Getting to Know Rory Hytrek

In the second article in a series, Jim Lindsay interviews another Dignity Washington Member for you to get to know better. This time, the person is Rory Hytrek who had served on the Board of Directors and is more visibly seen as an acolyte during Mass. So, for this interview-style article, the first question is…

Can you tell us a bit about your youth, your family, where you grew up?

I’m an Air Force Military BratTM — so I’m used to moving to different states every couple of years, which means I’ve gotten to grow up all throughout the U.S. I’ve been very lucky, and really enjoyed the nomadic life, although it’s been nice to settle down in D.C. My mom and dad now live in San Antonio, TX, and my little brother and his wife are in Southern California. They are expecting their first child! (The psychic damage that comes from knowing your baby brother is going to be a dad, and he’s going to be a really good one, is unparalleled.)

We lived in Colorado, Northern California, Wyoming, Maryland, Southern California — and on my own I’ve lived in the Czech Republic, Cambodia, and throughout Northern VA – although our annual pilgrimages ‘home’ are always to Oregon, where my parents grew up but where I never lived.

My family is mixed Irish Catholic and German/Norwegian Lutheran, although I grew up Catholic, and attended Catechism lessons and even some Catholic elementary school.

Do you care to share your coming out story (assuming you have one!)?

When I was about 12 and still thought I was a girl, I came out to my family as a lesbian — I’d been dating (or the middle school equivalent — holding hands after school! And occasionally smooching!) a girl in my grade, and all my friends were sure it would be a non-issue, so I might as well just tell my family. I got the response that we “just didn’t believe in such a thing,” which came as a shock. I was so sure that my parents would be supportive that I hadn’t even prepared for the possibility they wouldn’t be. I spent most of middle and high school back in the closet when I was home, although I led much of a double-life and was a leader of an LGBT student club at school.

It was in college that I realized that I wasn’t a girl after all. I moved to the Czech Republic not long after and used the opportunity to try out my new name and pronouns in a clean break. I loved it, and coming home to D.C., I started my life as Rory. I’ve been “out” as Rory since 2014, and on hormones since 2016. I’ve been lucky, as my friends have been the strongest support and closest family that I have, and my fiancé is the kindest and most fiercely protective soul over my right to exist exactly as I am. As it is for many of us, “coming out” doesn’t happen just once, or to everyone at the same time. Now, however, I can say that I am a proud transgender man, and I love the life I’ve built for myself with my own hands and the support of my God and my loved ones.

How have you reconciled your being gay/trans and the teaching of the Church on matters of LGBT+ persons?

For me, being queer and being Catholic was actually my least stressful reconciliation. While I knew what the larger Church thought of me, I’d also had the role model experience of my friend “N.”, who was Confirmed a year before I was. He had his own crisis of faith, managed it, and helped me manage mine as well. He was only 13, and I was 12, and I can’t be more grateful to him, as he did more for my faith than any adult in my life. I was also lucky to have a strong relationship with God when I was a child, one that little me never gave humans the power to shake.

Theological arguments for queer joy and belonging in the church are so important for our continual fight for human rights—but when it comes down to myself, individual arguments sometimes feel superfluous. I know God loves me. What else is there?

How did you come to join Dignity Washington and how long have you been a member?

I was introduced to Dignity Washington by the leader of the LGBT Center at George Washington University, where I was an undergrad. He sent me to meet two other students at Mass. My first Dignity Mass was in 2010. I admit I have been an official member for perhaps only 9 years out of those 13 — for standard “being broke in undergrad” reasons — but I’ve been at DW for over a decade now.

What do you most appreciate about Dignity Washington?

The community at Dignity Washington helps me feel connected in so many ways: to the D.C. queer community, to a version of Catholicism that loves and values me, and to a group of adults who really care for my well-being and still act as role-models while I’m trying to navigate all the ups and downs of growing up.

What are your hopes for the future of Dignity Washington?

I hope that the next generation of queer Catholics who needs a home finds it, and I think that Dignity Washington can be that home — or even just a friendly stop along the journey. I hope that we are proof to the world that Catholicism is still about Love, that it can still be the spiritual home to all that it has always promised, but that the hierarchy has not always delivered.

Is there anything else you’d like the community to know about you?

There is a lot still for us to explore as a community on the fringes of gender, social class, and what is considered normal or palatable — and how all those things tie into who is seen as deserving of a place at the table. Our liberation is bound up in the liberation of all our siblings, even those whose experiences we do not understand. And, best of all, I think that our community is full of goodwill, deep empathy, and relentless determination to have those conversations.

~~ Jim Lindsay and Rory Hytrek

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