Thursday, May 29, 2014

Spirit Gender

This is sorta continued from Why I'm Transitioning, but a long enough topic I felt it deserved a separate post.

So first, quoting from The Family: A Proclamation to the World:
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.
The first paragraph is pretty clear in saying that each of us were either male or female before this life; thus our spirits are either male or female.  I included that second paragraph because I think it describes this idea in more detail, for example "their divine destiny" is actually "his or her divine destiny" in the original address given by President Hinkely. For most people, that same gender is maintained throughout this life, their minds and bodies match this, and the resurrection will "simply" fix some physical imperfections. However, for some people, because of mortal imperfections there is some gender ambiguity. This is probably where it's best to link to Hank Green's video, and this image from there sums it up best:


Where Spirit Gender (the gender we were before this life and will be after this life) would also be added.

The idea is that, say in the case of someone that's intersex (which does happen), it's difficult to know whether their spirit is male or female, because their sex is ambiguous. It's not that "God made a mistake," instead, just like any other birth defect it's an imperfection caused by this mortal life, as part of God's plan.

In the case of transgender people, it's most likely that our biological sex is one thing, and our mind is another. I also explain this in the "Formal Reading on The Cause of Being Transgender/Having Gender Dysphoria" section of my list of LDS Gospel References related to Transgender/Gender Dysphoria and SSA, but basically the idea is that the brain and the genitalia develop at different times within the womb. Because they develop according to the amount of hormones that are surrounding the body, it's very possible for, say, a female mind and male genitalia to both develop in the same body. That's most likely what happened to me: Some kind of physical imperfection in my brain gives me Gender Dysphoria because it expects a female life, and I'm not experiencing one (AKA I identify as female). The important part here is those gender specific parts of the brain don't change after birth, so even if I "look male" because my genitalia started cranking out male hormones at puberty, that doesn't necessarily mean by itself that I have a male brain. I haven't been tested yet however because these studies are still in their infancy, and because I'd prefer they didn't dissect my brain yet since I'm kinda using it. So this is just my best guess.

Either way in these ambiguous cases it's not clear whether the spirit matches the genitalia or the brain, especially when those things themselves are ambiguous in the case of intersex conditions. Because we don't know when the spirit enters the body, it's possible it could enter the body after the brain and genitalia are formed, in which case God would have to choose which ambiguous trait the spirit lines up with. This is where people typically use the argument of "but you look male, so you must have a male spirit," but like I said above that doesn't mean I have a male brain (most likely because of what I'm feeling my brain is actually female), and we have no general revelation for whether the spirit matches the genitals or the brain.

Some people also say "God would never put a male spirit in a female body, or a female spirit in a male body. It just seems like that's a mistake, and he doesn't make mistakes." I agree with this: If the mind and genitals are unambiguously one gender, the spirit will probably always line up with those. However, in ambiguous cases, I think it's very possible the spirit may line up with the brain and not the body, but again I really don't know: We don't have revelation either way. Just God isn't making a mistake, instead, through the enabling power of the atonement we're able to find strength in dealing with these physical imperfections, being guided to whatever treatment is best for our situation while strengthening our relationship with him.

We need to be careful though: "Spirit gender" should not be the only reason by itself that it's okay or not okay for someone to transition. This starts us along a path of having some criteria for whether or not someone is "really" trans, which is a really bad thing. It leads to leaders saying "Well you're considering transition: have you had revelation that your spirit doesn't match your biological sex?" and it can even lead to: "Even though I'm married with kids, because I've received revelation that my spirit gender doesn't match my biological sex I need to transition now. If my family isn't okay with it that's their fault for not accepting me." Neither is a good situation.

The truth is, spirit gender is simply a factor we should consider when thinking about what treatment is best for us, it's not something that by itself determines what treatment option is best for us. As linked above these options are best covered here, but basically include therapy, HRT, social transition, and medical transition (surgery and etc.). I think it's very possible someone could not be married, receive revelation that their spirit gender doesn't match their biological sex, and still feel that the best course of action for them is only therapy, because for some reason they can't take HRT or do social transition. I also think it's possible that someone could receive that same revelation, but be married with kids so HRT is the best option for now.

