Catholic Workshop on “Trans-forming Love”

November 10, 2013

While we know from poll after poll that Catholic lay people overwhelmingly support lesbian and gay people, I think there is probably not yet as strong support for transgender people among those in the pews.   The reason for the difference is probably because Catholic people have had less familiarity with transgender people, and probably rely more on myths or stereotypes than on factual evidence and personal testimony.

To help Catholics get a better understanding of transgender people and issues from the perspectives of both science and faith, New Ways Ministry is hosting a workshop day entitled “Trans-forming Love,” on Saturday November 23, 2013, 9:00 am – 3:30 pm, at the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart, 1001 West Joppa Road, Towson, Maryland, 21204,

The goal of the day is to dispel myths and stereotypes about transgender people by gaining sound information from the scientific community and from the life story of a transgender person. The transgender experience will also be explored in the light of faith and spirituality.  The day includes presentations on gender identity development, personal perspectives, legal considerations, and spiritual dimensions. There will be Q & A sessions, small group discussions, and informational handouts.

Edgardo Menvielle, MD

Two speakers will be making presentations.  In the morning, participants will hear from Dr. Edgardo Menvielle, MD, an attending psychiatrist at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC. He co-founded the Gender and Sexuality Development Program and serves as its medical director. Dr. Menvielle provides clinical services and training for child psychiatry, psychology, pediatrics trainees, and students.

Hilary Howes

Hilary Howes

In the afternoon, the speaker will be Hilary Howes, a Catholic transgender woman, who has been married for 34 years. She authored the article, “To Be or Not to Be: A Catholic Transsexual Speaks,” which describes her conversion to Catholicism and her gender transition. Hilary is involved with several transgender rights organizations, including the National Transgender Religious Leadership Roundtable.

Space for this workshop is limited, so please register soon if you would like to attend.  Registration is required. Suggested donation is $25 (more if you can, less if you can’t) and includes lunch.

For more information and to register for this program online, please visit New Ways Ministry’s website.  If you have questions, please call (301) 277-5674 or send email to:

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Diocesan Newspaper Shows Signs of Hope in Transgender Coverage

October 23, 2013

The Archdiocese of Baltimore’s Catholic Review newspaper prints articles largely re-stating the hierarchy’s positions. However, a recent article analyzed transgender issues from Catholic perspectives and, while still negative overall, included a trans-positive voice and showed other hopeful signs.

The article is the fifth in a series called “Playing God,” which examines bioethics in light of modern knowledge and focuses particularly on sex reassignment surgeries that many transgender people undergo. While focusing on an anti-transgender activist, it also highlights Hilary Howes, a transgender Catholic woman and advocate, who recently wrote about what Pope Francis could mean for gender issues in the Church.  The Review reports about Howes’ experience:

“Born male, she transitioned to living as a woman 18 years ago. Howes remembers wanting to be a girl as a child, and experimented with cross-dressing as an adult before becoming a transsexual…

“A few years ago, Howes described herself as having ‘male genitalia and a female brain.’ Now she thinks of gender as a spectrum, and her gender expression falling outside of standard ‘male’ and ‘female’ categories. Howes speculates that her situation may be a form of intersex, resulting from a natural genetic variance or hormonal imbalances when she was in the womb. She believes that identity shouldn’t be tied to anatomy.”

Hilary Howes

Hilary Howes

Citing anti-transgender voices, the article muddles through the philosophical and theological concepts involved with transgender identities and sex reassignment surgery. Of these, Howes responds:

“As a transsexual, Howes doesn’t see sex-reassignment surgery as a mutilation, but rather a medical correction of a physical malformation – a procedure that allows a person to become his or her ‘authentic self.’

“It’s an argument commonly made by transgender advocates: Transgenderism is a physical, not mental, condition, and it’s the body that’s in the wrong.”

