A transgender woman, Tia Pesando, hopes to become a Roman Catholic nun in London, Ontario. If she is successful in becoming a nun, she will be the first openly trans person to do so in the Catholic Church, The Advocate said.
CTV News reported that Pesando – whom in addition to identifying as transgender, is intersex, and "refers to herself as the often controversial term 'hermaphrodite,'" according to The Advocate – felt her spiritual calling from God about two years ago. "I'm very convinced of the reality of God and the importance of such a calling," she said.
Despite opposing views, Pesando feels that her faith supports love and acceptance for people who are transgender like her. To explain her perspective, she wrote a book called Why God Doesn't Hate You, which uses biblical evidence and is currently available on Amazon. Regarding her book, Pesando told London Community News,
From a theological perspective, I think I have a solid argument…People are leaving the church because they feel the God of love has betrayed them, and betrayal is one of the worst feelings you can imagine. So I am reaching out to people saying this is what the Bible actually says.
Pesando realizes that with the church's general climate of lacking acceptance and love for transgender people, resistance to Pesando's dream of becoming a nun is a realistic possibility. She said,
The Catholic Church is very good at maintaining a cohesion of hierarchy and if there was an order from someone higher up that prevented me, eventually it would come down to me having to appeal to the Pope.
CTV News reported that "A Carolinian convent outside of Kitchener has said it won’t be able to accommodate someone like Pesando."
Despite the potential opposition, however, Pesando feels she has had a "positive start" so far. She has already become a consecrated maiden committed to a life of chastity, poverty, and obedience; and when she first decided she wanted to become a nun, she received her priest's blessing. Pesando will begin her training in August.
So far the Catholic Church has not commented on the matter.
Outlets like CTV News have been reporting that if Pesando indeed becomes a nun, she would be the first transgender nun in the world. As New Ways Ministry points out, however, this statement cannot be confirmed. The fact remains, though, that regardless of whether or not she is first, Pesando's public exposure as an openly transgender nun would be huge step for acceptance of transgender Catholics.
While New Ways Ministry provides positive, nuanced coverage of Pesando and in general is a powerful and affirmative force as an LGBT Catholic advocacy organization, the language in the beginning of its article assumes that Pesando does not identify as "only" a woman. The article stated,
One of the places where Catholicism and gender are most strongly inscribed together is the area of vowed religious life. There are communities for only men and other communities for only women. What if your gender doesn’t fit into this binary?
In reality, media coverage of Pesando has not indicated whether or not she identifies as non-binary. Assuming that she is outside the gender binary, which would mean she is not only a man or only a woman, indicates that transgender women cannot be fully women. Even though Pesando is intersex, if she identifies as a woman, she is a woman.