"The 13th article of faith: a recipe for dating success. The ladies seek after these things *kisses biceps *" -Foreman
Question #90146 posted on 08/07/2017 5:50 p.m.
Q:

Dear Van Goff and the 100 Hour Board,

This is long and rambling.

I know you are just a bunch of random and anonymous college students, but you seem to be cool people and I have to tell someone. You can give me all the advice you want and I know that you are not therapists, doctors, priesthood leaders or anything else. Consider me disclaimed.

So in elementary school friendships were segregated by gender. I was "friends" with the boys, but I always felt like they were there in one group and I was here alone in another. I never thought seriously about trying to be with the girls, because that was just not done.

By middle school, I always felt like there were three groups - the girls, the boys (where I should be) and me. This time is the first time I remember having those strange dreams in which I was one of the girls in my class. (The girl always changed, but I was never me.) Around that time too, I started to "borrow" my sister's clothes and dress in them at night. Sometimes, during the hour she was in dance class and I was home alone, I would change into a full outfit and read one of her books in her bed until I knew she and Mom were almost back.

In high school, I still had those dreams where I would be randomly a girl, but I would also have those dreams where I would be the star football player who had just won the big game. On my mission, I found myself dreaming up two scenarios in my head - the first was an adventure story where the hero had to take the quarterback's place to make sure they won the big game and the sequel was where he had to become a girl to avoid detection by the people who had taken out the first quarterback. But that was about it - I lived my day-to-day life without problems.

It was not until after my mission, when I got home, I met this amazing girl, I fell in love with this amazing girl, and then I married that amazing girl that things became more serious. Because I had gone on a mission and she had not, I was two years behind her at school. There were many times when she was at work and I was at home waiting for it to be time to go to class. I found myself strangely attracted to her clothes. We are practically the same size. I never felt the need to mess with her make-up or anything, but it was very common for me to kiss her goodbye, wait until I knew she was at work, and then change into her clothes to finish my homework for a few hours. I prayed for that to see if what I was doing was wrong, and the answer was pretty clear, "It's fine."

This continued over the years of marriage, until now. Every time I'm home alone for any sorta lengthy period of time, I dress in her clothes and an immense sense of peace and calm sweeps through me. I don't even think of them as her clothes anymore, just clothes.

Now, I learned the other day that there are people who do not go through life questioning their gender. This was a completely mindblowing revelation to me. Do you mean to tell me that there are people who accept that they are men or women and do not think about it more than they think about breathing? So it made me think about my past and I'm pretty sure I might be transgender. But I'm not sure because I don't meet the standard story - I never thought growing up I was a girl trapped in a boy's body and I never hated (and still do not hate) my male body. I do not hate being a man - in fact, I quite like it about 45% of the time. The other 55%, I see a girl and I wonder what it is like to be her, or I feel better dressed as a woman. But the idea of going through life as a man doesn't bother me. And someone said if you could flip a switch to become a woman would you, and I would, but only if I could flip it back every so often.

I think my wife suspects that something is up - she is very smart and very observant. She once asked me "Ever wonder if you're transgender?" I evaded that question because I had not yet come to the conclusion that I might be, but I could not honestly say that I felt like a man 100% of the time.

So, experts of the 100 Hour Board, what do you think of my situation? If I'm transgender, where do I go from here? I want to be an active member of the Church. I am at a stage in my life where I do not know if transitioning is an option, and even if it is, I do not know if I would like to live as a full-time woman.

In addition, I have to say to my wife somehow: "Guess what? I didn't realize that those feelings that I have had for years are really gender dysphoria! You married a trans woman! Surprise!" And I do not know where to start with the theological implications of priesthood, temple marriage, resurrection, etc. for trans women.

Help me. Tell me I'm not crazy.

- Vincent(e) Sans O'Reille

A:

Dear friend,

Sharing something as personal as this, even with just strangers on the internet, takes a ton of bravery. Dealing with these feelings and trying to make sense of them alone would be so hard, especially with the added stress religion can bring to gender identity questions. As far as whether or not you're transgender, nobody can really answer that but you. But please just know that, regardless of what you're feeling, you're okay. You're not crazy, you're not doing something shameful, and it sounds like you're doing your best to follow your personal convictions. You are so brave and strong, and I hope you know that.