Howes’ comments are not the article’s only signs of hope. It is notable that the diocesan newspaper used female pronouns for Howes, as other Catholic institutions have used one’s sex at birth instead of their gender identity when referring to transgender people. The Catholic Review also notes:

“The church has not spoken definitively on the matter’s morality. In 2003, Catholic News Service reported that the Vatican released a document to bishops on sex-reassignment surgery’s implications for canon law. According to CNS, the document included ‘an analysis of the moral licitness’ of sex reassignment surgery, concluding ‘that the procedure could be morally acceptable in certain extreme cases if a medical probability exists that it will “cure” the patient’s internal turmoil.’ “

That same document reportedly banned changing the sex on baptismal certificates and rejected transgender people from religious life if they have undergone sex reassignment surgery.

Want to learn more about the issues presented in this post? Hilary Howes will be a presenter at New Ways Ministry’s upcoming workshop, “Trans-forming Love,” on November 23rd. Catholics will dialogue and pray about a trans-positive Catholic approach. Visit New Ways Ministry’s website for more information and to register for the event.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Weighing Pope Francis’ Impact on Transgender Issues

October 14, 2013

Hilary Howes

Many have embraced Pope Francis for his welcoming remarks and actions towards gay and lesbian people, but what about transgender people? Two commentaries reveal both the positive effect the pope is having on issues of gender identity and the tremendous work remaining to make Catholic communities more inclusive for all.

Hilary Howes writes from the perspective of a trans Catholic woman in a post titled, “Oh What a Difference a Pope Makes…” She recalls comments by former Pope Benedict XVI who once condemned sex reassignment and shifting gender identities, contrasting this with Pope Francis in the America magazine interview:

“The pope comments: ‘St. Vincent of Lerins makes a comparison between the biological development of man and the transmission from one era to another of the deposit of faith, which grows and is strengthened with time. Here, human self-understanding changes with time and so also human consciousness deepens. Let us think of when slavery was accepted or the death penalty was allowed without any problem. So we grow in the understanding of the truth…The view of the church’s teaching as a monolith to defend without nuance or different understandings is wrong.’ “

In light of the pope’s dynamic viewpoint on Catholic teaching, Hilary asks what this could mean for transgender people if the Church can change:

“Could our new pope be speaking to transgender people (among others)? He sites slavery and the death penalty that were once supported by the church to show that the church can be wrong and can change. It’s a reading that looks for the loving embrace of god to deepen with the maturity that comes with science and social development. Not the retreat from science and social development that is fundamentalism. The mistreatment of transgender people by the church comes from out of date science and the most fundamental interpretation of church dogma, not even theology. This can end now, with this Pope’s leadership and given the overwhelming support of socially conscious American Catholics.”

Too many Catholics feel excluded from local churches because of their gender identity. With this exclusion in mind, Pope Francis’ interview spurred even conservative blogger Elizabeth Scalia to ask whether the Catholic Church has room for transgender people.

Elizabeth Scalia

Writing in First Things, Scalia speaks about a friend, Sarah, who was a trans woman attracted to the Catholic faith, but who declared “she could never convert because ‘the church wouldn’t have me, as I am.’ ” Of this Scalia writes:

“It broke my heart that Sarah believed this. I urged inquiry with a priest, but this child of God was convinced that there was no room for transgendered persons in the Catholic church. I thought there might be, and made a few discreet inquiries of my own; what I encountered was a general sense of dis-ease among the clerics and theologians I asked. None of them said ‘No, there is no room’ but none of them would definitively say ‘yes’ either…

“May Sarah be admitted into this field hospital for sinners? I considered my job, and the job of the church, as being first of all to love the person before me; to see Sarah, as Pope Benedict XVI wrote in Deus Caritas Est, ‘not simply with my eyes and feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ’; to respect the dignity of this human person seeking a relationship with Christ and then offer an arm of support for the journey. This might mean challenges down the road, certainly, but first and foremost it would require an unambiguous welcome.”

Scalia’s full post is flawed in its welcome because it perpetuates a negative belief that transgender people are in some way sinful or should be counseled out of their true identity. Yet, this questioning by even defenders of the hierarchy’s strict sexual ethics suggests that Pope Francis is having a positive effect on LGBT issues. In past years, such questions would have been dead on arrival, if they ever emerged at all.

