Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Part Two

Yesterday I started laying the ground work for a response to the following letter.  Today my response will be directly to this writer:

I read with great interest your posts of a year ago on the subject of deception and transsexualism.  In the interests of openness, I’ll share that I am transsexual, having undergone vaginoplasty in Oct 2009 under the care of a surgeon who is herself transsexual and not making much money off the practice.  The likely medical cause of my transsexuality was massive doses of estradiol and progesterone my Mom took, as prescribed by her physician because he didn’t believe she was really pregnant and he wanted to stimulate a period, when I was 5 weeks gestational.  I am Catholic by birth, growing up in the Church and meeting the woman I eventually married while serving together at the altar.  My wife and I, at least from the perspective of the rest of the world, may be the only single-sex Church wedded couple in the US.  That wedding, a glorious event cherished in our memory, took place 20 years ago come Sept 14 of this year.  It has resulted in two beautiful children, of whom a prouder father I could not be.

I am a study in complications and contradiction, I’ll freely admit.  I’m a Mom who is a father — my kids call me “Mum” when their Mom is around to differentiate, and Mom when she’s not.  I’m married as a husband, but the world sees me as a wife, and it is as a wife that I function with my wife.  Despite my changes, we’re a teenaged marriage that has lasted 20 years- against 90% odds.  There is no one in my life who does not know my unusual journey to womanhood, but likewise there is no one in my life who has not embraced me as a woman…often more readily than I feel as one.  Even as God gave me the most incredible “growing challenge” of making me transsexual, He also gave me a body well suited to the transition I know in my heart He knew I would take.  I am 5’6” and have finer features than my biologically female wife.  For example, I have smaller hands and feet than she.  After two years off testosterone and on estrogen, no one sees me as a man unless prompted.  Even when people are forewarned one of us is transsexual, upon meeting us some have to ask, “which one?”

My wife did not choose to marry a transsexual.  When we married, I wanted desperately to believe her love would cure me, and so I didn’t tell her.  It helped that I never cross-dressed — ever, unless you count how I have lived since I changed my name and transitioned at work after many months of hormone treatment, so she never had any caches of clothes to encounter.  I was disgusted at the thought of being a “man in a dress” — I wanted to be a woman in one and waited until the hormones allowed me to be.  My marriage helped…for a while…but in the end my nature could not be denied.  I told my wife my sense of self when she was pregnant with our second child, destined also to be our last as her delivery that time left her infertile.  She wasn’t exactly happy with me, as you can imagine, but it never occurred to her (or me) that she (or I) wouldn’t stay true to our irrevocable Catholic wedding vows.  We tried for 7 years to “beat” it.  We tried so hard.  We failed.  In the end, my body was tearing itself apart — I was running a blood pressure of 180/120, my blood chemistry was a wreck, and I was suffering cardiac arrhythmias which placed me in the ER too often for our comfort.  I was also miserable.  I made it clear to my wife that I was willing to die for her, but I couldn’t promise to live much longer even despite the fact I would not suicide.  I had tried that twice as a teen over this, but never since I married her and certainly not with the kids in the picture.  My body just wasn’t going to last much longer.  Since my transition and my hormones normalizing, I am running 110/70, my labs are great, and my heart is behaving itself just fine.  Nothing changed save my hormones, and eventually my perspective and my anatomy.

I say all this not to convince you to change your way of thinking.  You have a right to your opinion, and there are many ill-behaved people in the “trans” community who must certainly place an exclamation mark on your perspective.  Many of your concerns have merit.  That said, I have a few questions of you, to help me understand my status as I turn towards reintegrating myself in the Body of Christ, assuming said Body on Earth is even interested in me.

You have very absolute views on my status as still male.  I make a pretty pathetic one, but that’s fine.  I’ll accept you don’t see the need for special protections.  That said, you suggest I should not be able to get documents as a woman.  I’m curious, though, does this mean you believe I should be detained with “other men” in jail?  Keep in mind, I have a reasonably petite female figure, size C breasts (hormones are amazing), and a vagina (whatever you might think of it, it would function were a man to decide to use it as such).  If I am documented as a man, I would be incarcerated as one were such an unlikely event to happen- a thought which terrifies me given I have known violent rape once before, when I was anatomically male interestingly enough (occupational hazard of delivering Domino’s Pizza in an area with the wrong skin color), and have no desire to repeat the experience ever.  Assuming I travel, there are countries where I could be treated very poorly if identified as a transsexual.  Would you deny me the protection of anonymity under such circumstances?  About showering facilities — I am indistinguishable externally from a biological female — do you propose I shower with men before and after I go swimming?  As far as bathrooms, one of the reasons I transitioned when I did was because men who didn’t even know me were uncomfortable in the bathroom with me — they’d walk in and march right back out.  One outright challenged me on being in the men’s restroom despite my man’s shirt and slacks — my form said otherwise.  I have never been questioned, or identified as anything unusual, in the women’s room since I started using them.  I’ve been told I waited too long to start.

Please know, I respect your concerns about this whole process.  I don’t expect you to understand.  I’d hope you could accept, but you certainly don’t have to.  All I really ask is tolerance and respect, and even then not necessarily of my decision but simply of my existence.  Whether you consider me a mutilated man or an anhysteric, anoophoretic (i.e. post total hysterectomy) woman, would you truly consign me to men’s spaces and men’s treatment when doing so places me at risk, and the men around me at significant discomfort?  You make it clear how understandable the reaction is when men discover the deception during or after sex (something I’d never do both out of honor AND that I’m married), but imagine the discomfort of me in their locker room.  Is there room in this world-view for post-operative MtF’s to be documented as women if just from a purely pragmatic perspective?

And back to the Catholic body.  Is there room in the Church for such as me?  I certainly can’t be active as a man — no one would possibly take me seriously and my very existence in men’s spaces or roles would beg the question of just what I am and how I got to be this way.  I don’t want to be a lightening rod, I don’t want to tear the Church apart, I don’t want to teach kids that this is “perfectly normal” or something they’d want to do, I just want to go home again.  Is the Church’s heart big enough to embrace me as a woman, or do I, and by extension my family, simply no longer exist?

