Chaplaincy retreat

Today we had a very fraught catholic university chaplaincy/society meeting. There was a lot of emotion and the whole atmosphere felt quite awkward. People obviously had strong feelings on a few subjects that were being discussed, and a few members were brought to tears, and some got up and left at various points.

I don't pretend to fully understand all the tensions and the connection some of these people have with the chaplaincy, as I've only been there a few months, and these are just some of my thoughts on what I took away from today.

The meeting was called to discuss the chaplaincy retreat that we had voted on in the first society meeting of the year, back in September. It was rather ominously stated that the chaplaincy could not support the retreat, initially with no further explanation given. The committee of the society looked very awkward as they talked about this, and didn't feel they could expand on it without our priest being there.

Once we'd located him, he explained his reasons for not feeling like he could support the retreat that had been planned. One reason, which I think should have been the main reason, was that the retreat centre we were planning to go to was not wheelchair accessible, and especially now we have someone who uses a wheelchair attending chaplaincy it would not be appropriate for the chaplaincy to support a non-accessible event. His other reason was specifically to do with the community who were going to be running part of the retreat, and I think this was based more on personal reasoning.

Understandably there were people with a close connection to the community in question who were offended by his comments on the nature of the community. I think they had wished to be able to compromise and discuss the issues, coming up with solutions rather than taking the decision to cancel the retreat altogether.

There were also some other issues which came up in the discussion and I think too much of the dialogue seemed quite accusatory. Some things probably weren't appropriate to be discussed with the entire society present, and there seemed to be a lot of underlying emotion, a lot of which I didn't quite follow, probably because I haven't been a part of the chaplaincy that long.

The end result of the meeting was that the retreat is to be cancelled and another retreat will be run in its place. We voted on some options for an alternative retreat, and although it was a close call between the number of people abstaining and the number who voted for one of the alternatives, we have chosen an alternative retreat. I think this is a positive outcome, but I can see that not everyone will think that, and may not be happy with it. I don't think the situation was dealt with very well on the whole, and there could have been better communication.

Personally, I think that cancelling the retreat on the accessibility issue alone, would have been valid. The chaplaincy has links with the university and as such has to follow their policy on accessibility, and from what I gathered they had sought advice from the university and had been told that if possible an alternative retreat should be run. However, regardless of university policy, and whether or not we perceive that we currently have disabled members, I believe that we can hardly consider ourselves Christian, or indeed good human beings, if we are not inclusive and accessible to all.

The chaplaincy has suddenly had to consider members with disabilities as we had a wheelchair user unexpectedly arrive, and have been scrambling to make adjustments ever since. In my opinion this isn't really good enough, we should try to be proactive and have suitable adjustments or resources already in place to accommodate those with different needs, rather than reacting when someone comes through the door.

Of course it's good that there has been a reaction, and movements have been made towards change, but I think it's indicative of a huge problem that needs to be addressed at the root, rather than trying to plug the gaps. We need to consider inclusivity as a whole, in advance, and then be prepared to continue to make adjustments.

I have my own personal concerns about the retreat, as being trans I don't really know how they will deal with me. I spoke to someone after the meeting today who assured me that it had been considered. I wasn't entirely sure whether everyone at the chaplaincy were that aware of me being trans so I was actually somewhat relieved to find out the people who I wanted to know were aware. I would like to be treated just like any other guy, but I can never be certain how exactly it will play out, especially as the accommodation will probably be arranged by gender.

Tags: catholic trans

I was diagnosed with depression about 4 years ago. It made sense, I was feeling very low, self harming and had been having suicidal thoughts. If anything, I was happy to have the diagnosis, as I felt it legitimised the difficulties I was having, when my parents were telling me it wasn't a big deal.

I recently found out that I may have a borderline personality disorder. I haven't been officially diagnosed as far as I know, but my mental health nurse listed some of the symptoms and asked me if I thought they applied to me, and gave me some information on it. He thinks that the bpd support group and therapy they run would be helpful for me.

Now, I have to admit when I first heard him say bpd I was terrified. It made me feel broken in a completely different way to simply having depression. It felt like I was reaching a whole new level of mental illness, and it scared me. I think the name itself is very intimidating, and also the connotations a 'personality disorder' seems to come with. It feels like an attack on your very personhood.

I spent the rest of the day reading about bpd, and crying. Crying because of how some of the symptoms have been affecting my life without me even realising it. I never knew that my relationship difficulties could be part of a disorder. It made me feel so broken, and yet now I can see that actually this can give me hope. Hope that it is possible for me to change my life, learn how to live with who I am, and my flaws, and learn the skills to be able to do life more successfully.

A revolutionary thing I learnt around this time last year, was that recovery isn't about becoming like everyone else, or reaching a point where you're 'cured'. It's about embracing your differences and learning to live with your illness. Recovery means you learn more skills to cope, and are able to live life fully.

It's just over two weeks until my next appointment with my mental health nurse, but I have decided that I think DBT, the type of therapy I'm being offered, could be helpful for me and I would like to try it. I also think that bpd fits, with many of the symptoms applying to me.

One aspect I think is slightly tricky though, and has made me have a good think, is the identity aspect. A bpd can cause a person's identity to be unstable, with them not knowing who they are, or it changing frequently. Being trans, this initially worried me, making me question whether it is as a result of having a bpd. I have come to the conclusion that I don't think it is, because some aspects of my identity do change from time to time, but my gender identity has remained steady for a couple of years now. It has been constant when so many other things in my life have changed. Also I have been seen by many mental health professionals, including one gender specialist and none of them have ever linked the two.

Tags: mental health trans

What's in a name?

My name

Something I was surprised by when I first came out as trans, was the number of people who asked about why I’d chosen the name Zac. Initially I struggled to put into words how it had come to be my choice of name, it had simply felt right to me. It was after I had first spoken to someone about being trans that I seriously started to consider what I would like my name to be, I remember sitting on the bus trying out names in my head. I considered going for a more gender neutral name, like Alex, or Sam, but those didn’t sound right to me. Then I said the name Zac to myself, and it felt right, it felt like my name in a way my birth name never had.

But there is more to the name Zac: from about the age of 7 until I was 15 I lived a vivid alternate reality inside my head. Zac, or Zacchaeus, was a character in that world, and I eventually realised that Zac was me.

My full name is Zacchaeus, which is a biblical name, from Luke’s gospel. It has significance for me, as Zacchaeus was a short tax collector, someone who was disliked by most of society, and not particularly honest. He climbed a tree to see Jesus, Jesus stopped, and told him he was coming to his house for tea. Jesus didn’t see this man as everyone else saw him, and I don’t believe He sees me through the same lens as everyone else.

The blog’s name

My blog is called Transistence as I aim for it to be a record of my trans existence, a journal of my experience of life. The similarity to the word resistance is also not accidental, my whole life I have felt different, always at odds with my communities, and resisted people telling me how to live my life.

Tags: trans

This morning I woke with an urge to start a blog again. I used to have one, back when I was a naive teenager, with opinions on things I knew very little about, fully convinced that I knew what I believed and where I was going in life. When that all fell apart, I neglected the blog, and eventually deleted it.

Since then, a lot has changed and I now feel that I have something worth putting out there again. I have a fairly unique perspective on the world as a transgender, bisexual Catholic, and I have some small hope that my musings may help someone who is trying to live and reconcile the reality of seemingly conflicting elements of faith, transition, and sexuality.

My plan it to share my own story, and talk about my life as it happens, with some commentary on current events as I see fit.

Tags: catholic trans