In the National Catholic Reporter, transgender Catholic Maxwell Kuzma has written about what positive impact the Vatican’s greater welcome to gender-expansive people could have—both for such people and for the church.
Kuzma, who is also a guest contributor to Bondings 2.0, noted that trans people in the U.S. have faced a withering year of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and restrictive diocesan policies. The Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith’s recent guidance on queer people and the Sacraments, however, is somewhat different. Kuzma explains initially:
“Despite fumbling the language a bit (‘transsexual’ is an outdated term the community no longer uses), the document recognizes transgender people as members of the faith community who will and should want to participate in the church. This is not a dramatic pivot for Pope Francis: He has previously emphasized that the church must have very serious reasons for turning someone away and must be especially hesitant before denying baptism.
“Some in the church found this statement outrageous for suggesting that transgender individuals should have the opportunity to participate in these ways, but that is precisely why a document like this is important. Transgender Catholics are here. We exist. We face all kinds of discrimination and prejudice in society; shouldn’t church be a place where we get to experience the love of Christ, just like our neighbor? Shouldn’t it be a place where we get to participate as equals, just like everyone else?
Kuzma adds later that it is “wrong to pretend” transgender Catholics do not exist, and worse to think of such faithful as “monsters,” “political inventions,” or “a modern fantasy.” He concludes by applying the Vatican’s recent abstract guidance document to his own life:
“When I came out as transgender in 2019, my younger sister was planning her wedding. After the announcement of my transition, my father called me to deliver the news that my sister and her fiancé only wanted to have a female maid of honor, effectively disinviting me from the role in the wedding party I had previously been asked to hold. Needless to say, the pain of being excluded as a witness to their marriage was significant. I wonder what would have happened had a pastoral priest or bishop accompanied my family through this time in the spirit of this recent Vatican note. . .
“Transgender people have existed throughout history and in every human culture. What gifts could we bring to the church family if its members fully welcomed us in?”
For Pride Month this past June, Kuzma wrote an essay in Bondings 2.0 about finding God in his gender transition as the pandemic raged in 2020. You can read that essay by clicking here. For Kuzma’s other contributions to the blog, click here.
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, November 18, 2023