Thank you so much for writing such a heartfelt letter about these personal matters.  Let me start first by saying that I don’t think there is any condition so dire or messed up that a person cannot find a way to be in the Church.  In some cases people have created such situations for themselves that they are restricted to spiritual communion only.  They may have to live out some kind of penance.  Think about this: there are Catholics in prison for horrible crimes, some who will be locked up for life, but the Church still embraces them.  They are still part of the Body of Christ.  In some ways your situation has you “locked in” — but you are not beyond the reach of God’s love or the prayers of your fellow Catholics, fellow sinners all.

You say that you “don’t want to tear the Church apart” and I appreciate that.  We are all members of the Church as though we are parts of one body — injury to one of us hurts us all.  Every one of us “tears the Church apart” every time we commit a mortal sin, don’t we?  That is why we have to be reconciled to God and to the Church.  We have to recognize our sins.  That is the only way we can ever honestly say: “Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you and I detest all my sins…”  Have you offended God? is really the question, because the door back into the Church is through reconciliation.

No fellow Catholic, not even a priest, can judge the state of your soul.  You cannot even do that. Saint Paul said:

I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me (1 Cor. 4:4).

We all must understand how easy it is for our hearts to excuse our own sins:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it? “I the LORD search the mind and try the heart, to give to every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings” (Jer. 17: 10).

As Catholics, we have to keep in mind objective reality even when our subjective feelings are very strong — especially then.  All anyone else can do is try to help you see if there is objective wrongdoing and implore you to repent of it and make use of the open door of reconciliation — for that door is the way back to the Church.  I’m going to try to explore that with you while staying aware that I might be looking at a splinter in your eye and ignoring a telephone pole extruding from my own forehead.

Let’s talk about the issue of marriage from the standpoint of reality.  We have two options: Either you were really a man, therefore you really got married or you were really not a man – that was a mistaken identity — therefore you really did not get married (and you are not married now).  You seem to want to come down on the side of the first option.  I think you are correct in that.  Not just because you say so, but you fathered children with this woman.  That is pretty strong evidence that you were a man when you got married.  The Church does not accept that you have “become a woman” regardless of your ability to pass as one, either by demeanor, dress, physique, or external anatomy.  If you ever were really a man, then you still are, regardless of what you have done to yourself.  It is not my “absolute views on your status as a male” — it is the Church that says it.  Your wife cannot be married to a woman as there is no such thing as “same sex marriage.”  When you say you function as a wife to your wife, you are being incoherent.

I understand that you were not happy.  I understand that you were in distress even to the point of your health being wrecked and I’m not in any way making light of that.  But objectively speaking, what you proposed and carried out as a remedy to your distress was the breaking of God’s law that says that you may not mutilate your body.  I won’t deny that God foreknew you would do this — He knows all things.  But to say he gave you a particular kind of body purposely to facilitate your breaking of His law is as nonsensical as for a cat burglar to say that God gave him nimble fingers and sharp ears for picking locks.  God did not make you a transsexual.  If there was indeed some kind of interference with your development in the womb, that was caused by human agency, not by God.

Consider this — why do you want to be back in the Church?  Is it not because it is the minister of salvation, the very Body of Christ?  Either the Church really has the authority to forgive sins and confect the Sacrament, or not.  If it has that authority, doesn’t it have the authority to tell you what God’s law is?  It is not as much a matter of the Church accepting you as of you accepting the authority of the Church.  We have both heard the expression that a person wants to have his cake and eat it, too, right?  Well, reading your letter, I couldn’t help but think that you want to have your cake, eat it, share it with someone else, and then sell it!  Your real contradiction is that you have broken God’s law and now you are struggling to get out from under the consequences of it.  So join the club — this writer and every person reading this has done the same thing at one time or another.  Let’s see if we can mark out a path here.

To my knowledge your decision to undergo a so-called sex change is pretty much irrevocable at this point.  I can’t imagine from a medical standpoint how it would be anything but.  Still we need to take a look at the decision, because that is the crisis point you faced.  To put it in the starkest terms, you thought that your choice was to die prematurely or to break God’s law.  Now I happen to think that you, being as intelligent as you are, quite likely knew that the Church said this was a violation of God’s law.  You felt impelled to do it anyway.  Beside this, in order to preserve your life, in order for your wife to keep you, she acquiesced in the breaking of God’s law.  Wasn’t she in a similar position to that of Adam when approached by Eve with the forbidden fruit?  Some speculate that he ate the fruit she had already bitten, joining her in sin, because he did not want to be separated from her.  All through human history there have been cases of spouses enticing one another to put their mutual affection before the keeping of God’s commands.

Now I am going to say something that may seem harsh but remember I am talking to you about objective reality – where the rubber meets the road.  It is better to die than to offend God.  It would have been better for you to have given your life to stay in obedience to God, than to break His law and to drag along into sin your poor spouse.  At some point — along with those who denied Christ under persecution and later felt remorse, you will have to say, “It would have been better for me to have died instead.”  That is hard, but really everyone of us should feel that way about every serious sin we have committed.  We should prefer the death of our bodies to the death of our souls, shouldn’t we?

We just never know what fruit may come when we determine that no matter what we are not going to break God’s law.  For all you know, God may have given you peace and healed you.  We can’t know that, but we can see some of the fruit of the course of action you did pursue.

For one thing you have greater physical health — but at the cost of being an example to others that physical health is worth breaking God’s law.  Is that what you want your life to be a testimony to?  Is that the case you want to make  before the judgment seat of God?  Can you not see how that is just the same argument made by those who want to use embryonic stem cells to cure disease?

You have effectively robbed your children of their father — although I know you think you made the decision to stay in their lives, you didn’t stay on as a father.  You robbed them of the precious example of obedience to God, something that may have impacted them and the future of your family in positive ways for generations to come.  You may also have robbed them of potential siblings.

This is where your story was just a bit too pat and I suspected a fraud.  Really it seems like it was crafted to remove the objection that you were denying your wife more children by mutilating yourself, with the claim that she became infertile after the second child was born.  This is where I really had to ask myself, what are the odds that a woman just happens to become infertile after two children? – pretty low.  What are the odds of a woman marrying a man who decides he wants to be a woman? – pretty low.  Then what are the odds of this being the same woman? – vanishingly small, I would say.  But I decided to assume your honesty on that.  Still you robbed your children of the chance of siblings in that, if your wife died, you could not remarry and have more children.

