Saturday, January 11, 2014

LDS Gospel References related to Transgender/Gender Dysphoria and SSA



Then visit here:

Family Acceptance Project - "The Family Acceptance Project™ is a research, intervention, education and policy initiative that works to decrease health and mental health risks for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) children and youth, including suicide, homelessness and HIV – in the context of their families. We use a research-based, culturally grounded approach to help ethnically, socially and religiously diverse families to support their LGBT children."

Official LDS Recources

The Family: A Proclamation to the World - The First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles
ALL HUMAN BEINGS—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose. 
IN THE PREMORTAL REALM, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshiped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life.
See this post for an idea of how our little LDS trans community has sort of come to understand what this means with respect to us.

The Joy of Living the Great Plan of Happiness - Elder Richard G. Scott

Strengthening the Family: Created in the Image of God, Male and Female

Gender Is an Essential Characteristic of Eternal Identity and Purpose - Visiting Teaching Message

"Gender Is An Essential Characteristic" - A short film

A Voice Said "I Am Not A Son" - Also a short film. Though it's on family history, it helps clarify the idea that gender is very essential, even after this life.

Chapter 3: Teaching Infants and Toddlers: from Birth to Approximately Three Years - A Parent’s Guide, (1985), 18–21

Chapter 4: Teaching Children: from Four to Eleven Years - A Parent’s Guide, (1985), 22–33

To quote from this:
There is nearly as much variation within each gender as there is between the genders. Each human being is unique. There is no one model except the Redeemer of all mankind. Development of a person’s gifts or interests is one of life’s most enjoyable experiences. No one should be denied such growth.

You should provide opportunities for your children to develop talents in various directions unhindered by improper stereotypes. But you should respect the divinely mandated roles special to the respective sexes. Teach your children that they will grow and be happy by accepting these roles and magnifying them.
The Father and the Family - Boyd K. Packer

To Young Men Only - Boyd K. Packer on October 2, 1976 at the priesthood session. This talk is really depressing. It encourages gay bashing/suggests violence may be necessary, and also says that:
"There is a falsehood that some are born with an attraction to their own kind, with nothing they can do about it. They are just 'that way' and can only yield to those desires. That is a malicious and destructive lie. While it is a convincing idea to some, it is of the devil. No one is locked into that kind of life. From our premortal life we were directed into a physical body. There is no mismatching of bodies and spirits. Boys are to become men—masculine, manly men—ultimately to become husbands and fathers. No one is predestined to a perverted use of these powers."
It's clear this is no longer the church's stance on homosexuality, and they recognize that it's something many people experience that they did not choose. Also, even if there is "no mismatching of bodies and spirit," in the case of someone having a gender identity (brain) not matching their biological sex, there is legitimate male and female parts of the body.  so either way the spirit gender went it would line up with some portion of the body, so it wouldn't totally be a "mismatch of body and spirit."

The Doctrinal Importance of Marriage and Children - Russel M Nelson
Brothers and sisters, I am very grateful for the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. It provides light to guide us in this world darkened by immorality, iniquity, and infidelity. It teaches us to love all of God’s children, some of whom struggle with gender issues or other conditions that may not be fully understood. We need to help and encourage them and their family members without, of course, condoning sinful behavior.
mormonsandgays.org/ - A Church Website that "Strives to address, through interviews and videos from Church leaders and members, the issue of same-sex attraction as it relates to individuals and affected family members. The statements and stories emphasize the importance of Christ’s commandment to love one another and reaffirm the Church’s position." Though this is mostly about SSA, many of the things said there are relevant to gender dysphoria/transgender issues as well.

You also have the Bishop's handbook, which without sharing too much details (you can ask your Bishop to see the exact wording if you'd like, I think) basically says that those who have "elective" sexual reassignment surgery cannot attend the temple or hold the priesthood (for female to male people). It goes on to say that some kind of church discipline may be necessary, however it seems like quite a bit of focus is placed on that word "elective," and that for many transgender people (see Documentaries/Videos/News Articles below) no formal church action is needed. Basically it's a very individual thing that's taken on a case to case basis, which is probably for the best.

