Gender: A State of Mind

This is a post written initially on my own blog.  It was reprinted on Feminist Mormon Housewives a while back.  It created a very lively discussion and even got some comments from a few people who had personally been through a transgender operation.  I have edited the original post to make it more up-to-date and to include some of the comments it generated.
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Sometimes I find it hard to reconcile certain Church teachings with real-life stories.  I was reminded about this after catching an old episode of Oprah a few weeks ago. 

The guests on Oprah were young transgenders, who underwent hormone therapy and/or a sex change operation because they felt they had been born into the wrong body. One had been born a boy, but was living as a woman. The other had been born a girl and was now living as a man.

The more that I witness the personal stories of such people, the harder it is for me (or anyone, in my opinion) to deny that what they feel is extremely real and often devastating, depending on the support — or lack of it — that they receive from their loved ones.

I found the story of the young girl-to-man especially compelling. It was interesting to see old pictures of when he was a little girl. You could see the unhappiness and, more than anything, the awkwardness. I don’t mean to be mean, but she was a very homely girl. Why? Because she looked like a boy in a wig and dress. Now that “she” has become a “he,” he looks normal.  I never would have guessed that he had been born female.

His mother described the living hell that their family went through when this young girl was suicidal because of her mental and emotional agony. As soon as she began with hormone therapy and started on the road to becoming a man, he became a happy person, and the depression and suicidal feelings disappeared. Being Mormon, I tried to imagine being in the position of that mother, who wasn’t Mormon. If she had followed Church policy on gender — which, from what I understand includes excommunication for those who undergo transgender operations — and pushed for her daughter to continue living as a girl, the daughter very likely would have taken her life or at least remained terribly depressed her entire life. Talk about feeling torn.

I’m not a mother.  For those of you who are a parent, think about it.  If your teenage child was suicidal and you knew that the “remedy” (i.e. a sex change operation) is grounds for excommunication, what would you do?  Yes, you could go through the rounds of fasting, prayer, and hope.  But what if that wasn’t enough?  What if your child was still suicidal or at least extremely miserable?  Would you feel torn between your (or your child’s) membership in the Church vs. his or her happiness and well-being?

I find especially perplexing the question of those people who are born intersex.

“Intersexuality is the state of a living thing of a gonochoristic species whose sex chromosomes, genitalia, and/or secondary sex characteristics are determined to be neither exclusively male nor female. An intersex organism may have biological characteristics of both the male and female sexes. Intersexuality is the term adopted by medicine during the 20th century applied to human beings who cannot be classified as either male or female.” (Wikepedia)

If the parents of an intersex child feel forced to decide which gender the child should become through surgery, in order to allow for a future opportunity to serve a mission or marry in the temple, is that any different than transgender operations by those who feel that they’re trapped in the wrong body?  The parents and doctors might be wrong, and the child could grow up to feel trapped in the wrong body.  To me, I think that would be worse than being intersex.

In “The Family: A Proclamation To The World,” the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles stated:

“All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each 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.”

Where does this leave intersex people? They’re neither one nor the other. Do they have to choose? Is their gender determined by how they feel, or is it determined purely by biology, which is sometimes still ambiguous?  Would someone who is intersex be able to serve a mission?  Marry in the temple?  What would life be like in a church where gender is virtually everything to someone’s identity, when s/he is neither one nor the other, or perhaps feels that his/her mind does not match his/her body?

I’ve tried to imagine what it would be like if someone said to me, “FD, you are a man, so you just need to accept it. You need to start thinking, acting, walking, talking, and dressing like a man. And therefore you should be attracted to women.”

Can you imagine what it would be like if you had to convince yourself that you were actually the opposite sex that you think and feel you are?

I agree with the the “Proclamation On The Family” that “(G)ender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” I believe that our gender is eternal and that Heavenly Father didn’t just leave it up randomly to our DNA to decide whether we would be one gender or the other.

