Sitting Next to a Transvestite at Mass this Morning

by Steve Ray on December 1, 2013

It was unsettling. You don’t expect to sit at Mass and discover the person next to you is a man dressed as a woman – actually, a man who “is” a woman. It was a bit discombobulating. You don’t expect such an spectacle at Mass any more than you expect an elephant to walk up the isle. 

Janet and I are still a bit jet-lagged so we went to a 7:00 AM Mass at a Catholic Church not far from home. He-she (I don’t quite know how else to refer to this person) sat a pew near us and in plain view. He was dressed conservatively and was obviously there not to make trouble but to participate in the Mass. Even so, it was distracting.

Long straw-colored hair, a man’s face and hands, a woman’s chest in a tight gray blouse and black jacket, black slacks covering a man’s muscular legs and conservative black high heels. He obviously felt conspicuous sitting by himself in the back neither looking to left nor right and avoiding eye contact. Am I sure it was a man? There was no doubt. He wanted everyone to know. When he walked up for communion in front of us any doubt I had quickly vanished.

My first reaction was to stare and feel revulsion – was I imagining this or was it really what it appeared. My next was to wonder what he-she was doing here and how he justified coming to a Mass with such turpitude. My next thought was that I should quit dwelling on this distraction and pay attention to the Mass.

My mind was swirling again. I had also just walked in to church and sat down with my own sins and problems. Maybe they aren’t worn on my sleeve obviously as his-hers, but who was I to feel superior. That’s what the Pharisees did. Who knows the life story of this lonely and mixed up man? What situations twisted him to make such decisions? Why was he at Mass? How should I respond?

I decided to reach out with acceptance and greeting at the Sign of Peace but for several reasons (including his keeping his face straight ahead and not making eye contact) it didn’t work. I thought to myself, “I’d rather have this man kneeling here where redemption is close at hand than to have him turned away.” Jesus would have reached out to him – not to condone his sin and deviance but to break through and bring healing.

The world is full of broken people – lonely, confused, hurting, sinful…  Watching criminals go the to gallows in the 16th century John Bradford said, “But for the grace of God, there go I.” Me too! I’ve been blessed, forgiven, healed. My childhood was idyllic. My godly parents helped set the trajectory of my life by being saintly examples of sinful Christians alway coming to Jesus for grace, forgiveness, direction and healing.

Jesus came to seek and save those who are lost. I realized it is better for him-her to kneel in church seeking the face of God than to be pushed outside ignoring the life of faith. But it was still very uncomfortable.

I prayed for him and I prayed for me.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Susy December 1, 2013 at 12:07 PM

Yes, just yes. Great description of this incident and the conclusion you came to. Totally agree with all of it. Lord have mercy on us all.

Ricardo Boncan December 1, 2013 at 6:06 PM

Steve,
You hit the nail right on the head. This is exactly how I struggle with those situations. I’m glad to know someone tries to handle it in the same way I do. God Bless!

Bobby Stritch December 1, 2013 at 8:17 PM

Maybe he just likes to wear dresses. Who cares? Going to church isn’t enough for you people? Why must people conform to your notion of gender binary in order to be saved?

STEVE RAY HERE: He didn’t wear a dress. He wore slacks. I thought I made that clear.

Kevin Mannara December 2, 2013 at 12:35 AM

STEVE RAY HERE: I ALLOWED THE POST BELOW TO SHOW HOW JUDGMENTAL SOME PEOPLE LIKE KEVIN CAN BE. ISN’T IT IRONIC THAT HE SAYS I AM JUDGING AND THEN HE DOUBLES UP ON JUDGING ME?. THESE LIBERAL TYPES ARE ALL THE SAME – THE MOST INTOLERANT OF ALL PEOPLE AND ARROGANT AND RUDE TO BOOT. I LEFT HIS POST TO SHOW HOW SCREWED UP OUR SOCIETY REALLY IS.

Is this a joke? This condescension is appalling. Clearly you somehow feel superior to your fellow human being, a creature in the divine image and likeness. How big of you to “reach out and accept” another member of the Body of Christ. Feel better about yourself? You make this person an object, each human being is a subject. “Jesus would have reached out to him – not to condone his sin and deviance but to break through and bring healing.” What exactly is his “sin” that you point to? What is his deviance, not dressing as society says he should? Joan of Arc that deviant is a canonized saint.

