Catholic Essays Sexuality

When Colleen Fay of Mount Rainier, Maryland, came out as transgender 12 years ago to her parish music director, she was fired from her position on the choir.

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In 2017, Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest, wrote “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBTQ Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity,” a book that affirmed LGBTQ Catholics and received praise from several bishops as well as members of the LGBTQ community for advancing the conversation on this topic.

The new document talks about gender and transgender people in a less polemical way than the church has done previously.

For most transgender people, transgenderism can be more accurately defined as “experiencing as given a gender different from the gender associated with your sex as identified at birth.” It’s disappointing that they’re writing out of ignorance about the actual lived experiences and thoughts of trans and intersex folks, but it was a gentler and less condemnatory document than others I’ve read.

Their advice about listening was good; they just have to take it.

To feel relief at my mother’s being dead was once unthinkable, but then the news came from Ireland. An immigrant’s daughter, my mother lived with an eye cast back to the old country, the land against which she measured every virtue.

Ireland was heaven to her, and the Catholic Church was heaven’s choir. Not long before The Boston Globe began publishing its series on predator priests, in 2002—the “Spotlight” series that became a movie of the same name—the government of Ireland established a commission, ultimately chaired by Judge Sean Ryan, to investigate accounts and rumors of child abuse in Ireland’s residential institutions for children, nearly all of which were run by the Catholic Church.I’ve decided not to read it because I know it is not going to change my mind about how I live my life.I’ve been a better place emotionally recently, and know that reading it would only upset me.But its conclusion has not been received favorably by trans Catholics; it says that Catholic schools must help teach young people that gender is fixed at birth.According to the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Vatican office that released the document, “gender theory” has misled people to think that gender is different from biological sex.The past few years have seen a rapid increase in conversations about LGBTQ Catholics within the church — the Vatican used the acronym LGBT for the first time in June of last year, in a document written for a meeting of bishops in Rome.In a final version of the document, the acronym was removed.(Pope Francis, for example, has in the past compared arguments for transgender rights to those for nuclear weapons.) It dedicates a section to “Listening” and “Points of Agreement” that concedes that “unjust discrimination” has been “a sad fact of history” and has taken place within the church. [Name changed to protect identity.] There is no evidence in this document that its authors have spent any time listening to transgender or intersex people.But it also reiterates views that the pope and the US bishops has expressed which characterize transgender people as “choosing” their gender on gender, which themselves have been called transphobic and discriminatory by some trans Catholics. “Gender identity” is not about choosing which gender you would rather be, but noticing which gender you already are, as a gift given to you by God.“Oscillation between male and female becomes, at the end of the day, only a ‘provocative’ display against so-called ‘traditional frameworks’, and one which, in fact, ignores the suffering of those who have to live situations of sexual indeterminacy,” the authors write.The announcement comes at a time when trans people’s rights are under threat on a national level.

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