But…

I’m thinking more and more that gender really is a state of mind and spirit: one that is as much a part of us as all the other aspects of our spirit and intelligence. I am female because I feel and act female. If I were sitting in a male body at this very moment but with the same mind that I have now, would I consider myself to not be female?

Heavenly Father can and does allow some of us to be born into bodies that are defective or imperfect, for reasons that are often a mystery to us. The physical state of such individuals does not change their spirit. Could it not also be the same case with physical gender? Could he not have allowed certain individuals to be born into the “wrong” physical body, which then causes a conflict with their spirit, which is of a different gender?

We are taught in Mormonism that our physical bodies are imperfect, subject to disease and defect, and that our spirits and intelligences are eternal. Why, then, should our gender be defined solely by our physical bodies? Should not the mind and spirit take precedence over the body?

A commenter, Chedner, from the discussion on my blog said:

“Say, for example, a young man came to his father or his Bishop or any of his Priesthood leaders and said, “I feel like I am innately a girl.”  Would it not be easy to take a day or two of fasting, scripture study, meditation, and end with a sincere Priesthood blessing to discern the true, eternal gender of that child?  One may be surprised to find that this child’s mother was supposed to have a little girl, but something went awry within the womb and a male body was formed instead.  How is that not possible?  It doesn’t threaten any LDS doctrines. Nothing in our canon has to be further revealed, nothing has to be altered or made more perfect.  We simply need to fully embrace what we do have: gender existed in the pre-existence; our bodies are imperfect and prone to birth defects.”

A non-member commenter and trangender woman, Just Jennifer, had this to say:

“Simply put, our “gender” is inherent. It is something that is fixed at birth. And yes, it is anatomical, but not in the way that some think. A better term is “sexual differentiation of the brain.” And our genitals may be sexually differentiated at odds with our brains. It all has to do with hormone levels in utero. I was born a male physically. But my brain was female. I struggled for much of my life, not knowing what was wrong. Even when I figured it all out, it took some more years to reach the point where I understood what could be done to rectify the situation. I am now a happy and successful woman. And I am closer to God than I was as a very unhappy parody of a man. Those who wish to tell people like me that I should “just deal with it” are both ignorant and cruel.”

Zoe, a non-member transgender woman said:

“Your post shows not just compassion, but true understanding of a situation most people find incomprehensible. I can’t blame them either, it’s no easier for those of us in this situation. Many of us go through decades of denial, trying to be like others around us.”

Another commenter from my blog, Mina, a non-Mormon, had this to say:

“I just want to say thank you so very much for an amazingly compassionate position from all of you – as a trans-woman myself, I’m not used to such understanding from deeply religious people.  I’ll be honest in that this aspect of who I am caused me years of anguish. I had grown up in a very conservative Dutch Reformed community, and even though I knew I was different from a very early age – 4 or 5 if I remember correctly, I denied it into my mid 20’s. Then I came across a very interesting opinion piece by a young Catholic priest. Basically he took the position that we need to remember the Fall from Grace, and that one of God’s punishments was visitation of pests and plagues on Adam and his descendants. The world was MADE imperfect then and there, including how we develop from conception. We humans have added to this imperfection through chemical pollution and the like, and so intersex and transsex are to be expected.”

After reading her comment, I thought, “How sad, that a human being having been born into such difficult life circumstances could be met by anything BUT compassion from deeply religious people.  Can we Mormons do any better?”

What do you think?  Are we over-simplifying the teachings on eternal gender by Church leadership by interpreting them to mean that either male or female physical body parts are the only factors that determine spiritual gender?  Or are transgender and intersex people simply suffering from a mental and emotional trial which they need to bear through this mortal life?

Comments

comments

49 comments for “Gender: A State of Mind

  1. February 4, 2009 at 8:28 am

    Man, we’re timid as kittens here now. I guess I’ll get the conversation started. I’ve wondered about this before (obviously not in as much depth as you have), and frankly decided that I’d worry about it a lot if it ever happened to someone in my family. Probably not the most Christian attitude.