Hilary’s faith comes through at the end of her post, and is a call for all Catholics:

“My god is the Creator. I believe our highest calling is to create. Our humble attempts at art, engineering, commerce, and social inventions honor our creator…Understanding creation as opposed to procreation as a central theme of faith helps us to appreciate the spectacular diversity of nature and humans and gender expression.”

By educating themselves, Catholics can overcome existing prejudices and misinformation about transgender people and participate in creating parishes, dioceses, and eventually a broader Church that is, in the words of Pope Francis, a “home for all.”

One start could be attending New Ways Ministry’s upcoming workshop, “Trans-forming Love.” You can find more information about the event here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

World Youth Day Pilgrims Kick Off “Queer Catholic Faith” Season

October 9, 2013

DignityUSA, a national organization for LGBT Catholics and supporters, is hosting their third season of Queer Catholic Faith, a webinar series featuring distinguished and interesting speakers on LGBT Catholic topics.

The webinars are live one-hour web-interviews with featured guests and real-time questions and conversation from participants who connect through their computers.

World Youth Day pilgrims on Copacabana beach.

World Youth Day pilgrims on Copacabana beach.

The first installment, on Tuesday, October 22, 2013, 9:00 p.m., Eastern time, will feature three of the six young Equally Blessed pilgrims who promoted LGBT equality and justice at World Youth Day in Brazil this past summer.   The promotional material describes these young people’s experiences which they will share during the webinar:

“Wearing your rainbow colors, your smile and carrying your banner that reads “Faithful Catholics committed to full equality of LGBT persons”, you walk into a crowd of Catholics you presume to be generally unsupportive of LGBT rights and dignity. What happens next? Six young adults did just that for an entire week during World Youth Day celebrations. What they encountered may greatly surprise you. DignityUSA is
thrilled to host three of these pilgrims on it’s premier webshow of the third season of Queer Catholic Faith. Join us for a taste of Catholicism among young people empowered with compassion and justice.”

Participation is free.  You can register for the October 22nd webinar by clicking here.

The monthly series is scheduled for Tuesday evenings at 9:00 p.m., Eastern time.  The remaining episodes feature the following people and topics:

Richard Galliardetz

Richard Galliardetz

November 26, 2013: Dr. Richard Gaillardetz, President of the Catholic Theological Society
of America, Professor of Catholic Systematic Theology at Boston College and father of a
gay son. Register here.

December 17, 2013: Dignity Alive! A look at a thriving Dignity chapter community in San Diego, CA. with three SD guests: Brian, Roxanne and Al.  Register here.

January 21, 2014: Joe Gentilini, Dignity/Columbus member and author of the new memoir, Hounded By God: A Gay Man’s Journey to Self-Acceptance, Love, and Relationship.  Register here.

Thelathia 'Nikki' Young

Thelathia ‘Nikki’ Young

February 18, 2014: Thelathia ‘Nikki’ Young,  a star attraction at Dignity’s 2013 Convention. Nikki will show how our own stories can bring others to deeper understanding and acceptance. Register here.

March 18, 2014: Mateo Williamson, a young trans man from Arizona who will engage you with his curious mind and joyful Catholic faith.  Register here.

April 22, 2014: Dignity Prays! Discover the diversity and richness of Dignity worship in this interview with three persons from Dignity communities across the nation. Register here.

Webinars for May and June have yet to be announced.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Beyond Pope Francis: Georgetown U. Welcoming Trans Students

September 22, 2013
Pope Francis’ interview with America Magazine has captured Catholic, and global, attention since last Thursday, and yet one columnist has said “Forget the Pope, Catholic Universities are the Future of the Church.” Bondings 2.0 recently commended Catholic campuses for welcoming gay, lesbian, and bisexual students as a new academic year begins.  Now the news is even better: Georgetown University, Washington, DC, has begin actively welcoming transgender students, as well. columnist Mark Joseph Stern is a graduate of Georgetown , thus it serves as his reference point for Catholic higher education. Sterns opens by writing:
“It’s impossible to deny the importance of the pope’s words, especially on the issue of gay rights. But it’s also easy to overpraise them. His newfound tolerance didn’t develop in a vacuum, and it’s probably not shared by many in the upper echelons of the Vatican hierarchy. Rather, Pope Francis’ remarks seem more or less ripped from the playbook of certain Catholic universities in the United States—and, more specifically, the Jesuits who run them.”
Sterns recounts the emergence of an LGBT-positive attitude at the school after a series of neighborhood and campus hate crimes, and general homophobic culture, led students to organize in 2007. Students petitioned the University to act and, with the aid of Jesuits who advocated for the students, the administration opened an LGBT resource center that was the first of its kind on Catholic campuses. Today, Georgetown is an accepting campus and you can read below on Bondings 2.0′s past coverage of the campus’ progress, with Sterns concluding:
“On the whole, however, the university has managed a comfortable equilibrium between social progressivism and Catholic devotion, thanks in large part to its very Jesuit tradition of questioning, discussing, and, eventually, reforming.

