As leaders of religious communities and interfaith partners across our city, we write to address comments that have been made recently in the Telegram & Gazette regarding transgender people, transgender identity more broadly and the value of studying transgender identities in higher education, specifically at the College of the Holy Cross. These comments appeared in the articles “Worcester Catholic bishop: Transgenderism not rooted in science” and “Bishop’s remarks on transgenderism ‘hurtful’ and ‘offensive,’ Holy Cross deans say.”
The comments quoted in the articles are offered as the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, as interpreted and expounded by our colleague The Most Rev. Robert McManus, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester. As fellow leaders of religious communities of Worcester, we respect Bishop McManus’ right to convey the teachings of his church and to speak with authority as bishop of his religious community.
However, we feel strongly called to write a public statement of affirmation for our transgender family, friends and neighbors who may believe that Bishop McManus’ teachings are reflective of other religious — and specifically Christian — moral teaching. They are not. As voices for other communities of faith, including many Christian churches, we respectfully disagree with most of Bishop McManus’ statements in these articles. We fully accept transgender identity and the scientific grounding of transgender identity, drawing on widely accepted medical standards and thoroughly researched studies in physiology and psychology.
As representatives of our various traditions, we write to affirm the dignity and value of transgender people: we see you, we love you and we support you. We celebrate the gift that you are to our city, we benefit from the enrichment you bring to our public life and we acknowledge you as full members our religious communities. You do not have to hide or change who you are.
Additionally, we write to commend the scholarly work and teaching of Prof. K.J. Rawson, who was also the focus of the articles mentioned. We also wish to express our concern that an individual person was so clearly scrutinized and set as a foil to Bishop McManus’ comments in Mark Sullivan’s articles. Obviously many scholars throughout the city and at Holy Cross research gender and sexual identities through multiple disciplinary lenses.
Selecting Prof. Rawson as the only representative of trans scholarship could be seen as a form of targeting, especially in light of Bishop McManus’ critical comments concerning trans identity, and especially since Prof. Rawson’s personal identity was needlessly highlighted. Our national context of ongoing violent hate attacks against trans people makes this kind of intense reporting on an individual’s personal life concerning. Thus, we ask that Telegram & Gazette reporters carefully consider how their reporting might lead to the targeting of specific vulnerable individuals in the future.
Thank you for your time, and on behalf of all of our communities, we wish peace, love, and celebration of all identities across our city.
Rev. David H. Woessner, Rector, St. Michaels-on-the-Heights Episcopal Church, Worcester; Rev. Jane A. Beebe, Priest-in-Charge, Christ Memorial Church, North Brookfield; Rev. Dr. William C. Bergmann, ThD, Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts, (Retired); Rev. Timothy H. Burger, Rector St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Worcester; Rev. Aileen E. DiBenedetto, Rector Christ Episcopal Church, Rochdale; Rev. Dr. Kevin L. Downer, Interim Pastor Greendale People’s Church, Worcester; Rev. Nancy Elder-Wilfrid, Pastor United Congregational Church, Worcester; Rev. Jose Encarnacion, Senior Pastor Christian Community Church, Worcester; Rabbi Aviva Fellman Congregation Beth Israel, Worcester; Rev. David Gentleman, Pastor Cana Community Church, Worcester; Rev. Daniel Gregoire, Minister Unitarian Universalist Society of Grafton and Upton; Rev. Derek Henson, Associate Pastor First Baptist Church, Worcester; Rev. LyAnna Johnson, Pastor Simple Church, Worcester; Rev. Richard F. Jones, Senior Minister, The First Parish of Bolton, MA; Rev. Brent A. Newberry, Pastor The First Baptist Church of Worcester; Rev. Aaron R. Payson, Minister The Unitarian Universalist Church of Worcester; Rev. Nathan D. Pipho, Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, Worcester; Rev. Bernie Poppe, Priest-in-Charge All Saints Episcopal Church, Worcester; Rev. José Reyes, Pastor of Misa Alleluya, Worcester and Missioner for Latino/Hispanic Ministries, Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts; Matthew Shorten, Clerk of the Meeting Worcester Society of Friends; Rev. Sarah C. Stewart First Unitarian Church, Worcester; Rev. Paula J. Toland, formerly of Grace Episcopal Church, Oxford (and contributor to the “Keep the Faith” column); Rev. Meredyth Wessman Ward, Director, Walking Together and Urban Missioner of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts Holy Cross class of 1977; Rev. Natalie Webb, Associate Pastor, The First Baptist Church of Worcester