I am a transgender Catholic woman

Views Christine Zuba / June 5, 2022 Print this:
(Photo courtesy of AP)

About a week ago, I was at a viewing for the mother of a life-long friend. While there I spoke to a member of my friend’s family who works in adoption services. She told me that a few of the kids that she has worked with are transgender. This led to her asking questions about my life and gender identity struggles. It was a conversation that I hope gave her more insight into the individual and unique paths we all walk, regardless of sex or gender.

About eight years ago, after 29 years of marriage and two beautiful children, I walked into confession with something to discuss.

For as long as I could remember, since about the age of three or four, I knew that I was different. As a child, for years I would go to bed praying that I would wake up as a girl. This is a story commonly echoed by many transgender people.

I am a life-long Catholic. As part of my transition it finally became time to speak to a priest, during the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I obviously knew what our church taught with respect to being gay. At that point, however, the church was still silent regarding transgender persons. 

(Photo courtesy of Christine Zuba)

My faith has always been strong. I’ll never claim to be the “perfect Catholic”; I do make mistakes. Occasionally (but not often), I miss a Sunday Mass, and I’ve been known to utter a bad word once in a while (especially during Philadelphia Eagles football games). I do my best to be a good person though, trying to live each day like it may be my last. 

I was, and still am, very confident in my relationship with my God. I knew I would be the same person walking out of the confessional that walked in, no matter what some might say or claim about me. While my “outside” was changing, everything else—my heart, my mind, my soul, and my faith—remained unchanged.

When I told our associate pastor I was transgender, the conversation immediately reverted to sex. I said, “Excuse me, Father, this has nothing at all to do with sex, this has to do with who I am. You can throw me out if you want, but if you do, I’m coming right back. This is my church too.” Father said, “No, no, we’re not going to do that.” After a little more discussion, he said, “Let’s together say a prayer to our Blessed Mother to help guide you on your journey.” I was crying as I left confession. 

About a month later, I returned to confession again, this time to our monsignor, whose first words were “God loves everyone.” I cried again. Monsignor did say however that while he understood being gay, “the transgender subject is somewhat new. I’ll need you to help me learn.” 

The author (second from left) with Jasmine Bowers, Fr. Jim Martin and Fran McGarry at a lecture at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, in September, 2019.

I’ve been blessed. While I had a very positive reaction from my priests, I know others who have experienced the complete opposite: they were told that they are sinners, evil, or that they’re not Catholic. One of my best friends was even physically carried out of church after being refused communion.

Before the coronavirus shut things down, I had lunch with a local priest who baptized my grandson. He wanted to learn more. One of the first things he asked was if I was ever physically or sexually abused when I was young, because it was his understanding that people become transgender as a result of abuse. I have never been abused.

About a year after my transition, our monsignor asked if I would be interested in becoming a Eucharistic Minister. Shortly thereafter we also started an LGBTQ+ Ministry in our parish.

It was through this ministry that I became aware of other similar ministries across New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. Covid introduced the world to Zoom, and this technology has allowed so many people across the country and the world, to become acquainted and to share stories. I’ve met so many loving, kind, wonderful Catholics whose only “fault” is that they happen to be LGBTQ.

With Fran McGarry at the South Jersey Gay Pride event “Out in the Park”. The LGBTQ+ Ministry of their parish Saints Peter & Paul, in Hoboken, NJ, has sponsored a a booth at these events the last few years.

About four years ago, I was invited (along with 17 gay and lesbian Catholics, supportive clergy, and parents) to dinner with Cardinal Joseph Tobin at his residence in Newark, NJ. It was a beautiful and amazing evening. I have been blessed.

I often wonder however, what is it about me that my church fears and singles us out? Why am I and the transgender community selectively targeted as “seeking to destroy the family and the world” as some define it? Nothing could be farther from the truth.

I understand our faith says that “God made them male and female.” But God made a whole lot more, and everything in between. Our world, science, technology, even our church, has changed over time. Today’s science asserts that something can happen in the womb, between the body and mind, causing a misalignment between the two. I don’t often quote science though. I just know that “I am,” that God made me this way, and that God made me this way for a reason. 

