What Does Being a Catholic Transwoman Look Like? An Interview with Melinda Selmys

Recently, my dear friend and fellow Catholic blogger Melinda Selmys — author of Sexual Intimacy — kindly requested to interview me. We both concur that, particularly in the emerging discussions about transsexuals and participation in the faith life of the Catholic Church, trans voices are routinely dismissed, elided, ignored, or pathologized into abstraction. This interview, we hope, enacts a willingness to listen to the actual experiences of trans Catholics. The Church does not “hate” us; and I am optimistic for the future of our roles as coparticipants in the sanctity of Catholic worship and practice. I thank Melinda sincerely for sharing her platform with me to explore these possibilities.

Melinda, with my permission, has published an abbreviated version of the interview on her blog.

For those who would like to see the entirety of my response, I post my answers below.

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Cover of My Forthcoming Book

I’m absolutely delighted to share with you, fresh from the production team at McGill-Queen’s University Press, the cover to my forthcoming book. And it’s legitimately squee-worthy!

(On a personal note, I will never grow tired of thanking the lovely folks at MQUP. All of them showed me tremendous care, courtesy, and sensitivity in accommodating my gender transition, as did all three of my anonymous referees. What might have been awkward was, instead, waveless, steady, and totally considerate. I received more support than I had imagined. Special thanks to Mark Abley for his expert guidance, and colossal patience, in working with me as an editor.)


(My book will be available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book editions, in early Spring, 2016).

Some aoiferrata:

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Oliver’s Twist: On Men Lecturing Women on How to be the Woman 

Despite flirting with fluorescent hair-dye, and other temporary signs of the queer anti-establishment prowess, transgenderists actually adore institutional validation.

In fact, they seek it. They demand it, adorn themselves with it like medals purchased from a pawn shop, and then demand some more.

Thus, success in trans terms invariably coincides with the stuff society insists are the indicators/symptoms of neoliberal accomplishment:  trans people in the military; or appearing cropped and photoshopped on magazine covers; and — coup de foudre — primetime telly, including collaborating with the same network that brought us 19 Kids and Counting.

Every weekly listicle on “How to be an awesome trans ally”  has, as a midpoint, the rejection of the  “you’re so brave narrative” as exoticizing “inspiration porn“.  But the status quo dispenses Courage Awards to trans “heroes” as if they were from a gold-star Pez dispenser.

In transgender parlance, they like to call all of this visibility. Really, however, it’s just limelight … virtually indistinguishable from any other sensationalistic seizure when the marginal is staged for public spectacle. Trans activists insist always, this is about self-definition — but really it’s more about collusion, with whatever vector of validation offers prestige, money, and publicity. Which of course is “self-definition” — through wealth and fame.

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Second in a series: feminist writings that have influenced us

From Aoife:

“If women be educated for dependence; that is, to act according to the will of another fallible being, and submit, right or wrong, to power, where are we to stop?” –Mary Wollstonecraft

We at Gender Apostates are a diverse lot; despite this, we find encouragement and support in that — while acknowledging the differences in our varied backgrounds and experiences — we collaborate through the honest sharing of our experiences. As individuals, who are both trans and not trans, we do not pretend to share a singular point of view but enact, by acknowledging the ways in which gender has hurt and limit us, to push past the rhetoric of identity and category as a cooperative endeavour.

Every Thursday at Gender Apostates is Feminist Reading day. Last week, my very dear friend Sass shared some of her favorite authors and the impact they had on the raising of her consciousness. Week 2, and it’s Aoife’s turn! This exercise in creating lists, while quite appealing to the book nerd within, is not intended to canonize essential texts, or to promote certain writings as superior to others. Rather, these are personal reflections on the women whose words have instructed my awareness. I am a work in progress.

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On Living and Surviving as a Controversial Construction (Full Text)

(Editorial note: I reproduce here on aoifeschatology an essay that I originally published on the Gender Apostates collective. You can also follow us on twitter.) This was my first post for this emergent coalition that is discussing and debating gender through collaborative engagement. I’m proud to be a contributing member of GA: some very interesting words and ideas of risk-taking honesty are being exchanged. This could offer, I trust, the potential for more inquiry. Currently, too many forums have restricted and factional presentations of these issues concerning gender and sex.



I am a transsexual who is critical of transgenderist politics. This puts me at odds with both much of Radical Feminism (which sees me as a womanfaced appropriator of the female form for gendered leverage and sexual gratification) and queer activism (which views me as truscum heretic, a hypocritical denier of trans identities, or strangely a ‘radical feminist’).

I am not a radical feminist, nor a liberal feminist. Or any feminist. However, at least for a time, I was most infamous as a critic of that misogynistic cultural hallucination known quaintly as gender(*) identities, and the deceitful liberal politicking that excuses it called “transgenderism”. I find it utterly disagreeable that trans activism arrogantly rejects outright ‘female bodied’ as a classificatory category of fact. My views on the ethics of sex differentiation have changed dramatically in the last year. I am still learning.

