Tag: religion

Trans Catholic

Posted by – March 4, 2014

Here’s an absolutely breath-taking and tear-jerking story about a remarkable nun who works with the trans community in and around New Orleans. She is what my Catholic has always been about, to be honest, and she is absolutely one of the best examples I know of that when Catholics are cool, they’re cooler than most. My friend Quince Mountain writes that this story is

“for me at least, refreshing in that it’s not about the awful things the church does to queer/trans folks.  It acknowledges those things, but shows how someone working underground has found ways to help trans folks where others could not.  For many, the church is such a roadblock.  And we only hear about the baddies.  Orthodox Russian nationalists, protestant Ugandan haters, etc.  At best, we get a quip from the pope.  But here’s someone doing substantive lifelong work, and she would not be able to do it without support from the church. “

Some awesome segments:

If one is new to the trans experience, a room like this might feel unsettling. It might leave one lying in bed that night asking uncomfortable questions for the first time about who or what one really is, things that might have always seemed certain and fixed and clear. Trans people represent a threat in a society anxious to keep its basic categories stable; they experience violence at rates far higher than the general population. But sit there a while, as in any room, and the stories become just stories. The people become people. For Monica, sitting at those tables in those support groups is being among family.

and

Pope Francis I has shifted the Vatican’s tone on sexual diversity somewhat; further Christmas condemnations seem unlikely to be coming from him. “Who am I to judge?” he famously asked with regard to good-willed gay people. The mother church of his Jesuit order in Rome held a much-publicized funeral in January for a murdered homeless trans woman, though he has yet to speak about living transgender people specifically.

There is a lot more to the Catholic Church than ponderings emanating from the Vatican. Williamson says, in his experience, “the Catholic Church is one of the most affirming groups toward LGBT people” — in the pews, he means, not the hierarchy. A study by the Public Religion Research Institute found that U.S. Catholics affirm a rather vague statement about transgender rights at a rate somewhat higher than the national average.

James Whitehead is a theologian who teaches at Loyola University in Chicago. In recent years he and his wife, Evelyn, a psychologist, have devoted themselves to understanding the transgender experience in Catholic terms. They had been studying lesbian and gay issues for years, and as they sought out trans people it struck them how familiar the arc of their lives seemed.

“This is the same old story,” he says. “The kind of transition that trans people are talking about is very similar to the journey of faith through darkness and desert that people have been making for thousands of years.” He has found, in his teaching and writing, that when he describes trans experience to Catholics in terms of a spiritual journey, a light goes on, and they get it.

Hints and echoes of what we now speak of as gender transition lie scattered throughout Christian tradition. An Ethiopian eunuch is the first person baptized in the Book of Acts, and the third-century theologian Origen castrated himself after reading Jesus’ remark about those “who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.” Stories of ancient ascetics recall women “surpassing” their gender through spiritual advancement, or by simply disguising themselves as men. In the Middle Ages, St. Joan of Arc was executed for refusing to stop cross-dressing; legends circulated of a female pope, also named Joan, who was also killed for gender-bending. Medieval mystics sometimes referred to Jesus as a mother and saw visions of milk dripping from his breast. The Catholic Church as a whole, led by a hierarchy of costumed men, is traditionally referred to as She and as the Bride of Christ.

The resonance goes beyond appearances. “Catholic tradition is all about the dignity of the human person,” says Edward Poliandro, an advocate for LGBT Catholics and their families in New York City. “Transgender people have a particular prophetic mission just to live and to challenge society simply by saying, ‘I’m a person.’”

I spoke at a Catholic university, Saint Norbert’s, a few weeks ago, and I intend to write a little about that experience… but not yet. In the meantime, just go read about Sister Monica. She will renew your faith – Catholic or not.

Um, Wow. Pat Robertson Says Love Your Transgender Child.

Posted by – February 16, 2014

PlanetTransgender has transcribed some of his comments:

“I don’t think if somebody is a true transgender, we should condemn them. I mean, that’s just the way it is.”

and

“The guy’s 30 years old. I mean, he’s an adult. So, what can you do except love him. Alright,” Robertson added.

I hope Christian parents listen.

(h/t to Naomi, who blogs here.)

Catholic Throwdown

Posted by – September 29, 2013

I have all kinds of new respect for Jack White after this.

Mary’s mother’s name was Anne, by the way. & This is a scapular – which they pronounce kind of more like scapula, which is actually the Latin term for the shoulder bone.

& Yes, I am Jesuit-educated. All hail the black Pope. (I’m kidding, though I do like this new guy.)

This post is dedicated to my friend from 6th grade, Brian Winkowski. We used to have a contest every year on Ash Wednesday to see which one of us could count more people with the ash smudge. We are both youngests from huge Catholic families, as apparently Colbert & White are too.

