Encounter with Transgender Migrant Shows Faith Is Not “A Fence to Keep Others Out”

Yunuen Trujillo

Writing at the intersection of LGBTQ+ and immigration issues, one queer Catholic shared an experience that helped her understand more fully that faith should never be “a fence to keep others out.”

For blog readers, Yunuen Trujillo may be known as a prominent Catholic LGBTQ+ advocate and contributor to Bondings 2.0. Her professional work, however, is as an immigration attorney. In U.S. Catholic, Trujillo tells of her encounter with a transgender asylum seeker, referred to in the piece as Andrea, who was her client for a short period. Trujillo writes:

“Andrea had been persecuted, harassed, and hated her entire life because of her gender identity, which was apparent, because she never had the means to fully transition. She had carried so much more than any one of us could ever bear.

“On the day of her asylum interview, she was visibly nervous. To take her mind off of things, I asked her how her drive was. She started singing a song that had been playing on the radio. I instantly felt a lump in my throat: She was singing one of my favorite religious songs. One that made me cry many, many times in my youth ministry days. For the first time since I met Andrea, I realized she was Catholic.”

Trujillo then explains that her encounter with Andrea made her confront anew a troubling contradiction. Even though Andrea had an “unbreakable faith,” if she went to “almost any parish. . .she would immediately be stared at, judged, and maybe even attacked by others who don’t know her.” The author concludes:

“In Jesus’ time, just like today, people were generally afraid of certain groups: the sick, the ‘sinner,’ the stranger. . .Jesus turned all of that around, reminding us that separation and exclusion are not the fulfillments of the law. Rather, that is love: radically inclusive love. . .

“It is a love that gets rid of fences and fear and replaces all of that with proximity, tenderness, friendship, and unconditional accompaniment. It recognizes that our own salvation depends on the person we love the least. . .

“I have not seen Andrea since, but whenever I do LGBTQ ministry work, I think of her. My prayer is this: May we never use our Catholic faith as a fence to keep others out or to shield ourselves while attacking others. It is our job and mission to create radically inclusive spaces in our parishes where those we love and know the least turn into those we love and appreciate the most.”

–Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, September 14, 2023

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