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Brief Update (Feast of St Thomas More)

I spent a very lovely weekend at a Franciscan convent; tending to their farm and gardens, unlodging languishing thoughts on sunstruck contemplative walks; sharing in communal prayer with the nuns; offering all to Our Lady.


I feel refreshed and renewed in my considerations as to what aoifeschatology might have to offer. This will require more reflection, but I hope the essays that emerge this summer will continue to consider the body, power relations, and the hermeneutics of liberation.

I’d like to mention the newly created Gender Apostates collective of writers: we are a coalition project between transwomen and women; we endeavour to move past the tedious dialectic of, on one side, trans activism that elides female experience and, on the other, condemnatory politics of radicalized blame and tired essentialisms.

Right now, there’s a lot of pathetic scrimmaging over twitter cred that is causing some disgraceful behaviour. I no longer will have any part in the cul-de-sac circulatory of social media feminism. Celebrate and jeer as you will: all of my twitter accounts are now locked; I have no use for gender cribbage played out in pointless forums.

I’d prefer to pursue theologically emergent pictures of selfhood in how I approach corporeality and difference. I am not ashamed of my faith, nor my collaborative respect for women religious. I have spoken of my understanding of my thwarted vocation to the religious life, owing to the circumstances of my biological birth: but I now work to convert that sorrow into new, honest beginnings. Sunday’s second reading, to my secret delight, was a verse that has chased my heart with its promise: 2 Cor 5:17.

Today is the memorial of St Thomas More’s martyrdom: I look to that example of saying unpopular things in unpopular times.




“Call me Aoife”

Not that “size matters”, but aoifeschatology passed 100,000 reads tonight, in its 18 month history. I’m not much for comparisons, but according to my own selfish reckoing that’s not too bad for an independent tranny essayist with opinions that annoy everyone

Clearly, the conscientiousness for more nuanced discussions of trans issues is gathering. As for my ability to contribute, speaking only as myself — actually, the “authentic” credit is yours.

Since media platforms and prominent channels actively discredit or shun me — which is suitable as I prefer my autonomy — I’m nonetheless indebted:  it’s your shares and retweets that enable aoifeschatology to have a reach. All of my traffic comes from those contributions. I don’t ask for donations; and I’m not one for Patreon pandhandling. My reward is your readership and consideration. Your support sustains me, and I thank you supremely for your views and signal boosts.

Aoife You!!

Also, gulp . . . No more of this self loathing I keep hearing about! it’s time to show the world my authentic self. Here goes ‪#‎MyVanityFairCover‬


I identify as an intermittently accurate seer. My pronouns are so genderfluid I need tealeaves to explain them. (H/T to Miranda Yardley for the design, whose excellent essay on Caitlyn Jenner I recommend).

Autogynokardashian: Where “Always Was” meets “Whatever the Hell I Want”

“As they are now, so will you be, wigged, singed, perfumesprayed, ricepowdered, with smoothshaven armpits. Tape measurements will be taken next your skin. You will be laced with cruel force into vicelike corsets of soft dove coutille, with whalebone busk, to the diamond trimmed pelvis, the absolute outside edge, while your figure, plumper than when at large, will be restrained in nettight frocks, pretty two ounce petticoats and fringes and things stamped, of course, with my houseflag, creations of lovely lingerie …”
  — james joyce, ulysses, “circe” episode

Let’s suppose I had a friend — male, mid 60s, sincerely questioning whether transition is the route to go after a lifetime of confessed confusion (including an aborted run on hormones thirty years ago). He wants to discuss things openly, yet requests I refer to him by his male name, male pronouns, and so forth. He shyly plays with his hair during our conversations, coyly suggests an interiority of womanly-feelings — even declares that, for all purposes and intents, he’s a woman. (What purposes and whose intents, I muse quietly.) He shows me collateral proof via his wardrobe, including a sizable collection of gourmet cocktrails dresses that Jay Gatsby may have compiled were he a crossdresser.All of this as an evidence-based commitment to the intangible, invisible, undefinable ‘woman within’. “Her/me”, he keeps saying, the feminine object of ‘her’ readily assimilated into the subjective claim of ‘me’. We shake hands and I wish him well. Go at your own speed, I suggest.

Two weeks later he’s on the cover of a major fashion magazine, decked out in Marilyn Monroe’s underwear, airbrushed and siliconed into abstract fantasy — a flight into the sublime passivity of The Woman as object and subject simultaneously. As if Coppélia weren’t just something the doctor built — but built for himself to become.

Or, as a wise friend of mine on FaceBook pointed out, a lesbian veteran of multiple decades in the struggle for women’s lib: “Men clearly do femininity so much better than women do. And why not? They invented it, after all.”

Fear not, ladies, Caitlyn Jenner will show you how to gender.

Jenner will show you what real womanhood is.

And you will like it.

Autogynokardashian style.


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