You yourself recognize that you are a “lightening rod.”  You pretend to have what really does not exist — a “same sex marriage” — causing scandal and confusion.  You have effectively robbed your wife of conjugal relations.  If you engage in any sexual activity at all with her, and if she thinks you are a woman now, then you have led her into the sin of homosexual activity — at least according to her perception.

I’m not trying to beat you up with all this.  Nothing here cannot be redeemed — but how?  That is the question, isn’t it?  And unless you look objectively at the sin(s) involved, you can’t start to do that.

Confession would be in order and then some spiritual direction.  I would suggest that doing everything you can possibly do to avoid scandal would be needed and would be a deed worthy of your repentance (Acts 26: 20).  This might mean renouncing certain claims and opinions you have previously shared with others.  It very well might mean living apart from your wife.  Your spiritual director could examine other options with you to reduce scandal and make reparation.

No, the Church will not embrace you “as a woman,” but the Church will embrace you and weep with you and for you as a man — as a human person — who has wronged and damaged himself and those he loves by sin, just as we all have.  We’ve all done this to a greater or less degree, some more publicly and some in secret.  You are not alone, but you do have to face the reality of it.

I know this is all hard, but isn’t eternity and grace worth the struggle?  Don’t you see that by making this turn around, you can help set your own children on the straight path?  Repentance is a powerful example.  Wouldn’t it be worth everything to leave your children the legacy of having the conviction that nothing is worth disobeying God for?

Like I started off with yesterday, it all comes down to: Do you believe?  Does your horizon end at what you see, or feel, or how you are inclined, or is the invisible real?  Is God real?  Is heaven real?  If you will believe, then act on that.

Now a separate issue has to do with society.  I certainly don’t want to see any harm come to you – Goodness knows, what you have done to yourself is plenty! — but there is a saying that “hard cases make bad law.”  In law we have to look at the common good and the general welfare.  If I were you, I would do my best not to run afoul of the law!  Always a good policy anyway for everyone.  If you get into a situation where you come before a judge and you are going to be detained, you will need to throw yourself on the mercy of the court — ask for house arrest, or solitary quarters — these are reasonable requests and an attorney can likely hint at possible civil action to emphasize the necessity.  As for traveling and public showers etc., these things are not necessities of life.  I guess you will have to live under a few restrictions because of what you did to yourself.  You can just consider all that part of your penance.

We can neither remake society nor remake the Church to eliminate every consequence of sin.  No, probably you can’t ever be active as a man and you will necessarily be very limited in the female role as well.  You don’t have to advertise yourself.  Live quietly.  Live with restraint and without chafing under whatever constraints your own choices have made necessary.  Tell the painful truth to those you know and be a witness of Christ’s mercy.  Be sorry.  There is not a single one of us who does not live with some consequence of sin in our lives that we sorrow over.  In this we compassionately empathize with you.

I hope you see that there is more for you here than mere tolerance of your existence — there is love.  Please, come home.

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  • Claire

    Wow, Mary. God has definitely filled you with grace to respond to this so powerfully.

  • RoodAwakening

    This is truly a heart-breaking situation for all concerned!

    If, as this man-woman states, he-she was already gender-confused at the time of his-her wedding, then I suspect even the most conservative marriage tribunal in the universal Church would recognize that this apparent marriage is invalid in God’s eyes. A Church annulment might be granted on psychological grounds, at least, if one or the other cared to seek one. I don’t know what action would be advisable under civil law, considering the children (who may be adults, by now, anyway). An annulment is usually sought after a civil divorce.

    So sad!

  • Christi Derr

    WOW is right! Absolutely truthfilled, knowledgeable and loving response! God bless your courage and your docility to the Holy Spirit, Mary! And May God bless this man’s journey back to “rightness,” love and home.

  • bambushka

    Mary, you have truly spoken with the voice of reason and charity.

    In this “Jerry Springer” world that exists, there are way too many stories being told that should be kept private. Announcing to the world every peccadillo of our private lives leaves the one who exposes himself/herself to criticism that is not productive or kind.

    Thank you for each and every point you stated. I pray this person, made in the image of God, finds hope and encouragement in your words. One simple confession can be more helpful that a year on the counselor’s couch.

  • http://prairiehawk.me PrairieHawk

    When I worked at a local homeless shelter we had a fellow check in one day who called himself a “hermaphrodite.” He had physical sexual characteristics that were both male and female. To all appearances he was a man, and we had no problem admitting him to our men-only shelter, but he claimed (and I believed him) to have actually given birth to a child at one point in his life.

    His main concern, understandably, was that the shelter’s shower facility was private and that there was a lock on the bathroom door. I assured him his privacy would not be a problem.

    All I had to do was look into his eyes, the windows of his soul, to see the suffering that this man endured. He was in torture because of his condition, a condition that was no fault of his own. He was even, I felt, in danger of suicide, so great was his pain.

    I’ll throw this out for the sake of debate, because I really don’t know the answer. If this man’s sex could be chromosomally determined, that is, if we could know his “true” gender, would it be licit, given his grave suffering and danger of self-harm, to surgically assign him to one sex or the other? He clearly wasn’t happy with the status quo, and I’m not sure he knew where to turn. What would the Church say to a person who had given birth to a child but who was to all appearances a man?

  • http://www.catholicexchange.com Mary Kochan

    The condition called “intersex” where sex cannot be easily determined does exist and I didcussed the medical intervention yesterday. Yes, the Church allows this.

    The church even allows for surgery in those cases where the mental distress of the person is so great that he or she makes attempts at self-mutilation and injury. A few such intractable cases do occur. However, removing an injured organ is one thing. Attempting to introduce a new organ is quite another.

    it is important to note that the professional stand on this has changed since the 70′s and 80′s, when “sex change surgery” was thought to be the greatest thing since sliced bread. John’s Hopkins university found that the outcome for Gender Identity Disorder (GID) was better with psychotherapy than it was with surgery and so they stopped doing it.

    And as for the issue of annullment — yes the Church does say that if the GID was present at the time of the marriage, it was an impediment to the marriage. The Church very strictly forbids any person who has had a “sex change operation” — as opposed to a truly intersex person who underwent medical correction — from marrying. The Church also will not alter parish records, however, for purposes of historical accuracy it will allow marginal notations.

