Steps Forward for Transgender Equality

Within the space of one week, on opposite coasts of our nation, transgender equality has taken several steps forward.

Two transgender equality laws went into effect in California on January 12, 2012.  The bills were signed last year by Governor Jerry Brown, a Catholic and former seminarian.

According the San Francisco Times, the Gender Nondiscrimination Act clarifies existing employment, housing, and other civil rights protections.   The Vital Statistics Modernization Act makes it easier to obtain and update birth certificates.

One week later,  in heavily Catholic Massachusetts, Governor Patrick Deval hosted  a ceremonial signing into law of that state’s  Transgender Equal Rights Bill, according to The new law protects transgender citizens from discrimination in housing, employment, credit, and offers protections in the areas of civil rights and hate crimes.

Not included in the Massachusetts law was the area of public accommodation, and at the ceremony LGBT activist Danica Ali noted that it “must be added to the bill.”  As the story notes,  “Public accommodation refers to the right to stay at a hotel, ride a bus, or even use a bathroom without being discriminated against.”

Meanwhile, in Maryland this past week, the Baltimore County Council began public hearings on a transgender equality bill they are considering, according to The Baltimore Sun.  Opponents of the bill have spread rumors that a similar bill in Maryland’s Montgomery County have led to bathroom rapes by men dressed as women.  The Baltimore Sun also reported that the Montgomery County Chief of Police Thomas Manger has said these rumors are false.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Is There a Catholic in the House?

This past week, we reported in our NEWS NOTES feature that the Catholic governor of Washington State, Christine Gregoire, announced her strong support of a marriage equality bill there.  She joins other Catholic governors who have endorsed or are presently endorsing legislation that grants marriage or partnership rights to lesbian/gay couples:  New York’s Andrew Cuomo, Maryland’s Martin O’ Malley, and Illinois’ Pat Quinn. 

We also reported that Governor O’Malley is supporting the transgender non-discrimination bill in Maryland. There are many other Catholic lawmakers in Maryland who are supporting the marriage equality bill, the transgender bill or both:  Senator Rob Garagiola, Delegates  Heather Mizeur, Joseline Pena-Melnyk, Kriselda Valderrama, Anne Healey, Victor Ramirez, to name a few.

We’d like to know who are the other Catholic lawmakers–local, state, federal– around the nation who support or have supported marriage equality, transgender non-discrimination, and other pro-LGBT initiatives.  Who are they?

Help us find the names of these leaders by responding in the “Comments” section of this post with their names, titles,  locations, and what issues they support or have supported.  Such a list will help to support Catholics around the nation who support equality and justice.

Please share this posting with your friends via email and social media so that we can get a response from a variety of locations.  Here’s a shortlink for this post:  You can cut and paste it into your email or social media posting.

Thanks in advance for helping us with this effort!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

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