. And yeah I agree with the recent statements!)e
Why did the Crux article elicit such deep reserves of confidence where there had only been defeat? Because … upliftingly … for possibly the first time . . . Pope Francis was offering an analysis that overlaps almost exactly with what I am trying to accomplish in my book, The Theology the Marginal Body. And what I mean by that is not some pride of unexpected consensus, but an awareness that the Pontiff was working steadily to become more informed, more approachable, and more discerning in how he understood transsexuality as opposed to gender theory. All the gusts from of my garrulous tongue-scroll couldn’t match the very simple proposition that is essential to moving forward: support transsexuals, question ‘gender theory’.
Couldn’t applaud louder. Yes.
If you’re still reading this far (god bless you: I’m an author/theologian, not a journalist), then let me offer this explicit #ProTip: rather than rely on interpretation and reaction (mine include) —
What is beginning to happen? Path-forming preliminary approaches to the pastoral attention of transsexual Catholics has entered mainstream discussion. Of course, the Pope’s handlers will be busy today, trying to demystify the grapevine hearsay converted into tabloid clickbait, as well as those who continually mutter about “Pope Francis Catholics”, as if codeword for “We might as well be Anglican”. Some are already accusing the Holy Father of ignorance of Canon Law! But for all that, I, like Zacchaeus falling arse backward from a tree and landing at the feet of Our Lord, view an opportunity to be offer my witness and testimony as a transsexual Catholic woman, one who is more fulfilled through faith than flagellated by it. Because this has been desperately lacking, in what they do and what they fail to do (as reporters): to allow candid, honest responses from a transsexual Catholic, one trying to live her faith authentically.
And in the Pope’s most recent comments — I read several moments of affirmation that, with time, and patience and cooperation (from trans and non-trans faithful) … there still remains the Christian compromise of a merciful, rational, common ground for transsexual inclusion. This matters because Pope Francis’s insights become recirculated as semi-pronouncements (however unofficial) and will filter through diocesan discretion and into the intersubjective life of the congregations. From person to person, encountering each other at Mass, as co-pilgrims calloused and climbing towards the Face of Christ.
Such promisory hints couldn’t have come at a better time. Finding a church in my residence in the Bay Area has been very difficult. And how much I recall my old church in Vancouver! Fortunate and blessed, I had fallen into dear fellowship with the most unassuming coffee clutch of older ladies who took me into their circle of chocolate, coffee, mass cards, and phone calls — when I was depressed, in hospital, looking for work, needing a hug (or several). Catholic women discussing Catholic womanhood. Never prying into each others lives, the constancy of their friendship — and the models of devotion and commitment to the sacraments that they encouraged in me. Sunday afternoons of cherished hour-glass sand of community and commiseration. Their unspoken but understood assurance that they accepted Aoife. Assumpta. Without question marks, sacristy gossip, or any moment of disrespect. Friends, sisters in Christ, followers walking alongside to Benediction and perhaps a bit of cake afterward: Pope Francis’s exhortations as every day deeds. Gladdened, welcomed, included. Never did I sit alone at Mass. And I miss them dearly, praying for their needs with several beads on the rosary reserved for their names.
Through the same Spirit, however, transsexual Catholics must gratefully exhibit both obedience and patience. For my part, I followed the pronouncements on restrictions for liturgical participation: following CDF instructions, I turned down many requests in order to spare my coreligionists potential embarrassment. Said no to sponsoring a girl for her confirmation, “I wish I could, but . . .” to an RCIA candidate. Any ministerial position — lectionary reading — I declined. And other than playing harp for Easter mass, I hid in the back pew clinging to the unobtrusive, so as not to bring distress to the parish or to the Eucharistic celebration.
A recent essay in Alteia offered an assessment that many of us know too well: our Catholic houses of God are infamously aloof. But my (ehm) ‘situation’ dramatically doubles-down the uncertainty factor. It’s been a year. Moving to Silicon Valley. An awkward nerd, I know — but I’ve not made a single friend here. Every service is solitary and sometimes threatening. One heartbreaking highlight involved an entire family refusing to offer me “the sign of peace” — they acted as if I had an invisibility cloak on, after the mother of the clan was done with unabashed side-pew staring. Whether it’s because she clocked me or I just look ugly, freaky — I don’t know. But God, the hurt. And as for that typical conduit for meeting church chums? Well, I’ve been afraid to sign up for any voluntary work, lest my name get googled and I’m outed. That a priest would take abuse for even allowing me to be there.