  • patti

    How many “Wows” is too much? On this article, I think there’s no limit so I’m adding mine.
    I can see why Mary suspects fraud–everything seems too down pat as if the writer is trying to seal up any holes for a Catholic position. But Mary blew the whole argument out of the water in a way that only the Holy Spirit could have done. There was so much truth and wisdom cloaked in love and understanding. I’m forwarding this one far and wide.

    Fantastic job, Mary, in channeling the Holy Spirit.

  • caoimhin

    Great response, even if the case is a hypothetical. I’m a bit skeptical of the story though; there are too many of the secular left’s caricatures of the Church implicit in it if not stated outright. Tolerate his existence? Really. Although to be fair I’ve heard anti-Catholic distortions even from my own sponsor…

  • http://www.catholicexchange.com Mary Kochan

    caoimhin, can’t you hear that as an expression of pain? Hatred and disdain for others can be shown even by Catholics. And isn’t the effect on the person who gets it a kind of negation of their existence. Jesus said that to hate someone was akin to murder. We all should ponder that.

    I think also the question of existence — an existential question — is an internal thing in a person who has, as this writer admits, contemplated suicide. The question might be, “How do I tolerate my own existence in the face of such emotional pain.” And then there is a looking to others for confirmation that my own existence is truly good.

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  • Christopher Fish

    I would say your response is very catholic, which is about the best complement an author can be paid in my mind.

    Thanks for the reflection.

  • goral

    I can’t add an iota to Mary’s incisive, decisive and “exorcisive” response.
    I only question the state of the mate. Something seriously unsettling is going on there also.
    In the burning presence of the Sun, even dung is turned into fertilizer.

  • Terri Kimmel

    Mary,

    What are your credentials again? I know I’ve read them before, but I’d like to put what you’ve written into that context.

    Another home run, but the way. Wonderfully written and most helpful.

    TK

  • Terri Kimmel

    In regards to “improved health” after the sex change…Aren’t the synthetic hormones involved carcinogenic? Maybe there have been improvements in the medical handling of these cases. It was about 10 years ago that I last heard anything about it.

    TK

  • guitarmom

    Beautiful article, Mary. You spoke the truth in love. I have to admit that it brought back some old memories for me.

    Three decades ago, a male co-worker told me that he liked my purse. I made some crack that if he liked it that much, he’d have to carry one. He answered that he intended to soon. In a flash, I knew exactly what he meant. Thus began my friendship with Lee(name changed), who taught me how to speak without using pronouns.

    At that time, the alleged need for surgery for transsexuals was all the rage in popular media, so I entered into friendship with Lee with a very open mind. I even argued with a brother-in-law that transsexual surgery was necessary for those people who were born with the “wrong” gender. I watched Lee begin to dress as a woman and, after the required year, to have the surgery.

    As soon as Lee had the surgery, I realized what an irrevocable act had occured. Up until that point, it had all seemed to be play acting. Suddenly, as Mary so aptly put it, the rubber had met the road. As time went on, I came to recognize that Lee was a man who, for whatever reason, didn’t want to be a man. This was a mental problem, and surgery is no cure for a mental problem. Lee and I remained friends until I left the company, but Lee changed my views for the rest of my life. I found my attitude toward transsexual surgery changed dramatically.

    By the way, surgery did not make everything rosy. As Lee told me directly, Lee became a person without a history. Lee couldn’t talk about his prom date or his wedding or any boy scout camps; none of these fit with Lee’s surgically presented gender. And surgery did not “fix” all of Lee’s physical appearance. Despite extensive, repeated electrolysis, dark hair contined to grow on Lee’s face and fingers. And despite the ingestion of female hormones, male-pattern baldness was quite apparent.

    I still feel guilty that I, a new convert to Catholicism with very little catechesis, encouraged Lee to go back to the Catholic Church while flaunting the sex-change surgery. In fact, the last time I saw Lee was in the back row of church with a male date. (I did not seek them out to chat.) I wish that I had been able to articulate then what Mary has so wisely articulated today. I wish that I had not been so “open minded” that I played along with such a destructive act.

    You see, Lee did not make the decision to have surgery in a vacuum. First, Lee needed to obtain a divorce and abandon his 10-year old daughter by moving across the country. Talk about violence to a child? That little girl lost her father forever. In this tale of tragedy, that is the greatest tragedy of all.

    Think of what trauma it must be for the transsexual’s children who must switch between “Mum” and “Mom” depending on who is in the room. That one sentence screams to me that all is not well in their household. Why not “Mum” at all times? Why do these children feel the need to use the two names? I will not speculate further, but this duality of names is deeply troubling.

    Mary, you are a wise and loving woman. Thank you for standing up for God’s truth.

  • Lori Watson

    Wow, Mary. Thank you for having the courage to address this issue and for giving the beloved child of God who wrote for advice such a mix of truth and love. Inspiring…and inspired!

  • http://saintslppr.com fjindra

    This points out the need for good catechesis and spiritual direction in the Church of our day. Mary, you have lain a great groundwork here for others to build on – if they will but step up on the platform and allow themselves to build on the firm foundation your built on. Jesus as the foundation for us all pointed us toward the same type treatment you have given to this child of God.

    Marvelous, simply marvelous! I only wish – and pray – that others will find direction before leaping into a situation that is filled with things that must be abandoned in order to attain heaven. (I refer of course to St. Paul’s analogy of escaping as from a burning building.)

    Pray for more laborers in the garden – more spiritual directors who have the capability and the compassion AND the opportunity to assist those who struggle so terribly with ALL the issues of this relativistic culture. It is not just this tortured soul.

    Pray also that the Body of Christ will be able to reach out with the compassion and mercy of Christ, and not with the pseudo-compassion of the world.

    Fr. Frank E. Jindra, AS

  • serenity

    @bambushka, “In this “Jerry Springer” world that exists, there are way too many stories being told that should be kept private. Announcing to the world every peccadillo of our private lives leaves the one who exposes himself/herself to criticism that is not productive or kind.”

