Catholic & Transexual: One Woman’s Confession

by Kilian Melloy
Monday Aug 23, 2010

A Catholic blogger has taken on the question of transgendered individuals and their rights and needs in a two-part column at religious site Catholic Exchange.

The blogger, Mary Kochan, posted the content of a letter she had received from a reader of her blog who claimed to be a transgendered individual born anatomically male, who married, fathered children, and then became female through gender reassignment surgery.

Kochan started out by addressing philosophical, versus practical, applications of theology. "Everything does not remain on paper, or floating up in the rarefied air of theological theory," Kochan wrote. "Every doctrine comes down to earth, becomes incarnated by an act: a ritual is performed; a Sacrament is received; a vow is made and kept for life; a prayer is made by human lips and ascends to God; an act of penance is performed. This is where the rubber meets the road."

Kochan then posted the letter, in which the author claimed to have been born transgendered but married a woman with the hope that his marriage might "cure" him of his deep-seated identification as a woman. "My marriage helped...for a while...but in the end my nature could not be denied," the letter's author wrote. "We tried for 7 years to 'beat' it," the letter continued. "We tried so hard. We failed. In the end, my body was tearing itself apart--I was running a blood pressure of 180/120, my blood chemistry was a wreck, and I was suffering cardiac arrhythmias which placed me in the ER too often for our comfort. I was also miserable. I made it clear to my wife that I was willing to die for her, but I couldn't promise to live much longer even despite the fact I would not suicide."

The letter went on, "You have very absolute views on my status as still male. I make a pretty pathetic one, but that's fine. I'll accept you don't see the need for special protections. That said, you suggest I should not be able to get documents as a woman. I'm curious, though, does this mean you believe I should be detained with "other men" in jail? Keep in mind, I have a reasonably petite female figure, size C breasts (hormones are amazing), and a vagina (whatever you might think of it, it would function were a man to decide to use it as such). If I am documented as a man, I would be incarcerated as one were such an unlikely event to happen--a thought which terrifies me given I have known violent rape once before...

"About showering facilities--I am indistinguishable externally from a biological female--do you propose I shower with men before and after I go swimming?" the letter continued. "As far as bathrooms, one of the reasons I transitioned when I did was because men who didn't even know me were uncomfortable in the bathroom with me--they'd walk in and march right back out. One outright challenged me on being in the men's restroom despite my man's shirt and slacks--my form said otherwise."

Kochan declared herself "very moved at the plight of this person," and set out the medical situations in which a newborn might be discovered to have ambiguous genitalia or characteristics of intersex babies, such as possessing both male and female reproductive organs. "The first question I asked myself about this letter was whether this person represented such a medical case," wrote Kochan. "Based solely upon the information presented it does seem this could have been possible, although by no means did the letter make that claim. Instead, the writer identifies as a person who has gone from being male--revealing no ambiguity, genetically or anatomically--to being female.

"One more basic point to get out of the way at the outset: where the rubber meets the road we all have a blowout," wrote Kochan. "We all sin and fall short of the glory of God." In part two of her column, Kochan responded directly to the letter's author, assuring her that she still had a place within the church, but setting out the Catholic Church's views on sexual identity, and opining that the letter's author, whatever her internal feelings, was in fact a man: "Not just because you say so, but you fathered children with this woman. That is pretty strong evidence that you were a man when you got married.

"The Church does not accept that you have 'become a woman' regardless of your ability to pass as one, either by demeanor, dress, physique, or external anatomy," Kochan continued. "If you ever were really a man, then you still are, regardless of what you have done to yourself. It is not my 'absolute views on your status as a male'--it is the Church that says it."

Added Kochan, "I understand that you were in distress even to the point of your health being wrecked and I'm not in any way making light of that. But objectively speaking, what you proposed and carried out as a remedy to your distress was the breaking of God's law that says that you may not mutilate your body." Continued Kochan, "It is better to die than to offend God. It would have been better for you to have given your life to stay in obedience to God, than to break His law and to drag along into sin your poor spouse." Kochan continued, "That is hard, but really everyone of us should feel that way about every serious sin we have committed. We should prefer the death of our bodies to the death of our souls, shouldn't we?

