Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Church in Femme, part 2

First, I posted the following about my time last Sunday at church on a closed transgender email list I'm part of, and I think it probably makes sense to post here as well.

Today was my fourth time to church presenting in femme, and 2nd time in my intended ward (since my first two times were accidentally in the same building but wrong ward). I met a couple of people and we talked for a bit (more than I had ever before with anyone in that ward), and Sunday school went really well too. I was talking with this cool person after Sunday school, and she started heading into relief society so I explained that I actually had to go (the least awkward way to explain the situation). Then I walked around the halls trying to find the Elder's quorum/people in the ward to follow there. Since my plan is to go to Elder's quorum [the class for guys the third hour] for now, since that's what they want me to do. I found some other people from my ward and we all talked for a bit (so many people in my ward seem really awesome), and then one of the sisters there invited me to go to relief society with her once they started heading out. It had sorta come up in our conversation before (when she had asked me about mission and stuff) but I'd just kinda avoided the subject saying it was because of "medical stuff," but since I wasn't allowed to go to relief society I figured I should probably tell her.

So we waited until the rest of the people went into the classes, then we sat in the hall and I kinda explained my situation. I said that, "basically, I have this really annoying birth defect. It causes me to appear as male externally, even though I'm female where it counts. So I'm addressing that, but it just takes time." She said she was actually just taking an anatomy class right now and so she kinda understood my situation. I said "oh cool, yea like where different parts of the body form in different stages according to hormones and stuff" and she nodded and said yea.

I think she assumed I was intersex, but I figured since trans situations basically are intersex conditions (just of the brain) it wasn't that off, and more accurate then saying I'm a "biological male that identifies as female," since that typically gives people the image of a guy that "wants" to be a female so he "cross-dresses," where seeing me as a female that has an annoying birth defect that causes me to appear as male that I'm addressing with hormones and such is more accurate. Since I identify as female anyway, which is "where it counts." My genitals are too private of a subject to discuss with most anyone anyway, I think, and it's not their business.

So I'm pretty happy with this method of approaching my explanation so far, though of course how I come out and stuff still just depends on the person I'm coming out to. For example for one friend up at college from California it was sufficient to say "I'm transgender" and we talked about it for a bit and it was cool and our friendship didn't really change besides maybe deepening, while for another returned missionary friend it required a bit of a more in-depth conversation before he came to understand the situation. He's been amazing too since then though, and honestly really helped me through a lot.

Anyway I then explained that they probably didn't want me going to relief society [the third hour class for only females], because of my situation. She was a little hesitant, but said that she thinks that people should have the right to go where they are comfortable. And asked if I would be comfortable going to relief society. I said I would, so much so, but that I'm pretty sure the Bishop doesn't want me to go. She said she would just be willing to sit outside for the hour if that would work better for me, and we talked for a bit, but eventually we decided we'd go into relief society. I said "okay I guess I could, but if the Bishop gets mad I'm blaming you" and she said something along the lines of that's fine it should probably be okay.

This being my first time in Relief Society, it was really nice. Like presenting as female in church, I just no longer felt this big sense of wrongness or anxiety or depression or however dysphoria decides to manifest when presenting as male. I felt very very comfortable there. I even made a few comments in the lesson, and overall it went really well. Afterwards she offered me her number to talk, and I declined (looking back I'm still not sure why, I think it really would have helped but I think I was just scared of reaching out too much since I had already met another friend and got her number and we might hang out or something but if she offers again I will cause it would be nice to have more people there that I know).

I then thought I should probably be honest with the Bishop, and explain to him that I went to Relief Society against his recommendation. It was probably the wrong choice anyway, but I guess I was just really happy about making some new friends.

So I waited for a couple minutes, then realized I was in the wrong place (it's a big building) so I went to the right one. There were some other people there from my ward (even this kid I knew at the U) so I figured it was right, and eventually the Bishop came out and invited me to talk to him.

He asked what's up and I explained that situation above, that I had gone to Relief Society. How I explained my situation to her, and he said he disagreed, that it wasn't a birth defect. That, didn't I think there was ever the possibility of changing? I explained that it would definitely be preferable if I could accept myself as male, it's would be way easier than being trans, but so far that hasn't seemed to happen so I'm doing the best I can. He said okay, do you remember my goal though for you? (the one of getting to the point I'm comfortable being a "guy playing and rolling around in the mud with other guys") and I said I remembered it but strongly disagreed with it.

He said that he had thought we agreed on this though, that I couldn't go to relief society because "it only takes one person getting upset to create a big fiasco." I agreed, and said I was sorry, and said I was comfortable going to Elder's Quorum. That I made a mistake, and I will go to Elder's Quorum next week. That that's why I wanted to be honest with him about it today, and he said he appreciated that, and it was good to hear. I explained that it might be a little akward initially going to Elder's Quorum, and he agreed, and said that I'd probably just have to explain my situation as best I could. I said I was totally willing to do so, and will next week. He said he respects my bravery in being willing to do that, and that he wishes me luck.

He said I want you to know I care about you, and want to help you feel comfortable here. He asked about how people in the ward have been and I explained awesome and how the'd been and he said he didn't expect they'd be any different.

