St. Louis, MO
Coming out as a transgender Catholic wasn’t something I would have ever predicted. I wasn’t raised in the Catholic faith, so even when I was little and knew that my gender identity did not align with the gender assigned to me at birth, I didn’t know what it meant to be Catholic. But as I grew older, I was slowly beginning to understand and process my own identity. Through this time and in college I learned a lot about social justice. I found out what it was like to be a servant to others while navigating what it meant to be me.
After a lot of discernment and going through the RCIA program, I officially decided to become Catholic during my sophomore year of college. I received all three initial sacraments and became a part of an incredible community at the Catholic Student Center at Washington University. This community has been a big part of my faith, grounding me in my relationship with God. I fully believe that I was made in God’s image, that God has always known that I am transgender, and that my decision to transition is me growing into who God made me to be.
After college I applied to the Loretto Volunteer Program. I was hesitant because I had just started my transition. I knew the program’s stance on the welcome and inclusion of those in the LGBTQI community. In early 2014, the Loretto Volunteer program received an award from Call to Action because of its diversity, welcome, and inclusion of all people. It was this award and committment that led me to apply. Like any other job or organization the program couldn’t guarantee that other individuals entering the program would be just as welcoming and inclusive.
Thankfully, my fears of encountering a Catholic community that did not seek to understand and be inclusive never turned into a reality. I was accepted and treated as if nothing was different, and in reality there isn’t. Unfortunately, however, the stigma and stereotypes that surround the transgender community is what lies behind a majority of the violence and discrimination that transgender people face today.
Yet, it was during my time in the program where I learned the most about being Catholic. The Catholic faith asks us to be involved and engaged in the world around us. It asks us to listen to and speak with those on the margins who may need our loving embrace.
One of the most common questions I am still asked today is “Why do you identify with a faith that actively seeks to exclude minority groups?” This question, I am sure, resonates with many of you. Truthfully, this is something
that I often still ask myself. However, the feeling of community and peace I receive as a part of my faith is something that I would find almost impossible to replace if I left. Also, it’s because of my Catholic faith that I have some of the most incredible people in my life today. In fact, Catholics themselves are some of the most supportive and accepting of my transgender identity.
As our communities approach the year of mercy, it is my hope that more of our Catholic communities can become as inclusive and supportive as the ones I have been blessed to find. To embody the radical love and inclusion of Jesus in the world today – a love that left no one out no matter who they were – undergirds all we can do together as a community rooted in faith and justice.
Nick is currently living in St. Louis and working as an early childhood educator.