“What you do to the least of these people, you do to me.”
A conservative estimate is that LGBTQ people make up about 10% of the U.S. population. Hearing these numbers, I asked myself. “If at least one in ten people identifies as LGBT, how is it that I do not recognize them in my life? Then a Bible quote came to me; “Have you had eyes but do not see and ears but do not hear?” (Matt.13:13-14) Looking back on my life, I have begun to realize that they were all around me but for some reason, I did not see them.
I began to remember that in my earlier life in Vietnam, I was introduced to the LGBTQ world at a very young age when my biology teacher told my class that her friend had transitioned from male to female. Then, during my high school years, I had two gay classmates. Years later, as a medical student, my friends and I met an intersex person in a hospital whose genital, chromosomal, or gonadal characteristics were not completely female or male. She identified as female and presented as female, but the doctors insisted she be assigned as male. When I came to the United States and attended a community college, I knew another transgender person who transitioned from female to male. To me these people were strange and weird, which is exactly how many of my friends saw them too. I did not try to understand them, or have compassion and sensitivity toward them.
The turning point came for me a few years ago when I came to know a transgender person. I listened to that person’s story and came to know the family. I cried at the profound trauma and injustice this individual and their loved ones faced. I realized that they do not choose to be vulnerable, rejected, or alienated. I needed to learn and understand more.
Recently I was blessed to meet another transgender person. After forty years of struggle to be the woman that was not inside of him, he is now a handsome man who is successful in his profession. He helped me to see transgender people from another perspective. Each person is different, but all go through unbelievable pain, struggle and rejection. But yet, with courage and help, many of them get to the other side of that experience and live generous, productive lives with self-confidence.
As a Dominican trying to preach the Gospel through my living, I am questioning myself. As a Dominican Sister of Peace, can I let LGBTQ people touch my heart and feel free to love and care for them as God loves and cares for them, without being afraid or judgmental? Can I be a model of compassion to future generations in the Church as we live the Gospel in the midst of a violent world?
I thank God for giving me opportunities to meet such a diversity of people. This community of marginalized people is educating me to appreciate the different parts of the Body of Christ.
For many years, I had eyes but did not see, and ears but did not hear. How about you, my sisters and brothers in Christ?