Karl was born in Preston in 1984, assigned female at birth. He had a difficult childhood and struggled with teachers and other students at school because of his feeling that he wanted to be a boy. Karl went to study maths at university, later completing a PhD in theoretical physics in Durham, where he met his now wife. At the time he identified as female and lesbian, but as he learned about transgender issues, decided that he wanted to transition.
“When I was up in Durham doing my PhD, I came out as gay initially when I met my wife. I thought that might be a halfway house. I thought I could be a butch lesbian and express quite a masculine identity without actually transitioning.”
“Initially, I was scared that people would think I was a freak or that they wouldn’t want anything to do with me, and I think that was just the shame that I’d internalised over the years, really, being told it wasn’t OK to deviate from female gender norms. But no, it was hugely liberating when I was able to actually stop. I had a little period when I was going between using Karl and using my dead name and actually being able to just be Karl and be totally open…”
Karl was vehemently atheist as a teenager, but at university began to attend church meetings. This ultimately led him towards ordination in the Church of England, but when he was criticised by church officials for not being ‘discreet’ with his girlfriend, a job offer was withdrawn and that journey ended. Karl finished his PhD and moved to Milton Keynes.
Frustrated and angry with the Church of England, Karl began to attend the Methodist church, partly owing to its more inclusive attitude to sexuality and gender issues. He has since begun training to become a minister.
For his dissertation he wants to write about science and faith, and he tries to use examples from science in his preaching. He used to consider science and faith as separate until someone challenged him about it. He does not see them as in conflict, and has no problem with theories of evolution or the big bang or anything like that, and is happy to let science guide how we think about those things.
“But science cannot do everything. We can talk about what goes on in the brain when we fall in love with someone, and that’s fine, but that can never fully capture what it is to fall in love, or to look at a sunset and go “wow”. Just because you can describe what a body does, it doesn’t capture the wholeness of that.”
Theology is good at dealing with those deeper things and talking about wonder and beauty, but also about suffering and forgiveness. Theology and science are both needed.
Karl would like to see the UK follow Ireland and the Netherlands and have self-declaration of gender.