Trans Rabbis

Posted by – August 6, 2013

Fascinating:

Questions of transgender inclusion become even more complex when Jewish law comes into play. In 2003, the Conservative movement deemed sexual reassignment surgery an essential component of gender transition. But many trans people never receive surgery, and so their transitions go unrecognized by the movement.

Rabbi Leonard Sharzer, a bioethicist at the Jewish Theological Seminary, has written a Jewish legal opinion that counters the Conservative ruling, saying that Jewish law should consider trans Jews according to the gender they identify with regardless of surgical status. He plans to submit his opinion to the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, the Conservative movement’s law-making body.

Also:

All six rabbis and rabbis-in-training are actively involved in creating Jewish ritual for gender transition, from a prayer for binding the chest to a prayer for taking hormones. It remains to be seen whether these individuals will gain long term employment as Jewish leaders. But they’ve already become sought-after voices on panels at synagogues and in community centers on the topic of gender transition and Judaism.

I’m still surprised when I hear people refer to Judaism as if it’s a monolith, and it is so much not so. If anything, debate and argument and interpretation are at the heart of the religion, which leads to all sorts of splits and rifts and factions.

Habemus Papam

Posted by – March 13, 2013

It’s really too bad I didn’t put money on it, because I was right,: homophobic from the Global South, as predicted.

He sounds like poverty might actually rate, however, which would be a nice change of pace for the Church, to rediscover poor people again, and maybe focus on that instead of on so-called morality. (So called as morality only seems to matter if people are female or queer; sexual abuse & all that rot they never say a damn thing about.) He is flexible on condoms as contraception – if they’re being used to prevent infection, and hey, he’s a Jesuit, but on the conservative end of Jesuit, which means: expect anything once he’s learned more.

Catholics Against Ryan

Posted by – August 21, 2012

From Maureen Dowd’s column this past week:

Even Catholic bishops, who had to be dragged toward compassion in the pedophilia scandal, were dismayed at how uncompassionate Ryan’s budget was.

Mitt Romney expects his running mate to help deliver the Catholic vote and smooth over any discomfort among Catholics about Mormonism. (This is the first major-party ticket to go Protestant-less.) Yet after Ryan claimed his budget was shaped by his faith, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops deemed it immoral.

“A just spending bill cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor and vulnerable persons,” the bishops wrote in a letter to Congress.

The Jesuits were even more tart, with one group writing to Ryan that “Your budget appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The nuns-on-the-bus also rapped the knuckles of the former altar boy who now takes his three kids to Mass. As Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of the Catholic social justice group Network, told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, it’s sad that a Catholic doesn’t understand that “we need to have each other’s backs. Only wealthy people can ever begin to pretend that they can live in a gated community all by themselves.”

Even Ryan’s former parish priest in Janesville weighed in. Father Stephen Umhoefer told the Center for Media and Democracy, “You can’t tell somebody that in 10 years your economic situation is going to be just wonderful because meanwhile your kids may starve to death.”

Oh, & um, Ayn Rand was an atheist. Can we get that news out to the Christian Right, please?

Ripped & Religious

Posted by – April 27, 2012

Here’s a cool story about a female Episcopalian priest who is also a body builder. She’s from Wisconsin, of course.

Decades ago my church decided that the ordination of women was a just and morally responsible thing. Some people left over the decision. Some people still tell me they struggle with the idea. Now many women serve as priests, and many parishioners applaud this fact.

But somehow, despite our belief that both sexes can serve the church, it seems there’s still something unnerving about a priest who is a woman. It has to do with having a woman’s body.

A parishioner told me that he thought I was a great priest, but that if I became pregnant, it would be too weird for him to see me at the altar. Merely holding hands with my husband, even when I am not in clerical clothes, has elicited the comment “Can you do that? I mean, in public?” Another parishioner told me I was too petite to be a priest. I’m 5-10. I have never been called “petite.” I think he meant “female.”

Of course for me, raised Catholic, it’s still odd that ministers/priests should be married, male female or otherwise.

FVUUF: Wellspring Wednesday

Posted by – April 22, 2012

I’m speaking at the local Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship this Wednesday, on a night they call Wellspring Wednesday. I’ll be doing the talk I call Trans 101: Building a Trans Inclusive Community, and I’m very much looking forward to it.

This week’s sermons by Rev. Roger Bertschausen were also about the trans, and it was pretty amazing. For the first time ever I sat through a Sunday morning UU service, and it was quite lovely.

A friend told me a while back he went, & I said something about not liking organized religion. He said it wasn’t, so I asked if it was a disorganized religion. That seems to make UUs laugh, for no reason I understand.

Radical Nun

Posted by – April 22, 2012

Oh, the Church and its consistency with being misogynist. The Vatican has investigated and censured American nuns for being too feminist.