That also unfortunately means that some Bishops can be very negative with anything relating to Gender Dysphoria, while some (like my own and many others I've heard about) can be very supportive, because there isn't much else said in the handbook about what to do when a bishop has someone come in and explain that this is a trial they are facing. Like my poor bishop is very lost for what to do, and after talking with my SP he and my father (with my help) eventually wrote a letter to Elder Christofferson, and I got an awesome yet vague response back because he hasn't met me personally and doesn't know all the specifics of my situation. So my Bishop asks basically every chance he gets at a meeting with higher up authorities in the church, but still hasn't gotten much of anything concrete. It seems that the overall consensus is that this is just something he and my SP have to decide about together, but it's frustrating because it feels like we're kinda shooting in the dark.

There are also many biologically male transgender people that are married to females in the temple after returning from a mission but still struggle with Gender Dysphoria. For them, it seems like often a good consensus is to start on a low dosage of female hormones and male hormone blockers, and otherwise continue presenting as male and living a relatively normal life. Quoting from here:

"For some the relief of HRT is significant enough to completely manage their GD. Why this is has not been proven, but it is hypothesized that the sexually dimorphic brain of a person with GD responds positively to the cross sexed hormones."

It seems to make everything less pertinent and severe, meaning they have more ability to fulfill their male roles in family and elsewhere. It's still a very difficult trial for them to go through though, for them and their wives. See some of the blogs below, especially A Purple Picket Fence and this North Star blog post, both by wives of males that deal with Gender Dysphoria. There is even a confidential gospel centered email group for those who deal with/are close to someone with GD and a gospel centered email group for their spouses, if you feel like either of these may be helpful for you.

For me, because I don't have any major family obligations yet (not being married or anything), I feel comfortable transitioning to presenting as female. Personally I probably don't want SRS though, because the handbook would then prevent me from being able to attend the temple, so I'm going for a hormonal and social transition instead. Some others in a similar situation as me have come to the same conclusion, and some are already fully transitioned. This (transition) is not the path most people I know with GD take though, because it's very difficult, can be dangerous, and often they have other commitments like marriage.

Not Official LDS Resources

North Star: Resources for Transgender & Intersexed - North Star has been very helpful for me in learning more about this issue and ways to treat it while living the standards of the Gospel.

The following two categories aren't necessarily related to the Gospel, but have quite a bit to do with addressing the legitimacy of this situation, and how that affects members and leaders' reactions to the topic of Gender Dysphoria as a whole.

Formal Reading on The Current Situation of Transgender People

Injustice at Every Turn - A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. I made a post about this here. Very depressing, but an important reality we need to address.

The Gender Variant Phenomenon: A Developmental Review or a friend's blog post relating her specific story to the research there. This covers what people go through as they face being transgender at various stages in their life, written by a researcher that has worked with hundreds of transgender people going through that process of trying to figure out how to best address/treat their GD themselves.

Transgender - The Wikipedia page. Self-explanatory (I doubt you needed this page to find it), but also references to other helpful academic articles.

Links and Other Recommended Reading - A similar list to this one, by a fellow Neuter Trans-Person. I link to zis' blog below as well.

One of my favorite links from there:

Two-Spirits Map - "A global inventory of human cultures which recognize genders outside the male-female binary."

Transgender rights are very important. I can't emphasize this enough. Even if you disagree with transition/SRS from a moral standpoint, no-one morally agrees with a 31% attempted suicide rate of those that are accepted by their families, and a 51% attempted suicide rate from those that aren't.

Formal Reading on The Cause of Being Transgender/Having Gender Dysphoria

Expression Deprivation - The Real Problem With Being Trans

Do Your Homework, Dr. Ablow - Though none of these reference DNA (as they claimed to respond to), they all still show some level of a biological origin to Gender Dysphoria.

What causes transgender? - Though it's Yahoo Answers, the first response links to 10 academic articles related to this.

Much of this research goes off the idea that the brain and genitalia develop at different stages, so it's possible for some kind of hormone imbalance to create a male brain and female genitalia, or vice versa. This is thought to cause Gender Dysphoria, as many of these studies examine portions of the brain that don't change after birth.

Specifically many of these study different portions of the brain that are different between genders, and find that MtF transgender people typically have more female proportions, and FtM people typically have more male proportions, like they claim. It can sometimes be caused by the mom taking some kind of drug to "prevent miscarriages," or sometimes happen through no one's fault just like any other birth defect.

That being said, there's still not that much known about what causes this unpleasant situation. My opinion is just that what causes it isn't nearly as important as what we can do to treat it. Since even if we perfectly understood what caused it and could prevent all future cases, which would probably be ideal, I imagine for those that already struggle with Gender Dysphoria (like myself) we'd still have a problem that we need to do something about.

