I’m Transgender & I Don’t Need Your Stinking Mercy

by JJ Gufreda

I was a Catholic for over fifty years. I was president of the Altar Boys (how many women can say that?). I was involved with religious groups at my high school. I was a Eucharistic Minister. I played piano at Mass for over 25 years. I worked retreats for high school seniors and ran retreats in parishes.

When I started my gender transition several years ago, to say it did not go well with my Catholic friends and the Church would be an understatement. I can summarize with a few observations.

Most of my “friends” bolted for the door so fast I barely knew they had ever been there. 

I am not sure what the reasons were that they deserted me, because it is hard to analyze someone that is no longer there, but I don’t think there was what the church calls “unconditional love” anywhere in the picture. To put it more simply, when I needed them, they weren’t there.

The Church made it clear that while everyone is “welcome” in the Catholic Church, not everyone is equal nor have the same privileges. My pastor responded to my request to serve as a Eucharistic Minister (as I had served previously in a nearby parish for many years) by saying: “Welcoming someone is not the same as agreeing with the choices they are making. Assisting at Mass is a privilege and not a right. I am no longer going to have any further discussions with you…”

He suggested that in the future, I should refer my questions to the Vicar General of the Archdiocese. I wrote the Vicar General and after several years, I am still waiting for a response!

Much of the interaction I have had with the Church since I stopped going there, and it’s been at least five or six years, has really been no interaction. Most of the Church people I’ve contacted about different things have not responded to me.

In my view, there are several reasons for this disconnect. 

The church has their own problems related to sex, gender and sexuality. One of the most persistent teachings of the church is that women can’t become priests. There are some theories as to why this continues into the 21st Century.

Some feel that the church views women as subservient to men so they can’t have positions of ultimate power. Others blame it on Jesus. He had women disciples, but the chosen Apostles were all men. Whatever the reasons, efforts to make women priests have been met with a resounding “No” by the church.

Regardless of their background, trans people can cause a problem in this area. If a priest transitions to live authentically as a woman, that would mean that the church would have a woman priest. This is not possible, at least according to long-time church teachings.

Conversely, if someone who is assigned female at birth transitions to live authentically as a man, could he become a priest? Apparently it is easier for the church to avoid these questions by refusing to acknowledge that it is possible for a person to change their gender. What you appear to be at birth, or were assigned at birth is what you are.

The church has its own issues related to celibacy, homosexuality, sexuality, and more.

At the same time the church has been attacking, demeaning and criticizing LGBT people, they have also been found guilty of the rape and abuse of children and the subsequent cover up of these transgressions. Horrific details of these cases are well known. I wonder if the church’s attention to issues of sexuality and gender are at least in part a way to deflect some of the bad press away from the church’s problems.

While theologians and church leaders ponder the morality of transgender people, Pope Francis has suggested that the church show mercy to those that are on the fringes and those who have been marginalized. In October, he said:

I want to be clear. It is a moral problem. It is a problem. A human problem. And it must be resolved the best one can—always with the mercy of God, with the truth….always with an open heart.

To this I respond, “I Don’t Need Your Stinking Mercy.” 

A quick Google search defines mercy as, “compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.” Merriam-Webster defines mercy as “compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power.”

The church certainly has the power to try to hurt me—either institutionally, through influence on civil governments and society, by excluding me from the church, or through the actions of millions of its followers. I know you can hurt me, but I refuse to acknowledge any power you think you have over me.

I don’t need you to accept me, and I don’t care if you think my actions or my very existence are sinful. I don’t need or want your forgiveness. I don’t want your mercy.

Being me is not a sin. 

I am also not going to accept your judgment that says something like, “We hate the sin but love the sinner.” I don’t need your judgment to decide whether I am sinning or not. And that is a judgmental, condescending way to view another person. Thanks, but no thanks.

It seems to me that by showing mercy, the church is furthering the position that they have power over people that they have mistreated and they should somehow be congratulated for not hurting us. Again, thanks but no thanks.

Let’s make a comparison between the church and trans (or any LGBT) people, and parents with their children. Children certainly are subject to the a parent’s power, and a parent adult has the ability to hurt their child.

But isn’t a parent not hurting a child an act of love, rather than compassion or mercy?

I don’t want the church to show mercy. They should show love, empathy, acceptance and respect. I would even recommend that they go beyond acceptance and embrace the differences that exist between all people without judgment.

So here is my message to Catholic (and other) church leaders: I don’t need your judgment. I don’t care about your opinion. I don’t want your mercy.

I think it was Jesus that said, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

In my experience, since my transition, I am not feeling the love.

And I Don’t Need Your Stinking Mercy.

Photo via flickr user E.

Comments (1)

Rev. Kat Katsanis-Semel

Beloved One, Thank you for
Beloved One, Thank you for sharing this brilliant, truthful, bold and vulnerable blog with us. Loved it! Very Best Wishes, Rev. Kat

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