Getting to Know Transgender People

Transgender symbol, a combination of the male ...
Transgender Symbol: A combination of the male sign, female sign, and a third arm representing transgender people

Lately at New Ways Ministry, we have been receiving more and more questions about transgender people than we have in the past.  This trend is probably the result of the fact that transgender people are only recently becoming more visible in mainstream society.

The good news is that part of that visibility is coming from the fact that more and more states, counties, and municipalities are enacting laws to protect the civil rights of transgender people.  The sad news is that some of that visibility is coming from media attention to the fact that violence (some times fatal) against transgender people is rampant.

A Christmas Day article by social worker and sex educator Amy Johnson that appeared in a Pacific Northwest newspaper very clearly addressed some introductory questions about transgender people. In particular are the distinctions she makes between biological sex, gender, and gender roles.

What initially caught my eye about this article was the title:  “Can transgender people pray?’  When Johnson learned that a friend of hers was asked that question, her response was:

“How much work do we have to do in our culture when anyone — anyone! — wonders if they are even allowed to pray?

“My friend put together a request for those who were willing to share a prayer. To read the responses, go here (

The prayers on that site are beautiful and worth a moment or two of reflection.

Another transgender resource has recently crossed my desktop.  JJ Marie Gufreda, a Catholic transgender woman recently published a book,  Lefthander in London: A Field Guide to Transgenders, Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals – In the Family, On the Job and In the Pew.  The book offers some handy and homey advice for people who are just learning about transgender people.

Finally, at New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium, From Water to Wine:  Lesbian and Gay Catholics and Relationships, we will be offering a focus session on transgender issues entitled “Accidental Lesbians:  Catholic Marriage Through a Gender Change.”  It will be led by Celestine and Hilary Ranney-Howes, who have been married for 33 years.

A quick reminder:  the early bird registration fee deadline for the Symposium is December 31, 2011 (postmarked), so please be sure to sign up soon to get the discount!  You can get more information and register online by visiting New Ways Ministry’s website.

If you are perplexed about this issue, take the advice that Amy Johnson offers at the conclusion of her article mentioned above:

“You may think you don’t need to know about this, or that it doesn’t affect you. As you look forward to the New Year, I challenge you to learn more about the people behind this issue — their stories, their pain, their triumphs.

“Instead of standing in judgment or confusion, take a chance and walk with them.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry