In the increasingly polarised conversation surrounding transgender rights, a new voice has risen above the clamour. And taken many people by surprise.

A coalition of Catholic nuns, representing over 6000 religious and nearly 30 religious organisations and congregations, has published an open letter stating: “As members of the body of Christ, we cannot be whole without the full inclusion of transgender, nonbinary, and gender-expansive individuals.”

The statement, released on International Transgender Day of Visibility, contradicts a ‘doctrinal note’ issued by Catholic bishops in the United States in mid-March, which discouraged health care groups from supporting gender-affirming medical procedures.

It has also been warmly welcomed by an LGBT+ community which has, in recent months, grown increasingly concerned by the tone of ‘conversation’ around trans rights, one which often questions their very existence.

What does the statement say?

“As vowed Catholic religious and our partners in mission, we wholeheartedly affirm that transgender, nonbinary, and gender-expansive individuals are beloved and cherished by God. We mark International Day of Transgender Visibility, as a time to celebrate, acknowledge, and uplift folks who identify as transgender, nonbinary, and/or gender-expansive. We know our actions and commitments must extend beyond this day’s observance. As members of the body of Christ, we cannot be whole without the full inclusion of transgender, nonbinary, and gender-expansive individuals.”

Why speak out now?

Why not? The statement also highlights the ways in which “transgender people are experiencing harm and erasure”, including “the introduction and approval of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation”, “harmful rhetoric from some Christian institutions and their leaders, including the Catholic Church” and “daily discrimination and violence.”

Read more: ‘Someone will end up killed if things don't calm down’

Who is backing this?

Some 27 Catholic organisations, including several prominent and long-standing ones, namely the Sisters of Nazareth, the Loretto Community and Sisters of St Francis of Assisi. It was penned by the US Federation of the Sisters of St Joseph, Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of- the-Woods, Indiana, and Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Justice and Peace Commission office.

How has it been received?

Warmly by the somewhat surprised members of the global LGBT+ community. This was an endorsement they were not expecting. The response from the wider Catholic community has been slightly muted but the statement has served as a reminder that religious communities can often take an independent and contradictory view to that of the wider Church.

The final word…?

Belongs to the sisters: “The Gospel call of unifying love compels us to actively interrupt harmful interactions in daily life and dismantle the systems that reinforce this rhetoric and violence in society, particularly for Black, Indigenous, and other folks of color. We will remain oppressors until we — as vowed Catholic religious — acknowledge the existence of LGBTQ+ people in our own congregations. We seek to cultivate a faith community where all, especially our transgender, nonbinary, and gender-expansive siblings, experience a deep belonging.”