By mlohsihC xelA
Dallas, Texas, USA
I am a transgendered individual. I have feelings of incongruence between my body and my mind. My mind tells me that I am one sex, my body tells me otherwise. I have had these feelings since I was a child and they have only grown stronger and more distressing with time. This is the story of how I have dealt with those feelings and ridden what I call the gender pendulum.
So let me start my story at a time when my transgendered feelings were becoming unbearable, about the time I was making another huge shift in my life. I joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after studying it and other religions for about 3 years. I knew that my transgender feelings might be a barrier to me with the Church, but it didn’t change the fact that when I gained a testimony of the Church that I believed it to be true—even if its views on my predicament were not the same as my own.
The Church has specific doctrine related to gender. What you are physically is what you are spiritually with no deviation. I was setting myself up for a rough ride as embracing the Church doctrine would mean that I was indeed a my birth sex and that my feelings could never be acted upon, but I believed the Church was true and was willing to attempt to weather it.
So, for the first year of my membership I continued to live as my assigned gender and dealt with my feelings of gender incongruency as best as I could. Having no intention to marry, I eventually decided I would like to try a mission and share the message I had been given. To go on a mission, I had to first pass a screen for mental health. Having kept my transgendered feelings a secret up to this point, I decided that it would be best to clear the air before my mission.
I met with my local Church leaders and they monitored me to see if I would be stable enough to serve a mission. Unfortunately, my feelings did not subside, and instead continued to grow. Believing there would be no hope of overcoming my feelings, I abandoned the pursuit of a mission, and shortly after decided to swing the pendulum of my gender believing that I could find the happiness I always wanted if I changed my sex.
With a heavy heart, I informed my local Church leaders of my decision. Fortunately, they cared a great deal for me and showed me nothing but love. In the end, I received well wishes from them all with a special commitment by the stake president that if I ever needed anything, he could be called day or night. I was not disfellowshipped (disciplined by the Church), but I knew that attending church during my swing would not be very popular and so I avoided it.
I started hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and in time had the first of my surgeries and changed my name. Due to persecution from former friends and seeing the pain I caused my family, I moved to a new state and started my new life. I immediately embraced my new life role as if putting on a comfortable shoe. I lived very happily in my new gender. I had no trouble passing (convincing others I was my new sex), had a job, went to college, and even dated successfully. I was so successful at my transition I couldn’t wait to finish my sex-reassignment surgery (SRS) and become fully the sex I’ve always felt I was. But that was never to be.
My stake president from my former stake kept in touch with me writing me personal letters asking me how I was doing. His letters and my own conscience kept pricking my heart. Even though I had only been a member a year before I left the Church, I was convinced the Church was true. I believed this even though I knew the Church would not support continuing my transition to the final stages. I wanted the blessings of the Church in my life—specifically those involving an eternal family—something only offered in the temple. I started thinking about the fact that I wanted to marry one day (someone of my original birth sex) and have children. I wanted them to receive the temple blessings and for me to have a temple marriage to my spouse.
These thoughts brought me to great sadness though, because I knew if I continued my course, I would never be able to have these things, not as either sex. I wanted to hate the Church; I wanted to abandon it, but I could not fight the feeling, the overwhelming feeling, that it was true. During my conversion I had been touched by the Holy Ghost and couldn’t deny it. I actually cursed myself for having such a conversion and wished I had been ignorant to what I knew was true, but I knew that if I fully rejected it, it would be because I wanted to live my life out of harmony with accepted Church doctrine, and not because I didn’t believe it.
Despite this unhappiness with regard to my beliefs, during this time I was happier than I had ever been in my life. It was difficult to live like I was, but it was worth it. However, my feelings that I was doing something that might end in greater sadness continued to preoccupy my mind as I considered the future more and more.
One night after meeting with a poor bewildered local Church bishop about my concerns and condition, I decided to take the question again to the Lord. I prayed with great fervor to know what I should do, and the answer was the one answer I didn’t want to hear, that I needed to once again ride the pendulum and return to my other sex. I arose from prayer with the Lord’s final promise in my heart, “The way back is paved before you take the first step.”
So with a heaviest of hearts I made the decision to abandon the new life I had lived for several years and looked forward to a life of uncertainty and potential misery. Going back would be at least as hard as going forward had been as the pendulum is not easy to push. I would have to repeat everything I had done the first time I pushed the pendulum. I had to give up my job, change my name, come out to my new friends, and my college. Worst of all, I would have to change my body back as best as I could and could only look forward to a life of a celibate person, because I didn’t see how I could ever marry considering my past and feelings.
I found myself actually hoping that by some bizarre twist of fate God would end my life as some strange act of mercy. I had no idea how I would make it—the depression was going to kill me anyway.
Considering the difficulty involved in trying to transition in front of those I knew, I decided to move back to my home state to my family and old friends. There, I started reverse HRT and started the process of becoming who I once was. I also started the process to rejoin the Church I was counting on to save me. I went before a disciplinary council of local Church leaders. It was there that I felt the love of those around me. Even though they sat in judgment, I could feel their compassion for me. They explained to me all that I would have to do to return to the Church and gave me access to advisors who would help me along my path.
Taking their advice and trying to recover something resembling my former life was difficult at first—mostly because of the tremendous change wrought upon my body. At best, I looked like someone who was desperately attempting not to look like their sex and at worse, something in between. Over time, however, I regained some of my original features and even had some help in developing some more gender appropriate mannerisms. I looked different than I had before (comparing my new self to before transition), but I eventually made it.
The Lord decided not to take my life as I had once hoped He would; instead I was given strength to counter my gender dysphoric feelings. They are very much still present, but more manageable, controllable and no longer consuming my life. I am in good standing in the Church, have a temple recommend now, and even have a teaching calling.
Sometimes it is lonely. I do feel like an outsider, someone whose experiences are probably vastly different than those of others but I get by. Most who knew me before I returned to my former life do not acknowledge my continued struggle—perhaps because it is too painful or awkward, and I don’t discuss it with them for the same reasons. I realize others will never understand. My ride along the pendulum is one undertaken by so few, and even fewer ride it as I have.
I am still looking for the proper balance. Sometimes I feel as if I’ve pushed the pendulum too far, that I am taking on too many gender-specific traits, and it causes me sorrow because I feel I am not being honest with those around me in my attempts to fit in. Some days are harder than others, with depression at times seeking to overwhelm me, but I feel as if I have the greatest Ally I could possibly have. Nothing beats the hope generated when one has a sincere feeling of having done the right thing regardless of how painful it is.