“Was Pope Francis influenced by the kind of Catholic tolerance that developed at colleges like Georgetown? No one can say for sure—but it seems likely. In fact, given that Francis is a Jesuit himself, the most surprising facet of his ‘creeping tolerance’  is that it took so long to develop. For many prominent and pious Catholics, gay acceptance is virtually a nonissue. It’s about time the Vatican caught up.”

Last week, this blog highlighted the positive steps Catholic campuses are making for their LGBT students in the coming academic year. Georgetown University already provides professional staff, support groups, and the LGBTQ Resource Center, but is making headlines this year for actively welcoming transgender students. A lengthy piece in The Guide, a weekly campus magazine, examines the issue through the lens of two students:
“This year, for the first time in recent memory, Georgetown has two openly transgender students — [Lexi] Dever and Celeste Chisholm (COL ’15) — and one gender non-conforming student, who could not be reached for this article. And last week, GU Pride named Chisholm its first ever trans* representative.

“ ‘We are definitely on the right track,’ Chisholm said of Georgetown’s readiness to accept trans* students. ‘At their very best, the people here will understand, and at the very least, people are respectful enough to know when not to say anything.’

“But despite these gains, Chisholm and Dever feel the near-invisibility of trans* students on campus acutely. ‘People aren’t as educated about it as they could be because they just don’t know anyone who is transgender,’ Dever said.”
The article provides an in-depth look at the two students’ stories about being transgender and transitioning, which you can read here. As for the University, Dever and Chisholm applaud Georgetown for accepting different gender identities and admit wherever students are coming out as transgender and transitioning is difficult. Shiva Subbaraman, who heads up the LGBTQ Resource Center, says there has been tremendous progress on transgender issues in her five years on campus.
As it has previously done, Georgteown University is now listening to students and leading the way on issues of sexual and gender diversity. A proposed student support group for transgender and questioning students is planned, as are educational programs. More questionable are the logistical issues, like housing and healthcare, that are often a flashpoints:
“Chisholm acknowledges that Georgetown’s position as a Catholic university means it will be difficult to push for the kinds of policies that have been implemented at other schools — The George Washington University’s gender-neutral housing or American University health insurance’s coverage of transition surgery, for example. But she aims to push back.
“ ‘As a private, Catholic university, I know that Georgetown can’t do anything we want…But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to fight as hard as I can for these things. Being Catholic doesn’t hold us back from being the people that we’re meant to be, from being the understanding Hoyas that we are, being the respectable and respectful community that we are.’ “
What do you think: Are the Church’s colleges and universities the future of Catholicism on LGBT issues? Are American Catholics ahead of the pope in terms of LGBT issues? What does Georgetown University’s welcome mean for transgender issues in the Church overall? Leave your thoughts and opinions in the ‘Comments’ section below.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry
Related Articles on Georgetown University
August 16, 2013: LGBT Rankings Fail to Reveal Full Story
August 5, 2013: CAMPUS CHRONICLES: Georgetown U. Continues as Gay-Friendly Campus Despite Pressure
April 2, 2013: CAMPUS CHRONICLES: Gay Students’ Elections Signal Shift in Catholic Colleges’ Inclusivity
February 1, 2013: Raising LGBT Standards in Catholic Schools
October 25, 2012: CAMPUS CHRONICLES: Georgetown U. Celebrates Coming Out Month
October 12, 2012: New Organization of LGBT Students on Catholic Campuses Launched
July 6, 2012: On Being a Lesbian at Georgetown University

Fired Transgender Teacher Scores Points in Court Case

September 12, 2013
Marla Krolikowski

Marla Krolikowski

2013 has been the year of the fired LGBT church worker.  We’ve been reporting on the plight of these unjustly dismissed people since the beginning of the year, when we let you know about the story of Mark Krolikowski (as he was then identified), a transgender teacher who was fired after 32 years of employment at St. Francis Preparatory H.S. in Queens, N.Y.   Krolikowski, who now identifies as Marla Krolikowski, brought a legal case against the school.