Church searching has not found me a home, but a disappointing shuffle. Of course many Catholics — persons with disabilities, the chronically ill, and other marginalized persons — find attending Mass not only difficult as a physical act, but a spoon-draining social exercise that can leave one more depressed on exit than entrance. In my chapel-satchel, as I call it, my necessities include a missal, mantilla, rosary, and a few tablet of klonopin : to cope with possible ostracization and, worse, the dread that this service will be the one where I’m called out and chucked out, by congregational decree or a priest’s calculation. Go in peace, walk home broken.
The never-ending misrepresentation of who transsexuals are and what transsexuality is — and dogmatic presumptions as to how we consider the condition of our biological sex — exacerbates my concerns, as if my presence has been pre-ordained to denial. Yet I keep attending, rehearsing reassurances to myself — “He is happy that you’re here.” And laying an intention before the Cross that the opportunity for dialogue, of encountering each other, has not been lost to the black sigils of faith-foreclosed through prejudice.
And this is why I wept (yes, I cry a lot — bullies in secondary school played a game to see how often they could make me bawl: not a particularly onerous challenge). Relieved and renewed with a few words from his holiness that I was not banished. That I am also a Catholic: weak, struggling, weighed by my own sins and indecisions. Me. Aoife. Yes, a transsexual Catholic, one who also may taste the crust of bread taken through the sanctity of His name and the eternality of His sacrifice: the food of eternal life.
Five Important Implications for Transsexuals Arising From Pope Francis’s Remarks
(1) Transsexuality is not the same as gender theory: support transsexuals, question gender theory
FINALLY! I COULDN’T AGREE MORE! Wow, the Pope came out in favour of us TruScum!
But seriously — if I had to cite which question earnest Catholic journalists most frequently ask me — it’s all right there . . . what is transsexuality, how is it different from transgender, and what the heck has gender theory (other than the invention of ultra-liberal American academics seeking six-figure tenure of the 1990s) got to do with it?
Well, and I’d love to chat with him about it — but the Pope’s recent observations articulated, for the first time, a demarcation that had, alarmingly, been lost in the muddle of coat-pile definitions and ad hoc nomenclature.
Transsexuality and “gender theory” are different. Very different. To explicate that would be a subject for another long post. But transsexuality can be understood — indeed, must be understood — as a distinct medical construction with clinically observed treatment protocols (ones that are beneficial, but not perfect) enacted to bring relief to the extreme psychiatric distress of sex dysmorphia, a clinical condition with specific symptoms.
Transsexuality is not synonymous with the political theatre and Cartesian idealism of “gender voluntarianism” or “gender theory”. (Although gender theory activism is seeking to eliminate all medical, psychiatric, and clinical oversight in favour of a choose your own adventure approach to identity labels, hormone cocktails, and false-consciousness about bodily integrity). Most of all, gender theory rejects sex (matter) and enshrines gender (ideation) — and it’s increasingly being taught (indoctrinated) to children as young as four, leading to an almost inconceivable level of kids getting transferred to “gender affirmation clinics”, based on toy preferences, personality predispositions, or in a boy a penchant for dresses.
To be sure — as all self-absorbed ideologues claim — transgenderists deny that transgenderism (gender theory) is an ideology. But any persistent research (and questioning, which they really don’t like) shows quite the opposite. See here for a handy crash-course on what gender theorists are actually preaching demonstrates. (Quick aside to those interested in the debate: 4thWaveNow is a good resource for scholarly research, first hand accounts, and other important missing voices (especially detransitioned females) that gender theorists hate to acknowledge. Contributors include clinical psychologists, parents of detransitoned and scarred former “trans” kids, and other critics of gender theory who are labelled “bigot” for pointing out that a uterus is classified as female biology.
Gender theorists juggle their jargon spontaneously, and it can be hard to pin down their shifting dialect. I do intend to develop this much more fully in my next book, but a brief précis must suffice:
Gender theory is an anti-materialist philosophy with many consistent, identifiable tenets, the rejection of any them likely to the SJW shame-badge of “piece of sh!t”, “TERF”, “self-hating quisling” (as I’ve been called), or “genital obsessed reductionist”. Here are a few of the distinctive claims that gender theory unequivocally proclaims
- sexual dimorphism (male/female couplings) as foundational to human anthropology is actually a myth, an elaborate fabulism, and that overused phrase “social construct”. The binary is a cisnormative conspiracy to hide the wondrous possibility that there is no sex, but rather an entire spectrum of “genders”. (Intersex individuals are usually called upon as evidence of this, which is both misleading and doesn’t cover up the continuum fallacy that underscores all of gender theory thinking.)