 

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), an umbrella group representing most of America’s 55,000 nuns, is in trouble with the Vatican because they’ve apparently have not been vocal enough in their opposition to gay marriage, abortion, and women’s ordination . . .

This directive came as the result of a two-year-long investigation—excellent use of resources, boys—and appears to be part of what is seen as the church veering into more conservative territory. You might not think nuns would be the obvious target of any investigations, considering it’s the priests who’ve been causing most of the actual problems the church has faced recently, but of course organized religion never lets a little thing like logic get in the way.

In terms of the Vatican’s specific issues with the LCWR, it appears they’re mostly angry because the nuns have been “silent on the right to life from conception to natural death.” Also they maintain the LCWR hasn’t taken certain things seriously enough . . .

Here’s the Washington Post‘s version. Ridiculous.

Christmas Present: Radical Inclusion

Posted by – December 25, 2011

This letter from local clergy in Appleton is pretty much the best Christmas present I didn’t even imagine getting:

Jesus not only preached about but a lived a message of radical inclusion. He saw God’s realm as including everyone — and especially those who were despised or downtrodden or oppressed.

That’s why we and many other Christians believe that our values are best expressed when all people and all families are treated with fairness and loving support.

It was written in response to a letter from Appleton Taxpayers United which appeared a few weeks ago, which I won’t honor by quoting. It’s lovely to read Christians who sound like Christians.

It’s Okay If You Really Believe It

Posted by – November 5, 2011

S.B. 137 of Michigan is an attempt to prevent bullying after a young man named Matt Eppling committed suicide after he was.

But state Republicans added this language:

THIS SECTION DOES NOT ABRIDGE THE RIGHTS UNDER THE FIRST AMENDMENT OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OR UNDER ARTICLE I OF THE STATE CONSTITUTION OF 1963 OF A SCHOOL EMPLOYEE, SCHOOL VOLUNTEER, PUPIL, OR A PUPIL’S PARENT OR GUARDIAN. THIS SECTION DOES NOT PROHIBIT A STATEMENT OF A SINCERELY HELD RELIGIOUS BELIEF OR MORAL CONVICTION OF A SCHOOL EMPLOYEE, SCHOOL VOLUNTEER, PUPIL, OR A PUPIL’S PARENT OR GUARDIAN.

So as long as you actually believe gay people will burn in hell, it’s okay to tell them that.

Really?!

In our own local common council meeting here in Appleton this past week, one woman actually stood up & said she was being discriminated against if the City of Appleton paid health benefits for same sex domestic partners. Yes, I said that right: by giving same sex couples the same benefits as their straight colleagues, she was being discriminated against as a Christian. I was there. It took me a minute to understand what she was saying, to be honest.

Methodist Trial

Posted by – June 23, 2011

I don’t really understand why LGBTQs have anything to do with religions that condemn them. This week, in a nearby town, a Methodist minster went on trial for two things: being a practicing self-avowed homosexual and marrying a same sex couple.

She was found guilty of the marriage – mostly because there’s a record of it happening, & her having officiated – but she was found not guilty of homosexuality because despite admitting publicly that she lives with her wife, she hasn’t actually admitted she has sex with her. Honestly, they asked her about genital contact – which did at least inspire groans from the witnesses, and she refused to answer.

What kind of bullshit is that? Oh, wait: then again, we live in a culture where a politician has to resign because of a sex scandal in which he didn’t actually have sex with anyone but his wife.

I understand the need for a connection/relationship with the divine, but I don’t get trying to find it through organized religion. Then again, I decided the Church couldn’t possibly be messengers of divine anything if they thought my having a vagina kept me from being holy enough to be a priest — and that, especially in the light of all the female saints: it just didn’t make any sense. I was raised by Jesuits, after all.

I just don’t get it. I am glad others want to fight this fight, but it definitely isn’t mine. That said, I have long thought that if Jesus were alive today, he’d be hanging out with trans street hustlers of color who are homeless in our nation’s cities.

Marriage Equality: Conversion Narrative

Posted by – April 17, 2011

NOM has lost a hater. A couple of weeks ago, Louis J. Marinelli jumped ship and now supports full marriage equality. He was turned off by the people who had gathered around the cause:

I soon realized that there I was surrounded by hateful people; propping up a cause I created five years ago, a cause which I had begun to question. This would be timeline point number three. I wanted to extend an olive branch in some way and started to reinstate those who had been banned by previous administrators of my page. I welcomed them to participate on the page and did what I could do erase the worst comments and even ban those who posted them.

He explains as well exactly how, as a conservative, Catholic, and Republican, he has come to see where he was wrong:

Once you understand the great difference between civil marriage and holy marriage, there is not one valid reason to forbid the former from same-sex couples, and all that is left to protect is the latter.

Indeed Christians and Catholics alike are well within their right to demand that holy matrimony, a sacrament and service performed by the Church and recognized by the Church, remains between a man and a woman as their faith would dictate. However, that has nothing to do with civil marriage, performed and recognized by the State in accordance with state law.

