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.