On the other hand, I think it's very possible someone could receive revelation that (say in my case) it's best to assume their spirit gender lines up with their biological sex, yet still choose transition in this life as a temporary thing to address some kind of physical imperfection in their brain. The same goes with someone that is married, some kind of social transition to an extent may be necessary, while of course working closely with their wife and bishop and SP.

Of course I also think that it's possible that transition may be the right path to take for someone who's spirit gender doesn't line up with their biological sex, and that not transitioning may be the right path for someone who's spirit gender does line up with their biological sex. My point is simply that spirit gender by itself doesn't decide whether or not one should transition.

My biggest reason, personally for this, is that the "spirit gender threshold test" basically requires me to, when anyone questions my decision, tell them I received revelation that my spirit gender is female. Even if I did receive such a revelation, I feel like sharing it with others is somewhat wrong/not really a positive thing for two reasons:

1: Every person I've shared my GD with tries to jump ahead of me when I'm explaining spirit gender, and assumes that since I'm transitioning/have GD I think my gender is female. It leads them into discussing many of the misconceptions that I tried to clarify above, and can often turn into a pretty heated argument. While this is probably an important discussion to have, it distracts the topic from helping them further understand my specific situation, which is really what I want to share. Instead if I say it's best to assume my spirit is male (a personal thing that works for me but I don't think is the case for everyone), it conveys that much better, while also helping them understand the nature of my transition, I think - doing the best I can on limited knowledge.

2: Such a revelation is a very personal thing, and should not be shared lightly. If we say it's needed for transition, it basically forces people to share this revelation with everyone they meet that asks about GD, which is bad in itself.

I also think it's very possible some people may just not get a revelation about their spirit gender for a very long time. In that case, they shouldn't delay treatment options "until they get an answer," and sit and pray for hours on end trying to get one (I mean that's not a necessarily bad thing but in the end you've gotta learn to accept the lords timing in things and not try and "force" an answer), that's something that took me a long time to figure out. Instead they should be acting with what knowledge they do have, with the understanding that if ever an answer does come later they can factor it into their reasoning for a particular treatment option, I think.

Edit: You can find an updated version of this gender-bread person here, which (combined with a spirit gender category) I think is more accurate. Also some people have pointed out to me that technically there isn't any doctrine saying the spirit gender can't change throughout the course of the eternities, so I can't leave that out as a possibility, though I think it's something to not get too worked up about because I suspect for the vast majority (if not all) people spirit gender is constant before, during, and after this life.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Why I'm Transitioning

I'm writing this post in response to panic attacks I've been having every other night or so for the last week, because I feel like it's an important thing to address.

So far, I've had two kinds of responses to coming out:

"Honestly, I don't know much about that, but I respect the journey you've been through. Thank you for sharing that with me. Is there anything I can do help you in the next little bit?" [I explain pronouns, using Dani, otherwise pretty much still just treating me as a friend, and various other things later on as they come up] They slip up with those things every once and a while, but apologize and sincerely try to do the best they can. There's awkward moments as well of course, but they're walking with me in this journey, and we support each other in life. Often they'll share things they're struggling with too, and we grow closer as a result.

"Okay, but you still believe in the gospel, right? Like you know the savior can help you through anything, right? Please just don't reject the faith, because it is true." [At this point I just laugh and say I appreciate the concern, but yea, I agree it's true, don't worry :)] Sometimes they'll continue though with "I feel like you need to be willing to exercise faith, and put your whole trust in him, and you'll be able to live as male. It might be hard, maybe for the rest of your life, maybe you'll figure this out and be able to help others, but that's definitely the right thing to do. Like there's more feminine guys too. Maybe you're really just one of them. That's totally okay. You can probably eventually marry a girl too, some other guys did it. But I know transition is wrong, and don't feel comfortable with your decision." This basically leads every other topic I try and bring up around gender dysphoria/transition (a reasonably big thing on my mind right now) when seeking for support into an argument of "well you're choosing the wrong thing, and I don't agree with you, so maybe if you choose something else you wouldn't be having these kinds of struggles" instead of actually discussing what I'm struggling with. Or seriously criticizing my every action, thinking maybe I just have depression or asbergers or something that "caused this" (yes and I'm addressing it with meds, no I dated a girl that did and it's a really difficult trial, but not my cross to bear in life)

Obviously this is somewhat dramatized, and most people are on a scale somewhere in-between. And most people I know have been mostly pretty good (in the first category). But I'm saying this to make a point:

There seems to be this unsaid assumption that the gospel is very clear that transition is wrong. It's anything but that.

