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.

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