Still, with all of this, God isn't "making a mistake." Again, just like any other birth defect, he knows what he's doing and has a plan for us, just the spirit he puts into the bodies may match the brain, or it may match the body. We haven't been given any more specific revelation, since probably more generally we don't know when the spirit enters the body. However we do know God loves each of his children, and will support them through whatever earthly trial they are given though the Atonement if they turn to him for his help.

Most likely if the spirit gender matches the body, the brain will be fixed in the Resurrection, essentially "curing" them of their GD feelings. On the other hand, if the spirit matches the brain, the body will probably be fixed to match the correct brain, also "curing" them of their GD except instead through transition. Most likely neither the first or the second happens for everyone, so instead it varies from person to person. But yea most of this is just speculation, we don't know anything beyond that our bodies will be made perfect in the Resurrection through Christ's atonement, which is why personal revelation is important here. Even moreso on how best to treat GD in this life regardless of your "spirit gender," because it's perfectly possible that someone that has a spirit gender that doesn't line up with their brain may still need transition as a temporary thing for this life, and that someone that has a spirit gender that does line up with their brain might not be able to have any level of transition until the next life. What we do know is that Christ can help us each day through this trial as we learn to deepen our relationship with him.

It's important to note this doesn't always mean "getting over these feelings," however. My bishop often liked to use the analogy of "acting out," where, say when you're married, being physically intimate with someone other than your spouse (hugging, kissing, etc.) is "acting out" on your feelings and wrong. This is also typically true for those that desire to be in a same-sex relationship: Any kind of physical intimacy is probably "acting out" on same-sex feelings. However, me and my Bishop have kinda come to understand that the same thing isn't exactly true for transgender feelings, IE: What level of behavior constitutes "acting out" isn't really a relevant way to look at GD as a whole.

For example: Someone that has a sex addiction is asked to "overcome their feelings through the atonement" by working with their Bishop and by going through the appropriate steps, however that isn't thought to mean overcoming their heterosexual feelings entirely. Instead the goal would be for them to learn to overcome their addictive behavior, and possibly eventually find a proper outlet for those feelings through a temple marriage. With gender identity it's similar (just instead not really an addiction for many people and instead just a "normal" trial some people face). For everyone gender identity is important, for example in straight people the differences between men and women are a pretty important aspect of their relationship. For people that have gender dysphoria, it's certainly a difficult situation, with no easy answers. As explained above, for some hormones may just be necessary as a temporary solution for this life, for some some level of transition may be necessary. The key is that Christ's Atonement can help us make it through any of these paths, none of which are better than others. It simply depends on the situation, which is why individual revelation is so important.

These topics were also discussed in depth here.

On Transgender Children

Transcendent Transgender - "Reflections on raising a transgender child," a wonderful mom's blog about her experience raising a transgender daughter, including negative reactions at her LDS church that eventually drove them away, unfortunately.

Creating A Safe School Environment For Transgender Children - Clinical Psychologist, Diane Ehrensaft PhD, shares advice for parents on how to create a safe and accepting environment in school for transgender children.

Transgender teens become happy, healthy young adults - Explains some of the research showing that puberty blockers for transgender kids is a very effective treatment for transgender children until they mature enough to make the decision regarding transition for themselves (without going through the harmful effects of puberty that has irreversible effects that often make transition way less convincing).

As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl - A really depressing story about a boy that had a circumcision accident that removed most of his male genitilia, so his parents raised him as a girl instead. Or tried to, he transitioned back to male in his teens, and him and his identical twin brother eventually both committed suicide. I made a post about this here.

San Diego parents reveal story of transgender son who became boy at 5 - This was all over in the news, and you've probably seen it. Matt Walsh posted a criticism of this story, and Brynn Tannehill posted a rebuttal - I'd recommend watching/reading all 3 of these because they cover quite a bit of the discussion that's typically brought up when talking about transgender people.

‘I am a girl’: Transgender children face a society slow to accept them

Trapped in the Wrong Body: Growing Up Transgender - "What do you do if your child feels like he or she was born in the wrong body?"

3-year-old trans kid wonders when she will get her ‘girl parts’

Transgender Teen Update - Following the story of a FtM transgender kid named Jake that came on Oprah and began transition at 14.


Led by The Child Who Simply Knew - "The twin boys were identical in every way but one. Wyatt was a girl to the core, and now lives as one, with the help of a brave, loving family and a path-breaking doctor’s care."

