Coming out as transgender

What does this mean?
     It means that I’ve come to the conclusion that while my gender on Earth is apparently male, my eternal gender, the gender I was before this life and will be again after this life[1], is female.

When/How did this happen?
     In my life, I’d understood that our spirits were the same as our bodies, female or male, unchangeable. Though there were many times when I didn’t feel connected to being male and many times I felt more connected with the girls and women around me, that understanding was what left wanting to be female just something for the occasional dream that simply wasn’t possible. In about the fall of 2014, I learned there was a name for this feeling, “gender dysphoria”, and added it to the list of things in this life I just had to learn to live with, like my fibromyalgia and being some variant of ADHD.
     In school and in later years I’d learned about the variations that can happen in sexual characteristics in these mortal bodies, but hadn’t really given them much thought as I didn’t think it was something I’d come across in my life. I figured whatever got picked for their gender always coincided with their spirit, coincidental like.
     In researching gender dysphoria and how others learned to cope with it, I learned of the few instances where the Church has accepted that someone’s assigned gender and their spiritual gender did not match[2]. I didn’t understand how this could be with what I understood of eternal gender, so I spent time praying and communing with God to understand it better. My understanding changed. I now believe that it is possible for people to be placed in bodies that are not consistent to their eternal gender. I make no assumptions as to why this should be, any more than I would assume a reason for someone to be born blind or to be left handed.
     In the summer of 2015, I began to wonder if being transgender could apply to me. I discussed it with my wife (as I had when learning of gender dysphoria), and she encouraged me to pray about it. I received confirmation from my prayers that I was indeed transgender, a daughter of Heavenly Parents who love me.

Where do we go from here?
     My first thoughts have always been and always will be to my wife. That will never change. I don’t know if I will ever transition to living as a woman, as the most important thing to me is my wife, and she is straight and cis-gender. Up until two weeks ago, I’d never even tried on women’s clothing[3].
     No matter what steps there may or may not be in the future, it will only be done with my wife and a great deal of prayer.
     As for the next life, whatever my gender is found to be (as I could always be wrong in the impressions I get through prayer), I only know that I want to be with my wife forever. Whatever God requires for that I will gladly do.

Why come out now?
     My wife has known as long as I have. We’ve told a few others over the years when it felt like it was something they should know. I’ve spoken out against various times people have said something about transgender people, but never really felt the need to take the plunge and come out to the world in general. It doesn’t really have an effect on what I do in my life. I found recently, however, that not being out meant I couldn’t really share when I came to anything touching being transgender that made me happy, sad, or thoughtful. So I discussed it with my wife and prayed about it and here we are.

So who are you?
     I’m still me. I don’t have a different name (though I retain hope my mother will give me one someday), and it doesn’t really matter to me what pronouns you use when talking about me. I’m the same kid who had a hard time figuring out how to relate to people and who looked up to women as role models (my mom, Holly, Barbara, and Linda). The same kid who spent teenage years being angry for no obvious reason and understanding machines better than people. The same adult who loves making music, has a talent for making machines work, and has a passionate love for their spouse. The same parent who struggles with patience in trying to get my children to grow up at least a little faster than I did. The same child of God trying to work my way back home with my wife and become the best person I can be, anchored to Christ, my rock and my salvation.

     All in all, this is just a scratch in who I am and how my life has gone to this point. Though I realize this is a difficult subject and I may come across as unapproachable, I really am glad to talk with anyone about this or anything else. At least now, with this post, we have a starting point.

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[1] Pre- and post- Earth life is a tenet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (aka Mormons). See The Family: A Proclamation to the World – “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”
[2] I wish I could find the article of the person who was intersex, raised as one gender in the Church and was accepted by the First Presidency as the other gender. I do have a source for the transgender woman who was allowed by the First Presidency to be sealed in the Temple.
[3] Two weeks ago I bought my first skirt. It was unplanned and took an anxiety filled trip to the thrift store, but I found a long, loose, flowy skirt of the kind I’d always wished I could have.

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LGBTQ and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (aka Mormons) has room for all who are seeking to be more like Christ and follow His ways. While there are currently limitations, local and church wide, to participation in some parts of the Church, I believe that in the eternal scheme of things there is more than enough room. I believe in how LGBTQ individuals can and do fit as members of the Church despite the limitations currently given them.