    I’m not sure if this was directed at me or not. This whole conversation started as a private email just to Mary. She chose for her own professional reasons to post it publicly. She did not ask my permission to do so, only informing me a few hours beforehand, but she has treated it professionally otherwise for which I thank and respect her. Many in the media would not have been so honorable. I appreciate that she didn’t release identifying information given my family and I are very much real and I am being very open about family private matters in this letter and the answers below. I want it recognized, and hopefully Mary will reiterate, that I was NOT attention seeking here. I could not have been more discreet. I detest Jerry Springer and all the afternoon shock-show ilk. I’ve lived in fear that some local talk-show person would pick up on my story and make a deal about it. That has happened to many of my professional colleagues, even locally where I live. So far, I seem to have skimmed under everyone’s radar- just as I, my family, and my employer wants it.

    After prayer and reflection, I am composing a response to Mary which I will submit via the same mechanism I started with- email. She may then do as she wills with it as long as she continues to maintain my family’s privacy.

    ===

    @goral, “I only question the state of the mate. Something seriously unsettling is going on there also.”

    It’s called love. I know it’s very rare and can be scary when the true variety is witnessed.

    My wife is an amazing woman, and I am a very lucky one. I thank her regularly for saying yes 20 years ago, for bearing our children since sadly I could not, and for staying with me now.

    ===

    @RoodAwakening, “If, as this man-woman states, he-she was already gender-confused at the time of his-her wedding, then I suspect even the most conservative marriage tribunal in the universal Church would recognize that this apparent marriage is invalid in God’s eyes. A Church annulment might be granted on psychological grounds, at least, if one or the other cared to seek one. I don’t know what action would be advisable under civil law, considering the children (who may be adults, by now, anyway). An annulment is usually sought after a civil divorce.”

    @Mary Kochan, “It very well might mean living apart from your wife.”

    Why is it that so many people ask my wife why she hasn’t divorced me? Doesn’t love mean anything to anyone anymore? Where is the much vaunted Catholic respect for marriage?

    A very private anecdote which I only share based on my faith that Mary will truly respect our privacy. My wife’s dad abandoned his family after 20 years of marriage. He just up and left and never came back, leaving just a note on the mantle. The Church years later eventually spontaneously granted an annulment, we assume out of compassion to the mother. An annulment is not just “Catholic divorce”, it means the marriage never happened- was void at the onset. I understand the compassion to the mother who now has the option, never exercised now 20 years later, to marry within the Church. That said, the kids, my wife included, feel delegitimized. They realize there are doctrinal gymnastics that try to overcome the conundrum of kids and annulment, but it just never felt right. They all drifted from the Church. My wife now finds me foolish for even worrying over my status within the Church, ironically making me the most devout person in our nuclear family. There is no way in all God’s Creation we would ever afflict such pain on our kids. Our marriage is the most absolute thing in our lives, and is the foundation of everything we have built for our kids.

    No, we are NOT divorcing, annulling, or separating just to make third parties happy.

    ===

    @guitarmom, “By the way, surgery did not make everything rosy. As Lee told me directly, Lee became a person without a history. Lee couldn’t talk about his prom date or his wedding or any boy scout camps; none of these fit with Lee’s surgically presented gender. And surgery did not “fix” all of Lee’s physical appearance. Despite extensive, repeated electrolysis, dark hair continued to grow on Lee’s face and fingers. And despite the ingestion of female hormones, male-pattern baldness was quite apparent.”

    Anyone going into this thinking it will solve problems or make anything rosy didn’t get good counseling…or wasn’t paying attention. It’s the heart of foolishness. Whatever issues you have going in will still be with you coming out- often magnified due to the negative response of many in society and the potential for less-than-perfect surgical outcomes. Surgery should come after everything else has been sorted out, you are at peace with yourself, and all that remains is confirmation of a clearly identified gender. That’s why I prefer the term “gender confirmation surgery”.

    Fortunately, I don’t have “Lee’s” history issues. My previous life, for the overwhelming most part, grieved the passing of my old male identity and yet has welcomed me as a “new person with history”. I think to be successful at this you must ensure you have a healthy support network prepared to welcome you on the other side.

    My wife and I attended my 20th high school reunion last summer (Class of 1989). No one in my class knew of my change, the first sign they had being my new first name with my very unusual and distinct last name in the guide. I certainly couldn’t hide that I used to be someone else- I wasn’t a hermit in high school, although I certainly wasn’t popular either by any stretch. I got a lot of support from many fellow classmates, and have about 30 of them now as friends on Facebook. I was respectful of those who kept their distance. My wife and I had a lovely time.

    Another interesting anecdote. During the reunion, there was a video screen showing a stream of pictures from our class. One stream of pics were the Prom photos. It was recognised by many that my wife and I were the only couple who attended my senior prom who were still married and together 20 years later. This out of a class of 388 people. True love, inspired by God, conquers all.

    As far as appearance, I am lucky. I blend well. Many are not so lucky, and I truly feel for them. I can only imagine how it feels to be widely scorned by people who will never understand what it’s like to feel one gender and have the body of the opposite sex. I’m fortunate that I have tasted that bitter drink infrequently. I think it might unsettle my mind and drive me slightly mad over time as well.

    ===

    @guitarmom, “Think of what trauma it must be for the transsexual’s children who must switch between “Mum” and “Mom” depending on who is in the room. That one sentence screams to me that all is not well in their household. Why not “Mum” at all times? Why do these children feel the need to use the two names? I will not speculate further, but this duality of names is deeply troubling.”

    My wife and the kids came up with “mum” entirely on their own. The kids over time have organically slipped into just “mom” for either of us when the two of us are not standing side by side. I mandated nothing. The kids have been remarkably flexible, and we’ve allowed them to adapt in their own way. Being 22 months apart, they are each others’ best friend, and they have taken this on with remarkable teamwork.

    An interesting anecdote. The eldest attended a CYO camp this summer. When we both went to pick her up, we were led back to the camp from the parking area to sign her out. When she saw us she yelled “mom!” and ran straight to me, hugged me, then hugged my wife. This after she’d been entirely away from us for 6 days and given we had spoken before the camp that I’d be fine being “Aunt ***” if that were easier. We then spent the next hour getting a tour of the whole camp, with our daughter as proud tour guide. It was very heartwarming for all concerned. :-)

    ===

    @Terri Kimmel, “In regards to “improved health” after the sex change…Aren’t the synthetic hormones involved carcinogenic?”

