We tend to speak freely about LGBT issues, but in practice, most of the time, we’re really thinking LG(bt), with both bi- and trans afterthoughts – if we think about them at all. I would imagine that most of us like to think about ourselves as trans allies, but it’s difficult for us actively to promote issues we don’t really understand. Ideally, we need to allow trans activists to speak for themselves.
At “A Catholic Transgender” (Blogging about being transsexual at the intersection of Calvary and Rome), there’s a useful, systematic assessment of what the magisterium says about transgender (i.e., nothing), together with well argued rebuttals of the usual claims that the Church cannot approve or recognize gender transition.
Here’s the opening: Continue reading Catholic Magisterial Teaching on Transgenderism
Among all the multitude of queer saints, Joan of Arc is one of the most important. In her notorious martyrdom for heresy (a charge which in historical context included reference to her cross-dressing and defiance of socially approved gender roles), she is a reminder of the great persecution of sexual and gender minorities by the Inquisition, directly or at their instigation. In LGBT Christian history, “martyrs” applies not only to those martyred by the church, but also to those martyred by the church. In her rehabilitation and canonization, she is a reminder that the leaders and theologians of the church, those who were responsible for her prosecution and conviction, can be wrong, can be pronounced to be wrong, and can in time have their judgements overturned.(This is not just a personal view. Pope Benedict has made some very pointed remarks of his own to this effect, while speaking about Joan of Arc). In the same way, it is entirely possible (I believe likely) that the current dogmatic verdict of Vatican orthodoxy which condemns our relationships will also in time be rejected. We may even come to see some of the pioneers of gay theology, who have in effect endured a kind of professional martyrdom for their honesty and courage, rehabilitated and honoured by the Church, just as St Joan has been.
|Joan of Arc: Interrogation by the Bishop of Winchester (Paul Delaroche, 1797 -1856)
In the tragic history of executions for “sodomy”, most trials and executions were of men. In the popular mind, the word today is associated primarily with male anal sex, but this has not always been so. In the original biblical texts, the “sin of Sodom” had nothing to do with sex at all, but referred rather to excessive fondness for luxury, over-indulgence, and a failure to care for travelers and the poor. When in the Middle Ages it began to be associated with sexual sin, it applied to any form of sexual actions that were considered unnatural, including homosexual acts, masturbation, oral sex, heterosexual anal intercourse, even heterosexual intercourse not in the missionary position – and lesbian sex.
Many courts and legislative bodies since then have debated whether sodomy laws do in fact apply to women, with widely differing conclusions. In some cases, the conclusion was that they did – especially in those cases where one of the woman dresses and lived as a man, which provoked particular popular hostility.
At Jesus in Love, Kittredge Cherry has included in her post for Ash Wednesday some notes about the last lesbian executed for Sodomy in Europe, Catherine Linck.
In the image at the top of this post, German artist Elke R. Steinerillustrates the last known execution for lesbianism in Europe. Born in 1694, Catharina Margaretha Linck lived her life as a man under the name Anastasius. She was beheaded for sodomy on Nov. 8, 1721 in Halberstadt in present-day Germany. Linck worked at various times as a soldier, textile worker and a wandering prophet with the Pietists. She married a woman in 1717. Her mother-in-law reported her to authorities, who convicted her of sodomy with a “lifeless instrument,” wearing men’s clothes and multiple baptisms. The subject is grim, but Steiner adds an empowering statement: “But even were I to be done away with, those who are like me would remain.”
Steiner’s work is based on Angela Steidele’s book “In Männerkleidern. Das verwegene Leben der Catharina Margaretha Linck alias Anastasius Lagrantinus Rosenstengel, hingerichtet 1721.” Biographie und Dokumentation. Cologne: Böhlau, 2004. (“In Men’s Clothes: The Remarkable Life of Catharina Margaretha Linck alias Anastasius Rosenstengel, Executed 1721.”)
- Ash Wednesday: Recalling sodomy executions, repenting the church’s sins against LGBTQ people (jesusinlove.blogspot.com)
Jan. 6, Feast of the Epiphany. Coming as it does so early in the year, the celebration still seems to arrive a little late. Christmas festivities and holiday meals, topped off with New Year’s Eve parties, have more than filled our feasting needs. Now it is time to get back to diets and email. Yet something about this day still grabs our attention. Epiphany is a feast of “something’s up.” With portents in the sky and the hint of myrrh in the air, perhaps we’re being signaled: Stay alert — this could be the year!
The first epiphany sprang a large surprise: a vulnerable infant who is God’s own son. How likely is that? The annual feast invites us to expect the unexpected, to be aware that graces come from surprising sources. Perhaps this year — within your family or your work site or your faith community — you may hear a personal story of courage and faith shared by a transgender person. This will be an epiphany and a grace.