My name is Louis J. Marinelli, a conservative-Republican and I now support full civil marriage equality. The constitution calls for nothing less.

For those of us for whom this is obvious, it’s easy to scoff, but I got goosebumps reading his entire letter about this conversion, and interestingly, I would place it very much in a huge tradition of Christian “conversion” literature – it’s not Saul to Paul, but I’ll take it!

Coach Still Fired

Posted by – December 20, 2010

The NYT did get around to covering the firing of that lesbian/pregnant coach in Nashville I reported last week. Here’s the part that baffles me:

Asked if having openly gay faculty and staff members could create a conflict with the university’s Christian character, Mr. Dickens said, “there could be.”

Here’s the bit I can never work out: what about the other sinners? Homosexuality is not the only sin in Christianity. Are they going to start firing people for greed or gluttony? For not attending church services? The bullshit of targeting homosexuals – and not other “sinners” – seems obvious to me, and I don’t understand why no one seems to understand that singling out one kind of sinner – amongst so many choices! – is where the discrimination becomes apparent.

But Think of the Children

Posted by – December 13, 2010

A lesbian soccer coach gets fired by a university after admitting that her partner is pregnant.

I’m not sure I can even count how wrong that is or in how many ways. How incredibly Christian of them, to fire the partner of an expectant mom.

Gay Artists often Wrestle with Christianity

Posted by – December 3, 2010

That’s my attempt at The Onion‘s version of the headline, but here’s the scoop: The Smithsonian does an exhibit of LGBT people, and there are objections. It’s the typical “you’re defiling Christianity” issue that comes up over & over again in the art world.

You can listen to the story at NPR.

One Parent’s Path

Posted by – September 4, 2010

It’s rare to see an article by a parent about a child’s transition, much less one that openly struggles with the issues a religious faith brings into the mix.

Inwardly I wrestled with the changes in my child: shoulders broadening, cheek fuzz turning into beard, voice deepening. In a way it was fascinating: Who could imagine that a body would respond so dramatically to hormone treatment? And yet…where was my daughter? I couldn’t bear the thought of her disappearing before my eyes.

Outwardly, with the exception of my mother and one or two other people, I kept what was happening private. Talking about the situation felt too uncomfortable. I was embarrassed and ashamed that such a shande (shameful thing) could have happened in my family.

That year I met with a therapist several times. I also prayed. Psalm 118 was my daily focus: “I called on God from a narrow place; God answered from a wide expanse.” I hoped that God would help me open my heart in acceptance and love.

I thought of the story of the heartbroken father who came to the Baal Shem Tov for advice: “My son has turned his back on Judaism. What should I do?” The great Chasidic master replied, “Love him even more.”

I’m happy to add that I gave someone who knew this parent a few resources a couple of years ago when she was first struggling with her child’s transition. I hadn’t heard an update, & this one is about the best I could have hoped for.

The Other Catholic Church

Posted by – April 28, 2010

A nice piece on “the other Catholic Church” which is still out there, still doing cool anti-poverty work, and still taking a lot of risks:

This is the church of the Maryknoll Sisters in Central America and the Cabrini Sisters in Africa. There’s a stereotype of nuns as stodgy Victorian traditionalists. I learned otherwise while hanging on for my life in a passenger seat as an American nun with a lead foot drove her jeep over ruts and through a creek in Swaziland to visit AIDS orphans. After a number of encounters like that, I’ve come to believe that the very coolest people in the world today may be nuns.

So when you read about the scandals, remember that the Vatican is not the same as the Catholic Church. Ordinary lepers, prostitutes and slum-dwellers may never see a cardinal, but they daily encounter a truly noble Catholic Church in the form of priests, nuns and lay workers toiling to make a difference.

It’s high time for the Vatican to take inspiration from that sublime — even divine — side of the Catholic Church, from those church workers whose magnificence lies not in their vestments, but in their selflessness. They’re enough to make the Virgin Mary smile.

I know I’ve said more than once that when Catholics are cool, they’re cooler than many.

(h/t to Doug for the link)

Anti Pope

Posted by – April 15, 2010

Richard Dawkins and Chris Hitchens want to have the Pope arrested when he comes to the UK. I saw the story on MSNBC & laughed for a full five minutes, because: why not? Is there some rule about why we should respect religious leaders globally? Don’t people who aren’t Catholic have the right to see justice for those kids?

I think it’s brilliant. After that, we can arrest all sorts of religious leaders for whatever, & then – no more religious bullshit.

I know it wouldn’t work. But the idea is lovely.

More

Two Walls

Posted by – January 24, 2010

Here’s an interesting article by a Jewish trans woman on two visits to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem – one before, one after transition.

(h/to to Sarah)