LDS Gender

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

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.

Another Casualty

In the small world of transgendered Mormons most of them have experienced some level of rejection, from outright consignment to hell by church leaders and other members to more subtle forms of ostracism. Some have been excommunicated or disfellowshipped while some have just been told they are not wanted. It is not surprising that many of these people have left the Church discouraged. My personal thought whenever I hear of a new such instance is something along the lines of, “I can understand their discouragement but I know the Church is true while also knowing that many of the people in it, myself included, are imperfect.” There is no easy resolution but when it’s an adult that is going through this I try to trust that they can see that one member, or one leader, or five or more members and leaders do not constitute the entire Church. Nobody can ever truly think the entire Church is against them because of the poor behavior of one member or leader. The Church and the everlasting Gospel which it administers are far bigger than any one member, ward or stake.

But the situation is very different when we are talking about children. In my mind every child should feel safe around any adult. Jesus Christ very emphatically stated, “Whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.” So it was particularly affecting to find out last night that Kaydence Rudd had left the Church due to the poor treatment her 4-yr. old transgender daughter Atty has received within the Church (see the blog report). The decision was made largely so that Atty would not be subjected to any further hostile treatment at church. Is this the length that parents have to go to to protect their children? Much of said treatment comes from a vague understanding of transgender issues in the Church and local leaders acting on their own, usually in a knee-jerk hostile fashion, as well as from members simply picking on those who are different and often children will follow the examples of their parents. From many accounts I have read there is usually a distinct element of unrighteous dominion present as well with a bishop or stake president becoming a law unto themselves and insisting that they must be obeyed and that they don’t care if there are transgendered people accepted in other areas in the Church because it certainly is not going to happen in their ward or stake.

It may be that the Church is on the verge of a paradigm shift that tones down decades of exclusivity and welcomes those who don’t always neatly fit into the “perfect little Mormon” box. This should never be done to excuse sin but to provide a sanctuary for all. How can this be done when even the smallest among us are driven away? Attitudes of elitism are to be done away with. Christ taught the parable of the shepherd who left the ninety and nine sheep to go after the one who was lost to emphasize that there will be unique cases in the membership of the Church who need special attention. With the way some (not all) of the people in the Church act the parable would state that the shepherd stayed with the ninety and nine sheep and yelled out, “So long!” to the one sheep who had gone astray. But even this “shepherd and his fold” analogy breaks down somewhat when referring to children because children under the age of 8 cannot be tempted of the devil, so temptation from Satan does not explain Atty’s condition (and may not even explain the similar condition some adults find themselves in). As I read more from their blog Atty actually strikes me as being very spiritually in tune (see here and here for examples).

Let us all hope and pray for better understanding of this issue and a more consistent and loving approach on the part of Church leadership and less ostracism from the general membership.

True disciples of Jesus Christ have always been concerned for the one. Jesus Christ is our greatest example. He was surrounded by multitudes and spoke to thousands, yet He always had concern for the one. “For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost,” He said. “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?”

This instruction applies to all who follow Him. We are commanded to seek out those who are lost. We are to be our brother’s keeper. We cannot neglect this commission given by our Savior. We must be concerned for the one….

Some are lost because they are different. They feel as though they don’t belong. Perhaps because they are different, they find themselves slipping away from the flock. They may look, act, think, and speak differently than those around them and that sometimes causes them to assume they don’t fit in. They conclude that they are not needed.

Tied to this misconception is the erroneous belief that all members of the Church should look, talk, and be alike. The Lord did not people the earth with a vibrant orchestra of personalities only to value the piccolos of the world. Every instrument is precious and adds to the complex beauty of the symphony. All of Heavenly Father’s children are different in some degree, yet each has his own beautiful sound that adds depth and richness to the whole.

This variety of creation itself is a testament of how the Lord values all His children.

Joseph B. Wirthlin, April 2008 General Conference (emphasis added)

Family Acceptance Project Pamphlet

This pamphlet, “Supportive Families, Healthy Children: Helping Latter-day Saint Families with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Children,” was recently brought to my attention that was published by the Family Acceptance Project that helps Mormon parents approach the situation if they find out that their child is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. I have been told that this pamphlet was published with approval of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints although the pamphlet itself does not seem to indicate that. One author is a non-LDS social worker affiliated with San Francisco State University and the other co-author is a lifelong member of the Church who has served in many callings, including bishop. It does quote the Proclamation on the Family, President David O. McKay, President Ezra Taft Benson, Elder Dallin H. Oaks and other important Latter-day Saint sources. Its main thrust seems to be to try to get through to LDS parents that “finding out your child is LGBT” is not a good reason to disown them.