He then said that this does feel like a campfire discussion of sorts though, and that you can kinda tell I'm not female. Which hurt, but he is probably right there is a lot of work I could do. I said transition just does take time (I'm only essentially 6 months along or so) and I need to work on my mannerisms and stuff, but that I'm also more of a tomboy. He then said that no, I'm not a tomboy, I'm a male. And I said that I wanted to be very clear that him using "male" and "young man" and pronouns and such was very anxiety inducing and triggering to me, and that I'd prefer he didn't refer to me as such. He apologized, and said he would try and do better. That my plan was to transition, and that it didn't seem that helpful for me to question that decision all the time so I'm sticking with it. For the rest of the conversation he used gender neutral pronouns (such as "young person" instead of "young man"), which was way awesome.

He then asked if I was planning SRS. I explained that only like 33% of all trans people even have SRS, that it's really not that common of a thing because it's so expensive and stuff. And that I probably didn't because of the temple thing in the handbook and stuff. That I was just going for a social transition. In retrospect I probably would have preferred to give an answer of "discussing my genitalia is pretty personal, and probably not something that should be discussed in this context," though I suppose the answer I gave was honest and probably more productive so it's probably fine. Just someone had a good point that talking with genitalia with everyone when discussing trans issues is probably not right - it's a really personal, sacred thing that really shouldn't be discussed openly. I don't go asking other people about their genitalia for good reason and so I probably shouldn't also talk about my own (with regards to SRS and having male genitalia and stuff).

He asked about what my plans were for family in the future, and if I desired to have kids. I explained that I had a very strong desire to have kids, however that I also didn't want to put them in a bad situation and my situation is kinda complicated so it depends. I then went through briefly all the stuff I've gone over in detail elsewhere about dating for me. He said that dating guys was really his concern, that he was happy to hear that I wasn't planning on pursuing that. He then asked what do you think a Bishop should be trying to do for a young man like you? And we just talked for a little bit longer about all the stuff above. He asked if I was coming on their camping trip this weekend, and I said I think I have an endo appointment (I'm pretty sure I do and I can't really reschedule that easily so I'd have to check), though I think the other concern that I forgot to mention would be where am I going to stay. Because I probably shouldn't stay with the girls or guys if it's an overnight thing, though I haven't had the chance to ask that yet sadly. I will probably go to FHE tomorrow though.

He then asked if I remembered our agreement with the restrooms that we'd came to in discussing it with the bishoprick (I don't think I've mentioned this before), and I said I did. That I probably shouldn't use the female restrooms (which makes sense), yet going into the male restrooms is gonna make it weird for guys. So that I just need to talk to someone in the bishoprick, and they will stand outside the male restroom and make sure noone enters until I'm done. It's an awkward solution but it works.

Overall all the stuff there is still pretty emotional (I was pretty happy/scared after Relief Society and like wacking my leg and my car door because of how frustrated I felt after some aspects that day), but really not really any new concerns have been brought up, and I will go to Elder's Quorum next week. Still in general my Church experience there has been way more positive then my Church experience presenting as male, which has been really good to see.

I followed this post by another a little later in the discussion. I could give more context but I think it explains itself good enough and it's a confidential list so I want to avoid putting what others have said there on this public blog.

Honestly, my Bishop is getting better. I tried to get at that a little in my post, but after trying to be clear in explaining to him that I disagreed with his goal of me eventually learning to be a guy that's comfortable playing football with and rolling around in the mud with other guys" for many reasons (and intend to transition), he seemed to step back a little bit. His focus now is more just on how he can support me and help me feel comfortable, with his guidelines of course (for now I can't attend Relief Society and the whole Bathroom thing).

I feel like just going in there fists raging doesn't accomplish anything either though, I agree, since we don't know everything and I think it requires work on both sides to gain more understanding, which is why I wanted to be honest with my Bishop that I made a mistake in going to Relief Society, and that I was willing to go to Elder's Quorum this week. Also that's not how my personality is, I'm very non-confrontational, for better or for worse. I hope that we're able to learn more things about GD from a gospel standpoint as well, the lack of knowledge right now is really frustrating.

Probably right now what's more frustrating is just the level at which GD interferes with my attempt at forming normal friendships in the ward. The whole situation with me going or not going to relief society is really complicated to explain to my first friend I was talking to (I was trying a little before we all left), and explaining my situation to my other friend helps, but now she just sees me differently. Which is really frustrating. I just wish I could be seen as a normal girl I guess. Or just feel like others saw me as that/feel like I deserve to feel like that. Because that's what I am. I'm totally fine with being out to people when they still treat me like a normal female (like many of my close friends have done), however when coming out to people vastly changes the way the see me in a negative way that's really frustrating to me. Which is probably a big reason why many people go "stealth" and don't tell others they even are transgender after they transition if they can avoid it. Maybe I'm just too sensitive about all this, but yea, either way it's just a hard process/experience to have. Monday night I think I had what I guess you could call a breakdown, but maybe that also had to do with having to go to work today while presenting as male (I'm a substitute janitor for the summer, so when they need me I'm pretty sure I have to present as male - I'm working on figuring out that - if anything it will be mostly over once school starts soon), I don't know.

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