    You said, “What do you think? Are we over-simplifying the teachings on eternal gender by Church leadership by interpreting them to mean that either male or female physical body parts are the only factors that determine spiritual gender? Or are transgender and intersex people simply suffering from a mental and emotional trial which they need to bear through this mortal life?”

    Yes. By which I mean that it’s probably an interplay of both. If it’s obvious that someone will be unhappy throughout this life due to a discrepancy, and the Spirit approves, then there’s probably nothing wrong with seeking the appropriate medical resources. (I think a lot of our squeamishness about this comes from the issue of the priesthood.) But I don’t think that’s to say that changing gender socially/physically is a one-size-fits-all problem, and there probably are people who simply will have to bear the burden throughout this life. (I know I’m not the one to judge.)

    What has been the historical context of intersex people? As in, what did they do in a less permissive and pre-surgical society? I’m not saying that that answers your question, but it might give us some insight.

  2. TinaSD
    February 4, 2009 at 8:59 am

    I too would like to add my commendation for your thoughtful and caring attempt at fostering greater understanding of this issue…

    I would also like to comment on what I see as a major point that is often missed in all of this when studied from a scriptural standpoint, with the caveat that I am not Mormon and am not familiar with any specific Mormon scriptural doctrine that may apply…

    The point I would hope that people consider is the entire notion of “spiritual gender” as described in the last paragraph. While this choice of words is often used to differentiate one’s innate feelings about gender as distinct from any physical sex differentiation, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

    It’s important to consider that anything that is not physical in nature cannot simply be ascribed to “spirit”, as there are aspects and functions of the brain/mind that are not physically tangible via current science but are nonetheless physiological in nature.

    In the past many of these aspects of the mind, from handedness to epileptic seizures to schizophrenia were erroneously attributed to moral failings, demonic possession, spiritual visitation and the like, but for the most part theses views have fallen by the wayside as science has developed the ability to explain them.

    As I said before, I am not familiar with any particular Mormon teachings that would modify the following, but the Bible is pretty clear on any notions of “spiritual” gender differences and their importance in a theological sense:

    “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”

    Besides this there is the whole issue of man and woman both being created “in His image”…I don’t think that anyone would seriously take this to mean that God is physically some kind of hermaphrodite, and it is pretty well agreed that this refers to the human spirit.

    It may seem like hair splitting but it is an important distinction to make when discussing the matter from a theological perspective, especially when people seek to use Christian theology to explain their reasoning for the kinds of value judgments they place on people who display even the slightest gender variance- in light of the Bible’s very clear message that sex/gender differences do not exist in the spiritual realm, one has to wonder why so many people insist on claiming that they do.

  3. Russell Stevenson
    February 4, 2009 at 9:14 am

    Having sat in a few stuffy seminar rooms in my graduate days, let me say that it is generally accepted as an article of faith in the ivory tower that we (esp. white men) create gender to our own ends so that we (again, white men) can perpetuate the white, male power structure.

    And having seen enough cultural history (ad campaigns involving images of women, sporting controversies about women in sports, et. al.), it’s clear to me that our image of femininity is indeed fluid. Yes, it’s a construct. No doubt about it.

    But that’s not the real question to me. Even President Kimball himself said that we need to “learn” what it means to be a man or a woman…if learning is required in this activity, then our spiritual DNA obviously does not immediately cause physical responses. So I would take the premise of this post even further; not only is gender a state of mind, but it’s also a *calling.* There is nothing in the Proclamation that states we naturally act in gendered ways.

    But how are we to fulfill these callings without allowing ourselves to be puppets of the media that determine the roles of our genders? I’m not entirely sure.

    And bless those souls who deal with legitimate gender confusion. Those who endure righteously will be so much better off in the afterlife.

  4. February 4, 2009 at 9:43 am

    I once saw a Mormon on Oprah (a couple of years ago, different episode than the one I mention in the post) who was in the process of going from woman to man. He had already undergone hormonal therapy and looked like a man. He was just awaiting his penis, to put it bluntly. He said that once the sex change operation is complete (i.e. when he has a penis), that was when he would be excommunicated from the LDS Church.