It sounds like you're still trying to understand your gender identity, and that can be a hard thing to figure out alone. I remember in the two-ish years that I didn't tell anyone about being trans, I often felt confused by my emotions and sometimes like I was going crazy. Have you thought about maybe talking to a gender therapist? Not because there's anything wrong with your thoughts, but being able to talk out loud about what you're feeling could help you make more sense of it. As we've mentioned before on the Board, the Comprehensive Clinic offers therapy at a low price. Encircle also offers LGBTQ counseling at a very reasonable price (generally based on income). If you're not in Utah, many community health clinics also offer therapy at an affordable rate. Whatever clinic you go to, request an LGBTQ-friendly therapist if possible. 

If that's not an option for whatever reason, going to an LGBTQ/trans-specific support group could also be a good idea. Talking to trans people might help you make sense of your emotions or at least feel less alone. Generally, support groups are less expensive or free. If you're in Northern Utah, Encircle (located in Provo) has a weekly transgender support group on Fridays from 6:30-8 PM. The Utah Pride Center in SLC also has a trans support group. Many queer resource centers also have support groups, so check ones in your city. If you're not quite ready for in-person support groups and would like to talk with trans-identifying Mormons, North Star offers email or Facebook groups. Affirmation also offers trans Mormon groups on Facebook.

Should you feel not quite ready for either of those options, listening to the stories of other transgender Mormons could also help you at least feel comforted that the identities can coexist. Again, North Star has several essays and videos, as does Affirmation. Note, through their stories, how diverse the trans Mormon experience is. Some choose to transition, some feel it's not right for their situation, and others take smaller steps to balance their gender identity and religious convictions. Identifying as transgender is a little scary as a Mormon, but if both identities are important to you, you can find a path that will give you peace.

From what it sounds like, your sense of gender identity might not fit in an exact male or female box right now. While I don't know what you're going through, I do have some non-binary friends who feel that way in some sense. Non-binary is a subset of the transgender spectrum which includes all those whose gender identities are more complex than female or male. Some feel in-flux between male and female depending on the situation, some consider themselves in the middle someplace, and some feel that they are neither. I don't know if exploring non-binary identity could help you make sense of your situation, but it might be worth exploring in a support group or with a counselor.

As for how to interpret this in a religious context (priesthood, temple marriage, resurrection, etc.), I don't know how to answer that and don't know if there is an answer. Thoughts and opinions vary between trans members, and many believe that there isn't a clean-cut answer for every situation. From what I understand, not even the Church leadership has an answer for trans members beyond noting that it is different from sexual orientation. There's just so much complexity surrounding the issue. But last conference, Elder Holland's talk "Songs Sung and Unsung" noted that there is a place for everyone at church, and that includes LGBTQ members. You belong in church regardless of how you identify, and your presence there is important. You never know who can benefit from your story or unique perspective.

Beyond that, I know this is a trite answer, but it sounds like prayer has helped you find peace in the past with this... so maybe engaging in prayer about your gender identity and what is the best path for you in terms of your spiritual identity and relationship with your wife could be helpful. Praying doesn't mean that answers come right away (or that they'll come at all), but this might help come to terms with some of the rougher questions you're wrestling with and decide what's best for you. North Star's Trans 101 resource might also help you as you explore some of these questions.

Prayer might also help you with deciding when/if/how to tell your wife. It sounds like she's an intuitive person and cares about you a lot... but I know how hard coming out to those you love is. Whether or not this is the right time, only you can determine. I will say, though, that coming out to my family was painful at first but ended up being a good decision. I feel so much happier around them now that I have nothing to hide and know that they love me unconditionally. But every situation is different, and coming out can be harder to accept for some families than others. I don't know what's safest or best for your situation. Coming out to someone can and often does change the relationship but not always in a bad way. It is a big milestone to take, though. If you need more specific advice on your situation or how to come out, you're always welcome to email.

Again... the crossroads you're at sounds like a confusing one, and I admire your courage to reach out. Coming out to yourself, let alone other people, is brave. Hopefully these resources help as you're seeing to understand your identity. Things get better and easier to handle in time, but the beginning is so hard. Take care of yourself,  and please email if you need anything or connection to resources.

-Van Goff