Who needs healing here? Who is being deviant: deviating from being the image of love we were created to be, deviating from our common identity as sinners. I cannot believe one goes to a hospital and then judges who is “more sick than me.” I cannot believe one goes to mass, stands before God, then judges whether he will be accepting of someone different than him. I stand before God and pray for God’s mercy that He might accept me in my deviance from the image He created me in, and accept me for being so woefully different from Him.

Your attempt at magnanimity betrays a woeful diminutiveness.

Lynda December 2, 2013 at 8:23 AM

Reason has been all but extinguished in society as the result of the denial of objective reality, moral and factual. With no acknowledgement of the objective truth, there can be no justice or peace, and the truth-speakers are arbitrarily persecuted.

Michael December 2, 2013 at 9:13 AM

Kevin’s tone is harsh, but he makes some great points. Your response, including the phrase “liberal types”, reflects a divisive bias that shouldn’t be found in a blog labeled “Defenders of the Catholic Faith.” I didn’t realize the Church was now divided into the Fox camp and the MSNBC camp.

STEVE RAY HERE. GOOD POINTS? WHICH ONES? DON’T PLAY STUPID. YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN BY “LIBERAL TYPES” – THOSE WHO THINK MAN AND GOVERNMENT ARE THE CENTER OF ALL THINGS AND THERE ARE NO ABSOLUTE TRUTHS UPON WHICH TO BALANCE OURSELVES. HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH FOX OR MSNBC – IT HAS TO DO WITH RIGHT AND WRONG, SANITY AND INSANITY.

Mike December 2, 2013 at 2:57 PM

Hi Steve. I understand what your saying. My struggle has been with St. Paul’s statement 1 Cor. 11:27-29. I struggle with wanting to tell people that I know are in mortal sin, have not been to confession or not Catholic anymore and go up for Communion (especially observed recently at my cousin’s wedding). I struggle because I feel guilty that I am not instructing the ignorant. I want to warn them like St. Paul warned against receiving the Eucharist unworthily. I just pray for them and their conversion/reversion because I too was once where they are.
Mike

Steve Ray December 2, 2013 at 3:10 PM

Not that we have to apply all the principles and laws from the Old Testament for today, but sometimes they give us a good indication of the moral structure as God’s people have understood them and as God revealed them. In Deuteronomy it says: “A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God” (Deut 22:5).

Kevin December 2, 2013 at 3:32 PM

I appreciate your response. I apologize for my harsh tone but not the content. The difference is that you are judging a person, I am judging an attitude. Whether or not that attitude permeates your soul I cannot judge.

You never answered any of my questions. What is this person’s “sin?”

I am not any “type,” I am a son of the Church, of the gospel and mission of Jesus Christ. As long we categorize people we diminish them, and that includes the liberal/conservative duality.

May we both review Luke 18: 9-14. When I am humbled to the ground I have no one to look down on. Only then can God raise me up.

STEVE RAY HERE. KEVIN, I APPRECIATE YOU IRENIC RESPONSE. YOU ARE JUDGING ME, NOT AN ATTITUDE. I COULD ALSO SAY I WAS NOT JUDGING THE MAN BUT HIS ATTITUDE AND HOW IT MANIFESTED ITSELF. THE PERSON’S SIN IS TO TRANSGRESS THE BASIC DISTINCTION GOD MADE BETWEEN MAN AND WOMAN. I’VE QUOTED THIS BEFORE BUT GOD REVEALED, I THINK, HIS THOUGHTS ON SUCH THINGS IN DEUTERONOMY 22:5 “A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God.”

GLAD YOU ARE A SON OF THE CHURCH. BETTER FOR YOU AND I BOTH TO BE HERE THAN ESLEWHERE EVEN THOUGH WE BOTH HAVE OUR SINS AND FAULTS. THE CHURCH IS NOT ONLY A HAVEN FOR SAINTS; IT IS ALSO A HOSPITAL FOR SINNERS.

