Getting to Know Transgender People

Transgender symbol, a combination of the male ...

Transgender Symbol: A combination of the male sign, female sign, and a third arm representing transgender people

Lately at New Ways Ministry, we have been receiving more and more questions about transgender people than we have in the past.  This trend is probably the result of the fact that transgender people are only recently becoming more visible in mainstream society.

The good news is that part of that visibility is coming from the fact that more and more states, counties, and municipalities are enacting laws to protect the civil rights of transgender people.  The sad news is that some of that visibility is coming from media attention to the fact that violence (some times fatal) against transgender people is rampant.

A Christmas Day article by social worker and sex educator Amy Johnson that appeared in a Pacific Northwest newspaper very clearly addressed some introductory questions about transgender people. In particular are the distinctions she makes between biological sex, gender, and gender roles.

What initially caught my eye about this article was the title:  “Can transgender people pray?’  When Johnson learned that a friend of hers was asked that question, her response was:

“How much work do we have to do in our culture when anyone — anyone! — wonders if they are even allowed to pray?

“My friend put together a request for those who were willing to share a prayer. To read the responses, go here (

The prayers on that site are beautiful and worth a moment or two of reflection.

Another transgender resource has recently crossed my desktop.  JJ Marie Gufreda, a Catholic transgender woman recently published a book,  Lefthander in London: A Field Guide to Transgenders, Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals – In the Family, On the Job and In the Pew.  The book offers some handy and homey advice for people who are just learning about transgender people.

Finally, at New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium, From Water to Wine:  Lesbian and Gay Catholics and Relationships, we will be offering a focus session on transgender issues entitled “Accidental Lesbians:  Catholic Marriage Through a Gender Change.”  It will be led by Celestine and Hilary Ranney-Howes, who have been married for 33 years.

A quick reminder:  the early bird registration fee deadline for the Symposium is December 31, 2011 (postmarked), so please be sure to sign up soon to get the discount!  You can get more information and register online by visiting New Ways Ministry’s website.

If you are perplexed about this issue, take the advice that Amy Johnson offers at the conclusion of her article mentioned above:

“You may think you don’t need to know about this, or that it doesn’t affect you. As you look forward to the New Year, I challenge you to learn more about the people behind this issue — their stories, their pain, their triumphs.

“Instead of standing in judgment or confusion, take a chance and walk with them.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

0 replies
  1. California Catholic
    California Catholic says:

    Very interesting & *very* informative! I admit the experience of Transgendered persons is not one always thought of. But it ought to be for they too bare the Imago Dei. As an aside, I wonder what impact the witness of transgendered people might have upon the cause for inclusive language, as concerns both Scriptural and liturgical translations? I can remember about a decade ago Catholic ethicist Dr. Christine Gudorf giving an excellent presentation at a Call To Action conference, in which she noted that the experience of those who are transgendered, intersexed, & other degrees of variation in sexual orientation, posed a major challenge to traditional feminism, as well as institutional Catholicism. She argued that feminism, like the hierarchy, would have to rethink its traditional categories of understanding sexual differentation in the human experience — revamping those categories beyond gay and lesbian, as well as male and female.

  2. colleenteresa
    colleenteresa says:

    Dear Ones,
    Just call me “la invisibilita” because as a transsexual Catholic lesbian I don’t exist — as far as official Church teaching goes. Let’s not mince words: the Catholic Church does not recognize the existence of transgender people in general or transsexuals in particular. Honey, since it says male on my Baptismal Certificate, then if I die tomorrow, Dear Mother Church will bury me as a man. Even a sensitive moral theologian I know, can’t even bear to address me in my real gender. How’s that for invisibility? Transsexuals can’t even get in the door of the church! So when it comes to recognizing the “rights” we trans folks are entitled to, let’s make simple, basic recognition our first priority. Second, although we’re the “T” in LGBT, many gay men have just as much trouble dealing with transsexual women as straight men do. If we’re going to try to evangelize the church on LGBT issues, let’s evangelize ourselves first. I could go on, but let me end with this question: are we really acknowledging the “thou” of Martin Buber’s “I-Thou” relationship, or are we just giving it lip service?
    I may be “la invisibilita,” but you can call me
    Colleen Fay


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