To our own surprise, we have been blessed by such an epiphany. The past year has brought us deeper appreciation of the experience of transgender members of the human community. Mentored by a Catholic sister who has dedicated her life to ministry among transgender persons, we have been instructed by the witness of these often vulnerable members of the body of Christ. Their life stories carry a common theme: an abiding sense of “disconnect” between their inner sense of self and the evidence of their body. In their deepest awareness, gender identity (who I know myself to be) has been in conflict with the social role their physical anatomy suggests (who others expect me to be).
Attempting to conform to the expectations of their parents, spouses and children, transgender persons often struggle to override this sense of disconnect. Some enter into marriage, hoping this will suppress the daily reminders that they are not as they appear. Many more put effort into presenting a “false self” to the world, to protect against being discovered for who they really are. But the price of this unnatural effort is high. Alcohol and drugs offer false comfort along the way; suicide begins to appeal as an exit from this distress.
- Epiphany: Queer eye for the Magi (jesusinlove.blogspot.com)
- Remembering the Victims of Violence Against Transgender People (newwaysministryblog.wordpress.com)
- Christian responses to transgender individuals (christinedecleene.wordpress.com)
- Epiphany: Soho Masses Community Celebrate the Feast of Coming Out (queeringthechurch.com)
- Transgender Teacher Sues Catholic School Over Firing (newwaysministryblog.wordpress.com)
As we close out the week that began with the celebration of the Epiphany, we do so by offering a reflection on transgender issues by James and Evelyn Whitehead which appeared in The National Catholic Reporter. The authors, whose lifetime of work on sexuality and relationships has been a gift to the chruch, reflect that in the past year they have had their own “epiphany” about transgender people:
The past year has brought us deeper appreciation of the experience of transgender members of the human community. Mentored by a Catholic sister who has dedicated her life to ministry among transgender persons, we have been instructed by the witness of these often vulnerable members of the body of Christ. Their life stories carry a common theme: an abiding sense of “disconnect” between their inner sense of self and the evidence of their body. In their deepest awareness, gender identity (who I know myself to be) has been in conflict with the social role their physical anatomy suggests (who others expect me to be).
Their essay is a good introduction to some of the issues that transgender people face, which are often remarkably similar to those that lesbian and gay people face because of the common thread of feeling pressure to conform to an identities which are not their true ones:
“In attempting to conform to the expectations of their parents, spouses and children, transgender persons often struggle to override this sense of disconnect. Some enter into marriage, hoping this will suppress the daily reminders that they are not as they appear. Many more put effort into presenting a ‘false self’ to the world, to protect against being discovered for who they really are. But the price of this unnatural effort is high. Alcohol and drugs offer false comfort along the way; suicide begins to appeal as an exit from this distress.”
And like many lesbian and gay people, many transgender people experience their transition to their true selves as a spiritual journey:
“. . . [M]any report a profound shift in their spiritual lives, as they turn from the condemnation of a judging God (‘You are going to hell’) to the embrace of a God of paradox and extravagant love. This harrowing transition leads many to a confident embrace, at last, of ’the person God always intended me to be.’ “
The Whiteheads point out that unfortunately many church leaders do not have the knowledge–or the motivation to acquire knowledge–about transgender people:
“Many Catholics regret that official statements of the Catholic church continue to support rigid notions of human nature, especially in regard to male and female gender. Here church leaders, consciously or not, continue a strategy that distances them from the genuine experience of many active church members. Official statements often mention the extravagant conduct of sexual exhibitionists or drug-addicted sex workers as typical of transgender persons. Hiding in plain sight are the many mature transgender Catholics in our own parishes. To remain willfully ignorant of, or contemptuous toward, this part of the human community exhibits a startling lack of compassion.”
They close with a prayer that should be offered by all Catholics:
“Let us pray that in the months ahead each of us — whether transgender or otherwise — may experience the grace of epiphany. May we meet one another in shared humanity, ready to move beyond hesitancy and suspicion on all sides. In the grace of these encounters we are likely to be surprised; we may at first feel uncomfortable. But these, perhaps, are marks of an epiphany. And if we stay alert, we may soon recognize here the splendid diversity of the body of Christ.”
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
via « Bondings 2.0.
A transgender teacher is suing a Catholic high school in Queens, New York, saying that he was fired after teaching there for more than 30 years because of deciding to begin to live out a female gender identity.
