This is the third of a sequence of posts in which I describe my personal experience with concerns and confusion over my gender. This was hard to write and even harder to put out in public. Please be kind. This part contains my college years from after my mission up to my marriage. Part II can be found here.
Things had changed at home while I was on my mission. My family had moved, my mom and stepdad were now married, and the family I returned to was very different. I hated it, actually. To make matters worse, I hadn’t planned ahead and was stuck with a nine month wait until I could go back to BYU-Idaho. I disconnected from my painful reality and spent my time working, exploring the internet and studying languages, linguistics, and the guitar. I didn’t do anything social since all my friends from high school were away at school, married, or on missions still. I honestly don’t remember much from that time other than that I hated being at home but I had nowhere else to go. This, together with the fact that I had failed in my mission to cease desiring to be female, increased my discouragement and isolation greatly.
One evening my mom confided to me how my stepdad had expressed to her his doubts over my sexual orientation. He thought I was gay. While she didn’t come out and say it, she was questioning it herself. Panicked that I wasn’t keeping up the appearance that I was ‘normal’, I assured her that I was not attracted to men (the truth) and that I was just having a hard time transitioning from being a missionary (also somewhat true, but not the primary reason I wasn’t dating). I felt even more pressure that I needed to date to do things the right way, still utterly confused about what I was feeling and what was stopping me as I had no trouble identifying girls I was interested in.
Finally I was able to return to school. After their missions, Mormon boys are expected to jump right into getting married and start a family as soon as possible. That pressure coupled with my own desire to be in an intimate relationship weighed heavily on me, but I had no idea how to get there from where I was. I had also come to believe that maybe marriage would cure me of my perverse desires. I reasoned that if I was in a position where I could regularly fill my body’s sexual needs through approved means (intercourse between married partners), then I would lose the desire to be female as I assumed it was a twisted product of a perverse sexual appetite. Unfortunately, to get married meant dating and I still felt a huge amount of anxiety in asking girls out.
I did make slow progress, though. Within my first year back at college I asked a girl out on a regular date (not a high school dance date) for the first time in my life. She was attractive and kind, but I wanted her to be something that she was not. After a second outing with her, she told me in a very kind manner that I wasn’t what she was seeking, either. While rejection is always hard (I had experienced it in high school being turned down for dances), deep down I knew that really we weren’t headed anywhere. The following semester I almost asked another girl in my dance class out, but couldn’t do it.
That first year and a half back at school after was simultaneously good and bad for me. It was good in the sense that I grew increasingly comfortable with myself. I became less afraid of being myself around others. I still was very careful to not let on that there was anything ‘wrong’ with me, however. I also put forth a huge amount of effort into being righteous. I went to the temple on a weekly basis. I asked for Priesthood blessings under the guise that I simply wanted direction in what I should study and pursue as a career (which I really did) but also hoping that Heavenly Father, who knew of the ‘darkness’ inside of me, would somehow heal or instruct me how to overcome it. It was not so good in the sense that I was incredibly discouraged about my future. I didn’t know that I’d ever be able to get married. I didn’t know that I’d ever get rid of my unattainable desires.
Of course, no blessings I received ever mentioned anything regarding my gender identity. There was no specific help in that regard whatsoever. In fact, the blessings didn’t do much in the way of helping me decide what career path I should take, either. I was told in one that “God doesn’t care what I do.” That’s sort of hard to believe, but I want to give the speaker (my home teacher at the time) the benefit of the doubt and imagine that it was just misworded. (Because what sort of Heavenly Father doesn’t care? I hope what was meant was more that the choice was simply up to me.)
Finally, in my fourth semester back after my mission, I saw my soon-to-be wife in one of my classes. She initially stuck out to me because of her exceptional beauty, but in observing her with her friends I saw what to me were also very important qualities: Christ-like kindness, openness, and a unfeigned love that she so easily radiated. Doing my best to be suave, I introduced myself to her one day and eventually started walking with her after class to wherever she was going. Being with her and talking with her was completely different than anything I had ever experienced with anyone else. I felt comfortable and I felt like I could be myself. I joked with her, I was stupid with her, I shared my poetry with her, and it was all okay. I told her about my concerns for my parents and siblings and all the unresolved tension at home between family members that used to love each other. I told her about some of my hopes and dreams. I revealed more about myself to her than I had to any other person, but I did not tell her I desperately wished to be female.
To my surprise she seemed to like me as well. After an initial first date, we started seeing each other regularly (i.e. daily). We’d usually either go on walks (since that’s pretty much the only way at BYU-Idaho to be alone with someone) or we’d cook dinner together. Most of all we talked. Part of me felt guilty and deceitful that I didn’t tell her about what figured were just my perverted sexual fantasies of wanting to be female, but I knew that I never could. I didn’t want to risk losing her over something that I figured would work itself out and go away soon enough. Not only that, but I didn’t understand it myself – I’d still never openly analyzed what it was I was feeling. I was still ‘shunning’ it, where admitting it existed was equal to admitting my damnation and defeat.
We moved very fast, going from dating and hanging out daily to me proposing to her after only knowing her for two months (and dating her for less). She agreed, and in another month we were married. Looking back as a parent with children, I am sure that I would not be okay if one of my children wanted to do what I did. I’m not sure what I was thinking at the time. I knew I wanted to be with her. I didn’t see any reason to wait. I had no idea how little I knew about her (or worse, how little she knew about me) and how risky my actions were. I was also ready to be done with the gender problems that had beset me for the last ten years. And, last but not least, it felt like the right thing to do. I was doing my very best to live righteously at the time and be worthy of Heavenly Father’s guidance. I felt like it was going to be okay.
In the next installment I discuss what happened after marriage until our ‘crisis’ nearly seven years later. Continue on to Part IV here.