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)
For trans children, at just how young an age is it appropriate to begin the transitioning process?
That’s just one of the questions raised by this thought-provoking story from the Boston Globe, on Nicole and her family. (The implied answer would seem to be, to prepare the way early, but delay anything permanent (and that includes delaying “natural” processes, like the onset of puberty) until the decision to transition is definite and irrevocable.
Jonas and Wyatt Maines were born identical twins, but from the start each had a distinct personality.
Jonas was all boy. He loved Spiderman, action figures, pirates, and swords.
Wyatt favored pink tutus and beads. At 4, he insisted on a Barbie birthday cake and had a thing for mermaids. On Halloween, Jonas was Buzz Lightyear. Wyatt wanted to be a princess; his mother compromised on a prince costume.
Once, when Wyatt appeared in a sequin shirt and his mother’s heels, his father said: “You don’t want to wear that.’’
“Yes, I do,’’ Wyatt replied.
“Dad, you might as well face it,’’ Wayne recalls Jonas saying. “You have a son and a daughter.’’
-Read the full article at The Boston Globe.
The article also highlights the importance of a supportive family and school community – and Nicole’s own mental strength. There came a point in her journey when the family became involved in political lobbying. She had encountered difficulties at school over usage of the girls’ bathroom, and filed court proceedings against the school district for discrimination. A Republican state legislator then introduced legislation that would have repealed Maine’s protection for transgender people in public restroom.
Last spring Wayne and Nicole roamed the halls of the State House, button-holing legislators and testifying against the bill. “I’d be in more danger if I went into the boys bathroom,’’ Nicole told the lawmakers, who ultimately rejected the bill.
“She knows how to work a room,’’ her father says proudly. “She even convinced a cosponsor to vote the other way.’’
Nicole freely acknowledges the difficulties ahead – but described the political engagement as a “perk”:
“Obviously my life is not going to be as easy as being gender-conforming, but there are perks like being able to get out there and do things that will benefit the [transgender] community,’’ she says. “I think everything’s going to turn out pretty well for me.’’
As an aside to gthe main themes, I was amused by the self-description of Nicole’s father (note the emphasis I added):
“As a conventional dad, hunter, and former Republican, it took me longer to understand that I never had two sons,’’ he told them. “My children taught me who Nicole is and who she needed to be.’’