Reply To: Transgender People of Faith


I would say that religion is a part of my life — though I perceive a tension between religion and spirituality, and my focus is the latter.

I began life as a fundamentalist Christian, navigated to the Catholic church — where I would still be, but for doing something amazingly idiotic — spent a few decades exploring neo-paganism, and finally landed where I am today. My deity is the Hindu goddess, Tripura Sundari, and my theology, if you can call it that, is a mix of Hindu and Christian. Ramakrishna has been a significant point of orientation for me. I recognize Jesus as the Redeemer of the World and divine, and believe that the many gods and goddesses in whom people have touched the transcendent are all manifestations of the same, one, transcendent God.

This is just to give people a means of “getting hold” of where I’m coming from. My spiritual practice is modeled on contemplative prayer, as that practice is framed by the Catholic church, using japa — repetition of the name of my deity — the way some Christian contemplatives would use the Jesus Prayer, or simply the name of Jesus. Personal transformation, I believe, comes through spending time with my goddess, in Her Presence, through this prayer form and through the resulting cultivation of openness to Her Spirit.

Some of you might be interested in how I came to realize I am transgender. I had known for many years that I was “basically female,” and I thought of my best self as a 8-9-year-old girl, mischievous, playful and a vexation to her parents. But I didn’t understand what that meant, and I believed we are born as we are for a reason. (I still believe that, but I understand it differently today.) I assumed that there was purpose in my being born male and that I was stuck with it, and that the right thing to do was to make the best of it, learning the lessons I came to learn. To the extent I was aware of “men in dresses,” I thought they had genuine issues, but were addressing them in a self-defeating manner.

About 4½ years ago, I was recently divorced and I was hanging around my apartment with no other irons in the fire, and it occurred to me to finally explore this mass of femininity I knew was locked up inside me. I had it in mind to take a Jungian approach: to try to raise this unconscious material to the conscious level and integrate it with my conscious personality, thereby becoming a more whole person. As I didn’t have a clue how this should be done, I did the natural thing and prayed to my Goddess for help in this endeavor — and to my astonishment, She answered. A question appeared in my mind: “Are you sure? Because, once done, it can’t be undone.” Since I saw this as a matter of self-improvement, it seemed moral cowardice to retreat from whatever this was; so, I told Her I was sure. That was February, 2017. By April, I knew I was a woman.

Four years is a long time, and I’ve learned a lot. I prefer not to focus on being transgender; I prefer to focus on simply being a woman. But it becomes impossible to ignore. Being so different, and being reminded of it constantly, I can’t escape it; and, fact is, I don’t really fit in anywhere but with other people like me. Everyone who is different from the norm, who stands out from the vast majority of others, must experience this, and I know that some of them get past it. I’m hoping that’s a lesson that lies ahead, and I hope I learn it soon.

I am most emphatically not a feminist, which I see as intrinsically irreconcilable with a spiritual life. In fact, my views on womanhood are what most people would call antiquated. I believe I will function better when I let men take charge, and I will be implementing this approach in my life, beginning this week. I believe this is true of women in general, though I grant there may be exceptions. I don’t believe in passing laws or restricting access; I believe this is something a woman must do voluntarily if it is to have any value for her. I believe the classical feminine virtues are classical for a reason: because they work. Men and women are not interchangeable; we are proof of that. It makes a difference whether you are a woman or a man — not in your intrinsic worth as a human being, but in your strengths and weaknesses and your best modes of interaction with the opposite gender and with the world.

So, my spiritual life informs the rest of my life and is its foundation and what gives it meaning. From other responses I’ve read, above, the same is true for others. I empathize with those who still congregate with others within a framework that rejects who they are; that must be agony, even moreso than living a solitary life. I would like to share your burden, if you will let me.