The Huffington Post reported that Krolikowski won a legal victory in court this week:

“On Monday, a judge reportedly rejected the school’s motion to have the case thrown out and strongly suggested that the opposing parties settle the lawsuit.”

Judge Duane Hart was skeptical that Krolikowski’s gender transition did not factor into her firing, and that the school fired her simply for insubordination, as they claimed:

” ‘Insubordination after 32 years of teaching? And the insubordination seems to coincide with the expression of being transgender?’ the case’s judge skeptically questioned. “

Perhaps more significantly related to other such firings, the judge also dismissed the school’s claim that they could dismiss an employee who acted in a ministerial capacity, known as the “ministerial exception in discrimination law:

“He also rejected a separate motion by St. Francis Preparatory School that claimed Krolikowski was essentially a minister, which would give the school the agency to hire and fire employees disregarding legal interference.”

While the judge’s comment denying insubordination and his ruling against ministerial exception are hopeful signs for Krolikowski’s case, the situation is not yet fully resolved.

Krolikowski’s case looks like it will be one to watch since the questions of religious exemption and ministerial exception are often very important concepts in cases such as this one.  These concepts, designed to protect religious liberty, become very complicated when the people being fired are not even members of the same church that runs the institution.  This happened with Carla Hale, a Methodist teacher fired from a Catholic high school this year, and also with Steav Bates-Congdon, an Episcopal musician fired from a Catholic parish in 2011.  Since their behavior and beliefs were not in accord with Catholic teachings in many areas, one wonders why their adherence to sexual doctrine becomes the deal breaker in employment matters.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Understanding Transgender Issues Starts with Good Questions

August 27, 2013

Jonathan Merritt

As legal issues and theological debates grow around transgender issues, people of faith are speaking out in greater numbers for full protection and equality. Recent pieces by several authors are fine contributions for Catholics to reflect further on how the Church and its members can better understand and support trans Catholics.

Writing for Religion News Service, Jonathan Merritt asks Christians to complicate their thinking around transgender matters because they are far more complex than how anti-LGBT voices depict them. Stemming from his experiences with a fellow church member who is a trans man, the author speaks to the deficiency Christians (and one can safely add Catholics) have in thinking and speaking about transgender people. He writes:

“I suspect many Christians are like me and haven’t considered all the theological, ethical, and scientific intricacies of this issue. Perhaps we are afraid that what we discover will stretch the bounds of our thinking. My unsettled thoughts about how to reconcile Kris’s gender identification with my Christian faith tempt me to shrink back from my friendship with Kris. And yet, I’m so glad I haven’t. Our conversations challenge my thinking and force me to ask new and difficult questions of myself. Kris and I may not end up agreeing on everything, but we press on in our friendship anyway. And I think we’re both better for it.

“The transgender issue is an important one and Christians must grapple with it in all its messiness and complexity. So let’s not pretend that any armchair theologian should be able to figure it out. Kris deserves better. And so do all of our transgender neighbors.”

Sharon Groves, the director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion and Faith program, writes in The Washington Post about a positive contribution transgender members bring to communities of faith, namely the opportunity for wider reflection on creation, God, and oneself. She first writes a series of questions:

“[What if] we actually took seriously the question of what it means to be human and, more expansively, what it means to live into our full humanity? What if rather than saying that biology is destiny we actually explored the ways in which we all experience our own gender identities and expressions? What if we learned about the lived experiences of our transgender peers?”

