I'm Catholic, trans and bisexual, but becoming comfortable with all of these parts of my identity didn't happen overnight. It's been a long process, with many bumps and difficulties along the way including many times where I've wanted to give up completely on at least one aspect. There have even been times where I have given up, but God means so much to me that I always seem to find my way back to them.
I was brought up Catholic, having been baptised when I was just over a year old. We attended church pretty regularly on sundays. For almost my entire school life, aside from 3 primary school years, I went to Catholic school. It was pretty normal to me, and I don't really remember questioning whether I actually believed it or not until I was around 11 or 12.
I started to dislike church at this age because I found it boring, and I was also forced to be an altar server, which I hated because it meant I had to sit up at the front and remember what to do at the right times. I remember trying to find excuses not to attend, or not to have to serve.
However, I then began to become more engaged with my faith. I started following the mass more closely, reading some of the Bible, and learning more about what the Church taught. I began to read books and articles and listen to podcasts with a Catholic or Christian theme. I started almost exclusively listening to Christian music, and soaked up a lot of the views of American purity culture. I found some kind of comfort in all the rules I think, and to my shame now, became fairly judgemental of others' behaviour. I also held myself to a very high standard.
I still believe that it was only through prayer and my relationship with God that I was able to get through some of the toughest periods of my life. With God's help, I gained the courage to reach out again to find new friendships after being bullied for years. My faith provided solace to me, and I believe it kept me alive at this time, if only because I was too scared of going to hell to kill myself.
I continued to attend church regularly, even when the rest of my family stopped going so regularly. I was confirmed when I was 15; it was a lovely service which I got a lot out, but this was to be one of the last times for a while that I would feel this close to, and at peace with, God.
Everything I knew came crashing down when a few months later I finally admitted to myself that I liked girls and watched porn properly for the first time. I couldn't see how my faith and my sexuality could coexist and I felt so immensely guilty.
I went to church to ask God for forgiveness and I remember walking home feeling lighter. However, it soon happened again, and the guilt was back. It led to me self harming and sinking down into a dark place. According to everything I had believed up to this point, I was disordered, and could never have a healthy relationship with a girl.
For a short while I nearly lost my faith entirely, and questioned whether I was even a Christian anymore. However, I only briefly stopped believing in God I think, because I felt that they were a large part of my life and I couldn't imagine doing life without them there, supporting me. I was self harming regularly by this point, and continually struggling with questions of how God could make me like this, and what they wanted me to do with it.
I began to really pray in earnest, seeking an honest answer from God, rather than parroting the book knowledge I had gained. I realised I had a lot of the head knowledge about religion and God, but I was lacking a deeper connection with them. I spent a lot of time in tears, begging God to reveal to me what they wanted me to do, and a lot of time shouting angrily at God.
Then things slowly started to change, I began to get messages of love, in my private prayer times, and through other people. It took quite a while for them to begin to get through to me and make a difference to me. I found it hard to comprehend, but I felt God really wanted me to know that they would always love me, and that there was nothing I could do to make them love me more or less.
Knowing I was loved was incredibly powerful, it gave me a foundation to stand on to ask the more complicated questions, about what to do next. It had never crossed my mind to ask for my identity to be changed, I think I always knew that this was a part of me that I somehow had to live with. The question was always how.
The sticking point was I didn't know whether it would be okay for me to have a relationship. Eventually I found I could break this issue down into three possibilities. Either:
- God is a dick and had created me attracted to girls and also didn't want me to have a relationship with them, thus putting me through a lot of pain and suffering deliberately.
- God didn't create me attracted to girls, and I was wrong and/or something had happened to make me this way and thus I should try to resist it because it was a sinful part of me.
- God created me attracted to girls and there was nothing wrong with this. My desire for relationships was the same as any heterosexual person, and the Church was wrong in its teaching.
I dismissed the first, because I continued to believe in God's love. They had supported and got me through some of the hardest times in my life up to this point, and I couldn't believe that They could be so cruel. So I was left with trying to figure out whether I was wrong about my sexuality, or whether the Church was wrong.
I knew what I wanted my answer to be - that it was okay, and that I could have relationships. However, I didn't know whether this was what God was telling me or whether I was just projecting my own thoughts onto them. I spent a long time exploring this with the school chaplain, and it was so helpful having someone to talk about it with.
Eventually, I came to the conclusion that God had created me this way and so I decided to pursue relationships for a while, ignoring the remaining uncertainty I still felt about my sexuality and gender.
Several months later, I came back to discussing sexuality, and I spoke for the first time about how I'd been feeling that I wasn't female, and how I wanted to transition to present as male at school. I spent a lot of time with the school chaplain exploring gender, talking about things like whether the soul has a gender, and whether transitioning is against God's creation or plan for me.
I couldn't find a great deal of teaching on this, but through prayer I began to form my own view on how this fit into my faith. Now, I believe that the soul, the very essence of our being, may have a gender. For most people this aligns with their physical appearance, but for some people like me who are trans, it does not. To begin with my view on this was very binary, because Christian teaching tends to be, but I can't see why it has to be.
I came to realise as well, that even if God created us male and female, that does not mean that we are all completely one or the other. We all have a mixture of typically masculine and feminine characteristics, and gender is far more complicated than a some of the simple definitions provided by parts of mainstream Christianity.
