Thursday, October 17, 2013

Questions from Credo ... What to say to a friend

This past weekend I presented the workshop, "Homosexuality: Always God's Children" at the Credo retreat.  We did not have time for the Q&A portion of the workshop, so the questions will be answered here during the next week or two.

Q. What would you say to someone who just came out as trans?

A. Before answering your question directly, let's look at what the Church says about our sexual identity.  *** (See paragraph at the bottom of this post for the actual citation.)  The Church tells us that every person is called to "acknowledge and accept his sexual identity."  Because our culture today tells us that our sexual identity is whatever gender we happen to "feel" like, it might seem that the Church is saying we need to embrace our gender feelings.  But, by "sexual identity," the Church is referring to our masculinity and femininity.

How do we discover our sexual identity?  From the earliest moments of our existence, our bodies, right down to our DNA are differentiated as male or female.  Some might argue that the Church puts too much emphasis on biology, basing everything about our identity, our morality and our happiness on body parts.  Instead, the Church says that our biology -- our bodies -- reveal, or make visible to us, higher truths like God, love, and who God created us to be.  The body reveals the person.  Our bodily masculinity or femininity isn't some random attribute we happen to have.  It's who we are.  And who we are, male or female, reveals something about who God is -- Love.  

On Saturday, we talked about what sexual difference/gender reveals to us:

1) My male or female body is a beautiful reminder that I was created.  I am not God.  I am a child of God.  I did not create myself.  My life is such a radical gift that there are some things I did not choose for myself -- my gender, my birthday, my name, my family, etc.  Since there is also another way of being that is different from me (male or female), I also realize that I cannot encompass the whole of reality.  

2) My male or female body is a beautiful reminder that I am called to love.  In seeing that there is another with whom I have unity ( the same gift of humanity) and difference (masculinity or femininity), I see that it is possible for me to give and to receive from another.  I am called to live "for" another.  I am then able to see that love is possible, that love is good and that love is the meaning of life.

3) My male or female body is a beautiful reminder that I am called to love fruitfully.  When I realize that I did not create myself, that I come from God, and when I realize that I can love another with whom I share a unity (humanity) and a difference (male or female), I can see that my love can be fruitful.  It can grow and be more.  It doesn't have to collapse in upon itself.  It can open me up to new experiences, new wonder, new gratitude as I watch love unfolded as something I am given and not as something I create, dominate or master.

In short, my sexual identity, which I discover in my body, is a constant reminder of who I am as a human person -- a gift from God, called to give in love, fruitfully.  So, embracing this gift of our masculinity and femininity, which is revealed in and through our bodies is key to understanding who God created us to be and what He is calling us to (ultimately, eternal communion with Him in heaven).

But back to your main question ... what should you say to a friend who is experiencing gender confusion?

First, be sure to acknowledge the long, hard struggle that gender confusion has caused in your friend's life.  Have compassion for their struggle and for the suffering that the search for identity has caused.

Ask your friend if he or she has spoken to parents, a priest, a youth minister or a counselor about the feelings of being transgendered.  If they need a good counselor to speak to, recommend one.  

Perhaps in conversations with your friend, you will have the opportunity to discuss the gift that God has given us of our body.  You might ask your friend what it means that he or she has the particular body God gave.  You might have the opportunity to share with your friend that God gave us our body for a reason.

Throughout your conversations with your friend, be compassionate about this struggle and know that there are qualified people who can give more guidance to your friend during this challenging time.

*** Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.

224.  Faced with theories that consider gender identity as merely the cultural and social product of the interaction between the community and the individual, independent of personal sexual identity without any reference to the true meaning of sexuality, the Church does not tire of repeating her teaching: “Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral and spiritual difference and complementarities are oriented towards the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarities, needs and mutual support between the sexes are lived out”. According to this perspective, it is obligatory that positive law be conformed to the natural law, according to which sexual identity is indispensable, because it is the objective condition for forming a couple in marriage.

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