    I can speak to this authoritatively as I am a licensed healthcare provider. Premarin, which is nothing more than processed horse urine, has been shown to increase the risk of certain breast cancers. It also can affect rates of cervical and uterine cancer, which sadly don’t impact transwomen. I would never take Premarin. I take estradiol, the same chemical produced naturally by both men and women- although much more in women. I take it via injection to minimize my dose and maintain efficacy.

    Another anecdote. I have received a shot of estrogen every two weeks since June of 2008. My mother-in-law is a nurse, my wife has been a vet tech although currently is a full-time Mom. My wife volunteered to administer my injections since it’s hard for me to self-administer a gluteal (bottom) shot. She asked her Mom to inservice her on the difference in injecting a cat or dog versus her spouse. Her mom wasn’t exactly thrilled- she’s now the most devout Catholic in both our families- but she agreed immediately out of love for both of us and knowing we’d do it anyway. She’s been a great resource given I can’t exactly mentor my wife’s method when I’m the one getting shot. And yes, we have often joked that my wife has great reason to “shoot her spouse”. I know to stay on best behavior else she might be less gentle the next time around. ;-)

    ===

    @Mary Kochan, “John’s Hopkins university found that the outcome for Gender Identity Disorder (GID) was better with psychotherapy than it was with surgery and so they stopped doing it.”

    Johns Hopkins unfortunately has several prejudiced (from my perspective) staff. Many of their “successful” psychotherapy were people who claimed they were cured so they could get out, fly to Thailand, and have surgery. I know of others who committed suicide. I have one very good friend who had a terrible time at the hands of this program. She has since gone to much more compassionate pastures and is living very well and happily in her identified role. I realize the organization’s name carries weight, but their trans program has systemic issues.

    This isn’t to say that I believe pre-surgical psychotherapy and counseling should be a rubber stamp. Absolutely not! We’re making incredibly life changing decisions that are irrevocable. Care must especially be taken since I have noted borderline personalities are drawn to the GID/trans diagnosis like a moth to flame. That said, patients should be treated compassionately and professionally, not made to feel like freaks.

  • http://www.catholicexchange.com Mary Kochan

    The writer is quite correct. We do have a publicly stated policy that letters in response to any of our articles may be published and the writer was communicating in response to a previous article. However, there was nothing in the communication to suggest undo attention-seeking and I answered based on the assumption that there was an honest question being asked regarding how to integrate back into the life of faith.

    Let me make clear that I was not advocating divorce or even suggesting it. Living apart was mentioned as a possible way to avoid or minimize scandal.

  • julieisfree

    I’m not sure why I’m bothering to respond to your article. You seem perfectly content with pat answers and easy solutions, pronounced from the comfort of your cisgendered heterosexual world. Gratefully, God is more gracious and compassionate than that.

    First and foremost, I will identify myself as a transsexual woman living through the aftermath of my own transition. I was born and raised Catholic by two wonderful parents, and educated (gratefully) by Jesuits.
    Everyone’s story is unique, though pretty much come down to the same thing: We either transition or die by some means. I don’t believe you quite understand the depths of that despair, and that how after years of fervent and sincere prayer, God didn’t change the simple facts of the matter. God would no more cast a miracle my way to fix that, than he would cast a miracle my way to make me two inches shorter. He made me a six foot transwoman, and that was that.

    Though at first I was of the opinion, that it would be better for me to die than to transition, and I tried. I failed in that attempt (through what I believe to be God’s intervention). I ultimately transitioned, and have become a better person as well as a better Christian. To suggest that someone simply accept death as opposed to available medical intervention is more than just a little ridiculous.

    The Catholic church has in the past ignored scientific inquiry, and today is no exception. It jailed Galileo just as it casts out the transgendered brothers and sisters despite the fact that our bests science identifies the truth of God’s design. I don’t purport to know the reason for God’s design. As and engineer, I only report on what it is. Transpersons (and gay persons for that matter) are born with brain structures that make them what they are. We don’t chose our plight, but we accept it. Those of us who are lucky enough to understand it, can live with it and embrace God it its midst. People like you only serve to drive God’s children from His fold with your own discomfort driven prognostications. You drive people to despair and death.

    “You will know a tree by it’s fruit.” What is your fruit?

  • http://www.catholicexchange.com Mary Kochan

    The writer of the original email sent me this response with permssion to post it:

    Your words, while compassionately worded and I truly believe sincere, don’t work for me for one fundamental disagreement. You say that, “God did not make you a transsexual.” I say yes He did. God made me inside and out. Everything I started with, He did for a good reason. I just needed to puzzle that reason out as best I could.

    I knew I was a girl when I was 3 years old. I flunked kindergarten the first time around due to “social retardation”. In other words, the West Texas school teachers didn’t like how I was interacting with my peers. I quickly learned that I had to bury myself, try to be something that didn’t come naturally. I had a pretty crummy childhood after that. I couldn’t relate to most boys, and the girls understandably thought I was one and therefore had cooties. One of a few notable exceptions was the girl who would grow to be my wife, whom I did not go to school with but with whom I spoke at CCD and when we tag-teamed on the altar. Then again, she was older- almost two years my elder.

    Puberty, watching my body betray me, was the worst period of my life. I contemplated cutting off my own penis or scrotum, but never had the courage. I know now of children that have found such courage, and while I certainly don’t support such medically reckless action and would act professionally to stop it, I fully understand it. Being a girl (and I would assume a boy) watching one’s body turn into a man (or a woman on the mirror side) is a horrifying experience.

    Things got a little better in high school, despite the deterioration of my body (from my perspective), when girls started relating to me as the “safe male” to rant with when they had issues where such a person was useful. Still, I couldn’t cross the gender divide and be a (little g) girlfriend because I had to keep acting the guy role. I didn’t think there was any other choice. After attempts at dating with (big G) Girlfriends that did not turn out well, the girl who would become my wife and I reconnected when we both needed someone. The connection deepened, we went to my Senior Prom together in May of 1989, I proposed to her in August of 1989, and 13 months later, after fulfilling several technical requirements (i.e. Engaged Encounter, family planning classes) put up by our priest because I was still a teenager at the time, we married on Sept 14, 1990.