I became very angry with God again over this, however. I couldn't see how if they 'knit me together in my mother’s womb' (Psalm 139:13) they had managed to make such a fundamental mistake. Again, it took a lot of prayer and talking to people to reach a conclusion. I realised that there are many things in this world, that people can be born with that I do not believe are God causing them, or the result of God being neglectful, and so this is similar. It's the result of the fallen, imperfect world that we live in.
The conclusion to this is that I can pursue the medical intervention I need with a clear conscience. I feel safe in the knowledge that God does not want me to suffer, and they helped us to create medicine so that we could alleviate suffering.
My identity is in God, and I know that they see me for who I truly am.
I have recently realised that I'm bisexual. I feel like I've come full circle to the point where I'm attracted to guys. It feels strange.
Before I transitioned, I only very occasionally found guys attractive, and I could never see myself being with a guy. I was almost exclusively attracted to women and only desired a relationship with a woman, so I called myself gay. I was uncomfortable with the word lesbian and for a while I wasn't sure why. I began to realise it was because I felt that calling myself a lesbian, also implied that I was female and I was becoming increasingly aware that I didn't identify as a woman.
When I transitioned, I found it strange that I was supposedly now straight. I often preferred to call myself queer, because I still didn't feel straight, and I definitely had some attraction to guys. I began having more and more fantasies about men after I'd transitioned, alongside continuing fantasies about women.
It wasn't until I came to uni that I properly kissed my first guy (discounting pre-teen kisses). It was a one off drunken thing, and I was in a relationship with a girl at the time so it never went further. When my relationship broke down, and we split up, I allowed myself to consider my attractions to men again. I was open to something happening, but not really looking for something with anyone.
Then I met this guy on a club night at the SU, he seemed nice, we'd already spoken at predrinks so he definitely knew I was trans. That took some of the anxiety away, but I still remember being quite terrified that night; I was bringing a guy home for the first time ever, and it was to be my first ever experience with penis. He was very considerate, and I ended up really enjoying it. I realised that I would just be in denial if I continued to resist calling myself bisexual.
I've only ever seriously dated girls, but that may well be something that will change in the future. I'm now open to pretty much dating anyone, trying not to obsess too much about labels and letting myself go with the flow a bit more.
However, labels have always been quite important to me, and at any given point I can and do enjoy being able to precisely define my sexuality, even going as far as to put percentages on it. My mind just works that way, and I completely respect those who's minds are different from mine. Not everyone is comfortable labelling themselves, and that's okay too.
I was 15 when I first came out. I was on MSN with my best friend at the time, and I typed the words 'I think I'm gay... or bi'. I anxiously hit send, hoping her reply wasn't laced with any of the thinly veiled homophobia I'd grown up with.
I grew up in a Catholic family, and the word gay wasn't mentioned very much at all. If it was, it was never positively and left behind it a rather oppressive atmosphere. I never questioned my sexuality until I was 15. I had assumed I was straight, and I had dated boys to try to fit in, in the strange way under 11s do.
I remember being confused when I was 12 and having sexual dreams involving girls. I tried to convince myself that it didn't mean anything and that I was interested in boys, and I managed to squash it for over 3 more years. I was aware that I liked boobs, so I banned myself from ever looking, because I thought it was wrong and dirty.
During that time I threw myself into my faith, which said that being gay was 'disordered' and that I could never have a relationship with a girl. I read books, and went to church religiously, I thought I knew so much, but I was missing the key, the heart. I had all the head knowledge but my heart was not allowed to get involved, because there was this part of my heart that I had been squashing for so long.
Although the feelings had already begun surfacing, my desire to have a relationship with a girl really came to a head when I started my first summer job at the age of 15. The person who employed me is gay, and I believe it was the first time I had ever knowingly met a gay couple. They were so normal, and it made me actually properly ask myself the question for the first time, could I?
Could I be gay? Could I have a relationship with a girl? How did lesbians even have sex? Then at this point I was overwhelmed with guilt. I felt bad and sinful for even having thoughts about having a relationship with a girl, let alone sex, and I turned to self-harm as a way to relieve that guilt.
I had watched my brother struggle with my parents on the issue of his sexuality, they had not been accepting at all, and my overall impression is of them being very angry and controlling. I had very little desire to come out to them.
I came out to a couple of other school friends, and eventually my whole friendship group knew. On the whole, I received so much love and support from them, for which I will always be so grateful.
I never intended to come out to my parents, and it was not my choice to. When I was 16, my dad sat me down and pretty much forced it out of me. He knew about my self-harming, and wanted to know why, he lulled me into thinking he was going to be supportive, and started guessing. He hit the nail on the head and guessed that I was gay, and my non-answer gave it away. Initially, to his credit, my dad seemed quite accepting, but it didn't take long before the façade slipped away.
He told me that I wasn't gay, that I was confused, that I hadn't met the right boy, that I was too young to make such a decision. His favourite argument of all is that he dislikes labels, and doesn't think I should label myself. He was also convinced that somehow my brother, or someone else had influenced me and turned me gay.
It's taken me years to reduce the guilt, and I am still not sure I'm fully there yet. It has been difficult to reconcile my Catholic faith, with my experience and convictions surrounding sexuality. Now however, I could never go back behind those barriers of shame, I fall in love with who I love, and there is nothing broken about me.