    Now, to me, that says that it’s the genitalia that the Church considers the determining factor of which sex we are. After all, this person was already hormonally a man (or at least very close). He was living as a man, acted like a man, and looked like a man. From what I understand, once hormone therapy has begun, there’s no going back. Why wait to excommunicate him until he got his penis?

  5. Russell Stevenson
    February 4, 2009 at 10:01 am

    FD:

    I’m *highly* skeptical of that story. One–talk shows are not the place to get nuanced policy discussions about Mormon doctrine. Talk shows need to cater to their viewing base…telling the right story, you know. And Oprah is all about self-empowerment, standing up against the man, etc. Two, there are faithful members who suffer from various diseases that mess with their anatomy. Three, we live in a fallen world–we can hardly blame someone who has a messed anatomy any more than we can blame someone for having a missing arm.

    Furthermore, I’ll see your anecdote about Oprah and raise you one. I had a professor of family studies(I could give name and contact information if necessary) at BYU who told an account of a “young man” who grew up in the Church, held the priesthood, and then around puberty, began to *seriously* doubt his masculinity. Long story short…they prayerfully considered the options, talked to the bishop, and had the necessary operation performed. He was now a “she”–and with bishop’s approval

    Now I don’t know the details on either account. Both accounts sound strange to me. My point is that we just not be too hasty to judge the Church for being doctrinaire on this point.

  6. TinaSD
    February 4, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Neal Davis asked:

    “What has been the historical context of intersex people? As in, what did they do in a less permissive and pre-surgical society?”

    Actually, rigid binary gender roles in a historical context tend to be more of a modern Western phenomenon…many earlier non-JudeoChristian societies were in fact far more permissive of gender variance in general, and specifically when dealing with intersex they often treated these people as someone to be respected and revered rather than as being somehow disordered and in need of fixing.

    Many native American traditions speak of “two-spirit” people who were either intersexed or who took on various mixed- or cross-gender roles and were often placed in positions of great power as healers, storytellers and counselors.

    Even today, intersex people like the “guevedoces” of the Dominican Republic and Brazil are met with far less resistance and judgment for the gender issues specific to that condition (5-Alpha Reductase defiency) than intersex people in other areas are.

    And many cultures recognize and more or less accept gender role classifications that do not adhere to the binary paradigm imposed in other places, most notably the Hijira of India, the Muxe of Mexico, the Fa’afafine and of Polynesia and the Kathoey of Thailand…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_gender

    It’s all very fascinating and one has to wonder why such a rich history and diversity of non-binary gender expression throughout history and among various non-western cultures would be virtually unknown to modern western people, and so feared…the idea that intersex and non-binary gender roles and expression are some modern phenomenon born of permissiveness and moral decay is at best erroneous, and at worst a deliberate lie promulgated in the interest of imposing a religious agenda, truth be damned.

    Where this becomes most egregious, imo, is when intersex children are subjected to genital reassignment surgeries and other treatments in the absence of any medical necessity, simply to satisfy societal constructs and dubious religious dogma that say that there are only two valid gender identities and the intersexed infant’s body *must* be made to match.

    The horrendous irony of all this is that in cases where adults with innate gender identities that don’t match their genitalia seek the EXACT same treatments, these same people will insist that this is an abomination and seek to deny them, all because “God doesn’t make mistakes”.

  7. Jeff Spector
    February 4, 2009 at 10:17 am

    This is such a complex issue with physical, psychological spiritual, emotional, societal, and environmental considerations. One thing seems clear to me. Gender is essential (modern medical science notwithstanding) for procreation and that is the normative state of being for humans and what God intends.

    However, we also know that in many cases, defects are introduced during the gestational lifecycle. This is also a normal occurrence even if the reasons for it vary greatly. People are born with all sorts of physical and psychological issues all the time. Sometimes, these defects can be repaired and sometimes the person just has to learn to live with it.