    The rest I have already outlined.

    I say all this to emphasize the point that my sense of self as female was not learned or nurtured. I was not abused as a child- my assault by strangers came much later. I have a wonderful father who is very definitely and comfortably male and was around as a role model during my childhood. My mother was not overbearing. None of the “bad nurture” things people might point to apply to me. My sense of self is all “nature”, and to my mind therefore God-inspired if not God-given. Regardless of the ultimate biological cause, He placed my female spirit, my sense of self as a girl, in a boy’s body. I have tried to fathom the reasons and could only come up with our children. My wife and I were meant to bring those amazing young lives into this world. It is because of them that I allow no regrets I didn’t do this sooner. Once more children with my wife ceased to be an issue, that reason to remain in a male body vanished- hence the reason I readily addressed the procreation issue when describing my decision. I actually thought this one through. I knew then, as I know now, that I will never marry another. It took me seven years before I realized the door was now open, but my wife always knew it would eventually come to transition and spent those seven years quietly and privately preparing herself for it. When I broke down again in April 2008, she was ready to say, “it’s time.” It was definitely not something she would have wanted, but there was no longer any reason not to proceed.

    I am nearing our 20th wedding anniversary (Sept), my 1 year surgical anniversary (Oct), and my 40th birthday a few months later. For the first time in my life, I am consistently at peace with myself and (for the most part) the world…and God. For the first time since puberty, I am not exhausting myself constantly fighting the impulse to kill myself. I am so inspired now to do things, and engage so much more with the world. I lived simply to survive before 2008, I now thrive. My wife, my kids, and my coworkers all share amazement at the turnaround. I am accomplishing more at home, I am going to grad school to add a master’s degree in a tangential field to my existing doctorate, I am engaged in school and activities with my kids. I am volunteering my professional time at a free medical clinic for the poor. I’m living. It’s exhilarating.

    That’s not to say it’s all roses and daffodils. The financial cost of all this has been out of pocket. I still spend 28 hours each week dealing with transition-related issues, not including writing all this. My surgical results, while aesthetically so good that my primary care physician can no longer tell any difference outside the female norm unless she’s using a speculum, have left me minimally sensate in that one critical little spot. That said, my brain is re-wiring and it sometimes takes years for it all to reconnect. I also need to unlearn and then learn new expectations. I’ll be the first to admit I have felt things no woman should ever experience. I have to deal with the hand I am given, and I see the whole experience as a gift from God, a chance to experience perspectives few ever get. Even so, it’s sometimes little solace for the one thing I can never do, and so desperately want more than anything on Earth I do not already have- to carry my own child.

    So, to come full circle, I am at peace that I am following the path God set for me. I am being true to what God made me- a woman. I see my birth body as having fulfilled a purpose, and once that purpose was fulfilled I came to realize there was no reason to continue the torture. My biological masculinity was like a tumor who’s time had come to be removed. It took seven years for God to get that through my head, but even then those years were necessary for my wife to reconcile herself to the big changes she, in her incredible wisdom, foresaw. Again, this isn’t what either she or I would have chosen exactly, but life with a miserable husband, or without me at all despite a massive amount of life insurance, seemed poorer choices. I am so incredibly blessed.

    I cannot see my transition itself, nor my surgery, as sin. I’ve examined it from all directions for years, and again after reviewing what you wrote. I feel close to God now in a way I never could before, through the misery and self hate. Did I sin through all this? You betcha! Since puberty and before transition, before I quieted down and just listened to Him, I was often pretty upset at God. I lied to myself since childhood. With good intentions providing miles of bricks to purgatory at least, I deceived my wife and her family when I married. I brought two children into being without letting my wife know what lurked within her supposedly male husband. I have placed those children in a tough situation, choosing between a selection of poor choices. My wife and I believe we made the best possible choice out of that selection, but I still take responsibility that they no longer have a Dad, and I cannot be the kind of father other kids have. My eldest, the one old enough to reason all this out and say truthfully what is on her mind, has made clear to many in her life, often with me not present, that she would rather have me as I am than as I was, and certainly more than not at all. Despite that affirmation, I still take it as a weight on my soul. That said, I see it no differently from parents who uplift their kids and move during high school in order to get better jobs. Not the ideal, but among the tough decisions we make as parents. Certainly much better than divorce, which far too many children experience and ours never will.

    Would I like outside reconciliation for these sins? Yes. But not at the cost of denying what I am, what God made me, and therefore denying God in the process. The Church is a human institution and is therefore fallible, as Galileo, the citizens of Constantinople in 1204, and multitudes of Jews brought to the “mercy” of the Inquisition will all attest. Does that outweigh the good that the Church has or can do? Oh no! I am not a Catholic detractor, but I am a student of history. I am a child of the Catholic Church of Vatican II, perhaps more open minded than many here. If to be true to myself and to God, I must disappoint some sisters and brothers within the Church, then that is my lot. Perhaps I will find a more accepting parish where my kids and I can quietly exist while being true to God. It is incumbent on me to at least try. Perhaps I won’t find such a place. I am not a natural follower of Martin Luther, and I doubt I would ever feel at home as a Protestant. Still, if I too must walk sadly away, in my case without malice and with a heavy heart, from Wittenberg, then so be it. At least I do so with God, and my family and friends, at my side. We’ll be okay.

    ===

    @caoimhin, “the secular left’s caricatures of the Church implicit in it if not stated outright. Tolerate his existence? Really.”

    I am a she, a her. “Her existance”. By not recognizing that simple fact, and treating me accordingly, my existence isn’t tolerated. There is no caricature involved on my part, it’s all been laid out here in black and white.

    @Mary: And thank you for the compassionate response to this. I would disagree, however, with your representation of the pain. I ‘tolerate’ my existence now just fine. The pain comes when others do not. I want to be open about my atypical journey to womanhood in one-on-one interactions, but responses like those here, that try to remasculinize a person with less tostosterone than most any biologically-whole woman, make it far easier for me to choose to just blend in. The deception you understandably derided a year ago is simply a response to the scorn of others, something avoided by simply quietly living my life.

    ===

    @Mary, “You yourself recognize that you are a “lightening rod.”

    I recognize I could be made a lightening rod, by myself or others on either side of the debate with an agenda other than what is best for my family.

