This is a repost from my original authoring on May 13, 2016. I wanted to make sure this was still available as I deactivate the other site this post resides on. It’s rare that I still wholeheartedly endorse something I wrote almost two years ago, but here we are. This remains my personal testimony of gender.
Given that many of you are first time visitors here, I feel it’s appropriate to provide highlights of my personal views and understanding of gender and being transgender. If you are transgender and need somebody to talk to; if your child is transgender, or you suspect they may be; or if you simply feel I need to hear your deeply held convictions, please contact me. Though I’m not yet a practicing psychologist, I have more than 20 years of experience in research, coping strategies, and surviving. I am more than happy to spend time with those who desire more information, or who need help finding peace in this trial.
I believe there is an inseparable connection between gender, and the eternal gospel of Jesus Christ. I believe fully in The Family: A Proclamation To The World:
ALL HUMAN BEINGS—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.
I believe that our bodies, even in their fallen state, are a gift from a loving Heavenly Father. Where the world sees imperfection, I see divine influence and beauty. I believe God would not leave our physical development in the womb to genetic, environmental or biological chance. I believe that we are born exactly the way we need to be in order to face the necessary trials, and posses the proper weaknesses needed for our mortal and spiritual development.
I have come to understand that our mortal bodies are not precise representations of our spirits. I cannot imagine our premortal spirits being blind, deaf, missing limbs, or having other internal deficiencies. I believe we had diverse personalities, hobbies, talents and preferences prior to our mortal birth which remain with us today. Yet those who identified as dancers or athletes in the pre-existence are born into bodies without legs. Talented artists are born into bodies without sight. Musical spirits are born into bodies that are unable to hear. And spirits who posses the qualities to be incredible mothers are born into bodies with an inability to conceive.
While some may view this as cruel irony, I see it as tangible proof of a loving Heavenly Father and of his eternal purposes. The strongest people I know are those who were born with these incongruences, who through the help of loving parents, communities, science, technology and even surgeries overcame and transformed these weaknesses into powerful talents and testimonies. I have seen the blind paint beautiful pieces. I’ve seen the deaf compose and perform beautiful music. I’ve seen those born without limbs become amazing athletes and dancers. And I’ve seen women with an inability to reproduce take on the role and responsibility of being incredible mothers. I have yet to hear anyone suggest that overcoming their physical and mental trials, even those who underwent extensive and radical surgeries to better their circumstances, were anything but miracles, and the exemplification of God’s love in action.
I believe our mental health and emotional health are just as critical, if not more so, than our physical health. Our physical well being can be dramatically affected by our mental and emotional state. There are some mental health conditions, such as Depression, Dementia or even ADHD, that are understood as commonplace. These mental health conditions are treated, and symptoms alleviated, through therapy, medical intervention, and often through administration of powerful pharmaceuticals. To date, I have yet to hear the classification of such medical interventions as morally improper. Rather, I believe they stand as another witness that God has given us trials as humanity, and the knowledge and tools to overcome such complexities; to treat, love, care for, and accept those so afflicted.
I believe there is much we don’t know about gender. To quote from “Strengthening Our Families,” published by Deseret Book on behalf of the School of Family Life – BYU (page 77):
Of course it is important to realize that marriage, parenthood and gender as currently defined and practiced on earth does not necessarily constitute how they will be understood in the celestial realms…. In these matters of eternal marriage, parenthood and gender we still “see through a glass darkly” (1 Cor. 13:12)
While many believe that being transgender is strictly a mental condition, this is not always the case. Approximately 1-in-100 births is to an individual who does not meet the accepted standard of definitively male or female (source). Through genetics, Gonadal Dysgenesis, Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, Adrenal Hyperplasia, and other similar conditions, people are born with an indeterminate biological sex.
In these scenarios, do we trust the word of a medical doctor to properly match a child’s designated sex to their eternal spiritual gender? It is an impossibility. If we are to take the word of an MD at birth declaring one’s gender, why then do we disregard them years later when they declare the same individual, upon further testing and study, the opposite sex of the one designated on their birth certificate?
There seems to be a disconnect, and this disconnect may simply be a matter of time and understanding. The concept of somebody being transgender thirty-to-forty years ago, or prior, was so foreign to the medical community, that it wasn’t even considered a possibility during childbirth. Those born with ambiguous external genitalia historically underwent horribly destructive procedures, generally in order to appear female; as this was an easier operation to perform. (source)(source)(source) Sadly, such dangerous procedures still occur in some parts of the world today. Having a child with autism, I wonder what horrible things would be done to him had he not been born in a time where the condition is understood and accepted socially.
We seem to believe that our reproductive organs are the definitive way of determining gender. Does a woman cease to be female when she has a hysterectomy? Is the man who loses his privy member as the result of cancer, or even an accident, not a man? In the case of intersex conditions… how do we determine the real eternal gender of a spirit? I believe that as gender is eternal, and our time here on earth is part of that eternity, our real spiritual gender might simply be our self identified gender. Gender identity has long been established as impossible to change. I believe it may be because we really are who we believe we are.
People often assume our societally accepted standards are representative of God’s law. There is danger here. There are many practices, people, and communities once considered wicked or immoral, which under the lens of hindsight were in actuality, righteous. I thank God for those valiant souls who stood up against the accepted standards of societies, including our own. As Mormons, we defied society in a righteous endeavor to worship and live the way we felt appropriate; We believe it the right of others to worship how, where, or what they may. Let us not cast aspersions on those who are different, or who hold different values than our own. Let us not seek to take away the agency of a single soul.
In 2013, I managed to make it to one priesthood session of General Conference. Though I had no intention of attending, I felt drawn to it. I am eternally grateful I went, as I heard the following message from President Uchtdorf that night.
But while the Atonement is meant to help us all become more like Christ, it is not meant to make us all the same. Sometimes we confuse differences in personality with sin. We can even make the mistake of thinking that because someone is different from us, it must mean they are not pleasing to God. This line of thinking leads some to believe that the Church wants to create every member from a single mold–that each one should look, feel, think, and behave like every other. This would contradict the genius of God, who created every man different… It also contradicts the intent and purpose of the Church of Jesus Christ, which acknowledges and protects the moral agency–with all its far-reaching consequences–of each and every one of God’s children. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are united in our testimony of the restored gospel and our commitment to keep God’s commandments. But we are diverse in our cultural, social, and political preferences. The Church thrives when we take advantage of this diversity.
In the absence of additional information from our Heavenly Father, the best information we have about transgender and intersex topics is what the medical and mental health communities can provide us; in combination with our own personal study, prayer and revelation. I have found that the more ready I am to let go of my preconceived notions, the more ready I am to be directed by the Spirit, my Savior, and my Father in Heaven.
In my early years I identified as female, despite receiving the designation of male at birth. As I have stated, this will never change. But I have since found great peace by adding additional identifications to my life. I identify as a Child of God who is loved for who I am. I identify as a father and husband, and honor these roles. These roles have brought me happiness and lasting joy. Until I meet my Savior face-to-face, I will carry on fulfilling these functions to the best of my ability.
I love my Savior. I am grateful for every trial and weakness I’ve faced. Indeed, I’ve managed to turn what was once labeled evil into an ability to help others, to advocate for the downtrodden and lost, and to share my testimony with greater clarity on these matters. If you know anybody that may benefit from knowing they’re not alone, please share this with them. Right now, every second transgender individual on earth is contemplating leaving it. Please, show love, compassion, and a desire to keep them here as long as possible. Thank you for reading.