LDS Gender

For those seeking understanding of gender identity issues from an LDS perspective

TransMormon Video

Found at Upworthy is this video of Eri Hayward, a male-to-female Mormon transgender girl in Utah:

I believe this video is a couple months old so I asked Eri’s father, Ed, if he had any updates and just received the following from him via e-mail:

The documentary reached 1 million views today. Also, Eri, Keiko (my wife) and I went to a screening by Sunstone and sat on a Q&A panel afterwards. Last week we were interviewed by Natasha Parker of Mormon Mental Health association and the podcast was released today. The response we’ve gotten from the documentary has far exceeded any expectation we had.

This has been really good for Eri. I don’t think she’ll mind me sharing this since she talked about it today during the panel discussion. The amazing thing is that, from what I can tell, our Stake President doesn’t seem concerned that she is transgender, just that she keep all of the commandments as a sister in the church.

There’s also a followup podcast at the Mormon Mental Health Association website.

Survey of Mormons who have LGBT/SGA family or friends

Take the Survey Here

The purpose of this survey is to assess how members of the LDS church feel about and relate to their LGBT* or SGA** family members and friends and how they feel about various LGBT religious and social issues.

If you are (or at one time were) LDS and have LGBT/SGA family members or friends, you are invited to take this survey.

Norman Spack on transgender teens

A third example of an active, transsexual Mormon

Looks like the dam is beginning to burst. This is not only the third example I know of of an LDS person who is transsexual and also active. It’s just the third one mentioned here on this website. At the No More Strangers blog an Ann Karvalos writes about, “Lessons Learned: Going Back To Church After Transition.” The whole thing is worth reading (not that every point made there is agreed upon by the writers of this blog), but here’s a couple good quotes:

For months, I had let fear and doubt keep me from attending. For a brief period, I had lost my testimony of the church. I still believed in the restoration, the Book of Mormon and in the gospel generally, but I made some common mistakes that keep many trans* people away. In this article, I want to discuss the lessons I learned in hopes that others will not have to go through this soul-wrenching experience.…

If you are a trans* member who has either transitioned or is considering transition, don’t believe the internet hype about the church. You can still be active in the church. You can still keep your testimony and sustain our (imperfect) leaders. Just like our pioneer forebears, the walk will not be very easy but is worth every step.

Another example of an active, transsexual Mormon

Over at KRCL.org there is a new podcast about Sara who is transgender and Mormon. The podcast is just about 4 minutes and she reports being positively received by the ward(s) and stake(s) she’s been attending, even when they know her trans status. The likelihood is that we will start seeing more acceptance like this.

Transgender Awareness Month 2013

Over at the North Star website they have recently concluded their first annual Transgender Awareness Month. This looks to be observed every November to coincide with the yearly Transgender Day of Remembrance. Most, if not all, of the entries posted for this year’s Transgender Awareness Month come from members of the North Star Gender group and represent a number of people affected by gender identity issues talking about their experiences with this topic.

LDS Trans Member in the News

Haven’t posted in a long time. I’ve got a number of ideas for new posts. For now I will just quickly mention a brand new news story. A number of Salt Lake news channels have been talking about the case of Leahnora Isaak, who was raised as a male yet is now living as a female. In all that time she has been an active member of the Church. Read more about the developments in this story at KUTV News (includes a clip from the TV broadcast). Here is one pertinent quote:

Tonight, the LDS Church issued a statement to 2 News regarding the case saying: “Each person is a valued child of God and we are mindful of our brothers and sisters facing difficult issues. Church leaders counsel against elective transsexual operations and such procedures may be cause for Church discipline. In some instances, local church leaders may seek counsel from leaders at Church headquarters.”

And at 4 Utah Leah is quoted as saying:

The scriptures clearly state that we are to be our authentic selves. It’s the gender not the sex. The gender is the eternal identity.

Here’s an addendum from someone who knows more about the case:

The substance of Leah’s circumstance of note was that she is a legal woman who has been requested to attend priesthood, dressing as comfortable for her (en femme) prior to Leah’s submission for gender change on church records.

“LDS Transsexual Policy: a Critique” by Brad Carmack

This video is being included here (and the editor of this blog agrees with some of the points made in the lecture while not fully agreeing with others) to call attention to this topic being discussed in more pubic forums.

New FMH Post

Just saw that Feminist Mormon Housewives has posted a blog entry about the subject of transgendered individuals in the Church with the crux of it being that we hear often in the Church that our mortal bodies are imperfect so that, armed with that information, it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to grasp that with all the things that can go wrong sometimes somebody will have a mortal body that doesn’t properly convey the true gender of their eternal spirit. As with this website they appear to believe in the Proclamation on the Family as it is actually written, and not necessarily in interpretations that are forced onto it. I could include a quote from the article but the whole thing can be read in about a minute and a half so hop on over to check it out.