"We just never know what fruit may come when we determine that no matter what we are not going to break God's law," Kochan's reply continued. "For all you know, God may have given you peace and healed you. We can't know that, but we can see some of the fruit of the course of action you did pursue."

Kochan went on to say that as far as the question of what shower facilities or restrooms to use, "these things are not necessities of life. I guess you will have to live under a few restrictions because of what you did to yourself. You can just consider all that part of your penance."

Questions of sexual morality such as same-sex marriage, sexual intimacy between consenting adults of the same gender, and sexual identity and expression, are an ongoing controversy within the church. The church's official teachings state that gays and lesbians do not choose their sexual desires, but that they are nonetheless "disordered" individuals who have been "called by God" to lead lives of celibacy. In a similar vein, the church teaches that one's physical gender determines whether one is a man or a woman, regardless of the deep-seated convictions transgender individuals experience, typically from extremely early ages, that they are, in fact, in the wrong kind of body and belong in the body of the opposite gender.

Conservative Catholics denounce efforts of reform-minded members of their faith to re-cast the church's teachings and stance on such issues, but efforts at reform from within the church continue. In one such example, the newly formed Catholics for Equality seek input on clergy who act or speak in ways that indicate anti-gay bias, according to an Aug. 22 report at Catholic News Agency.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


  • RevBobJ, 2010-08-23 16:22:00

    As usual the Roman church refuses to accept all scientific knowledge, this is not new. They also feel that they can make man made rules beecome those of Christ simply by having a POPE declair it. It is sa to refuse any person the right and privilage to give honor, glory and praise to God. In my own family I have had a cousin who was born a woman according to doctors but had both organs and completed the change to a man. The strange thing is that as a man he is the spitting image of my and his grandfather. Our ministry acccepts and embrases those transgendered persons who come to us and welcome them into the faith community. The same was true in the Roman diocese of Los Angeles where our parish had a transgendered person as a greeter and who was very active in many parish activities. How does the church expect GLBT person to live celibate lives when their prioests and Bishop who have taken a vow to do so can not and worse they sexually abuse children. Rome needs to move from the reformation and into the 21st century but then they murdered a pope who was trying to do that.

  • Anonymous, 2010-08-23 17:52:32

    Not only do they ignore all scientific evidence, they think so little of us Trans persons, that as Ms. Kochan stated, it would be better for us to be dead! She also sloughs off the responsibility of her own views saying that this is what the church believes.Unbelievable that in this day, and age our human rights, our equal rights, our very right to be, to work, to live is subject to the bigoted views of religious zealots! Unbelievable!

  • , 2010-08-24 08:05:19

    What this Catholic woman needs to realize was that although this Transsexual person was born with a ’male’ body GOD made her mind female. By changing her body to female she simply fixed a problem that existed -- just as someone who was born with another deformity or disease might be able to do with surgery. If you were born with your heart on the outside of your body (like some are) you would fix that with surgery -- is THAT "mutilating" the body that "God" gave you? Also, I wonder - did this Catholic woman have her male children circumsized? If so she mutilated someone else’s body without their consent - and there was nothing wrong with it to begin with. This Catholic woman needs to pull herself out of the dark ages!

  • , 2010-08-26 02:56:22

    As a Catholic person who has transitioned I am quite disappointed in both the Church’s dogma and the many bigots who parrot that dogma. Science and medicine is best left to scientists and doctors and NOT priests or Popes. The Church appears to be blind to the fact that it’s Crusade against LGBT is ultimately self-defeating. Every day this Crusade continues the Church loses more hearts, minds and souls. The saddest part is the next Pope will probably be from the Third World and be even WORSE. The Church is on a suicidal path to destruction. Such is the fate of institutions that can’t learn and evolve.

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