Guest columnist Mariel E. Addis: Under seige from all sides

Mariel E. Addis

Mariel E. Addis


Published: 04-17-2024 5:46 PM


When I first heard John Lennon’s masterpiece “Imagine,” and heard the line “imagine no religion,” I thought, “How awful is that; religion is a good thing!” Probably in junior high at the time, I couldn’t understand the significance of the line. I do now, for so many reasons.

This week the Vatican, among other things, referred to gender theory and “sex changes” as “grave threats” to humanity today. “Sex change,” a term common up to the 1980s, has been largely supplanted by the term “gender confirmation surgery.” Similarly, evangelical Christians are out to stop gender transitions, believing they, like the Catholic Church leadership, intimately know what God’s greater plan is.

Both groups also pan a serious and well-documented condition, gender dysphoria, that they cannot possibly appreciate because they have never personally experienced it. Neither has the majority of people on this planet, but I can tell you it is real.

In other news, TERFs, or trans-exclusionary radical feminists, continue to believe that trans women are a threat to womanhood, and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics has banned transgender women from competing in women’s sports, although it will allow them to compete in men’s sports. Gee, thanks for that one.

I am one of an estimated 1.6 million transgender people in the U.S — that’s out of 342 million people. The transgender community is a tiny little piece of the broader pie, and everyone wants to regulate us either because they think that God (which is really just their personal interpretation of God) told them that transgender people are a problem or that we are somehow tipping the balance of fairness.

I, too, believe in God but I like to think that God is pleased that I am finally happy in myself. I am of the opinion that like a loving parent, God wants us all to be happy and fulfilled. I firmly believe that the whole transition experience has made me a kinder, wiser, citizen of the world — not some kind of threat. This thought, however, always seems to be lost in the larger discussion.

I don’t think these organizations know, or even care about, what their stances and their words do to the lives of transgender and gender non-conforming people. Some end up taking their own lives after being barraged by hate and lack of understanding in families, in schools, in the workplace, or in church. And in the case of the evangelical and Catholic churches, dividing up and not supporting vulnerable people goes against everything I ever learned about Jesus and his ministry.

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Jesus, I was taught, was a man not too proud to help and support anyone, frequently caring for people at the bottom rung of society. Ironically, even as a religious man, he called out the hypocrisy of the religious leaders in his Jewish faith.

The friends I have who identify as transgender or gender non-conforming, while not large in number, are some of the most generous, kindest, and most introspective people I know. I feel blessed to have them in my life as they have enriched it greatly. I like to think that I have done the same for others, both transgender and cisgender.

When religious organizations, sports organizations, or other groups try to make policies around very real issues that they can never fully understand, they frequently hurt the real people at the center of the policy, in this case transgender people.

Beyond that, I think these organizations hurt all of us because they make edicts for us to blindly follow. In reality, I believe each person should be making their own judgments based upon what they as individuals personally see and understand.

In closing, when it comes to others’ restrictions on members of the transgender community, all I ask is to be informed, be kind, ask questions, and listen to your heart.

Mariel Addis is a native of Florence. She left the area for 16 years but returned in 2013.