- therefore, “male” and “female” bodies do not exist as stable, universal classifications. What we previously knew as the facticity of corporeal sex, sexuation, and sexual difference are cultural fictions when, in fact, we are autonomous gender-inventors capable of changing at will. IE: If you want to be a girl, just say you’re a girl, or click a mouse button. Simple, isn’t it? Super Cartesian: I feel; therefore, I am.
- Rather than acquiring gender identity, as a socialized self-concept emergent through peer pressure and parental influence — gender theorists believe “identity” is a consistent, innate, a priori, non-observable fact that is immediately realizable and declarable by children as young as two. (A male toddler grabbing a pink blanket is cited as incontrovertible evidence). Explanations for this inner GenderSelfhood range from “female brain” canards to “the autonomy of the imagination” to “It’s who I am and only I get to say who I am”. Regardless of whatever acausal explanation presented, gender operates and exists wholly transcendent from the physical self, and de facto overrules and overrides the circumstances of corporeal embodiment and anatomical realities. Men can get pregnant. Women have penises. And there are as many genders as there are labels to invent to reify them.
- Gender identity above all else. Identity is a self-declared, non evidence-based, criteria-less internal Truth that cannot be questioned, but only affirmed and validated through whatever calibrations are necessary to sustain the identarian authoritarianism. (See, for example, the attempt to ban “male” and “female” as oppressive words not fit for college campuses. See also that the ultimate semiotic of the phantom fields of identity — pronouns — must be honoured, lest one be accused of attempted murder. While using preferred pronouns is a gesture of respect, one can’t forget the underlying moral equivocation: a woman is anyone who says she/they/zir is a woman. Female is a label of convenient self-possession.
- Children, already immersed far too early in the morass of pornography and sexualization, are being inculcated with the notion that gender is a free-floating signifier to be claimed merely by rhetoric of declaration. For example, young “trans boys” (many of whom will probably desist later in life) can buy trainee “packing” dildos to wear to school.
- Gender identity is an infallible proclamation, regardless of current physical circumstances, and the only basis for determining “male”, “female”, “demi-male”, “non binary”, and all the other genders available for the picking. The real-world impact of this ideology is apparent: sex-based protections specifically set aside for biological females (and there are no “biological females” in gender theory) must give way to the capricious instability of gender politics. In short, gender mentalism is real; sexuated physicality , that males and females are … different … is a hoax perpetuated by overlords of the skin.
- Notably, feminists — well aware of how the application of ad hoc terminology consistently works to marginalize women — have called out the misogyny that underscores these “mind over matter” dictums that obliterate female privacy.
I could go on — but even a preliminary sketch reveals the total opposition between gender theory and Catholic bioethics, most fully explicated in the treatise of religious phenomenology that currently guides much church thinking, St Pope John Paul II’s The Theology of the Body.
(2) “He was a she who is now a he”
In this quote, Pope Francis describes his pleasant meeting with a transsexual man and describes his understanding of his existence as one of ontological change through medical intervention: that is, the physical and social transition of diagnostical transsexuality and current research literature on the effective therapeutic treatment for sex dysmorphia — the real but rare psychiatric condition of having a mental or neurological schematic of being in one kind of sexed body, but actually existing in the opposite, leading to excruciating and traumatizing mental unwellness that has been globally documented. For the transsexual, gender is far less relevant than the insoluble awareness that, yes, one is actually a physical sex and this results in excruciating, self-destructive trauma. It is because the transsexual has an awareness that sexual differentiation is real and inescapable that he or she seeks out methods of alteration: cross-sex (not cross-gender) hormones; sexual reassignment surgery; and a desire to live and blend in as a member of the preferred sex according to secondary, external signifiers.
Pope Francis stipulates that supporting “gender theory” as a flawed master narrative of the “end of man and woman” is not the same as the transsexual’s painful confrontation with embodiment and its sexuated inescapability.
His Holiness is both honouring this man’s pronouns, yes, but by using the accurate (if simplistic) “He is now; she was then” — he addresses how medicine enables a sort of corporeal transformation, as well as phenomenological resituation. The prior anatomical, hormonal, and interpersonal configuration cannot be entirely supplanted; however, for the purposes of healing and therapy, a new category of the transsexed body has meaningful, life-saving implications. (If a transsexual could just swear a public oath on gender change, then why the necessity of — say, in my case — lifelong estrogen (a female sex hormone) and the dermatological origami that fashioned my simulacrum of the external appearance of female genitalia. By the way, during a recent USCIS medical inspection, including a full body exam, the doctor has no idea I was trans — so the whole “chop off” or “mutilate” insults are bunk.