While most of the pamphlet lumps “LGBT” all together it does, near the end, make the important distinction between sexual orientation and gender identity. And the pamphlet closes with the promise that there are additional materials forthcoming.

To get the pamphlet, go to Under the second category (Faith-based Family Education Information) you can download a “Latter-day Saint (Mormon) Version” of the pamphlet.

Transsexuality is one form of intersexuality

I’ve been trying to tell people all along that transsexuality is one form of intersexuality and just found out last night that Milton Diamond agrees with me on this point:

“Actually from my own clinical experiences, my own experimental research, and from the findings of others I conclude that transsexuality is a form of intersexuality…. I believe that transsexuals are intersexed in their brains as others are or might be more obviously so in their gonads, genitals, hormonal character, receptors, enzymatic or chromosomal constitution. And it is this brain intersexuality that biases the person to assert his or her gender identity.”

Read Dr. Diamond’s full article here:…

I would also add that many self-identified transsexuals might actually have a physical intersexed condition that is not readily obvious, something that may be discovered later on or perhaps never discovered. In fact, there are cases from time to time where a person who always felt that their body didn’t match their perceived gender but who didn’t show any outward proof of a physical anomaly did find out later that they had conditions such as chromosomal variants or internal organs of those of the opposite gender, but sometimes these conditions go undetected. Read about one such example here.

UPDATE: This also concurs with what Dr. Eric Vilain has taught: “Intersex is an intermediate sexual phenotype. This means that this is a state of being in-between what’s commonly accepted as male or female at all levels; that is: an anatomical level, gonadal level, and brain level, and behavioral level.”

Elder Nelson’s Recent Statement

When there’s not much said by the leaders of the Church on the subject of gender identity issues those who have a vested interest in this issue tend to be very aware of the few mentions there are. The most recent statement is from Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaking in the Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting February 2012 where he said:

Brothers and sisters, I am very grateful for the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. It provides light to guide us in this world darkened by immorality, iniquity, and infidelity. It teaches us to love all of God’s children, some of whom struggle with gender issues or other conditions that may not be fully understood. We need to help and encourage them and their family members without, of course, condoning sinful behavior.

This quote clearly shows that all of God’s children are worthy of love and compassion but is very ambiguous when it comes to defining what “encouragement” and “sinful behavior” mean.

Exaltation available to all

Transgendered people go far back into history. Most likely they have been here since the days of Adam and Eve. They are found among all races and in all cultures. Being transgender is part of the human condition.

Does the Bible speak of transgendered folk? Of course not. The word is a modern, twentieth century term. Many transgendered people have been diagnosed with a medical condition known as Gender Identity Dysphoria (GID) which is as old as mankind. This condition has only recently been described and understood. It is when a person’s perceived gender differs from the gender of their physical body. It is a birth defect of currently unknown origin. Effective treatment of GID, including all necessary surgeries is also of recent development. This being so, learning of gender variant people throughout history is difficult.

It should come as no surprise that the Holy Scriptures say nothing concerning those who are transgender. The Bible contains no references, at least nothing obvious. Upon close inspection however, there is mention of a group of gender variant people known as eunuchs.

According to the LDS Bible Dictionary a eunuch is “a class of emasculated men attached to the courts of eastern rulers. They were employed to watch over the harems, and also were often given positions as trusted officials. These were males who would not or could not procreate.” Most definitions point out that they were castrated. Many, but by no means all. All eunuchs, however, were, for whatever reason, no longer clearly male or female.

Eunuchs were commonly found as servants of royalty and often held positions of high trust. This was especially true for the ancient kingdoms of the Middle East. Potiphar in Genesis is called saris, the Hebrew word for eunuch.

Gender variant individuals do not fit easily into the conventional gender binary of male/female. Josephus commented on some eunuchs saying, “it is evident that their soul has become effeminate, they have transfused that effeminacy to their body also.” These eunuchs were probably transsexuals. Jesus Christ himself spoke specifically of eunuchs in Matthew 19:11-12 where he divided them into three types:

Read more…

Post Navigation