    Gender, for example seems to have more than a physical side to it. A normal heterosexual person goes through a process of determining attraction to the opposite gender. While it may be innate or in-born there is still a process that is followed. Boys grow up not liking to be around girls and visa versa for the early growing up years. They prefer members of their own gender. There are exceptions, but this seems standard. (“Girls are yucky”). At some point in time, associated with puberty and hormonal changes, a switch seems to flip and all of a sudden opposite sexes discover each other, girls usually earlier than boys. It also seems like events in one’s life can also create disassociations with that process.

    To cut to the chase here, it seems that many of us are born with innate traits that can be problematic. Like a temper issue, alcoholic addiction, psychological problems, violence issues, pedophilia problems, or gender confusion issues. Some of us have physical defects.

    Why is it acceptable to act out on some of these things, like gender issues and not others? I claim no understanding of the whole thing and I am extremely sympathitic to any who struggle with their problems, but we are here to overcome the natural person and to perfect ourselves.

    Why would some get a pass from that?

  8. Russell Stevenson
    February 4, 2009 at 10:40 am

    I think we should draw some distinctions for the sake of discussion:

    Sex=the anatomical parts of male/female
    Gender=the societal roles/expectations re: one’s male/femaleness

    Therefore, it’s clear that one’s biology has an *essential* role in God’s plan. However, how that biology should play out in daily living (aka their lived gender) is something that is a little murkier. All we know is that women are supposed to take care of the children. It’s a calling, not necessarily an attribute or quality. All the talks that speak of women’s “natural” tendency to nurturing are simply (and somewhat sound) extrapolations from that point. But if a woman doesn’t like taking care of kids (and I know some who do not, but are good women nevertheless), we don’t need to think that somehow she’s denying her gender. It’s no different from any other imperfection.

  9. February 4, 2009 at 11:05 am

    Russell, interesting story from that professor. I’m sure that how such a situation is handled varies from place to place and bishop to bishop. Someone in the FMH discussion told of a transgender woman who had joined the Church and once word had gotten out that “she” used to be a “he,” she was told to leave RS and go to priesthood meeting. But others had more positive things to tell, such as a transgender woman (having gone through the operation before being baptized) who was permitted to marry a man in the temple.

    Jeff Spector said: “To cut to the chase here, it seems that many of us are born with innate traits that can be problematic. Like a temper issue, alcoholic addiction, psychological problems, violence issues, pedophilia problems, or gender confusion issues. Some of us have physical defects. Why is it acceptable to act out on some of these things, like gender issues and not others? I claim no understanding of the whole thing and I am extremely sympathitic to any who struggle with their problems, but we are here to overcome the natural person and to perfect ourselves. Why would some get a pass from that?”

    Any of the traits that you listed above are, in some cases treatable. I’m not saying that there is a “cure” for alcoholism or anger problems, but treatments used to combat these “innate traits” are acceptable — almost expected. We expect alcoholics to go to AA and we expect people to go to anger management classes if they have a problem with their temper so that the problem can be either eradicated or at least managed. In the case of gender, it seems that some are “cured” of their psychological anguish by undergoing the prescribed treatment (i.e. a transgender operation). If it’s going to make life bearable for them — perhaps even prevent them from committing suicide — then why resist treatment? How is that getting “a pass?”

  10. TinaSD
    February 4, 2009 at 11:35 am

    Jeff Spector said:

    “To cut to the chase here, it seems that many of us are born with innate traits that can be problematic. Like a temper issue, alcoholic addiction, psychological problems, violence issues, pedophilia problems, or gender confusion issues. Some of us have physical defects.

    Why is it acceptable to act out on some of these things, like gender issues and not others? I claim no understanding of the whole thing and I am extremely sympathitic to any who struggle with their problems, but we are here to overcome the natural person and to perfect ourselves.

    Why would some get a pass from that?”