Compare the Pope’s honest narrative of transition and remnant with what gender theorists would tell us: he was always he, never a she; he is always and always will be a he. Think about that: it’s retroactively been decided that the bearded lads who directed The Matrix Trilogy were in fact women at the time, a rather insulting claim to actual women trying desperately to have their films produced during that same era. Gender theory is thus anti-chronological and revisionary to the point of concretized illusion.
Rejecting such solipsism (as do I), Pope Francis deliberately avoids the cloying and insipid fairy tale of “always ways”, preferring (as do I) a pastorally sensitive reckoning of transsexuality as a complex interface of medicine, technology, and mental health in which, to some extent, a woman can “become” a man, but in a particular classificatory fashion. Transsexuals are transsexuals and there’s nothing wrong with that. Pope Francis clearly articulates we deserve reasoned understanding as human persons who have availed ourselves of contemporary medical technology, with a rational contemplation of what is possible, and what isn’t, when we speak of “changing sexes”.
Notably, also, like his predecessor on issues of human sexuation, St Paul VI, Pope Francis avoids direct condemnation of SRS but offers, instead, a humanizing reckoning with what the procedure entails and why one would seek it.
But most importantly — in such a simple line of acknowledge, Pope Francis was in fact humanizing us.
Let’s face it: the trans trend, with its hornet next hum of antagonism, has been poorly served by our self-appointed (and photogenically pixel stamped) “spokespeople”. Almost invariably handpicked from the entertainment industry, or in the case of children by the publicity promotionalism of parents, they always serve up the same optical veneration of idealized womanhood. Gender theory is idolatry, the unattainable quest for the perfection of the impressive facsimile (whilst sermonizing on “authentic self” and “true soul”). Transition videos, “cute trans kid” viral photo contests, perhaps soon beauty pageants, the curiosity and voyeurism of the well-cast cantrip.
And the marketing follows: hot topics mean vanity patents, and a dose of social cachet and financial capital for those with the self-promotional know-how. The other representation is just as silly and extreme — the bellicose and belligerent bullies who play shell games with research abstracts and retreat into condemnation rather than communication are no better. Like the Newman Society expecting me to use the male toilet when I give a lecture at Notre Dame (despite my female birth certificate and that the plumbing in such a space isn’t suited to how I pee now).
Pope Francis’s way is pastoral — which is what transsexual persons most need in our dialogue with the church to move toward mutual cooperation through understanding, guided by a Christ-centred commitment. As his Holiness explained, “People must be accompanied as Jesus accompanies them, when a person who has this condition arrives before Jesus, Jesus surely doesn’t tell them ‘go away’ . . .”
Far from some variation on progressive politics, such is a perfectly sound, Gospel-inspired command to walk with transsexuals as we undergo these procedures, in which patience from both sides (yes, we transsexuals need to be patient and understanding in turn) is imperative to inclusion.
(3) “We don’t know what causes this, approach is mercy”
Pope Francis is correct: we do not know what causes transsexuality, and there is an emergent contrarianism in the scholarly community about effective approaches. This deliberation especially impacts children — for whom the Pope expresses distinct concern — being rapidly inducted into a tumblr-esque body-politic of “anything goes” and non-stop televised glamorization of what is, by all accounts, a very difficult manner of existing.
Sexual dysmorphia is a thoroughly documented phenomenon, but the etiology uncertain; the recommend hormonal and surgical treatments are extreme, invasive, life altering, and full of side effects we are only just starting to comprehend. But we know they work, and that the other “treatment” — conversion therapy — amounts to torture.
But when Pope Francis is cautious about treatment — as any potential patient should be — one need only think of how high detransition rates have already commenced, and in five or ten years many twitter-trained genderists may be having second thoughts and blaming (even suing) a permissive system of depathologization that views genital reconfiguration as a normal variant of gender expression — voluntary, and unnecessary, unless you want it (which makes it cosmetic). Indeed, most transgender women retain their male anatomy — sometimes because of circumstantial problems, more often for the purely libidinal.
Such an understanding is not that of the transsexual, and is in fact in disagreement with gender ideology’s permissive whimsy in phantasmalizing the body as an object of imaginative fashioning.
