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‘Ask me what I actually believe’: Transgender Kentucky monk speaks out about misconceptions

Monk wearing white robes in front of a red brick building surrounding by foliage
Jennifer Hart Yonts
Brother Christian Matson, a Catholic hermit, recently shared publicly that he is transgender.

A diocesan hermit living in eastern Kentucky recently got approval from his bishop to come out as transgender, the first known case of someone in his position to do so.

Brother Christian Matson recently made headlines when he publicly shared that he is transgender. He transitioned before becoming a monk. Matson is part of the Diocese of Lexington. He spoke with LPM News’ William Padmore about finding a place in Catholicism and why he chose to come out now. This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

Why did you feel compelled to speak out now, of all times?

Well, I did not plan to speak out a month after Dignitas Infinita. That document has complicated my coming out. I had already planned this date well before that document was even mentioned.

Can you briefly explain what Dignitas Infinita is?

Yeah. Dignitas Infinita is the newest statement from the dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Vatican, which is the document on human dignity. And it's a wonderful document for the most part, but there are just a few paragraphs on gender theory and sex change, which basically claim that gender theory wants to dissolve all differences between the sexes and say that gender is changeable, or it's a choice….And I don't share the beliefs in gender theory that are in this document.

And the document, sadly, continues the alignment of church documents, assuming that people are trans because they believe in what's called “gender ideology,” and I know of no trans person who transitions because they believe in gender ideology, because they come to a philosophical position and then decide, “Well, now I can change my body to remake myself in my own image as opposed to listening to God.”

How has your life personally been affected by everything that's going on, not just in the church, but within state politics?

Thankfully, politics in the state of Kentucky don't affect me directly yet. Bans against medical treatment are just for minors. But they do affect children I know.

What has been affected is two things, primarily. One, I've been overwhelmed by the positive support from friends, including friends who didn't really know to think about this issue, but know me, and have said, “You know, if this is your experience, I really have to reconsider what I thought I knew about it.” And the support from trans people all around the world who have been emailing me saying, “I had given up on having a relationship with the church. But seeing that you've been welcomed by the church… I feel like I have hoped for having a relationship with God and the church again.” And that's really who this announcement was for.

And would that be your advice to people who find your medical history antithetical to the faith – just listen?

Yeah, ask me what I actually believe. You know, I'm working on getting my theological argument out there, because that's not something that's really been picked up by a lot of the press. I'm being presented as a dissenter to church teaching… somebody who's trying to say that the church is wrong or challenge the church and say that I know better than God, and that's just not true.

I'm trying to say, I believe in church teaching about the goodness of gender and the human body and the goodness of maleness and femaleness — and it's also more complex than we've addressed so far in our theology.

So let's just acknowledge the complexity, and then build on that, incorporate that into our theology because truth cannot contradict truth. So we don't have to be afraid of acknowledging actual scientific truths that we're discovering.

What do you have to say to those who share your medical history or are thinking about transitioning and also feel that call to faith, but don't see a place in the church right now?

I'd say don't give up. Keep going toward the people who support you. Keep your grounding in the knowledge that you are beloved by God that you are made by God the way you are, and he purposely made you that way, which means he finds something good and how you're made and something that you have to contribute to the world in the way you were made

For those who are thinking of transitioning, I do think this is a serious decision. I found that I was helped by… talking with a therapist, and at the time, the standards of care required a one-year, real-life test where you live in your preferred gender role for a year before you do any medical intervention. I found that very helpful. So I would say, do [discuss] with the important people in your life, with your family, with doctors, with psychological professionals, with your spiritual mentors.

William is LPM's "All Things Considered" host. Email William at wpadmore@lpm.org.

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