UPDATE: A commenter on the above-mentioned blog entry pointed out another such entry at No More Strangers. Here’s one cogent quote from that post:

There is no reason for the LDS church to feel threatened by children like Kristy. After all, what could possibly affirm the premise [more] that the gender of a human being is eternal and unchangeable than a person who is born in an unfamiliar body and yet knows his or her gender regardless? While Kristy’s embracing of the gender binary is not common to all gender minority people, it plants her firmly on a path consistent with LDS doctrine. Kristy is a woman spirit who was born in a male body. She is taking the appropriate medical measures to correct this problem. While her gender is eternal, the discrepancy with her sex is simply a result of being born to a fallen world where problems have been known to arise. It really can be that simple.

Some thoughts on the science of gender

This is a post by Lisa Barnett reprinted here with permission and extracted from a discussion at the TGIMormons Yahoo Group:

I have attached an article that I read recently. It is a research article entitled “Callosal Shapes at the Midsagittal Plane: MRI Differences of Normal Males, Normal Females, and GID” and it is available on the internet. The article is about measurements taken by MRI of the corpus callosum (CC), which interconnects the two cerebral hemispheres of the brain, and has been widely considered to have differential characteristics according to sex. The researchers have presented the measurements in terms of a single characteristic value. The article requires a complete read and I will not attempt to summarize it here but recommend that you read it for yourselves. I simply wish to make a couple of comments with regard to the article.

First, I think that this research article reflects what Jim was recently talking about with regard to placement of individuals on some kind of X,Y plane depending on each person’s percentage of femaleness (or maleness). The data in the paper is presented as histograms and show that, for large populations of males and females, a somewhat normal distribution of the measured characteristic is seen for each gender and that the distribution for the female population (mean .3918) is indeed offset from that of the male population (mean .4689). However, it also shows that the measured distributions of the characteristic parameter for both sexes have significant overlap; that is, there are many females who have the same size characteristic as many males have. You could say that such men and such women show equal percentages of femaleness and maleness.

The data suggests that there is a continum between what is male and what is female and that all of us lie somewhere along this continum. However, the research shows that there are two maximums along this continum with the smaller value being characteristic of females and the larger being chacteristic of males. This seems consistent with the idea that, in general, society categorizes all people into a gender binary even though, in reality, as individuals we only fit somewhere along a continum between female and male. There are, of course, a large number of such parameters that differentiate us between male and female and it is some combination of all of these parameters that result in what we refer to as our gender identities and sex which may or may not be consistent with the gender or sex that society assigns to us.

So, the first thing that I take away from this article is that, while it can be shown that a certain part of the brain can be differentiated according to size between a population of self identified females and a population of self identified males, individuals from both sexes can have the same measured size. For example, there are many females and many males in the entire population that have a characteristic size of 0.45. One could say that women having this size characteristic are more masculine than the average woman and men having this size are more feminine than the averate male even though they identify as being men or being women. However, there is also a group of people upon which these measurements were made who self identify as being either MTF or FTM GID.

It is interesting to me that these two groups show a distribution of the parameter that is similar to self identifying females for the MTF population and to self identifying males for the FTM population. This is probably no surprise to most of us on this site. The authors of the paper go so far as to suggest that their research may ultimately lead to a physical test that can be performed to determine if an individual has a male or female gender identity. I think they are being overly optimistic in this regard, as their own research points out.

For example, if you have an individual with a measurement characteristic of 0.45 you cannot say with any certainty that the person is female, male, MTF or FTM. You can only say that they lie on the female side of the male norm or on the male side of the female norm. Perhaps, in time, with the measurement of many separate sex differentiated parts of the brain and/or body of an individual, one can eventually arrive at a statement that the individual is essentially female or essentially male but I doubt that we will ever arrive at a definitive conclusion that someone is male or female, but only a statement of the probability that the individual is male or female.

I believe that their research does provide one very important finding that they fail to mention. It is this: They have shown that a group of people who self identify as female have a characteristic distribution that is offset from that of people who self identify as male. They have also shown that a group of people who self-identify as MTF have a characteristic distribution that is similar to the group who self identify as female and they have shown that a group of people who self-identify as FTM have a characteristic distribution that is similar to that of the group who self identify as male. No one questions the groups of men and women who self-identify as men or women as being anything other than what they say they are. Since no measurement is available to determine if a group of transgender people are what they say they are, the researchers must have had to rely on what each individual in these two groups said they were.

One therefore has to conclude from the data that, as a group, people who self-identify as being transgender (i.e., transsexual) are telling the truth because, as a group, their characteristics are similar to declared females if they are MTF or to declared males if they are FTM. To me, this research supports the idea that the best way to determine the gender of a child or adult is to let them tell you who they are, because, as a group, they will tell you the truth when asked in a non-threatening environment. Just some of my thoughts. I would be interested in hearing everyone’s views on the research.

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