But here’s an important point: in this welter of misinformation, Pope Francis neither denies the transsexual’s suffering, nor dismisses the necessity of experienced medical oversight — thus, in doing so, he emphasizes the pastoral approach to the transsexual person of faith, in which mercy and understanding must cooperate with common sense and natural law.
(4) Transsexuals and the Eucharist
By way of explication, his Holiness refers to two priests and their administration of the blessed sacrament. The first, in denying the Eucharist, called upon the vagaries of Canon Law to condemn to “hell” the transsexual Catholic’s petition to partake of the most holy Corpus Christi. In contrast, the Pontiff references another clergyman who, much preferably, extended a Christly welcome to the transsexual, as well as counselling, about how she could reintegrate in the Church. The cleric sensitively (and mercifully) provided advice that, at the end of the day, could easily apply to any Catholic returning to the church, regardless of personal background: make a good general confession to restore a proper disposition for approaching the tabernacle, and after that … well, “take this all of you and eat it.” And this transsexual person regularly receives the Bread of Life, thanks be to God.
For me, and my faith life — this bit from all of yesterday’s insights stood out for me most with spirit-lifting implication.
Transsexuals are not barred from receiving the sacraments of reconciliation or the Eucharist by virtue of being medically transsexual.
Given the consternation (and guilt) so many of us feel in partaking of the sacrifice of the Mass, the pastoral inclusivity that Pope Francis has begun to sketch out in addressing our circumstances indicates a welcome, rather than rejection. Transsexual people must be able to attend Mass without fear of impromptu exorcisms from judgemental parishioners. The Pope is beginning to explicate that undergoing medical treatment for transsexuality is not a mortal sin in and of itself, but a psychosexual conundrum, part of the fallen human character, in light of what the psychological sciences have sought to bring: more purposeful and accurate understanding. And faith and pastoral care needs to be a part of that.
(5) Discerning cooperation through encounter, reflection, and Christly accompaniment
Christ wouldn’t misgender us, so why should a priest? The message of the Gospel, and its exhortation to commit to encounter fully and sincerely, in charity, above and beyond social prejudices — such is to walk with Christ — and to walk with Christ is to be a companion to others.
We need to walk together. We have much to offer our Church as transsexuals.
Celibate, pro-life in all forms, attentive to the Magisterium — and not ashamed of what I have done in order to deal with a life-threatening mental health issue . . . I am not denying “the truth of my sex”; rather, I seek to confront the truth of my sex through analyzing its liberations and limitations as a marginal, transsexed body. I do not deny my prior maleness, nor its remnants. I affirm that I exist, and my day to day encounters confirm this, as socially formed in the category of woman. I have many things in common with my female friends, but my femaleness (as produced through hormonal adaptation and such) is different. We must acknowledge and respect these difference, not out of malice but as a policy of Catholic discernment.
The magnificence of the The Theology of the Body is that it is not a static formula, only intended to address a limited scope of middle-class problems and status quo personhood. Instead, I believe most firmly that the true philosophical genius of St Pope John Paul’s phenomenological Catholicism can be expanded and developed through exploration and dialogue with the contemporary, emergent bioethics of medical care and marginal bodies. And that includes me: transsexual — not born female, yet living as a woman, of a sort, nonetheless — a miraculous healing. Liberated, while humbly recognizing past and future contextual formations.
St Thérèse reminds me: “Holiness consists in doing God’s will, and being what God wants us to be.”
God — and I know this through discernment, and in the capacity to praise, where before there was only anger at heaven — recognizes me as I am . . . closer to Him presently than I ever did before transition. To have remained in that suicidal “before”? — where, with statistical certainty, I would be dead had I not received appropriate diagnosis and care? — not possible. This, I wish, my fellow Catholics would comprehend.
“She who was he and now is a she.” As that woman, who once was a man (sort of), who does her best, surviving with a traumatic medical condition and, through the transformative glory of Christ, truly found the ultimate fullness and fulfillment in my transition through the Church . . . . that’s my testimony, and it’s all I got. So I applaud the direction our beloved Pope Francis has initiated — calling out … begging … dear Holy Father, you can hear the continuous plea that I, too, want to be part of the body of Christ. I’m here. I’m with you.
(Note: epigraph suggested by my big brother in Christ, and sincere co-treader of the Catholic path, @MattGutting. Thank you, Matt, for believing in me as your sister in Faith.)
October 1st, Feast Day of St Therese of Lisieux (my heavenly BFF)