To start, I should lay out what is currently outlined by the Church in the way of marriage. The Church has a long and storied history with nontraditional marriage, more specifically polygyny (marriage of one man to multiple women). While marriages are no longer sealed polygamously while the participants are still alive, we allow marriage between any number of men and women who have passed away. Men are allowed to be sealed/married to only one living woman at a time, but may be sealed to any number of women for eternity. Women may also be sealed to any number of men if they are all deceased. My (distant) cousin who survived five husbands can be sealed to all of them just as can my cousin who has survived four wives.

I believe that those who marry in this life, no matter their gender, will be allowed to maintain that relationship in the next life, just as every other relationship sealed in the Temple and honored by those involved will be.

With all that being said, the Church will not seal same gender members in the Temple, believing that such relationships cannot be eternal. Locally, members may be shunned for expressing homosexual feelings. We should strive to be better than this. Even if we don’t believe that such a marriage could be eternal, we should welcome them just as we would anyone else who is married for only this life. They are children of God who are striving to be better. Whatever mote you perceive in their eye, you should concentrate more on the beam in your own eye. The ultimate status of their marriage and relationship will be determined by themselves and God, just as any other marriage relationship will be.

But. as for those who are of atypical gender, while we believe that “gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose“, there is no method to perfectly determine what spiritual gender someone may be. We can guess with a fairly high degree of accuracy, based on bodily sexual characteristics, but we have enough exceptions to know that this determination may not be clear cut. The mortal body develops based on an array of physical, genetic, and hormonal functions, any of which may work differently than expected, making the determination of gender fraught with possible exceptions. We may not know yet all the exceptions possible, so how can we say with surety that someone else’s gender is what we believe it to be?

For the Church, there has been a case of a person who was determined to be one gender at birth and was allowed to change their gender later in life. There was also an instance where a transgender woman was allowed to be sealed to her husband in the Temple. These cases were reviewed and approved by the First Presidency of the Church, the highest level of leaders in the Church. Since these instances, the Church is still trying to work out what their stance should be. Local reaction has varied greatly from congregation to congregation. The handbook for Church leaders does mention that “elective transsexual operations . . . may be the cause for formal Church discipline”, which leaves the decision up to local leaders. As such, Bishops who preside over said congregations have also been varied in their reactions, from acceptance through recommending excommunication.

Despite the cultural limitations, I don’t believe there are any doctrinal or theological reasons we should treat our LGBTQ siblings any differently than any other, as they are also children of God, striving to become more like Christ and progress through this life.

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Finding Hope in Hope

We have many places in the scriptures where we use the word “hope”. It’s one of big threes, faith, hope, and charity. We talk a lot on having faith and on having charity, but very little on the concept of hope.

For example, we can practice charity with ourselves, others, the Church, with God. We have our own varied faith in these things. But where is hope? In our efforts to affirm the things we know are true, do we eschew hope as a sign of weak faith? How do we build hope?

We seem to have a lot of hints throughout the scriptures. Paul makes a line through it form tribulations to the love of God (Romans 5:3-5). Moroni makes it a brief stop from faith to charity (Moroni 10:20). In the Psalms, it’s a pick-me-up when feeling down (Psalm 42:5). It’s an admonition of Paul we brought into one of the base statements of our beliefs (1 Cor 13:7, AoF 13).

At a core definition, hope starts with trust in the future; that we have some expectation and desire for something that will happen. It has a connotation of something good, a light at the end of the tunnel (though it has previously been good or neutral, hence hope against hope)

For me, as cynical and despairing in the basic goodness of humanity as I often am, this has jumped out at me as something I need to improve on. I believe I have faith in God and charity that God has the entire thing well in hand, but have I worked at all in improving my hope?

What do you do to build your own hope?

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My “Good Ship Zion” analogy

To me, the biggest difficulty with analogies like this is the conflation of the Church (aka “The Ship Zion”) and the “Iron Rod” (aka “The Word of God”, aka Jesus Christ).

The Church is like a ferry connected to the Iron Rod, at some unknown distance (or not at all if you so believe). At times, the ferry is close, other times further, but it is still connected and going toward the Tree of Life.

One problem comes in that not everyone can see how far or how well the connection is all the time. We can trust Prophets, the laying of the ferry keel, our own “eyeballing”, and/or whatever answer we get through prayer, but throughout we’ll make judgments as to our comfort with how well and how far from the Iron Rod is appears to us the ferry is at any given time.

Another problem is that the ferry is full of people, some steering, some pushing, some merely riding, some trying to call or use sticks to reach out and help others in, some unintentionally driving people away with those sticks, some even intentionally driving people out and away. Each of us has their own perspective on the water worthiness, condition, direction, and population of the ferry.

