This is the second part of a larger, multi-post entity in which I discuss SRS, God’s intentions, and some of my decisions concerning both. For context and set-up, please read Part I first!
Scientifically it’s a difference of rarity and perception
If we step aside from morality and God for a moment, the biggest distinction between the birth defect I came into the world with and the ‘defect’ of my body’s gender is one of commonality: roughly 50% of humans are male* but only .14% of the population has the type of birth defect I had.
Have you seen the movie Penelope? A girl is born into a family with a long-overdue curse that grants her a pig’s snout and ears. She goes through a lot of trauma, not because pig snouts are inherently disgusting, but because she’s different from the norm. How would the movie have turned out if pig snouts weren’t so unusual? What if roughly half of the population had noses like pigs? You’re right, there’d be no movie – she’s have lived her merry life and we’d all be watching movies about those rare people with a third eye or flower-scented flatulence or something.
This post turned out to be really long, and I can’t think of a good way to shorten it. So, I’ve posted it in two parts. If you read one, read both, as the overarching argument leads directly through the two of them. Find the next part here.
The million-dollar question: does God make mistakes?
Short answer? I don’t think He does, but that’s hardly all the story, so read on!
Let’s start by clarifying what Sex Reassignment Surgery (hereafter called SRS) is: it’s the process of surgically altering genitals and other secondary sexual characteristics to more closely resemble another sex. Treatment can be divided into two parts, plastic surgeries (to change, remove, reshape genitals or other secondary sexual characteristics) and hormone treatments (where androgens and estrogens are blocked or increased in the body to match those of the desired gender, also resulting in physical changes). As there are varied physical differences between men and women, all of the different ways of treatment are grouped under this label, and knowing that someone has pursued SRS doesn’t contain any detail about what sexual characteristics have been treated or in what manner.
Obviously, there are limitations to this practice and nothing in the actual chromosomal and genetic makeup of the body is changed, just ‘surface’ features. SRS requires multiple surgeries, is expensive, and is often not covered by medical insurance policies. Plus, like any surgical procedure, there is a risk of other complications.
This is the fifth 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 the process through which I ceased to view myself as damned for my desires to be female and my decision to tell my wife. Part IV can be found here.
Andromeda and I had made some uneasy amends after our falling-out over the bedrest incident, but nothing was actually solved. The pot had boiled over, but it was still simmering and our relationship was in no better of a place. To add to this, life had suddenly become much busier and complicated with two more infants and many other unexpected life complications (traveling for work, unexpected financial troubles, vehicle accidents, etc.).
I had started to think a little more openly and rationally about my beliefs and feelings of dissatisfaction with my gender as well. To start with, by living outside of Utah and Idaho I had met many non-members who had forced me to reconsider my previous world-view as Mormons being good and everyone else bad, dangerous, or at least untrustworthy. (Note: this is not a doctrine of Mormonism!) Many of these people had different standards than I. Some of them had different sexual orientations. I realized that when all was said and done, sexual preference wasn’t much different than any other preference, such as race or even hair color in terms of having any bearing on how good or trustworthy an individual was.
I don’t want to be transgender.
Don’t get me wrong, I like who I am. In fact, I have a good sense of personal value and worth – I am pleased by my abilities and derive great satisfaction from my personal growth and development. I am able to succeed in my endeavors, and I value the blessings, opportunities, and support I’ve had to allow this.
I am happy with my likes and content with just about everything in my life right now. I even like much about my body – it’s healthy, strong, and it allows me to do many valuable, creative things. I receive particular satisfaction from creating complex works of art with my hands, and I’m very grateful for this ability. I have nice hair and eyes that are the blue of summer mornings. I’m even okay with my many moles and various visible scars.
This is the fourth 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 the experiences of the first 7 years of my marriage, up to the point that I told my wife about my wish to be female. Part III can be found here.
Getting married was great, but had the opposite effect I had hoped with regards to my concerns over my gender. In fact, if anything, it was harder because now I was now in the intimate presence of a woman and I was reminded on a regular basis what I lacked.