    First off, it may be helpful to consider why one would automatically equate gender expression that doesn’t fit societal expectations with pedophilia, alcoholism, violence, etc…unlike those other phenomenon, it doesn’t overtly hurt anyone.

    At best the only thing it hurts is the sacrosanct nature of gender norms themselves, by causing people to question them in a rational manner…

    Put another way-

    Why is it that an individual who is born with one functional leg gets a “free pass” to seek medical treatment to alter his God-given body, and can use a prosthesis to give himself the semblance of two legs without being assailed by religionists for being “delusional” and “pretending” to be able bodied and defying the biological reality that no matter how many treatments he gets and how skillfully he adapts, he will never be a “real” able bodied person?

    Why is that person not only *not* subjected to codified legal harassment like that heaped on gender non-conforming people, but is actually made a protected class with special rights to protect him in his delusion that he is just like any other able bodied person?

    And why is is it that basic non-sexual actions like taking steps to look pretty or have a certain hair style or manner of dress are seen as perfectly OK for some people simply because they were born with a vagina…why do they get a “free pass” while the exact same non-sexual action in someone born without a vagina gets equated with a sexual paraphilia or alcoholism even though it hurts no one?

    The standard response is that “It hurts the children by scaring/confusing them…”

    But kids are equally scared and confused by a person with half their face missing and ravaged by cancer- probably far more so…but when presented with the facts about it and proper guidance, they learn that people’s bodies are not who they are, and that their innate spirit is what matters.

    So again, why does the scary guy with no face get a “free pass” and legal protections against discrimination and harassment even if his cancer was something he brought on himself by his poor choices?

    I do understand the sentiment that “we are here to overcome the natural person and to perfect ourselves”, but the very definitions of “natural person” used by those seeking to impose religious agendas on gender variant people are in many cases so fluid as to be essentially meaningless…on the one hand, “nature” is treated as sacrosanct and never to be altered and synonymous with “God’s will” when one person wants to alter their body to match their innate sense of gender, but when one’s natural born and functionally sound intersexed body makes these same people feel icky, they have no problem at all with getting in there and playing God through hormonal treatments and genital surgery.

    Similarly, when a person adopts religious views that ignore and/or vilify the reality of other than binary sex/gender differentiation in nature they get a “free pass”, but when people with open minds acknowledge that natural biological reality-

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_gender#Third_sex_in_biology

    -and dare to suggest that it applies to humans as well or actually prove it with their very existence, they are lumped in with drunks and pedophiles and said to have a mental disorder.

  11. Bobby
    February 4, 2009 at 11:39 am

    Russell M. Nelson said in his spring 2002 General Conference address How Firm Our Foundation, “Gender disorientation is poorly understood.” Despite the church’s policy of excommunication, I wonder in reality how quick the church is to excommunicate an intersex person. I believe that if someone feels spiritually at peace with getting a sex change, church policy should not stop them. Being imperfect and mortal, church leaders will unfortunately make mistakes in both admitting and excommunicating memebers. IMO, a just God will not deny eternal blessing to someone that was wrongfully excommunicated, especially relating to a poorly understood issue.

  12. February 4, 2009 at 11:44 am

    “IMO, a just God will not deny eternal blessing to someone that was wrongfully excommunicated, especially relating to a poorly understood issue.”

    I agree with that Bobby. I just need to correct something you said about intersex. The Church doesn’t excommunicate intersex people, but rather transgenders.

  13. February 4, 2009 at 11:45 am

    And only transgenders who undergo a sex change operation after being baptized are excommunicated, if what I have read is correct.

  14. February 4, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    @13: But they will still never be able to hold the priesthood.

    As far as excommunication goes, the relative aggressiveness or passivity with which the Church proceeds is very much determined at the stake or ward level–if the SP wants your head for something like this, he’ll get it; otherwise, I doubt very much that Church disciplinary proceedings would go forward.

    It also seems to me that we’re not distinguishing between intersex and transgender people–and that may be what I was looking for in my comment (#1) that some may seek peace, but some may need to endure.