But no matter how connected the ferry, it is -not- the Rod. Other ferries have their own connection to the Rod. Individuals can cling to the Rod on their own or even press forward as near as they can to it. They can even have their own ships moving in the right direction, with no knowledge of the Rod.

Our job is to help improve the connection of the ferry to the Rod, improve it’s condition, change or remove those who are diving others out and away (and sometimes the enemy is us), and to invite others to come aboard. The ferry may make it easier for us, but it’s just a conveyance, and it will not suit everyone. If we want more to join us, we should be looking for what can be improved, as it has been improved upon in the past.

Above all that, however, we need to be directing others to the Iron Rod, no matter what the conveyance or lack thereof.

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Keeping the spirit of God throughout the week

One of the many parts of scripture I have worked to make an important lesson in my life is where it talks about people who get together at church to worship each Sunday then go about the rest of the week doing and thinking nothing about God. We don’t really worship in our church. Our meetings aren’t geared that way. We go to church to learn.

Our classes are meant for us to discuss and learn together. Sacrament meeting gives us two ways to learn; our subdued and bare bones Sacrament, inviting our recommitting to God and opening ourselves to learning via the spirit, and listening to instruction (which may or may not be inspirational) in discourses from selected speakers.

What we do not have, not even in our General Conference, is a performance. Performance has its place – we love to see others share their talents and encourage talents to come out – but performance rarely equals worship. Ward choirs are full of people who want to share their talents, small as they may be, to help invite the spirit of God to instruct us in whatever way the spirit can speak to us.

Throughout the week, we’re on our own in trying to invite and open ourselves up to the Spirit. There are some simple things we can do to help us attain that, praying, studying scriptures, listening to inspirational words and music, but the goal is to put ourselves in a position to learn. Continued practice brings an increase in being able to open yourself up at times and places when these are not present. You can begin to see those times of inspiration and clarity when you least expect it.

This is not to say that you’ll “move beyond” the simple steps of prayer, scripture study, temple attendance, and inspirational music; these are a base, not a crutch to be discarded when you’re “more enlightened”.

In all this, it is also vitally important to remember to give thanks. You may be the vehicle for these inspirations, but every part of you, your knowledge, talents, and abilities, have a source in God. When something “clicks” in your mind during prayer or study, do you think to thank God? When you have a flash of inspiration, do you think to say even an informal thanks to God for the help?

No matter how we find inspiration, our goal is a progression. We want to not only learn more, but to better learn how to learn. We want to take every lesson from every source to bring ourselves to being more like God, forever increasing. It is in this that we not only worship and learn on Sunday, but throughout our lives, making ourselves a continual beacon of worship and praise of God.

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Politics shaped by religion – Immigration

I’m breaking my rule by posting about something that’s come up in the recent news. I’ve written about immigration before, but with recent events, I feel that I need to write more. A couple of times I’ve tried writing about our foreign policy, but they never seemed to come together enough to post. Anyway, the need feels just too strong.

The US immigration policy is a terrible morass, and for some reason the people seem to think it isn’t strong enough. Xenophobia, being afraid of people who we don’t see as “us”, is settled in deeply, and the policies we’ve had toward immigrants reflect that. I wish the most recent moves were surprising. Unfortunately, it’s just another step in the direction we’ve been heading for some time. It’s not just the fear that “those people are taking our jobs” but also the fear that we may have terrorist attacks against us.

This ties in to our horrible foreign policy, making ourselves into the “policeman of the world”, destabilizing, threatening, and invading countries we believe have either slighted us or interfere with “our business interests”. This is a whole other post unto itself, but the point is that we feel we can do whatever we’d like in the world but are afraid that we’ll get hurt. When we do get hurt, our retaliation is far, far more disproportionate. If we get hurt by the thousand (which is incredibly rare), we retaliate by bombing and displacing by the million. This isn’t being a peacemaker, but a schoolyard bully.

Despite being a nation of immigrants, we’ve never really liked having immigrants. The longer we (or our ancestors) have been in this country, the more we feel like the first laborers in the vineyard who started work at the beginning of the day (from the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, Matt 20:1-15). We get jealous of the people who seem to have just come in and are getting the same pay.

The US currently admits a million immigrants, legally, each year. It seems like a lot, but compared to the number of citizens (319 million), it barely a drip of a faucet, not a fire hose on full blast. While the numbers are higher than any other nation, as a percentage of the population, we’re only 11th in admitting immigrants.

