Greetings to all Catholics, queers, and other assorted readers. After a long absence I’ve decided to explain why I no longer post here. The short answer is that I’m no longer Catholic. I refrained from talking about this because I didn’t want to invalidate what I’d already written, but maybe some invalidations are in order.
First I want to be abundantly clear that I believe much of what I’ve written on this blog is still valid if you hold to a moderately conservative Catholic worldview. If you believe, as the Vatican does, that gender/sexual identity is an essential God-given trait, and if you hold to the Apostolic Creed as the bedrock of the Christian faith, then there is no reason why trans* people should be excluded from the life of the Church in any way. All rhetoric which banishes queer persons to the margins is nothing but bigotry tressed up as pseudo-orthodoxy.
Now the reasons why I am no longer Catholic are too numerous and far too complex for one blog post (I could point, however, to several big sticking points: the systemic sexual abuse, the consistent hatred against the very people Jesus would have broken bread with, the inability to incorporate scientific advances into a fundamentalist worldview). That’s all neither here nor there; I’m not here to pick a fight. However, I do need to explain why I disagree with some of my past assertions.
First of all, even if I were still Catholic the tone of this blog would have changed regarding gender identity in its very many manifestations. My biggest regret regarding this blog is the disservice I did to non-binary persons. In all good faith I was trying to reconcile Catholic views of gender with my own predicament as a transgender woman. As someone who feels as a woman and not as caught in between the binary, it was relatively easy for me to simplify gender down to a core inherent identity. This jives pretty well with the Catholic worldview, even though many of us in the trans* community know first-hand that gender is not that simple. I think I got closest to the truth here in my series on the various uses for the word gender. There are three predominant theories about gender: (1) it is a social construct, (2) it is a psychological reality, and (3) it is a biological fact. Most people ascribe to one of these. Throughout most of this blog I ascribed to a combination of 2 and 3. As I expressed in the gender series, I still believe it to be a combination of all three, and that much of our confusion comes from using a single nebulous word to encapsulate a great many realities.
Before I leave this blog for good, I want to clear the air about a few terms I used in the past, and why I no longer use them.
Transsexual. In the past I used the word transsexual to describe myself. Transsexual is a predomiantly medical term used to indicate someone who undergoes a medical process to transition from one gender to another. Some trans people still identify as transsexuals, however the majority of us, myself included, find the term grating and outdated. I used the word in this blog because at the time I partially ascribed to a theory called trans medicalism. Trans medicalism is the idea that the identity and experience of trans people is ultimately validated (and shown to be logical and worthy) through the affirmation of doctors and medical professionals. Given that most conservative Catholic dialog on trans issues has been from this viewpoint, I did not bother to contradict it but used it as a springboard for further discussion. In retrospect I feel that I was compromising with an ultimately harmful paradigm that does not do justice to the reality of life as a trans person.
Gender ideology. In the past I was willing to use the pejorative term “gender ideology” in the same way as it has been used by the Popes, as a catch-all invalidation of any theory (usually feminist, hey sisters!) that seeks to deconstruct gender, or to show that gender is a social construct. While I have always been wary of reductive theories of any kind, including the idea that my gender experience is entirely a matrix of social constructs, I am not willing to denigrate intelligent theories that have a lot of truth to them just to earn brownie points. Which leads me to my next locus of problematic-ness.
Gender essentialism. In addition to the aforementioned trinity of gender theories (social, psychological, or biological), there exists a general dichotomy between those who are gender essentialists and gender existentialists. Gender essentialists believe that gender, whatever it is, is innate, inborn, God-given, ideal, spiritual, or part of the very core of who we are. Gender existentialists believe that it is a secondary trait arising from some bare facticity of our life, perhaps from how society interacts with us based on how they view our body. As a Catholic writer I was willing to ascribe to a sort of idealized spiritual gender essentialism, to simplify the trans experience to I have a woman’s soul. Again, if you hold to a conservative Christian worldview, then this is a valid way to make sense of trans* identity. However, this same worldview also carries a lot of baggage. It has often been weaponized to denigrate women and keep all sexual minorities in a subserviant position. My point is that while gender essentialism is incredibly convenient, both for cisgender Catholics to maintain a strict and often repressive gender binary, and for transgender Catholics to argue their way back into that space, it is also problematic. I’m not here to argue the logic of that viewpoint, only to suggest that if we are to judge a tree by its fruits, then the fruit of this tree has often grown shrunken and rotting. While the first job of Catholic queer people may be to simply secure a seat at the table (survival comes first on the Maslow hierarchy of needs), any further discussion needs to take theology head-on especially where it conforms dogmatically to philosophical positions that have nothing to do with the Christian creed but are instead a pastiche of ancient Greek metaphysics.
Transwoman. Transwoman or trans woman? Seems like splitting hairs, and to some degree it is. However, my use of the word “transwoman” was an acquiesence, not so much to Catholics, but to trans-exclusive radical feminists. A TERF, or gender-crit, is a term denoting feminists who see transgender women as men trying (unsucessfully) to be women. In deference to this view, some use the term “transwoman” as opposed to “woman,” to express a kinship but essential difference. In other words, a transwoman is not a woman, nor a man, but a third thing: a transwoman. I cannot be clear enough that I believe transgender women are women, as cisgender women are women. At the very least, barring any lengthy philosophical discussion, it can be agreed that for all intents and purposes and in every practical way I live my life as a woman, am seen as a woman, interact as a woman. My post on spiritual adoption hints at a possible way forward from that basic agreement: maybe trans women can at the very least be adopted into Church womanhood. However, the key is that they be adopted as women and not as some “exception to manhood” or other such marginalization.
Some posts that I now believe to be outright harmful or immature have been taken down. The majority, however, will be left here for whoever wants to use them, with the caviot that I do not outright endorse anything I’ve written in the past. This post seeks to at least touch on what might be cringy in what remains of my writing.
Lacking a clever way to wrap things up, I wish you all lots of love and good fortune. Stay safe, love yourselves, and keep striving toward a more compassionate world! XOXO