In the Lion’s Mouth (II)

Today was my last and maybe most significant personal outing. To my parish priest, no less.

It was every bit as horrid as i feared it might be. First, i dug down to the bottom of my clothes pile and dragged out a pair of trousers. MALE trousers. The first time in almost a fortnight (with the exception of church) that i dressed once more as a male.

It felt…wrong. Utterly. Like a snake trying to crawl back into a cast-off skin. But i was trying to be respectful.

The result was not as bad as i feared…and yet…

He has, he says, no objections to my cross-dressing. Would he mind if i dressed for church? No. But…

But…could i leave it a couple of weeks. Ouch. Why? If he doesn’t mind, surely he doesn’t mind? Am i being uncharitable?

Or is he hedging his bets? Checking up the line with the Bishop, before he lets a mad tranny loose amongst his congregation. I feel a bit deflated by that.

Then there was the other stuff. Our conversation brought out into the open that i am living “in sin”. Married. Legally divorced – but not, of course, divorced in the eyes of the church.

So: i need to sort that out. Get the previous marriage annulled before getting round to marrying andrea. Hmmm. OK. i have no problems with that – and he suggests that an annulment is no longer quite the song and dance it once was. Still, though, it will take months.

In the meantime, i probably should not be taking communion. Ah. If you’re catholic, you’ll understand: if you’re not, then maybe stop reading now. That is big: a real rebuff. That hurts.

Worse, of course, are the theological windings that follow. I am living in sin because i am having sexual relations with someone not my wife: a person i last shared a bed with almost 15 years ago.

on the other hand, if i do want to marry andrea, my trans journey means there will come a point when i can’t have sexual relations with her. At lest, not relations as the church knows them.

I hadn’t the heart to try to explain we’ve already stopped all that nonsense: that we now have a sex life that leaves out all those nasty pumping and procreative bits.

I shall have to find out exactly what the church counts as a sexual relationship. I suspect it involves an erection, penetration and at least the remote possibility of babies.

Oh dear. i can see this getting a great deal more complicated before it simplifies again. I really don’t want to leave the church: today i had the first inkling that at some point i may have to make a choice.


12 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    hilldag said,

    Wow. You’ve laid exactly how I feel down on paper. Even though the Church has never said that I have to leave, even though they say they are welcoming me with open arms, I know in my heart of hearts that it is a conditional open arms…

    I have been struggling with that last bit… Someday I’m going to have to make a choice, but I don’t want to have to make a choice! Religion is as intuitive to me as knowing that the sky is blue. It’s engrained and it’s going to be a rough ride to get it out. Yet, my sexual identity isn’t going anywhere either.

    Thanks for your piece. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one (and to be able to point people to a place where how I feel is written out for them to read.)

  2. 2

    spirifer said,

    Oh FFS. My grandfather hasn’t taken communion since the 1940s, when he married my grandmother in a Register Office.

    I’m probably not a good Catholic really. I denied myself communion for several years after my first marriage ended – I didn’t feel worthy of receiving the sacrament. I didn’t need a priest to tell me whether I could or could not receive communion. My conscience lead the way.

    The Church has no official teaching on being trans – it’s “sub secretum”. Which, in practical terms, I think, means it hasn’t made its mind up about it. No wonder the local priest needed some guidance!

    Whereas, Jane, in your position, I really think that you should follow your conscience. You are being utterly true to yourself, and you have now (in the eyes of the Church, and in everyone else’s eyes, for that matter) decided that you and Andrea will be married (which is wonderful news in itself). What is there in any of this to make you unworthy of receiving the sacrament?

  3. 3

    Julian said,

    Why does the church need to know the details of your relationship? The church I attend know that I live with a woman, they know she’s my partner, but they like to pretend we do nothing more sexual in bed than stroke each other’s hair and read poetry (it’s what lesbians do, you know) and I don’t feel any inclination to share the details. It’s an Anglican church rather than Catholic though. I guess the confession-through-a-priest bit means you can’t draw a discreet veil over it?

  4. 6

    Simon MCG said,

    It can’t be the case that it has to have the possibility of leading to a baby becuase there isnt’ any problem with women after the menopuase of infertile couples making love

  5. 7

    Simon MCG said,

    This is what the 1930 encycylical Casti Connubii says:
    Nor are those considered as acting against nature who in the married state use their right in the proper manner although on account of natural reasons either of time or of certain defects, new life cannot be brought forth. For in matrimony as well as in the use of the matrimonial rights there are also secondary ends, such as mutual aid, the cultivating of mutual love, and the quieting of concupiscence which husband and wife are not forbidden to consider so long as they are subordinated to the primary end and so long as the intrinsic nature of the act is preserved

  6. 8

    hilldag said,

    @Julian I think the Church interprets the details of the relationship in whatever way they want to. Of course they can pretend that you and your partner aren’t doing anything, but they probably have the common sense to know that you are sexually involved (which is great!)

    The part that is most frustrating to me (having gone to church every Sunday since I was born up until recently) is that this community of believers, this family that you have created, this support system, doesn’t want to know the details of your life (or sex life), but everyone knows your sexual orientation and in the church I come from (Baptist), that is a reason to think differently about me. The fact that they aren’t (and never will be) happy for me in any relationship I have makes me feel like an outcast and makes me feel like I need to choose from living as a lesbian or living as a Christian. I WANT BOTH!

    I guess it’s not really how the Church views me, but how I feel in the Church. I can’t ignore the feeling I get when people tell me they are ‘praying for me’ (read: you are sinning, why don’t you change?)… I suppose I could find a new denomination, but everything I know is from what I was raised on. It’s like knowing the sky is blue. If that makes any sense ??

    • 9

      Julian said,

      It does make sense; I got the same feeling from the Baptist church where I did the Alpha course. Nearly fifteen years later I still get the Epic Rage thinking about the way they spoke about gaymosexuals (I rather wisely didn’t tell them I was one). It was easy for me – I fled back to the Anglicans and their lovely rituals and pretty windows and discreet-veil-over-gay-stuff.

  7. 10

    janefae said,

    One part of the problem, i guess, is that i don’t like confrontation (which may feel counter-intuitive, given my journalistic and political profile) and spoke to the priest as much out of politeness as anything else.

    Not under seal of confessional (though i doubt that would have made much difference): but just generally, alerting him to my trans status and then, because conversations tend to widen out, he asked a bit about my current situation. Family. Relationships. etc.

    The problem with communion springs from my being previously married in the church and now “living in sin”. the official view is that the same “advice” would be proffered to anyone anywhere in the world…which is that whilst in my current state, i shouldn’t take communion.

    i am not 100% convinced since the church also recognises “intent” – which is relevant both to the former marriage and current communion status.

    ii would say the jury is out on the trans thing: with hindsight, i can’t see the point of asking me to wait a few weeks before coming out at church when i made it very clear a) that every other person in my life now knows and b) that i find having to dress back as male distressing.

    bottom line, though, is i don’t want and don’t see the point of kicking up a fuss. Insisting on doing things “my way” in what is a very specific community space is likely to split people AND focus the question not on me as trans, but me as someone defying the priest.

    so i’ll let it rest for now…and maybe start talking to one or two of the more open churches “out there”.


  8. 11

    CatherineCC said,

    Jane, I hate to break this to you, but transpeople are considered by the catholic church to be mentally ill and incapable of giving consent to marriage.

    Probably will help with the annulment though…

  9. 12

    gcb said,


    as useless as I am at this computer lark… I have sent/made a comment but probably under a different heading or subject… hope you can find it, and sorry, need to work out how to reply properly!


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