A Word on Transgender People

A Word on Transgender People April 8, 2024

Scrabble tiles reading LGBTQ
image via Pixabay

I want to say a word about my Transgender brothers and sisters.

I’m going to close comments right away, because they will turn into a sewer. They always do when Transgender people are mentioned, and I don’t want my friends to have to read that.

I always want to be a little cautious when talking about the intersection of queerness and religion– particularly when it comes to Transgender people. I am not transgender. You shouldn’t listen to me, primarily, when it comes to trans issues in Christianity. You should listen to my Trans Christian siblings, of whom there are a lot. But while I’ve got your attention: you need to stop saying that Trans people “think they can change their gender.”

I’ve seen that phrase all over the internet today, and it’s 100% wrong.

Nobody thinks they can change their gender.

Transgender people certainly don’t think they can change their gender. That’s the whole point. That’s what causes so much suffering. If they could change their gender, there wouldn’t be a problem. Bear with me here: Transgender people are human beings, embodied just like anybody else. They are a human with a certain identity which they know to be an immutable part of themselves,  but which doesn’t conform with the body they’re trapped in. This isn’t an experience unique to a transgender person; it happens to other people as well. It happened to me when I started growing a beard from my poly-cystic ovary syndrome. It happens to women after mastectomies and hysterectomies for cancer. It happens to men who have androgen insensitivity syndrome or to boys who are much shorter and less muscular than their peers. It happens to intersex people who thought they were typical women or men but found they weren’t after a blood test. Transgender people just have a different version of it.

Gender dysphoria is the suffering of realizing that you can’t change who you are inside, but your body is not a true presentation of who you are. It’s a terrible suffering I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

Out-of-the-closet Trans people are people who have given up on pretending. They can’t change their gender, so they stop trying to have the appearance and social presentation that isn’t theirs. Instead, they transition. Some do this surgically or by taking hormones, the way a woman with PCOS might get laser hair removal and take progesterone. A lot don’t medically transition, they just dress and act differently than you’d expect. That’s the opposite of changing your gender. That’s gender acceptance.

Transgender people are not changing their gender, they’re true to their gender.

People who are gender-nonconforming but not trans, such as butches, are true to their gender in a different way.

People who are more stereotypical, like me with my dresses and makeup, are true to their gender in a more typical way.

Nobody is changing anybody’s gender. That’s impossible.

The existence of Trans people isn’t something you can imagine away by pretending things about them that aren’t true. You can argue with me about what we do next once we’ve discovered the truth. You can tell me that you think the real problem is that Transgender people are crazy and we can dialogue about that, and you’re not going to like what I say. But we can’t just make things up about people.

Our faith is based on what we are given and what our hands have held. We don’t find out what God’s will is by ignoring what’s really happening and substituting what we’d like to think instead. We should be trying to learn more and more about God and how to honor God, by learning about the beautiful diversity of God’s creation. That’s not changing Church teaching, that’s development of doctrine by applying the teaching more perfectly as we learn more about Creation. I’m not the one who gets to say what that doctrine develops into, but it will never reflect God’s will,  if we begin with a lie.

I’m not saying the Vatican can’t make pronouncements about gender identity. They can and should make pronouncements about all sorts of things.  And the pronouncements they make should reflect God’s will and further the good of everyone instead of being the ones that I, personally, would like them to make. I’m not the boss. Neither or you. Neither is Father James Martin or EWTN or Michael Voris or Saint Thomas Aquinas for that matter, though Saint Thomas had much more interesting things to say than I do.

But before they make a pronouncement, maybe the Vatican ought to actually study the situation they’re moralizing about. And so should we.




Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.

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