Warning: This post is rather discouraging. I also reference a lot of LDS doctrinal terms that may be confusing or opaque to readers not familiar with the Mormon doctrinal concepts. I’ve included brief explanations and links in footnotes when they occur.
One of my purposes in writing about my experience with gender dysphoria here is that I’m desperately seeking hope for myself now and in the eternities. Gender dysphoria is not pleasant, and even more so with some of the choices I’ve made on how to deal with it. I need a reason to keep going. I need to know that going through life with this challenge is going to be worth it. I need comfort, peace, solace, and hope, but it’s been pretty scarce for some time. Let me explain.
According to current and long-standing LDS doctrine (and some interpretations of such which aren’t necessarily scripturally supported), there exist two genders, male and female. Marital relations are only allowed between different genders (male + female). In other words, of the three possible combinations of the two discrete genders only one is viewed as having the potential to be an eternal* relationship. The other two combinations (m + m or f + f) are not only not allowed, but are viewed as fornication or adultery and thus sinful.
So that’s the policy that set the constraints in place. Let’s look at the facts. Fact: my physical body is male. My spiritual gender, (which to me seems to be female), is nonetheless uncertain to me (i.e. I’ve not seen my spirit and have had no revelation saying one way or the other). While most Mormons would naturally assume or argue that my spiritual gender is male, it’s probably safe to say that it’s either one or the other.
If we take the policy and the facts, we can reach the pretty discouraging conclusion that no matter what my spiritual gender is, I’m screwed.
If I’m spiritually (and eternally) female and my resurrected, perfected body is female, then according to current understanding I cannot make it to the highest level in the Celestial Kingdom** unless I find a male eternal companion. (Remember that the sealing ordinance which creates the possibility of an eternal marriage has only ever been allowed between opposite genders as far as we know.) That means that if I’m spiritually and eternally female then I can bid Andromeda a fond farewell when we die as two women cannot be eternally sealed. But even if I do have the option to find a male eternal companion, I might still not be eligible for the highest level of heaven because if I’m spiritually female, then I’m potentially living in sin right now with my wife and won’t be worthy of the Celestial Kingdom to begin with (though one would hope an understanding and just God would make some allowance for this as I’m living as a male).
On the other hand, If I’m spiritually male, then it seems safe to assume that my current sealing to Andromeda will be valid if I live worthily of it. I should be able to persist with her through the eternities as a man. This is a prospect which causes me great despair. I want to be with Andromeda forever but I don’t want to be a man forever. I cannot envision a heaven in which I am male. I’m pretty sure I would rather cease to exist entirely than be male eternally.
So it seems that I’m presented with two options (not choices per se as they are dependent upon my spiritual gender which I don’t think is something I have a say in): heaven with my wife but me forever miserable and male, or I’m female in a lonely hell. Both are utterly hopeless prospects, if you ask me.
“Now wait,” you might say, “isn’t it possible that if you are spiritually male that you could potentially be alright with being male eternally, even if you can’t envision it now?” To which I answer yes, it certainly seems possible. I surely don’t know everything and my perspective is admittedly limited in the grand scheme of things. Even though it’s the absolute last thing I want, it’s possible that my discontentment with my gender is a mortal imperfection that could miraculously disappear with a snap of the Creator’s fingers. Similar to brain defects that cause impairments, it’s possible that my gender dysphoria is caused by some brain defect that could completely disappear when treated, fixed, or I’m perfected.
“Well then,” you might say, “what’s the problem? Even if you don’t like being male now, just have faith that you will at some point and look hopefully toward that day!” To this I would then explain that you just addressed the crux of the problem – faith and hope. I have none. There is no sense of inner peace or contentment that one day I’ll be happy with being male. I have no comfort in the proposition that maybe at some future time I won’t feel disconnected from this male body. There is no sweet, calm sense of peace in this that I can hang my faith on. There is absolutely nothing sustaining to hold onto in that idea that can get me through the difficult times.
There is no peace. There is no hope.
Not wanting to be impolite, you might wonder to yourself, “Hmmm, he must just be rejecting or ignoring the peace and comfort that the Lord is surely sending. The sooner he lets go of his own desires he’ll feel comforted.” I’ve wondered the same myself. Am I just so focused on my own agenda and wants that I am willfully ignoring the comforting whisperings of the Spirit? The last thing I want to do is damn myself, so I’ve searched the depths of my soul looking for these ‘inconvenient hopes’ that go counter to my wish to be female. I’ve scoured every crevice searching for this spiritual sustenance.