Mark Krolikowski, ABCNews.com reports:
“In a lawsuit, Mark Krolikowski, 59, alleges that after 32 years of teaching at St. Francis Prep in Queens, N.Y., and receiving numerous accolades for his work including leading students in a musical performance for Pope Benedict XVI, he was fired last year after the parents of a ninth grader complained about his appearance.
“Krolikowski remains anatomically male and routinely wore suits and neckties to school where he taught music, social studies and a class on human sexuality. He also wore earrings and manicured his nails in ‘a feminine style’ according to court documents.
“In 2011, Krolikowski was summoned to the office of the principal, Brother Leonard Conway, where he revealed that he was transgender and that he intended to start coming to work dressed as a woman. According to Krowlikowski’s lawsuit, Conway told the teacher that being transgender was ‘worse than gay’ and that he could no longer appear at public events if he planned to begin appearing as a woman.”
According to the New York Post, the controversy over the teacher’s gender identity arose when a parent complained to the principal about the teacher’s appearance:
“. . . a parent took issue with his look and reportedly went to school officials. The subsequent questions from his bosses forced Krolikowski to tell then-Principal Leonard Conway and assistant principal Patrick McLaughlin he was transgender, court papers state.”
The Post also reports that Krolikowski agreed
“. . . to tone down his appearance by losing the earrings and feminine nails, Krolikowski said he got stellar evaluations during the 2011-12 school year. Despite this, Krolikowski claims his bosses called him insubordinate in June 2012 for allegedly continuing to go ‘his own way,’ according to court papers.
ABCNews.com provided a comment from St. Francis’ Prep’s view of the case:
” ‘His employment was terminated for appropriate non-discriminatory reasons,’ said the school’s attorney, Phil Sempervivo.”
A group of current students and alumni have come to the defense of Krolilowski with a petition on Change.org, supporting the teacher and asking the school to offer an apology. In part, the petition states:
” ‘Mr. K,’ as he was affectionately known by most of his students, had worked for SFP [St. Francis Prep] for over 30 years and was always himself: funny, eccentric, loving, and accepting. Ask anyone who had him and they will rave about his stellar teaching and friendly demeanor. In a school in which many of the faculty can often be bossy and tyrannical, Mr. K created a warm and welcoming environment for all his students and their peers.
“However, his long track record of spectacular teaching seemed to carry no weight when a lone parent complained about his ‘feminine’ appearance back in 2011. Mr. K, for as long as we have known him, has always donned several gold hoop earrings, dyed hair, fashionable (but appropriate and professional) clothing, and well-manicured nails. This was never an issue amongst his students or their parents until that one student’s mother complained to the school.
“This is a disgusting display of discrimination and must be acted against and apologized for. While we do not expect Mr. K to return to Prep, we do expect the school to apologize for its behavior and its ultimate decision to expel such a valued member from their staff. In a school that preaches love, respect, and acceptance, we are appalled to see that their lessons come with hateful fine print.”
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry
via Bondings 2.0.
The North American Old Catholic Church is ordaining Shannon T.L. Kearns, a trans man, later this month. Kearns (right) will be responsible for starting a new parish in Minneapolis.
“The North American Old Catholic Church looks forward to establishing a presence in Minneapolis with the ordination of Father Kearns,” said Bishop Benjamin Evans, who is presiding over the ordination on January 19. “God’s Holy Spirit continues to bless us with growth.”
Founded in 2007, the North American Old Catholic Church has a mission of social justice, does not submit to the authority of the Pope, and is open to female and LGBT clergy.
“I am honored and humbled to have my calling to ministry affirmed by the North American Old Catholic Church,” says Kearns, who transitioned while studying at Union Theological Seminary in New York. “I look forward to many years serving as a priest.
- Women’s Ordination in the Catholic Church: A Way forward? (queeringthechurch.com)
- Women’s Ordination: A Way forward? (emmaus2rome.co.uk)
- Quote of the Day: Timothy Radcliffe (queeringthechurch.com)
- Feminist Catholics Want Church to ‘Ordain a Lady’ (patheos.com)
Earlier in the week, I wrote that some Bible stories are so familiar, we do not stop to consider their significance. I could also add, that some others are so familiar, we do not stop to ask if they are accurate. A case in point is that of today’s feast of the Epiphany, which we routinely celebrate as the visit of the three kings of the East to the infant Jesus – but the Gospel text does not specify that there were three, nor that they were kings.
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
It is the term “magi” that has been traditionally adapted to “wise men”, or corrupted in popular imagination to “kings”. Astrologer-magicians, in the Zoroastrian religion, would be a more accurate translation. (Note the obvious linguistic connection between “magus” and “magic”). Kittredge quotes Nancy Wilson and Virginia Mollenkott, to suggest that the Magi were probably either eunuchs, or trans.