“God created me as I am”, a trans man convert from Catholicism turned Protestant pastor is celebrating.

– “I always found it strange that others thought I was a girl”

Samuel Schelle told his story June 28 to katholisch.de. He revealed how 37 years ago he was born as Susanne into a traditional Catholic family in Überlingen, on the northern shore of Lake Constance, but that ever since he could remember, he always knew himself to be different.

Though Schelle said his parents loved and supported him – “I had a happy childhood in that respect, I wasn’t an outsider” – he said he was never the “typical” girl with dresses and long hair.

In fact, Schelle looked back and admitted that “I always found it strange that others thought I was a girl”, even if, as a child, he couldn’t work out what that strangeness was all about.

One thing Schelle quickly got certain, however, was the lack of opportunities for girls and women in Catholicism. “As a girl, I quickly reached my limits. That seemed unfair to me”, he recalled.

Fruit of that unfairness was Schelle’s decision to convert to the Protestant faith at the age of 18, where he quickly found himself at home. “In my mind and heart, I had always been Protestant”, he explained.

Schelle studied theology, got ordained at 30, and received his first parish assignment, in the Black Forest region. But behind the dream job there was a sadness. “I was professionally where I wanted to be, and yet I wasn’t happy”, Schelle admitted.

Only then – seeing others getting married and starting families – did Schelle begin thinking seriously about a part of his life that he had been trying to cover over with his commitment to school, studies and his faith: his love life and sexuality. He had had sexual partners – both men and women – but “nothing seemed to fit”, he recalled.

Worried that something was “wrong” with him, Schelle went to see a therapist, who introduced him to the concept of transsexuality – or as Schelle prefers to call it, “transidentity”.

“Many people think transsexuality has something to do with sex”, Schelle reflected, before explaining that it is broader than that. But beyond the label, Schelle found comfort in the concept in his experiences, thinking and being and, what’s more, quickly reconciled his new trans identity with his religion.

“God created me as I am – as a transgender man”, Schelle proclaimed, asking why for all the diversity in the world God would limit Godself to just two genders.

– Praise from a superior: “Because of his cheerful nature and his open approach, there were no problems”

Having found at least who he really was, Schelle had just one more obstacle to clear: how to transition in full view of his congregation. He decided to go back home to Überlingen, change his name and body, and “after that I wanted to start a new life in another parish as ‘Mr. Schelle'”, he said.

But the love he received right from the very beginning of his transition in Überlingen made unnecessary those plans for a seamless reveal into the new Mr. Schelle followed by a quick get-away.

Support for the transitioning Samuel came pouring in from people like Regine Klusmann, Protestant dean in Überlingen-Stockach district and, as such, Schelle’s superior.

Klusmann praised Schelle as a popular pastor and explained that “because of his cheerful nature and his open approach to the topic of transidentity, there were no problems”.

Klusmann said she answered the few doubts that did come up about Schelle’s new identity by explaining that transidentity is a normal possibility, and one based, moreover, on biological realities far from personal whims.

– “We shouldn’t sort people by man and woman, but rather by abilities and characteristics”

Between his duties as a pastor, Schelle now devotes his time to visiting schoolsm to introduce students to the topic of transidentity and to let gender-doubtful children know that it’s ok, and that there is a name and a solution for the struggles they might be having.

It’s all part of the pastor’s project to get transidentity out into the open, and to encourage society to pay less attention to gender.

“We shouldn’t sort people by man and woman, but rather by their abilities and characteristics”, Schelle said.

But still, there’s one thing Schelle said he’s still missing in his new life – a Church rite to celebrate his new identity.

“I would like to have God’s blessing once again with my new name, as Samuel Schelle. Then I would really exist”, he said.

More stories on faith and gender identity, on Novena:

Swiss woman-loving female Catholic theologian: “I love my Church too much to leave it in the hands of those who would rather see me gone”

“Grateful to speak for the people”: non-binary German “synodal path” participant speaking truth to power

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Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.