I recently did an interview with Connor Franta about my journey and life as a priest. It was a lovely and fun interview and so when it released, I wanted to connect with folks in the comments who found connections with my story. I know that there are still so many people who are hungry to discover ways to be both faithful and themselves. If I can offer a bit of hope that it’s possible, I want to do that.
The first several comments were kind and excited and so I replied to those, but as the video got more views, the negative comments started to pour in.
Now, I’m no stranger to negative comments. Being trans in public means you get hate directed at you all of the time. Being a public trans religious figure? Well, that just makes people wild. So I’m used to being called a heretic, told I’m leading people astray, and going to Hell. Honestly, those comments don’t even bother me anymore because I’ve heard them so much.
Then there were the comments about how I’m not a “real Catholic priest” because, to those commenters, only the Roman Catholic Church is real. I’m used to hearing that, too, although I find those comments more annoying because I’ve A: never claimed to be Roman Catholic and B: The Old Catholic Church isn’t new, nor is it illegitimate. We have a long history and a line of apostolic succession.
But the comments that knocked me back, even though I should have been expecting them, where the ones that commented on my appearance and the people who intentionally misgendered me.
Those comments hurt because they are designed to hurt. This wasn’t an accident, it was willful misgendering because they don’t see my humanity and don’t think I am who I say I am. And I know as my book goes out into the world, these types of comments are going to become more frequent.
It’s why I am so hard on people who misgender often, even by accident. Because it’s so incredibly painful for trans folks. I’m someone who thankfully doesn’t get misgendered much anymore except by people who are doing it to hurt me. But there was a time when it happened much more often and every time it stung.
Misgendering isn’t just about pronouns (though pronouns are a very big part of it) it’s about someone not being able to see you. Sometimes it’s a refusal, sometimes they are simply overlooking you or making assumptions, but in every case it leaves you with a sense of disconnection. Disconnection from yourself, from other people, and from being a part of community.
These comments are designed to make you doubt yourself and when you’ve already fought so hard for your identity that enforced doubt is painful.
In order to respect another person we have to see them. We have to acknowledge and affirm who they tell us they are. We have to trust they know themselves. And we have to honor all of that even if we don’t understand (maybe especially if we don’t understand).
See trans people. Respect trans people. Work in solidarity with trans people. And believe us when we tell you who we are.