In June, Sr. Jeannine Gramick, a co-founder of New Ways Ministry, gave a presentation at an international conference for Latino/a families with LGBT members, in Lima, Peru. While she went there to talk about faith and LGBT issues, she herself received lesson in humanity’s diversity.
She shared this lesson in a National Catholic Reporter article entitled “Becoming the Person God Wants Us to Be.” She begins with the story of Isaac Gomez, a trans man, and his family that she met in Peru. Isaac, who was born biologically female, knew from an early age that he was a boy, and his family supported his identity, especially when things got rough during adolescence:
“Always a cheerful and kind child, Isaac must have had some experience or pushback around the age of 12 that prompted him to say he would henceforth be a girl. He did not want to be a freak, he said. Why did God make a mistake, he asked? Monica wondered where he got these notions — certainly not from his parents and siblings. All his grandparents, although traditional Catholics, loved and accepted Isaac as a boy…
“After many family discussions and extensive consultation with health professionals, Isaac began hormone treatment at age 13 to transition to a biological male. His name was now consistently Isaac and male pronouns were constantly used. The following year there was surgery for a double mastectomy. Further constructive surgeries followed. Now 19 years of age, Isaac is a handsome, well-adjusted and intelligent young man attending university. Except for that one tumultuous year, Isaac continues to be the cheerful person he was as a child.”
For over four decades, Sr. Jeannine has advocated for gay and lesbian people, and now includes the experiences of trans people like Isaac into her ministry. Her questions start within the LGBT community’s diversity, but her answers contain lessons for everyone. Sr. Jeannine writes:
“I find myself reflecting on [Isaac’s] story long after the conference. Why do we call people freaks? What is normal? How do we know what God wants us to be? What is there in each of us that makes us want to be the same as others? Or at least, if not the same, what makes us want to belong or fit in, to feel like an insider, not an outsider?…
“The longing to belong lies deep in the heart of each human being. We want desperately to connect, to feel part of the whole. The greatest suffering, I believe, is a feeling of abandonment, of isolation, of not belonging. It is the overwhelming pain of rejection that Jesus experienced on the cross as he cried out, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’
“I find myself praying for a society where we see with the eye of our soul that differences are gifts that enrich the human family, where diversity is considered a blessing by which we can learn from each other. God’s imagination does not make cookie-cutter human beings. I want to work for the day when we are all insiders, unique in our identities and grateful for who God created us to be.”
Yet, the question remains of how people can know what God is callinng them to and how they are to answer that call:
“I believe the answer lies deep in our hearts. God uses our feelings and attractions, our desires and longings, our abilities and disabilities, our likes and dislikes to point us in the direction God wants. In the sanctuary of our souls, where we are alone with God, we find God’s affirmation of who we are to be.
“Just as one’s conscience must be obeyed, even against any political or ecclesiastical authority, so too one must become the person God intends, despite social acceptance or rejection, because it is this becoming that constitutes the very dignity of the human person.
As her conclusion, Sr. Jeannine offers the following lesson she learned:
“Isaac teaches me that it takes great moral courage and integrity to become the person God intends us to be, and that family is leaven for a good life.”
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry