I’m not aware of a more-widely quoted document (other than scripture) in Mormonism than the Proclamation on the Family. This statement was first presented in the General Relief Society Meeting on Sept. 23, 1995 by President Hinckley in his address. It is, as per the byline, is a “proclamation to the world” presented and endorsed by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
The status of the document
In my church experience, I’ve never come across anyone who treats the document any differently than scripture. A bishop in my college ward even had all of us young married couples memorize and recite it, similar to how seminary students memorize and recite certain scripture verses.
While many members don’t seem to have any qualms with treating this statement as no different than revelatory scripture, it is, in fact, in a sort of unique in-between place. A helpful guide to seeing what has been canonized in the history of the modern church and the process that is followed can be found here. In essence, revelation to the church must come through the President of the church, be accepted by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and then be presented and sustained by the general membership of the church.
It’s all about misalignment with gender dysphoria, it seems, at least in my case. Not only does my sense of self not align with my body’s gender, but there are many misalignments between my hopes for the eternities that go contrary to what my hopes are ‘supposed’ to be (as a man with one or more wives).
As distressing as that misalignment is, there is an additional misalignment that causes some distress that’s more present – the misalignment between Andromeda’s and my hopes for our future.
In my last post on hope, I mentioned that I do have hope that I can be happy and at peace in the eternities. The only hope I can see is that I will be female and that I can continue my marriage with Andromeda. I hope that my eternal relationship will be of the f + f sort, and that’s not a relationship style that my church looks highly upon or even believes can persist.
It’s tough to feel like the one hope I have with regards to my gender goes against all that’s supposedly ‘true.’ But to complicate the matter there’s the not-so-small factor of my partner’s desires.
This is the seventh 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 the events from my wife’s plans to divorce to the present. Part VI can be found here.
Though it was only a year and a half ago, I remember very well when my wife of over eight years informed me that she had started to file for divorce. We were on our way out to a family Halloween party. I spent the whole party going over the biting irony that my wife had taken the first steps to leave me unbeknownst to anyone else there.
I was heartbroken. It had been four months since when she’d left for the week. It had been nine months since I’d opened up myself and my long-held desires to her. I had done my very best to be loving, kind, and respectful. I had taken away all my expectations. I was living for the family. I was doing whatever I could to be good and to try and keep her from breaking our family apart.
Just a day or two ago I became aware of this wonderful new resource. The Transgender Visibility Guide (click for website or brochure pdf) was published by the HRC just last month. I was a little unsure of what to expect as the HRC can be at times a little radical in their push for LGBT rights. (It’s a well-intentioned organization, of course, sometimes they just take some stances or make some arguments that I disagree with.) Upon reading the brochure any reservations I had promptly dissolved.
This brochure provides a wonderful introduction to the misunderstood concepts of gender identity and gender expression. Its 32 pages introduce and address important topics, spending the bulk of the time on all the intricacies related to coming out. That’s not to say the brochure is overly limited, however, as other important and related concepts, ranging from personal acknowledgement of one’s gender identity to concerns related to transitioning are discussed in a very informative and appropriate manner.
This is the sixth 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 disclosure to my wife and the turbulent events over the next year. Part V can be found here.
I had been silent for too long. A few months after realizing that maybe I wasn’t consigned to the depths of hell after all for my constant desire to be female, I decided to tell Andromeda. I had considered somewhat the ramifications of what I was about to tell her, but I hadn’t really put myself in her shoes completely.
I was also perhaps a little overconfident or at least unrealistic in my expectations of how she’d take it. To begin with I was still completely overjoyed with this new understanding and insight I had gained. A huge amount of guilt was suddenly lifted off my shoulders and I had more hope than I had ever had. I also had felt like she might already suspect it, as in spite of my best efforts to appear normal, from my perspective little truths and evidences had started to slip out here and there over the past seven years.
I wasn’t confident to the point that I thought it wouldn’t matter at all, though. I realized the gravity of this deceit, and I knew that she was under no obligation to stay with me if I wasn’t what she wanted. I knew that by revealing this I could very well be initiating the beginning of the end of our relationship. But I couldn’t go on any longer. I had hope that things would work out alright.
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.
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.