Your Holiness, I humbly request your attention regarding the recent Vatican decision that transgender people are unfit to serve as godparents.
My understanding is that, as Religion News reported, a transgender person “does not meet the requirement of carrying out a life conforming to the faith and the position of godfather.” The implication is that simply by being transgender and undergoing a transition, one no longer conforms to your faith.
I do not question your imperative to interpret the dictates of the Roman Catholic Church as you understand them.
But in the name of compassion, I ask you to reconsider. Please consider the harm that this pronouncement can cause. I am not a member of your church, but even I am affected by its shadow. I have many Roman Catholic colleagues, friends, and neighbors. My supervisor at work is Roman Catholic. You have told them that I, as a transitioned transgender woman, am not carrying out a righteous life. That message will cause those who hold you in high esteem to judge me negatively.
I admire the stances you have taken toward social, economic, and environmental justice. I know you are someone who deals with human reality when addressing modern moral questions, so I hope you will consider the following facts:
* Scientific evidence overwhelmingly indicates that people do not choose to be transgender.
* Decades of psychological, medical, and spiritual interventions have utterly failed at changing our gender identities.
* By all reports, the dysphoria from being transgender without transitioning subjects one to indescribable misery, and often leads to severe anxiety and depression. Suicide is many times more common among transgender people who are not treated than among the population in general.
* Transition is an effective treatment, having one of the highest documented success rates of any psychological intervention.
Given these truths, how could a moral standard be deemed “compassionate” that stigmatizes and vilifies transgender people who feel the need to transition?
I would also ask just how Alex Salinas, the earnest, devout uncle whose case prompted your ban, is expected to follow your faith? Catholicism, like most modern religions, demands honesty from its followers. If Mr. Salinas earnestly sees himself as a male, feels that his soul is male, feels that his place in the world is male, would it not be gravely dishonest for him to say otherwise? Wouldn’t representing himself as anything other than male be a lie on his part? Indeed, how would you expect this young man to live honestly and according to his faith without transitioning?
The conclusion that transgender people do not conform to your faith is not set in stone. The Bible and Gospels, for all their myriad nuances, do not mention transgender people at all, do not mention gender dysphoria, and take no stand on gender transition undertaken as an honest expression of identity. Any finding of incompatibility between transition and the Christian faith is a human interpretation of passages that only vaguely refer to these phenomena. In other words, whether or not to allow transgender people to be godparents is a decision you are making and not one mandated by scripture.
I have always admired Christ’s teachings to turn our heads toward the marginalized, to find compassion in our hearts, and to put ourselves in the places of those that others have turned against. Transgender people remain among the most marginalized on the planet. They face censure, ostracism, economic, social, and judicial discrimination, violence, and even criminal sanctions in much of the world. Imagine how much good would be done by a simple statement from your pulpit that one can be good, righteous, and holy, even after transition. And by taking the opposite stance, that transition is incompatible with conformance to the faith, aren’t you helping perpetuate perceptions of us as deceivers and transgressors, marginalizing us further?
If there is a war of words between you and our community, you will win. There are a billion people who literally see your words as divine. Our community consists of only a few million, even by the most generous estimates, scattered, disorganized, often living afraid in the shadows. You have complete power to shape this argument in the eyes of your followers and those who hold you in esteem. We have only the weakest of voices to answer you. But in the name of charity, I ask for your mercy and compassion not to use the power of your position to deliver a message that will worsen our suffering.