I've searched hard, putting together a list of everything I could possibly find on this subject. To be blunt: There is nothing on the gospel end of things, for or against transition. The only thing is The Family: A Proclamation to the World - from which I feel it's best to assume I'm spiritually male - and the Bishop's handbook - from which I won't have SRS so I can still attend the temple. I'm okay with presenting as a guy only then. This also means that that what I suspect is some kind of imperfection in my brain will be fixed in the resurrection. That's not really a hopeful thing right now ("Oh boy I can live as a guy forever"), but good to know, because when it happens it will be a beautiful thing that I'll be fully comfortable with, I think. None of that says what I need to present as during this temporary life, however. Neither does I or anyone else have definite revelation to share either way on my "spirit gender", it's just "best to assume" for now.

The only other somewhat related thing is the very clear doctrine of same-sex marriage being immoral. My challenge is I don't know what kind of marriage is okay for me: A marriage to a girl would look like a gay marriage externally once I'm done transitioning, and a marriage to a guy would be a gay marriage "biologically." The only kind that works on all levels is a FtM person, but it's very rare to also find one that's active in the church and I can get along well enough with. And maybe marriage is just going to have to be something that waits until the next life. But not having any answers to these pretty important questions is very stressful. It would be nice to at least have some kind of clarity that transition is definitely wrong to work off of, but I don't even have that.

As a result, I'm just trying to do the best with what information I have - which information is pretty much nothing - a frustration my parents have expressed as well. My understanding is that most trans people are able to handle their GD much better with some kind of cross-sex hormones, of which the Church has no official policy on (for or against). So that's what I pursued. However, because I'm not married or anything, I'm also going for some level of social transition, which for me means wearing more feminine clothes, growing out my hair, wearing makeup, etc. - finding a style that I'm comfortable with. Notice these are all cultural things: though the end goal is to be presenting in a manner that most people perceive me as a normal female, I'm not doing anything that's against even the For the Strength of Youth, like say piercing my ears.

For example, it's mostly perfectly fine for a female to wear more "tomboy" clothes and cut her hair short, but apparently it's very wrong for males to wear female clothes and use makeup in a female way. The point I want to make is this is a one sided, cultural thing: for those that say my transition is obviously wrong, their reasons eventually trace back to "I don't feel okay with it." Nothing gospel related, because there's nothing there.

PS: To be clear I don't mean to be criticizing the brethren: I'm sure the Lord has his reasons, which I'd speculate range from "This issue is so rare Church leaders don't have too much of an understanding of it yet" to "The members aren't ready for a more general revelation so most change if any goes somewhat silently through changes to the handbook" to "It's such an individual thing that revelation for specific treatment options [like transition and/or hormones and/or therapy] is where revelation occurs (on the Bishop and SP levels), and a general revelation really isn't that relevant to anyone." I don't know, but that's because I'm not in a position where I should know, which is fine. I just want it to be clear that other members don't know either, because "obvious" things like "transition is always wrong" simply isn't there.

PS: This was inspired from a similar rebuttal to these misconceptions you can find here.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

"We"

I've been thinking about something I don't yet know if I have the words to describe, but I'll try as best I can. It's also very personal, so I've been reflecting on whether or not I'm comfortable sharing it. I think it makes sense to share now, and I feel is best shared through poetry.

I think she saw me in the mirror,
He's here but never gone too far,
We show I'm here but it's not clear,
She sees through him at all,

It's you and me,
It's him and her,
It's them and them,
It's we and us and I.

We play tic tac toe for codependency,
She cries, he turns, she runs, he falls,
Without others she's free of him but,
Without others she's stuck outside,

It's you and me,
It's him and her,
It's them and them,
It's we and us and I.