For illegal immigrants, we have about 11 million. About half of these are border crossings from Mexico, at a rate of about half a million a year. For all of the Presidents’ talk of a wall, we’ve been working on walls and mass deportations for the entirety of the 21st century. The increases in border security and in deportations haven’t made of much a dent in this. Border security has high costs compared to other methods, and is rather easily circumvented.

A better option would be to begin more prosecution of employers who hire illegal immigrants, but there we hit a bit of a snag – we use them for a lot of jobs that we don’t want to pay a good wage. Just like the sweatshops we deride overseas, paying people pennies for repetitive, difficult, or even dangerous work, we’d rather keep these people faceless and nameless, only caring that we get our food, clothes, etc easily and cheaply.

These two forces, xenophobia and use of the faceless, are what drives our attitude toward immigrants. These attitudes transcend political leanings and parties, ages and income levels.

As a people, we need to do better. We should be doing more in helping the refugees we helped create. We should create protections for the people we use. We should be using our riches, our strength, our determination to succeed to help those around us, not squeeze tighter, afraid we’ll lose what we have. We should be sharing what has made this Nation great (and it has always been great, even when we don’t agree, have missteps, or are wandering in the wrong direction). Most of all, we should share our gratitude for the many blessings we have received, even those things we (mistakenly) think God had no hand in, that we achieved by our own “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality, and work to make life better for everyone, not just “us”.

These are our brothers and sisters. We can do better than this. We can -be- better than this.

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Politics shaped by religion – Gun Control

A few months ago I had the opportunity to try and put into words some of my political beliefs and how those beliefs had been shaped by my religion. I’ve never registered for any political party, though I do occasionally wonder if I could try getting into politics to try and help make the world a better place. I usually come to the conclusion that I’m not articulate enough in being able to either express or defend my views, nor am I strongly enough in the camp of any political party that I would have any hope of succeeding in elections, so politics is not likely to happen for me. But I do feel occasionally that I need to get my opinions on these things out somewhere, even to my limited audience, to help me better clarify these things in my own mind.

My beliefs may or may not align with yours, my Country, or my Church, but they are mine and mine alone. I speak for no one but myself and am not an example of “the standard” of any group. I’m glad for discussions on these things, but know that they are not likely to shift my beliefs by much in any direction.

Gun Control

The 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution reads simply, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The interpretation of this has been a matter of quite a bit of debate over the centuries since it was written. I don’t believe there is any strong position of the Church on this. Not many people discuss “militias”, as the connotation is crazy people grouping together to wait for society to fall apart or the government to come and force them to do something they don’t want. I’m actually just fine with people having a hobby of training to be soldiers and preparing for the worst. People have all sorts of strange hobbies. The only problem I’d have is when they start to use their training to impose their ideals on others or use those guns to actually break the law. If they are built on hate or prejudice against a particular people, then their own weight will bring them down.

For guns themselves I don’t believe we need much regulation at all. The only place I’d put regulations are in banning automatic weapons, autonomous weapons, and explosives. For all the various shootings, the attempts at any other regulations seem to be poor attempts at being seen to do something to stop such things happening. The rhetoric on both sides of the issue, unrestricted freedom to carry any kind of gun anywhere and removing all guns from everyone, seem to be rooted in trying to make sure “they” don’t hurt “us”. We may not be able to articulate who “they” are, but we are going to use guns to stop “them”. This is building nothing but fear and division, and will accomplish nothing but making our problems worse.

They problem is that “they” are part of “us”. The shooters, the victims, the hobbyists, the bystanders, the gun makers, the gun sellers, are all part of “us”. Every time something happens we quickly try to place people into a group that is part of “them”, but they are always “us”, our neighbors, our friends, our family. This is probably the core of all my political and religious views – what can we do to help “us” be better? Not looking at what we can do to make “them” be better, like taking away all guns or proudly carrying loaded guns to discourage “them” from wanting to shoot someone, but helping people to learn and grow and not want to shoot others (or themselves).

I’m not a hunter and am quite glad I don’t need to be to feed my family. I see guns as a potentially dangerous tool that should be used and cared for properly just like any other tool I might have in my home. I believe anyone who handles a gun should be trained on how to care for and use it properly, but I do not believe we should force anyone to take such care. I believe we can keep ourselves mindful of the dangers without needing laws to enforce compliance to good usage and care. Additional attention to and making available help for mental health issues would be of much greater effect in reducing death and pain from shooting than any gun control or open carry demonstration could ever have.

But that would be looking at “us”.

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