I believe most Mormons would respond with revulsion or at least severe confusion upon finding out that somebody they know suffers from what is commonly known as “gender identity disorder” (there are other terms that people use to indicate the same condition; one that is coming into more favored usage is “gender incongruence,” which eliminates, or at least downplays, the stigma of a “disorder”). Their confusion is understandable. Even those who suffer it generally admit that it is unusual for your body to appear as one sex while your brain feels like its gender doesn’t match what the body seems to be saying.
Popular Mormon blogger Jeff Lindsay (of the “Mormanity” blog) may be helping to raise awareness of this issue and to show that those affected by it are not aiming to go against the standards of the Church. They simply find themselves in unusual circumstances with very little in the way of easy answers. Jeff, as most people are, is what we might call “cisgender” (meaning he is perfectly comfortable with his body’s gender), but instead of writing off transgender people as sinful or unworthy he actually strives to understand them. His following two blog posts from 2009 (and the enlightening comments others left on each one) are informative and set a good example of somebody willing to be empathetic towards the burdens of others. Here’s a quote from the first blog entry:
A very intelligent and kind friend of mine shared with me her journey that began with her birth as a boy and ultimately led to sex-reassignment surgery. Her story is amazing but reasonable and sincere. It compels me to recognize that clear-cut models of life and human gender don’t capture the wide diversity that can occur in mortality. What might make sense for the vast majority may not do justice to the complex situations that some may be in. As a result, I feel a renewed need to be more cautious and to withhold judgment in cases that transcend my experience or ability to relate….
I accept the LDS Proclamation on the Family and its statement on gender: “Each [human] 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.” I believe that is true. However, when it comes to the specific expression or manifestation of gender in this mortal realm, there may be some gray areas or puzzling contradictions and complexities that require me to step back and recognize I don’t have all the answers. Perhaps the best I can do is to focus on my duty and be charitable toward others, even when I cannot possibly understand or relate to their complex journey.
And here’s the links to each of the two complete blog entries:
- Pondering the Complexities of Transgender Issues
- Still Pondering the Complexities of Transgender Issues
I don’t think Jeff has any intent of becoming an advocate for trans-people in the Church, and he doesn’t have to. Our purpose is not to expect that he assume such a role. But hopefully what will happen is that others will follow his good example.