Say without forever she'll be lonely,
Say without tomorrow she'll be gone,
Say without a day is someone to be,
Say without her he finds the shore,

It's you and me,
It's him and her,
It's them and them,
It's we and us and I.

Yet she'll find another way to be,
He chooses him for her and her for him,
She follows stead with heart high,
It's we for you for I for us.

It's you and me,
It's him and her,
It's them and them,
It's we and us and I.

Hey don'cha think we're getting better,
Ya but I don't appreciate the time,
It's okay you're building a mirror,
And you find love through my eyes.

It's you and me,
It's him and her,
It's them and them,
It's we for you for I for us.

I think I need to work on my poetry being a little less cryptic, but I'm happy with that.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Hormones, Part 1T0

At first when I went to the Endo, my team had pulled an all-nighter (literally) the night before, so I was a little out of it. Sadly that meant I forgot the 30+ pages of paperwork from my hospital visit I got for him too, since he asked since my other records "weren't adequate." So I figured I'd spam him with everything so he has no room to complain. But I was seriously stressing as I headed over to the hospital where my endo is at realizing I forgot them. Mostly because I'm at 0.5mg which is a very low dose which is good for starting, but to increase my dosage he said he needed the paperwork. So I promised I'd get it to him very soon, and brought it back 2 days later (after almost barfing on the way home and sleeping for 16 hours - all-nighters aren't healthy lol BUT WE FINISHED). I was pretty adamant that I was ready to increase the dosage, and so was pretty clear about that, but during my meeting with him he was pretty strict that I could come back in 3 months (5 months total of 0.5mg a day) and we'd see then.

I mean I trusted he had some reason, and it made sense to work up to a dosage, but the fact that most everyone else I know started on 1mg a day, and the normal dosage for MtF HRT is 1-3mg a day, means I was ready to increase the dosage unless he had a good reason why not to. So after leaving kinda frustrated about not yet, I researched the typical dosage levels to be sure, then came back with my paperwork and such. I asked to speak with him for a moment, explained I brought the paperwork, then said very firmly "let's increase the dosage to 1mg a day. I was doing research and 1-3mg is the standard amount, and I was okay with starting at a lower dosage until I get used to it, but unless you have a good reason why I specifically need to be on a lower dose I'm ready to increase the dosage now." He studied me for a second, then said he'd look at the paperwork, and to call him next week and depending on what's in there and he'd see.

I was ecstatic hearing this, and said "okay, thanks" then left. I would have been ready to call Monday morning, but my Mom told me Thursday night my doctor had called (I met with him on Tuesday then brought in the paperwork on Thursday), so Friday morning I got up and called (she was surprised I was up so early, except then I fell back asleep because they weren't open yet and then woke up at 11:00 and almost missed them because they close at 12:00, lol I'm working on a better sleeping schedule).

I was ready to, assuming I didn't have any medical reasons for not being on a higher dose, start going on about many different things I had to say, ranging from "you know the oath you make to do no harm? You're intentionally doing harm to me by choosing to give me a lower dosage [his main reason being 'often trans people go too fast']. I am out to everyone, already have been transitioning for months, and hormones are one of the only things holding me back at this point, and you're choosing to slow that down." to "I will go and sit there and refuse to leave until you choose to either give me a good reason for why you're keeping the dosage low specifically for me, or choose to increase the dosage [and I would be ready to stay all night if needed]"

Instead I stepped into my garage so I'd have some peace and quiet, then called, and he said pretty pleasantly that "the paperwork you gave me was exactly what I wanted, and I think it's perfectly reasonable to increase the dosage to 1mg a day."

I don't know if I actually would have said/done any of those things, but it's probably best I didn't find out. :)

PS: Here's [updated below] our (semi) finished film, we showed it to an audience last Tuesday, but we'll be doing the final polishing for a better grade and will be done this Friday. It's admittedly kinda cheesy, but that's part of the point of the Machinima genre, I think :) Also it has my last name in it, but I figure that's not too big of a deal at this point, I'm pretty out.

PSS: After another all-nighter, we've finished the film. Enjoy :)