Canadian television program 16×9 recently profiled two transgender youth. With one, named Tracey Wilson, a girl, the segment revealed just how deep parents’ love can be and how they often become their child’s advocates in hostile Catholic communities.
Tracey, who was born biologically male and originally named Trey, was unique from a young age according to her parents. Trey presented as a girl in public, as well as with family and friends, and decided to live as a girl full-time after the family sought professional advice.
Her parents, Michelle and Garfield, spoke with 16×9 about the challenges in their family when Trey transitioned to Tracey. Garfield, the father, initially struggled to accept his daughter, but was told by his wife that unconditional acceptance of Tracey was a “deal-breaker” in their marriage. Looking back, Garfield now says:
“It was my own personal fear of not understanding. And the fear of bullying, because I was bullied as a kid…As soon as I let go, I never looked back. It changed my relationship with Tracey, it completely changed it.”
The Wilsons overcame their family troubles, but problems arose at Sacred Heart Elementary School, Vancouver, where Tracey is a student. When informed of the transition, Sacred Heart refused to call Tracey by her preferred name or to allow her to dress in the female uniform and use female restrooms. The superintendent of the Catholic school system in Vancouver, Doug Lousen, made the following remarks:
“God creates a person with a sexual identity at birth. I don’t believe God makes mistakes. You cannot just change your sex…
“In order to be who you are, to be who God made you to be, you don’t have to wear a girl’s uniform. It’s as simple as that.”
The 10-year old student spoke about the administration’s rejection on 16×9, saying:
“ ‘Sometimes I wish that I was just a girl, just a normal girl so I wouldn’t have to go through all of this.’ …
“ ‘When they said that they couldn’t let me [transition], and that God doesn’t make any mistakes, and if he made me a boy then I would have to stay a boy.’
” ‘I couldn’t even watch TV I was crying so much, I couldn’t read a book, I couldn’t do anything. Literally I just lay in my bed sobbing.’ “
The Wilson’s have now filed a human rights complaint against the school, as well as Catholic Independent Schools Vancouver. In Canada, Catholic schools receive government funding, so religious exemptions may or may not come into play in the case.
Michelle, the mother says of the experience:
“They had no intention of letting her be who she wanted to be.
“Everyone says, ‘Well, what did you expect?’ I expected compassion. I expected a community that talks about love and acceptance to actually show love and acceptance.”
You can watch the full segment where Tracey and her family speak out at Global News‘ website here.
Regardless of the legal complexities in these cases, Catholic schools worldwide should begin expanding their policies to welcome young transgender students. Perhaps one day, Catholic schools can more fully act upon their words of love and acceptance.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry