August 26, 2012

He/she: who's that sitting in your church pew?

There's a transgender "woman" who attends our (Catholic) church.  I can tell that she tries very hard to appear womanly, but shapely legs aside, it's pretty obvious that she was born a male.  She prefers animal prints and mini-skirts and big hair.  Long nails, stilettos, and sunglasses indoors.  She is very glamorous.  And she always sits alone.

Not really her, but close.

It makes me proud that she feels comfortable in our church.  I'm sure there are other churches where she'd likely be asked to leave.  I have gay male friends who once loved their churches, but as they got older and more comfortable with themselves, they got less comfortable at their churches.  My friend John told me that he can't attend a church that doesn't support his lifestyle. 

That never made sense to me, because we are ALL sinners.  Church pews are full of sinners.  So are church pulpits and choir chairs and revival tents and evangelist tour buses.  Sinners are made up of heterosexuals, homosexuals, bisexuals, asexuals, and metrosexuals! 

The Church does not support sin, it's true.  But it does support sinners in our walk with God.

To me, that means that everyone who wants to attend should be welcome at church.

And no one should have to sit alone.


"Why are you calling a biological man she?" you ask.

I know.  It's confusing. 

I have a transgender uncle (aunt?) whose name is now Carol.  I only saw my dad's side of the family about once a year growing up, so I didn't really know my Uncle Charlie.  When I was introduced to Carol as an adult, I only knew that he (she) had fathered my cousin.  I saw Carol as a man in woman's clothes.  I didn't know the difference between someone who is transgender and someone who is a transvestite (a cross-dresser).

What I've learned since is that transgender folks feel that they were "assigned" the wrong sex.  Males in body feel like females on the inside, and vice versa.  It doesn't have to be about sexual attraction at all.  "Trans women" (male-to-female) may still be interested in women.  Or they may be attracted to men, but not consider themselves to be gay because they feel that they are really women. 

Is your head spinning yet?

My dad's side of the family told me that we refer to Carol as a "she" out of respect to her personhood.  It's hard enough to be transgender outside of the family.  Family should be a safe haven. 

At first I balked at this.  I jokingly referred to Carol as my Aunt Charlie or Uncle Carol.  Har har har!  It's easy to joke when the pain is not ours.  Carol was barred from her son's wedding.  She doesn't know her grandchildren.  That is the price she is paying for not being who people think she should be.

When I think of it that way, it makes it easier understand that this is not a choice that Carol is making.  Who would choose to be an outcast?  A joke?

Someone who sits alone at church? 


  1. This makes me proud of you. Thinking of that woman alone made me sad until I read this. I didnt see the other side of it. That she felt welcome in God's house. I'm so glad. (Dani's mom)

  2. The first church I've considered even visiting in the past two (or three?) years is the "gay church" where we go to do karaoke, because they are loving, serving, giving and selfless.

    I have seen soooooooo much selfishness, self absorption, hypocrisy in my 20-30 years of church to the point that I just came to a point where I didn't believe half of what I was being "taught". We jumped around to churches, thinking it was just "this church" or "that church" until we realized it just wasn't a fit for us at all. At this point, I'm not sure what I believe.

  3. Judgemental people in church, judgemental churches make me ill. The hypocrisy of it all makes me ill. It was one of the many things that drove us from church altogether. I've read several fantastic articles on this subject that have restored my faith in humanity at least a little, and I'm definitely with you on this.

  4. You're a good soul, girl...and I've missed you!
    I'm always astonished people think someone would CHOOSE to make their lives harder, lose family and friends, just to be Who They Are.

  5. Everyone should have somewhere they can go to fill their soul where they feel accepted for who and what they are. So many churches seem to miss this point. Your church sounds like a wonderful environment for anyone!

  6. Churches are full of sinners and hypocrites... b/c churches are full of people- and all people are that in some way. But you'd think people would be more accepting.

  7. I'm overjoyed that this person feels safe at your church, even if she does sit alone. I hope that's just temporary. She is so very brave for being open about who she is.