I am a Catholic brought up in a mixture of Catholic and Anglican communities. I am also a bisexual trans man. These are aspects of my identity that have, at times, been difficult to unite. For me this union has been necessary and certainly not impossible. I have been very fortunate in having reasonably safe environments and an accepting and supportive family, which have contributed to me feeling able to bring together these aspects of my identity rather than being forced to choose.
Looking back, I think for me the hardest thing to come to terms with was the fact that people have sex for fun. I had been presented with this whole concept of sex as a gift from God to be shared by a man and a woman who had celebrated the sacrament of marriage, with the goal of producing offspring. I knew there were people who had “recreational sex” but realising that these people most likely included the majority of adults I knew came as quite a shock. I had to accept that this was normal and not necessarily evil. After that, I decided that where sex was concerned, everyone was entitled to behave according to their own beliefs, as long as they were safe. For me at the time, this meant taking a strong, “nothing before marriage and then only if we have to,” stance but I was totally fine with my friends doing whatever they were doing.
It was harder for me to move away from the idea that transgender people were going against God’s wishes. How could a God who makes no mistakes make someone the “wrong” gender? And how could changing who you are be part of His plan? Eventually, I realised that people do not decide to be a different gender, or even want to be. We are. Transgender people are not suggesting God made a mistake; we are being ourselves, the way He made us. It is all part of His plan for us.
Over the past year or so I have become more involved in a few different worship groups, but I am yet to talk openly about my sexuality and gender identity to anyone in these groups. It’s something I would love to do to encourage tolerance and hopefully inspire others to pray and fight for LGBT+ rights, the only thing holding me back is fear. I am afraid of rejection from the communities but I think I could cope with that, the thing I’m really scared of is the doubt, the point where a strong argument starts to make me wonder if I’m wrong and God doesn’t want me to be this way.
Almost exactly a year ago, I was talking to a good friend after a prayer meeting and the conversation turned to gay marriage. He argued against it and presented his arguments not as what he personally believed but as what we, as Catholics, believed – including the idea of men and women as fixed and different and that only the love between a man and a woman merited the blessing of God. I began to doubt myself again and worry that I was going against God’s will. It was only a long chat with my college chaplain that managed to suppress these feelings. Although that experience confirmed for me the need to encourage tolerance and understanding of LGBT+ issues amongst my fellow Christians, it also increased my reluctance to bring them up.
Jesus taught love and acceptance of others, and with that in mind it seems like Christianity should be at the forefront of the fight for LGBT+ rights, rather than holding it back as it seems to be in many cases today. I hope that I will soon feel able to talk openly about my experiences and broader issues with my Christian friends, and that it won’t be long before intolerance turns to acceptance.
Frances O’Sullivan studies Music at the University of Cambridge.