Groves asks Christians to willingly engage in a respectful, open-minded questioning by encountering transgender people, their stories, and broader religious questions as a way forward. Fundamentally, understanding transgender community members will also involved understanding oneself in a deeper way on issues of gender, as she writes:

Sharon Groves

“The core teachings of Christianity are to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. We cannot love God fully if we don’t do the work of trying to understand who God is for each of us. When we look at the most moving and transformative religious writing – from Augustine to Thomas Merton – there is a sense of openness and curiosity to the experience of God.  We can’t love God if we don’t try to glean how God works in our lives.

“Similarly, we can’t really love our neighbors if we cast off all curiosity about who they are and their experience of life in the world. And finally, if we remain uninterested in ourselves – about how we come to know our gender–then we can’t really love the difference that shows up in our neighbors…

“To live our lives with true compassion and caring, we need to move beyond slogans and ask the deeper questions about gender and the diversity of experiences.   But to do that, one must ask the right question and be open to a multitude of answers.”

In a sign of hope for the Catholic Church, Governor Jerry Brown of California, who is a Catholic, recently signed a groundbreaking law protecting transgender students in that state. The law allows transgender students to use bathrooms and play on the sports teams which match their gender identity most fully. However, comments by an administrator in Nebraska’s Catholic schools opposing a similar law in that state prove that work remains in securing equality for transgender people.  At least one previous story on Bondings 2.0 reveals the pressures trans church employees feel, as well as their fears of discriminatory firings.  Another story shows the support that Catholics can express for transgender people.

A positive first step is for every Catholic to deepen their understanding of transgender issues by questioning their existing beliefs, educating themselves, and encountering trans people in their communities. Share your thoughts and resources on how Catholics can better understand transgender issues in the ‘Comments’ section below.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Transgender Student Decides to Skip Graduation After Discrimination

May 26, 2013

Damian Garcia protesting outside his high school

Damian Garcia and his supporters hoped St. Pius X High School would let him walk outfitted in graduation robes fitting his male gender during graduation this past week . However, Damian refused to participate in the ceremonies last Wednesday because school administrators insisted that the transgender student wear white female robes.

KOB News out of Albuquerque, New Mexico, reported on Damian’s absence from graduation, noting comments from the boy’s father that Damian chose to hang out with friends rather than participate and cause a scene. The station also captured student reactions, which were supportive of transgender rights as Catholics:

“Amid the tremendous joy of their achievement, some students are a little disappointed in their alma mater.

“‘It’s a little ridiculous that they wouldn’t let him chose what he wanted to wear,’ said graduate Nolan Wain Wright.

“‘We pride ourselves in being a Catholic community and we don’t let him walk because of that, so it’s very sad,’ said graduate Erick Hernandez.”

Jesse Tyler Ferguson, St. Pius X alum & “Modern Family” star

Another voice support Damian was a famous alum of St. Pius X, the star of ABC’s Modern Family Jesse Tyler Ferguson. The Advocate notes Ferguson helped the cause of transgender students, and quotes from the actor’s Facebook profile:

“‘I am writing to ask you to do the right thing and let all your students graduate with dignity…Do not force someone to identify them self as someone they are not! It is as ridiculous as having a priest conduct mass in a nuns habit! Gender identification goes way beyond a check mark on a birth certificate…I know St. Pius X has changed a lot since I graduated in ’94. I['m] proud of the changes and strides you have made but this is not a time to hold to a rule book. Continue to grow and accept ALL of your students.’

“As a gay former high school student in a Catholic school, Ferguson can relate to 18-year-old Damien Garcia’s victimization…

“Out actor and Modern Family star Ferguson may have taken the issue to a much higher level, bringing attention to the frequent and persistent harassment and discrimination to which transgender youth are subjected.”

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the University of New Mexico’s LGBTQ Resource Center is holding a graduation for Garcia on May 30th. While this is a wonderful offer by the University, transgender students should not have to agitate in Catholic schools for equal treatment and respect; honoring their dignity should be assumed.

New Ways Ministry congratulates Damian on graduating and sends our blessing for his future endeavors.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Graduation Gown for Transgender Student Becomes an Issue at Catholic H.S.

