Choosing Your Gender Over a Church

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

We’ve already heard from one reader who was shunned by her family for leaving their church. This reader was shunned by her devout family because of her gender identity:

My name is Julia, and I’m 23 years old. I read a few of the stories in your Notes section about people’s personal experiences with religion, and I saw at the bottom you were looking for reader responses. Well, here’s mine.

My mother is Catholic, and my father converted from Lutheranism to Catholicism when I was a child. Every Sunday growing up, we attended church in a small suburb near our city. My mother was very devout; Catholicism formed a cornerstone of her life. I even took Sunday bible school classes at her insistence.

I had several atheist friends who influenced me, however, and while I was nominally Catholic, I didn’t really care all that much about religion. I believed there was a God and I attended church regularly, but it wasn’t a daily thing for me. I didn’t sit down to pray every night like my mother. I didn’t read Christian literature like she did or do the rosary.

My mother was a really loving person. She had an innate kindness in her that I didn’t see often in others. She would go out of her way to help people, even in extreme cases. Even with her strong religious beliefs, I thought such a person could accept anyone regardless of circumstance. I was wrong.

I’m transgender; I was born a biological male. In church and in our community around us, I was taught as a child that LGBT people were sinners bound for hell. That they were not redeemable. I knew my mother personally had espoused these sorts of beliefs before, but I thought it might be different if it was her own child. That she would still love me, regardless.

We had a fight one evening over my college performance (I was doing poorly at the time). The argument eventually spiraled into other topics, and my transgenderism was exposed. My mother called me a monster, told me she wish I had never been born, threw me out of the house, and told me to never return.

I have since left the Catholic Church. I do not plan to ever go back to organized religion. The way I was treated, and the pain religion has brought on my life—I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. I can’t reconcile everything that happened and continuing to believe in a higher, benevolent power.