During my first year at Seattle University, an acquaintance expressed his horror upon seeing a transgender person on campus, derisively referring to the individual as “it.” I was shocked to encounter such narrow-mindedness at a liberal institution like Seattle U, and could not help but reply to his hateful remarks with anger.
While usually optimistic about changing opinions within the Catholic community about LGBTQ issues, this encounter left me momentarily disheartened, and I have thought about it often since. Resources on campus to promote acceptance such as the Triangle Club and Office of Multicultural Affairs, as well as Pope Francis’ progressivism, continue to give me hope despite this negative experience. One such action was Pope Francis’ private meeting with transgender man Diego Neria Lejarraga last weekend.
Lejarraga, a practicing Catholic, underwent sex reassignment surgery eight months ago. His local parish ostracized him and called him the “daughter of the devil.” Lejarraga wrote to the pope describing how he had felt marginalized, and the Pope invited Lejarraga and his fiancée to a private meeting in Santa Marta. While details about the meeting were not released, Lejarraga said that it was “wonderful, intimate, unique experience,” and that he is now “finally in peace.”
I am proud of Pope Francis and proud to be at a place where trans voices are heard on campus. The trans community is too often rendered invisible, too often subjected to hate crimes and too often left feeling like there is no hope. While I cannot hope to change my former acquaintance’s opinion, Pope Francis’ meeting with Lejarraga marks an important milestone in the ongoing shift for justice of LGBTQ people in the Catholic community.