Talking with transgender people poses a challenge for Catholics, since we reject today’s transgender ideology. We firmly profess that God created us as man and woman and biology is part of that reality.
People who experience gender dysphoria (distress between their biological sex and gender identity) often feel scared. This could stem from a place of hurt, such as childhood trauma.
Here are some tips for navigating a relationship with a transgender friend or family member.
Be compassionate toward them.
Compassion doesn’t mean accepting transgender ideology, as the secular world would have us believe. It entails treating individuals with love and respect for their human dignity.
Transgender people need to feel safe around you, even if you don’t agree with them on everything. As Catholics, we may feel an impulse to teach them about our beliefs. Sometimes this comes across more aggressively than is appropriate because our culture’s attacks on sexuality put us in a defensive position.
There may be a time and place for a debate on sexuality, but you should not start a conversation with transgender people that way. They need to know you love them as human beings and feel their goodness reflected back.
The saints were masters of this. While they rigorously adhered to the truth, they were also open to the goodness of everyone they met. They were so secure in their knowledge and love of God, they didn’t feel threatened by those who thought differently.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Our culture has made Catholics hesitant about saying anything about gender. If it’s someone you know and love, you can try to find a private moment to ask about their experience. But do so to understand them and have them understand you, not with an ulterior motive. Talking can bring healing to someone who is experiencing gender dysphoria. Studies show that certain types of psychotherapy can help them explore their pain and heal.
So many people struggling with gender identity feel like they can’t share their experiences. Be the person they know they can trust. But don’t force a conversation if they don’t want it.
As Catholics, we believe that truth and charity go together. We can’t deny the truth about gender, even if it puts us at odds with society. However, we can’t proclaim the truth without charity.
Each and every person we meet is a child of God and worthy of love. As we share the truth, let’s always keep their human dignity in mind.