Documentaries/Videos/News Articles

Essays


News Articles


Videos/Documentaries
Equality Utah: A Mormon mom's story of unconditional love for her transgender son - I met Grayson at a college singles ward before I even came out to myself, and had no idea he was trans, because he's a few years into transition now and started pretty young. He's an awesome kid too, and I really respect that he's still active in the LDS church as well - before him I didn't know personally anyone out there like me that was transitioned and still trying to attend church.

Transmormon -A documentary about Eri, a trans-female raised in Utah in the LDS church.

Eri Is Ready: A Mormon Woman On Being Transgendered And Getting A Sex Change - Another article about her experience.

Lessons Learned: Going Back To Church After Transition - An article written by a MtF trans person that transitioned to female and left the church, and is now attending again (while still staying transitioned).

Sara: Transgender and Mormon - An interview of an active LDS transitioned trans-female.

I'll Walk With You - Neca & Grayson - LDS Parents of a transgender female-to-male son.

LDS Trans Member in the News - Though not all good, Leah did help in bring some publicity and public awareness to the issue of active transgender individuals.

John Dehlin at TEDxUSU - He explains how he came to be an LGBT advocate, while still being active in the Church. In retrospect, the statistics here are pretty off, though he still makes a valid point I think.

Just Because He Breathes: Learning to Truly Love Our Gay Son - This powerful blog deals with SSA of a child, but applies to parenting a transgender child.

Blogs

LDS Gender: For those seeking understanding of gender identity issues from an LDS perspective - Especially the "Resources and Links" (many of which have been copied here)

A Purple Picket Fence - "Thoughts and Experiences from a Mormon Girl Married to a Transgender Spouse"

Sweet is the Peace: A Mormon with a Christ-Centered Perspective on GID - A blog by a biological male that struggles with Gender Dysphoria but also strives to live the Gospel and is married (to a female) with kids.

Floundering Parents: Gender Identity - Though just a Mommy Blog, there were a lot of very relevant (and hurtful) comments made here, especially in the comments section.

A.K.A. Arcee - "Married, transgender, and Mormon. Trying to figure myself out, one day at a time."

Darkness7Light - "LDS, gender-neutral, and out."

GID Inter alia - A powerful blog by a biologically male member that joined the LDS church, then transitioned (to presenting as female), then de-transitioned, and is now presenting as male again.

Just Kate - Without the opportunity to take Hormones (due to blood issues), she's striving to find other ways of addressing her Gender Dysphoria without full transition.

TG Ultra Runner - A personal perspective on hormonally transitioning later in life, among other things.

Transgender Awareness Month at North Star

Many LDS members struggling with Gender Dysphoria had the opportunity of submitting short articles (essays, personal stories, and poems) to the North Star blog for a month. Here is the full list:

Announcing November 2013 as our first annual North Star Transgender Awareness Month

Featuring Voices of Hope Project Participants John Alden and Jamie Dutson

North Star Venues for Community and Support

Definitions

In the Eyes of a Friend - Julie Coulton

Children and Adolescents: “Summarizing What We Know and What We Have Yet to Learn”

My Watershed Moment - Katelyn Marsh

Treatment options for those who experience gender dysphoria

The Spaces In Between - Arcee Mann

The Actor - Katelyn Marsh

My Conversion Story - Sam Corbin

Saturday Morning Session - Justine

My Husband is Transgender—A Spouse’s Perspective - Kathryn Peterson

Hopes and Fears - Arcee Mann

Discovery, Pain, Peace, Fish, and Understanding - Me :) The updated story is here.

The Ones Left Behind - Michelle

How I Know - Sam Corbin

Voices of Hope Project

This is a wonderful compilation of stories of members that are striving to live the gospel while struggling with SSA/Gender Dysphoria.

Specificallly:

Jamie Dutson - She struggles with SSA and Bigender feelings. I highly recommend watching the full interview, it's very touching, and there's a lot of things I've learned from her.

The Lord Has Prepared a Way - An essay by an active LDS parent (who served as Bishop for a time) of a transgender MtF child.

A Christ Centered Gender Identity - And essay by an active LDS member that struggles personally with Gender Dysphoria.

Same Sex Attraction Gospel 

Not-official LDS SSA resources:

Gays & Mormons - A pun on the Mormons and Gays website, this is one of the most comprehensive sites I've seen with regards to living the Gospel while struggling with SSA. Much of it is also focused from a parent's perspective ("My child just came out as gay...") , which I think is a positive thing.

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