Catholic hermit in Kentucky comes out as transgender man (2024)

A Roman Catholic diocesan hermit — yes, that’s an official church position — has come out as a transgender man.

Keep up with the latest in LGBTQ+ news and politics. Sign up for The Advocate's email newsletter.

“This Sunday, Pentecost 2024, I’m planning to come out publicly as transgender,” Brother Christian Matson told Religion News Service Friday. He believes he is the first out trans person in his position; although that is difficult to confirm, he is undoubtedly one of very few.

In Catholicism, a hermit is a person who lives a secluded life devoted to prayer. Hermits are subject to approval by their local diocese, which Matson received from Bishop John Stowe of the Diocese of Lexington, Ky. Matson took his vows as a hermit in 2022 for a one-year commitment, and in 2023 he renewed his vows.

As a hermit, he has “lived a life of basically spending half the day in prayer and half the day doing some form of work,” he told Religion News Service. He writes, acts, and does production work at a theater in the area; he received rave reviews for his 2023 performance in Every Brilliant Thing,a show about grief and resilience.

He is also an oblate in the church’s Benedictine order. An oblate is a member of a religious order who devotes their life to prayer and service to God.

Matson, now 39, had a long journey to finding his place in the church. He grew up in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) but converted to Catholicism in 2010, four years after his gender transition. He had become interested in Catholicism while attending graduate school at Loyola University Maryland. “It was my first time in a Catholic environment — I was very drawn to the beauty of the liturgy, but also to the Jesuit approach to education, which is care of the whole person, and the sense of Catholic education project in a rich intellectual history,” he told the Lexington Herald Leader.

To the news service, he noted, “I became Catholic after I transitioned because of the Catholic understanding — the sacramental understanding — of the body, of creation, of the desirability of the visible unity of the church and primarily because of the Eucharist.” The Eucharist is the sacrament of receiving bread and wine, representing the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

He tried to join various religious orders but was turned away, all while keeping his devotion to the faith. He ran a nonprofit organization for Catholics in the arts in New York City for a time. He was troubled, though, by statements from Pope Francis and other church leaders against gender transition. Francis, sometimes progressive and sometimes not, has spoken out against “gender theory” but has met privately with trans people who found him warm and accepting.

Eventually, friends of Matson’s suggested he contact Stowe, who was known to be liberal on LGBTQ+ issues, so Matson wrote to the bishop in 2020. Matson was open about being a trans man and shared “his vision for an artists’ community and his pull to religious life,” Religion News Service reports. Stowe replied quickly and with encouragement.

“It was an enormous relief,” Matson told the news service. “I was in tears. I felt my hope revive.”

“My willingness to be open to him is because it’s a sincere person seeking a way to serve the church,” Stowe said. “Hermits are a rarely used form of religious life … but they can be either male or female. Because there’s no pursuit of priesthood or engagement in sacramental ministry, and because the hermit is a relatively quiet and secluded type of vocation, I didn’t see any harm in letting him live this vocation.” Stowe supported Matson’s coming-out.

Matson had some political motivations for coming out. “There are a number of laws getting passed around our country, including in Kentucky, as well as policies being published in the church, that are making life more difficult for transgender people and are based on faulty assumptions about them,” he told the Herald Leader.

Matson is receiving much praise. “I think Brother Christian is heroic — the church has neither spoken kindly nor been kind to transgender people, and he still views service to the Lord and to the church as something far greater than something that would cause most people to back down. That’s heroic faith,” Stan “JR” Zerkowski, the director of the Lexington Diocese’s LGBTQ ministry, told the paper.

"Brother Christian has long sought to consecrate his life to Christ in the Church by living the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience. He has consistently been accompanied by a competent spiritual director and has undergone formation in the Benedictine tradition," the Catholic Diocese of Lexington said in a statement, according to Newsweek. "He does not seek ordination, but has professed a rule of life that allows him to support himself financially by continuing his work in the arts and to live a life of contemplation in a private hermitage. Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv., accepted his profession and is grateful to Brother Christian for his witness of discipleship, integrity and contemplative prayer for the Church."

From Your Site Articles

  • Kentucky Allowed to Enforce Trans Care Ban, Appeals Court Rules ›
  • Kentucky Passes One of Nation's Worst Anti-LGBTQ+ Laws by Veto Override ›
  • Kentucky's first transgender elected official wants you to get involved in local politics ›
  • Pope Francis: LGBTQ+ People Welcome But Have to Obey Church Rules ›
  • New York City Archdiocese condemns funeral of trans icon Cecilia Gentili at St. Patrick's Cathedral ›
  • Pope Francis can’t seem to decide whether the church should welcome or condemn trans people ›
  • A pious Church and Cardinal Dolan trashes a dead trans woman who, like Jesus, helped the marginalized ›
  • Vatican Rules Transgender Catholics and Babies of Same-Sex Couples Can Be Baptized in the Church ›
Catholic hermit in Kentucky comes out as transgender man (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Edmund Hettinger DC

Last Updated:

Views: 5741

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (58 voted)

Reviews: 81% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Edmund Hettinger DC

Birthday: 1994-08-17

Address: 2033 Gerhold Pine, Port Jocelyn, VA 12101-5654

Phone: +8524399971620

Job: Central Manufacturing Supervisor

Hobby: Jogging, Metalworking, Tai chi, Shopping, Puzzles, Rock climbing, Crocheting

Introduction: My name is Edmund Hettinger DC, I am a adventurous, colorful, gifted, determined, precious, open, colorful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.