I don’t wake up in the morning thinking about being transgender. Our lives are no different than anyone else’s. We live, we work, we pray. We have families. 

We ask simply to be accepted and a part of our church, no better nor worse than divorced Catholics, or Catholics who may not follow strict church teachings, who are not condemned like transgender people are.

Pope Francis has spoken out for lesbian and gay people saying they have no choice in the matter, that “they are who they are.”  I pray that someday Pope Francis will understand and can say the very same thing about transgender persons. 

We are not an ideology. We are not a threat. All of us are a part of God’s great universe, made in the image and likeness of God, a God who is neither male nor female.

Christine Zuba

Christine Zuba is a transgender Catholic woman from Blackwood, NJ and a Eucharistic Minister at Saints Peter & Paul Parish, Turnersville, NJ. Christine is chair of the Transgender Ministry of Fortunate Families.

All articles by Christine Zuba

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10 Comments
  1. Thank you so much for this article. We all need to listen to and learn from the life experiences of others.

    • God bless you in all you do. You are both brave and beautiful!

  2. Wonderful article, It’s time we honor and accept all for who they are.

  3. Thanks for this beautiful article. This really inspired me a lot and strengthened my belief in the Church.

    I was a gay seminarian. I spent 6 years in the seminary to learn first about God, my vocation and second to accept who I am.

    It was frustrating to hide myself and pretend to be straight during my formation.

    Before proceeding to enter novitiate to prepare myself for the first vows (I was a perfect candidate), I decided to come out with my formator. I hoped that they would understand and help me to accept who I am (I was struggling to accept my sexual identity). My formator first reaction was reluctant to understand and we had a long discussion what I could be if I ever became a priest. Then he told me to see psychologist. I went to the psychologist and I was advised that I might misinterpret myself and my gender identity. For her, I was misled by the environment. After all, I met my provincial superior, he showed empathy and seemed to be supportive, but at the end, his main point was to ask me to leave the seminary. He obviously said that I would rather leave the seminary myself rather than being kicked out. It would be more painful. Finally, I asked my direct formator to stop my formation. My heart broke into pieces. I cried. I had never cried for so many years. I burst in tears. I was painful. I felt a big betrayal in my heart. I wondered what if I did not confess with them. I lost my trust first in the congregation which I had dedicated myself for such a long time, then to the Church which I have always love. I tried my best to put myself in their shoes, yet until know the thought of not being accepted still haunt me every day. I am now still in the closet. I am so depressed.

  4. Thank you for your faith and sharing your story. Love you..

  5. I love to hear more experiences as this one. I am also a trans catholic woman with kids, and my experience is quite similar to Christine. I would only add that after going out of the closet I feel closer to God than ever, because before there was always a bit of “why me?” Because I didnt truly accept me and that kept me away of God and the way He had planned for me. After reading Mar 25,14-30 I finally understood what the transexuality God have given to me was a talent I should use and dont keep buried, and after doing that and completely accept myself for who I am, I could also improve my relationship with God, and honestly I feel closer to Him than ever, so if going out of the closet dont get you far away of God, but closer to Him, how can it be a bad thing?

    And now for a small promotion (if this is not allowed please tell me and I would post again only the first part of this post)
    This saturday 11 at 15:30 uk time we will have a live (in spanish, sorry) about the reality of catholic trans women in Spain and Costa Rica, by the Embracing Womyn group of the GNRC, so the timing of this article couldnt be more perfect.

  6. The way I see it is, as Church, we must lead with compassion and welcome all of Gods people.
    As we all learn and understand more deeply the experience of Trans persons may we walk hand in hand with them to find love and acceptance in all Catholic Communities.

  7. The Holy Trinity is neither male nor female. Jesus welcomes all to the table.❤️❤️❤️

  8. Thank you for sharing your story! It brings a deeper understanding of the realities of being transgendered. Your faith is a gift – and so are YOU, to your Parish, Our Church, the World!

  9. Wonderful article. God bless you and your ministry. Keep the faith. Change is slow, often painfully so. But God does work miracles. (Even our Eagles won a Superbowl!)