    ===

    @Mary, “You pretend to have what really does not exist — a “same sex marriage” — causing scandal and confusion.”

    I didn’t say I claim or pretend it. I said, “My wife and I, at least from the perspective of the rest of the world, may be the only single-sex Church wedded couple in the US.” When for whatever reason we make clear we are married, for example when seeking health care, we are seen as a same-sex couple. We don’t make a big deal about it, again we don’t want any spotlight, but that’s what people see. Fortunately, we live in a place where such things are not terribly uncommon.

    *************************************************

    My response:

    And I believe what I believe is what makes me what I am
    I did not make it, no it is making me
    It is the very truth of God and not the invention of any man
    — “Creed” by Rich Mullins

    I am struck here by what a completely modern way of thinking this embodies. We live in an age where the created order is no longer something that man encounters as a thing given. But rather in an age where man makes of the world and himself what he desires. The cost of that is that the given order can no longer be encountered as thing holding meaning, the Truth of being. Man has traded the understanding of truth for knowledge — a much more limited thing and something that makes no claim to Truth.

    There have been people who desired to be identified as the opposite sex for all of history — the Biblical law forbade dressing that way — but it is only recently that a person would mount an argument to say that a certain medical regimen along with surgery had actually made him or her into the opposite sex.

    But not all of us are convinced of that. Some of us maintain that there is a created order and that the meaning of it is Truth, in fact is a Person Who is Truth — who also gave us the Church.

    Against this stands a human experience, the power of which we do not deny, but what we cannot assent to are the truth claims based upon that experience.

    Right now somewhere in this world there is a woman, trapped and despairing in a marriage long bereft of love. She has in fact fallen deeply in love with another man — a true soul mate to her without whom life seems not worth living. Knowing what God says about adultery, she will decide to leave her spouse and live with the other man.

    Even as she does this, another woman with just as strong feelings, will kneel before the Blessed Sacrament and tell Jesus that she has fallen in love with another man, that she can find nothing but hardness in the heart of her husband, but she will beg for grace to stay and be faithful anyway and she will break off the relationship with the man she loves.

    Right now somewhere in this world these is a man whose financial situation is desperate to the point where everything he has worked for for his entire life is about to be lost and there is dangling before him an opportunity to retrieve it all for a single “small” act of dishonesty. It is easy to justify — no one will be hurt — he can save his family home, his kids’ education, pay for his wife’s medical needs. He does it.

    Even at the same time, another man faced with the same decision, experiencing the same pressure, the same waking in the middle of the night with heart-pounding anxiety, will walk away. He will lose everything materially, but he will keep his integrity.

    I do not know if a majority of Christian youths would answer “yes” if a gun were put to their heads by a crazed killer and they were asked, “Do you believe in Jesus?” But Cassie Burnell did and died. I’m sure she experienced the same terror and I’m sure her desire to live was just as strong, as every teen who would, in fear of losing life, disown the Lord.

    I said all that to say that I am sure that there are some people who struggle with Gender Identity Disorder, whose feelings are just as strong, who will not break God’s law. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” 1 Corinthians 10:13.

    This is not a denial of the experience of the writer and the other commenter; it is a denial that their experience defines truth, reality, and morality. As an objective outsider, I can easily reframe the experience to draw quite different conclusions. The writer concludes that God allowed him to be “transgendered” so he would father the children that he fathered. We can agree that children are always a blessing and are often the gift God gives us to redeem our own messes. But I would see the children as being also a rather blatant message from God to recognize your own maleness as a gift from Him, to embrace your role as a father. One framing of the experience is simple; the other requires contortions to explain how God was complicit in the breaking of his own law.

    This idea of making one’s own experience the criteria for right and wrong has no limit. It really doesn’t. We can see that already in this communication and that of the other commenter. It cannot stop with one’s own experience because it demands at some point that others acquiesce. So of the rest of us the demand is made to accept, or pretend to accept, that a man has really become a woman — even if this demand is actually a demand of faithful Catholics to reject the teaching of the Church. The teaching of the Church is that even if a priest undergoes this procedure, he remains a priest because he remains a man although not allowed to minister publicly to avoid scandal. How’s that for internal consistency? (And BTW the Church has consulted the science on this.) Ultimately we see that rejecting this truth leads to a rejection of the authority of the Church in all areas.

    This is why all arguments that depend on the revelation of feelings, however moving and intense they may be, cannot be determinative. Nor for that matter are accusations that the rest of us simply can’t know because (take your pick): we live in simple black and white worlds with no grays; we have been especially privileged to have easy lives; or we are hard-hearted.

    To most women, the entire description of the transition sounds like the effecting of an elaborate charade and costume. After all, what happens if the hormone regimen is stopped? Presumably some of the secondary sex characteristics revert to type — male. From where is this biological impulse toward the masculine, which artificial injected hormones are constantly impeding, coming, if not “from inside?”

    Nevertheless, we absolutely DO get that this overwhelming and long-standing desire to be the opposite sex is what drives the procedure. We get the pain. Really.

    And I get something else too. I really get how the idea that this is a disorder of some kind would fall on your head like an accusation of irrationality or “craziness” with all its attendant stigma and how much you would fear and hate that. I suffered a nervous breakdown many years ago and I really do understand that feeling of having to prove that I am a competent person.

    I am really reminded very much here about some reading I did years ago about people with what used to be called Multiple Personality Disorder. What struck me about these people was how amazingly accomplished so many of them were. Their writing glowed with intelligence. Some of them had accomplished multiple college degrees in quite divergent fields under different identities. The “transgendered” people who have written to me personally or who have commented on this site have demonstrated intellectual high voltage. I cannot but admire anyone who could go through such emotional and family turmoil and still be so professionally accomplished.

    This understanding — this joining with you in the human condition; this acceptance of you as a fellow human being — this is what we have to offer you. We cannot validate your interpretation of your experience, any more than we could agree with a person who had MPD that she was really two (or many) persons. The further demand you make, that we join with you in saying that your sex has really changed, this we cannot do.

    We have to keep in mind that when it comes to the sin angle, all we can speak about is the objective reality. Personal culpability is something only God can determine in looking at the heart. We have not presumed to do that.

    We wish you well. We really do. Comments will be closed at this point.

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