Like we did in courting, we moved fast after being married also. While I continued my studies (in an area I didn’t like but felt I had to pursue to support a family) Andromeda dropped out of school, got a job and soon got pregnant. With that our ‘honeymoon phase’ ended quickly. She was incredibly sick. She was spending her time working and being sick for our child, and in return I was a beast. I was unhappy and stressed about what I was doing in my studies, I was stressed over how sick she was and how rough it made my life, and on top of it all I was more stressed than ever over my unhappiness with my gender. I tell you, I really was being a self-absorbed beast. I look back on my selfishness and mistreatment of my wife with great regret.
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.
This is the second 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 high school and mission experiences. Part I can be found here.
My transition to high school was difficult, partly because my family had planned on moving that summer and had to postpone the move by four months. So I had left 9th grade telling all my friends that I wouldn’t be back next year only to be there for the first semester of my 10th grade year. This coupled with the hard transition from junior high to high school made for an awkward start to the school year. Once we finally moved things didn’t get much better as I moved to a smaller high school that included 9th grade, so friendships and cliques there had already been established over the last year and a half.
Making friends at my new school was very rough and took a long time. I was not at all outgoing so if I hadn’t been so successful academically and placed in positions of attention, I might not have ever been included in a group. But thanks to the size of the high school, I ended up being in all the same advanced academic and arts classes with the same people. I was also surrounded by the same people in my extra curricular endeavors and then as a senior I had the opportunity to be on the Seminary Council. Fortunately, by my senior year I had a good group of decent friends and we hung out together on a pretty regular basis. (On an interesting side-note, many of my friends from elementary school, junior high, and high school, have since turned out to be gay. I’m not sure if this is a factor of my own gender issues or simply that most of my friends were also of the more creative and artsy sort. A counselor once told me that people with ‘sexual issues’ tend to be drawn to one another, even unknowingly. I don’t know if that’s true.)
This is the first 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. I’ll discuss my earliest childhood memories here up through junior high or around when I was 16 years old.
I cannot remember ever not wishing to be female. My earliest memories involving gender revolve around my interactions in playing with my siblings. I am the oldest of the children and my younger siblings are very close to me in age. Growing up we were best friends, fought rarely, and played together all the time. We’re all very creative and imaginative, so we’d often play pretend. We’d be grown-ups, teenagers, dinosaurs (The Land Before Time influenced us greatly!), or other animals. Almost invariably, I’d pretend to be a female animal, dinosaur, or human. This cross-gender pretending wasn’t done by my brother or sisters, but none of them ever seemed bothered by it.
I played regularly with both ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ toys… I had some Transformers, My Little Ponies (Firefly and Magic Star were my favorites!), Glofriends, but most of all I loved Legos. As I got older, my interests continued to straddle both stereotypes. I was very interested in arts and crafts, computers, music, math and science, painting, video games, and crochet.
First, a disclaimer: I am no trained expert on these topics. All my information here comes from my personal experience, courses I’ve taken on gender, and my own personal research. In addition, even though all the information I’m giving here is verified by scholars, there’s still a lot of scientific research to be done on the topic, so ‘facts’ are subject to change as we continue to better understand the complexities of human gender. What follows is my understanding of these concepts, and I know that the extent of my knowledge is limited. I will keep this updated to be as accurate as possible.
Gender identity is one of those weird things that doesn’t seem important until it goes awry. Sort of like power steering on a car, you take it for granted as baseline, not realizing how smooth it makes driving until something starts to not work. Most people who don’t feel discontent or disconnected with their gender won’t even ‘see’ their gender identity as it coincides very well with their anatomical/biological gender.
Because this is something that hasn’t been talked about much, there isn’t a lot of agreement about the terminology that’s used. So to start out with I’m going to talk about what exactly these words mean and how I’ll use them in my writings here.
In the last year or so there have been some very brave people who have put themselves into some very vulnerable positions on the internet. One such example is Josh Weed, who, if you don’t know, has made waves in the Mormon blogging community about how he has reconciled homosexuality with Mormon teachings that go counter to his innate attractions. I admire him very much for his willingness to put himself out there and to tell his story. It’s very valuable for his readers to see him, his family, his life, and the honesty behind each post.
For the last few months starting this blog has been very much on my mind, but the one huge question that’s been looming and keeping me from starting was whether I needed to attach my name or not. After careful consideration and discussion with my wife, I have elected not to for a few reasons.