John December 2, 2013 at 3:55 PM

I understand some of what you have said, but do disagree as well. Last we were taught, we loved the sinner but hate the sin. In this case, this individual did nothing more than show up in clothing that was not to your choosing for him. So was that his sin or yours? Unless he was performing some type of sodomy act right there in church, you assumed he was a sinner! Could he have been sinning any more than the man who possibly sat right next to you who looked like a man, acted like a man with his wife at his side, yet he chooses to wear her panties to church? Your true prayer should have been for God to help you see His children the way He does. Pray not only for the individual who you were so focused on throughout the Mass, but yourself and for any who may be struggling with whatever burdens. I am a broken soul myself who prays for everyone, whether they be straight, gay, or what ever. I pray for you and me and all who struggle with something, including tolerance! Be blessed.

STEVE RAY HERE. I THINK IT WAS A BIT MORE THAN SHOWING UP WITH UNUSUAL CLOTHES. HE ALSO SHOWED UP WITH BREASTS AND A BIT MORE. CLOTHING IS BAD ENOUGH THOUGH. THROUGH MOSES GOD SAID, “Deuteronomy 22:5 (RSVCE)
5 “A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God.” MAYBE GOD WAS BEING A BIGOT, I DON’T KNOW. WHEN A SOCIETY LOSES SOME BASIC DISTINCTIONS AND NORMS WE WILL HAVE CHAOS TO PAY. I THINK I DID SAY THAT I PRAYED FOR HIM AND MYSELF – DID YOU MISS THAT PART?

keithp December 2, 2013 at 7:25 PM

Is attending Mass or receiveing the eucharist as a transvestite a sin?

Heck, I don’t know.

Is it scandalous? maybe. Is it prudent behavior? maybe not.

A transvestite at Mass? This brother / sister just couldnt attend in he/she’s hetero normative clothing but just HAD to cross dress? Sorry. I don’t buy it.

Should a parent be forced to explain to their children why there was a man dressed as a woman at Mass? I say no. This person is more than welcome to attend Mass but pls come in a way to not cause distraction and scandal.

flame away folks…

STEVE RAY HERE. WHO’S FLAMING? YOU ARE FOR FOR SURE, BUT I DON’T THINK I DID. MOST FEEL MY POST WAS VERY HONEST AND BALANCE AND CHARITABLE. ANY YES, A PARENT SHOULD EXPLAIN WHY A MAN AT MASS HAS BREASTS AND IS DRESSED LIKE A WOMAN – AND WHY IT IS WRONG.

Bill 912 December 2, 2013 at 7:38 PM

John, re-read Steve’s post. His “true Prayer” WAS exactly what you said it should have been.

Pamela January 12, 2014 at 1:36 PM

What about just good ole fashioned respect for God and his house and the people there to worship? My guess is he/she was there to make a statement and for attention. No different than one which colors their hair purple and pink then gets pissy at a negative response. I know I will hear that God doesn’t care what you wear to church but I was raised to respect the house of God and to respect myself. Steve, your reaction was right to pray for he/she and yourself.

kelmomma January 28, 2014 at 4:34 PM

Sometimes I look at these situations as tests from our Lord. How will you react, what is your true heart. (it’s for us, not for Him, he knows our hearts). Your thought process Steve was what a normal persons thought process would be. Yet you didn’t let our Lord down, you decided to attempt to extend a hand in the love of Christ. Who knows where this tortured soul was in the process, but how wonderful to see him there. Even better if he could meet Jesus there in the faces of more people willing to extend their hand. God’s Peace!

Lisa February 12, 2014 at 4:28 PM

We’ve had the same thing happening at our church for at least 6 months now. Man arrives nearly every week dressed as a woman: longish dyed red hair, makeup, jewelry, painted nails, usually a short skirt and always 6 inch heels….oh, and breasts as well. He’s actually attended a couple of times with his wife and once with his wife and (I think) his adult daughter and granddaughter. He goes up to receive the Eucharist every week. Our priest stopped giving the Eucharist prior to this individual arriving at our parish. Only Eucharistic ministers do this now due (exclusively for about 2 years) to a purported physical ailment of our priest’s. I wonder if Father is refraining from giving the Eucharist for situations such as this. I think that the fact of dressing to pass as the opposite gender IS an issue of concern, a matter of a serious transgression. But you know, how long has it been that women have been wearing super short hairstyles and pants and all manner of formerly man-style clothing? Can we really say anything about this man when there are women on the other side of the spectrum, often running things in the parish? Granted, for the most part I would say none of them are actually trying to pass as men … But where does one draw the line anymore?

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