There is no comfort. There is no hope.
My discomfort with my body’s gender and wish to be female are not something that I’ve tightly held onto and am unwilling to release. For most of my life, I fought against these desires and tried to rid myself of them unsuccessfully. As I discussed in my story, just recently I was forced to choose between wanting to be female or keeping my family. I chose my family. I let go of my desires to be female. The desire didn’t go away.
There is no solace. There is no hope.
BYU-Idaho has recently started profiling certain exceptional alumni, making videos which show how the school and the gospel have helped them through their challenges and achieve success. One such profile is of a girl I knew and went to school with when I was a student there, Emily McQueen. Emily lost the use of both her legs while a BYU-I student and is now confined to a wheelchair. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to endure what she’s experienced. But in spite of the difficulties that losing the use of such an important part of her body entails, Emily has hope that one day she’ll be whole again.
I have a young relative that has Down’s Syndrome. I love her so much. Her life trajectory is going to be very challenging for both her and her parents. But they have hope that they can make it. They have hope that one day their bright and beautiful little daughter will be whole.
I was born with a congenital birth defect unrelated to my gender or gender dysphoria. It’s caused me no little distress throughout my life and has been the source of mocking, embarrassment, and pain. I have hope that it will be healed when my body is perfected, I have hope that it will be made whole.
I was also given a situation in life in which I feel that my body’s gender is defective. It’s also caused me no little distress throughout my life. I don’t expect to feel such discomfort with my body’s gender throughout the eternities; something will have to change one way or the other. But because of the way the doctrine is structured, I have no hope that I’ll be made whole.
There is no hope.
The Lord prepares a way. This is a principle tenet of the gospel (see 1 Nephi 3:7). Sure, the way is rarely easy. It is generally not the way we expect or want it to be, and often requires doing difficult, undesirable things (see the following chapter, 1 Nephi 4). I’m okay with that. But if it’s true that I am eternally male, that my dysphoria with my body’s gender will be removed at some point, and that I am to strive forward through the pain that this ‘temporary’ dissatisfaction with my current physical gender causes, then where is the strength, hope, and help along the way? I’m not asking ‘where is the assistance in the form that I want,’ either.
I’m not simply refusing to see it; there is none.
How am I supposed to look forward to being eternally male when it sounds like hell and not heaven? I understand that to succeed in mortality I must sacrifice. I understand that it may often not appear to be worth it due to the immensity of the trials that block the way. Yet the Lord is supposed to provide a way. It’s supposed to be possible with His help and our best effort.
How am I supposed to want to even start down the path when I don’t have any desire to reach the destination? How am I supposed to want what I don’t want? Can you, dear reader, imagine being expected to want to be the other gender (assuming you’re not transgender) for the rest of your existence?
I want to please my Father in Heaven. I want to ace this mortal test. But I don’t want to do what it takes to be male forever.
The current allowable gender combinations do not allow me to hope that heaven will be worthwhile. How can I be expected to make the necessary sacrifices that successfully navigating mortality requires with no hope that it will be worth it? Hope (and help) is not supposed to be given to just select few of our Father’s children. He wants us all to try; He wants us all to succeed.
I desperately want to do what’s right. I want to succeed here on earth more than anything. I want to be female and it breaks my heart that I’m not, but I’m willing to go through life without it if that’s what is expected of me. But how can I do so when all that I’m told I have to look forward to is an eternity of maleness? I’m willing to set aside or postpone what I want, but I don’t know how to change what I want. I’ve spent my whole life trying.
There has to be a way. God did not put us here to fail at an impossible task. There has to be hope. Why can I not hope that one day I will be beautiful? Why can I not hope that one day I will be at peace in my body? Why can I not hope that one day I can still be with Andromeda my love?
Why can everyone hope to be whole but me?
* Mormons believe that if married partners live worthily and perform certain ordinances, that marriages can last beyond death and into the eternities. Called eternal or celestial marriage, this is entered into via an ordinance (sacred ceremony) that takes place in temples.
** The Celestial Kingdom is the highest level of heaven and has at least three subdivisions within in it. It’s been revealed in the Doctrine & Covenants (a book of scripture akin to the Bible) that one have must have entered into the ‘new and everlasting covenant of marriage’(also called eternal marriage, see D&C 131:1-4) in order to obtain the highest degree.