May 17, 2013

A Catholic high school in Albuquerque is insisting that a male transgender student wear a girl’s graduation robe at the school’s commencement ceremonies next week.

Damian Garcia

Damian Garcia

Damian Garcia transitioned last year and changed his name from Brandi Garcia, which is the name on his birth certificate.  KQRE-TV reports that St. Pius High School, which requires male graduates to wear black robes and female graduates to wear white robes, is insisting that Damian wear a white robe.  Damian stated:

“I just want to walk in my black robe, nice and proud and have that memory to look back on with my family and friends. I would rather not walk than to embarrass myself by wearing a female robe.”

The teachers and students at the school all refer to him as “Damian,” and his parents support his gender transition and wearing a black robe.

The television statement captured the remarks of Damian’s father, Luis Garcia:

“I look at him and I call him my son. That’s how he wishes to be acknowledged is as a male. . . All you want in life is to see your kids happy and healthy. You never want to see them suffer or being ridiculed or be made fun of.”

School officials say that if there is a question about which color robe to wear, they are guided by the information on a student’s birth certificate, and Damian’s birth certificate says “female.”

The school’s reasoning shows the problems that can occur when rules become more important than human beings and human reality.  For officials to say that they cede all of their ability to make a judicious decision based on the birth certificate, and not the human and social reality with which they are faced,  is ignorant and insensitive.

This situation highlights another important issue:  why are graduation robes “gendered” in the the first place?  Why must boys wear one color and girls another color?  A simple solution would be to eliminate the color distinction, since it serves no meaningful purpose anyway.

An important lesson to be learned from this story, too, is that parental love for a child can often lead the way for the rest of the church to learn how to love and accept transgender people and other sexual and gender minorities.   The love of Damian’s parents, expressed by his father, is awe-inspiring, and reminds us of the unconditional love that God has for each of us.  So often our Catholic faith reminds us that God loves each of us as a parent.  It would be well for the officials at this Catholic school to learn a lesson from Damian’s parents on how to love and accept and treasure each student.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

NEWS NOTES: May 17, 2013

May 17, 2013

News NotesHere are some items that you may find of interest:

1) Today, May 17th, is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.  GayStarNews  reports that, for the first time, Catholic churches in Italy will be hosting prayer services to commemorate the day.

2) Peace Advocacy Network, a Philadelphia non-profit, will be protesting a “sports camp” for gay man, to be held on the grounds of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s seminary, St. Charles Borromeo, on May 23rd.  The sports program is sponsored by Courage, a group which promotes celibacy for lesbian and gay people, and which sometimes promotes the discredited “reparative therapy” to change a person’s orientation.  According to Metro.usthe sports camp “claims to help gay men repair their ‘sports wound’ and become ‘manlier’ – in so many words, performing ‘conversion therapy’ to ‘reform’ their homosexuality.” 

3) The Vatican is asking San Juan, Puerto Rico’s Archbishop Roberto Octavio González Nieves, to  step down from his position, but Gonzalez Nieves is refusing to leave.  According to Latin Timesthe Vatican’s action against the archbishop is prompted by “allegations of protecting pedophile priests, abusing his power, promoting Puerto Rican independence, and supporting a law that would allow gay couples living together, hereditary rights.”

4) In Zambia,  a Catholic priest who is running for the nation’s presidency, has stated that he will not arrest gay and lesbian people, and that he supports marriage equality.  According to The Times of Zambia“Father [Frank] Bwalya said he would respect homosexuals, claiming this was in line with the Catholic Church which prescribed respect for every individual.”

5) The Vatican has confirmed that Scotland’s Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who resigned earlier this year when it was revealed that he had sexually molested several seminarians and priests,  would be leaving the British country for “spiritual renewal,” according to The Daily Mail Earlier, O’Brien had refused to leave the country though many Catholic leaders felt his presence was divisive. O’Brien had been an outspoken critic of LGBT equality and justice in the UK.

6) reports on a set of “gay mysteries” of the Rosary, developed by Stephen Lovatt.  The mysteries are:  the healing of the Centurion’s boy, the answering of the Rich Young Ruler, the raising from the dead of Lazarus, the Last Supper, and the Kiss of Judas.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry





Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 895 other followers