  15. Ray
    February 4, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    TinaSD, first, thank you for your contributions here. They are appreciated. Second, Mormonism allows for the “male and female created in God’s image” by teaching of a Heavenly Mother AND Father, but that’s for a different post. I don’t want to derail this thread with that discussion, but I did want to address it in passing.

    Russell M. Nelson said in his spring 2002 General Conference address How Firm Our Foundation, “Gender disorientation is poorly understood.”

    Thanks for sharing that, Bobby. It’s incredibly important.

    When discussing this with members (and others), I focus on one thing first – the mathematics. We all know, hopefully, that biological sex is not determined at the moment of conception, but rather that it happens through the process of gestation. We have NO IDEA when the spirit enters the body; the prophets have been very clear about that. Therefore, even if spirits are male and female, we have no idea whatsoever when they enter the forming fetus.

    So, assuming for a moment that spirits are male and female just to stay solidly within the bounds of basic Mormon theology, what are the mathematical chances that there end up being the exact same number of male and female spirits as there are male and female mortal bodies? Why would it be against our theology in any way to say that there MIGHT be some male spirits in female bodies and female spirits in male bodies? Perhaps they enter the body prior to formal, biological sexual “assignment”; perhaps there simply is an imbalance when all is said and done and some “mixing” must occur for all spirits to be born into mortal bodies; perhaps any number of other explanations exist. My point is that there is no concrete reason of which I can think that every male spirit MUST enter a male mortal body or every female spirit MUST enter a female mortal body.

    Actually, if we allow for that simple possibility, much (if not all) of our difficulty in dealing with homosexuality and intersex issues would disappear. As I’ve said elsewhere, taking mortal sexuality out of the eternal equation (leaving gender alone, but removing all things dealing with actual sexual intercourse and its related activities) would open up all kinds of possibilities in the hereafter – and it would remove instantly much of our repulsion toward and problems with polygamy, as well.

    I’m NOT saying this is the “right” outlook or “true”. I have no clue, really, if there will be a “sexual” component to the afterlife. I personally doubt it, and there is nothing in our canon that insists there will be, but I don’t know. What I’m saying is that much if not all of our angst and confusion and difficulty would vanish if we held to “gender” as an eternal characteristic but let go of “sex” as an eternal characteristic.

    This is a MUCH more complicated topic than most people accept, so I am open to lots of possibilities that would help us reconcile these things without having to lose the core framework of our theology – and I believe there are fairly simple ways to do so.

  16. Jeff Spector
    February 4, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    FD, #9

    “Any of the traits that you listed above are, in some cases treatable. I’m not saying that there is a “cure” for alcoholism or anger problems, but treatments used to combat these “innate traits” are acceptable — almost expected.”

    Yes, I agree, they are expected by society to seek treatment. But, they have to live with the challenge regardless as there is no medical cure for their burden. And, as you know, it is a burden they carry for the rest of their lives. And, if they falter, there are consequences.

    “In the case of gender, it seems that some are “cured” of their psychological anguish by undergoing the prescribed treatment (i.e. a transgender operation). If it’s going to make life bearable for them — perhaps even prevent them from committing suicide — then why resist treatment? How is that getting “a pass?””

    Many people go through life with burdens that are unbearable, that they feel like ended their lives over and many do so. That is a choice, not an inevitable consequence of the burden. Just because medical science has the ability to do something, doesn’t automatically make it the right thing to do.

    I am merely suggesting that there are alternatives. Not easy ones, but the Savior has told us that He will bear our burdens, if we let Him.

    The world’s solution is not always the right answer.

  17. Russell Stevenson
    February 4, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    FD:

    I appreciate your kind reply. However, I don’t believe it is Church policy to excommunicate people for having a sex change. I know that the manual of instructions does not address the issue. In some cases, perhaps. Other cases, I’m not as convinced (based on the anecdotal evidence cited above).

    Tina:
    Frankly, why can’t we view sexual ambiguity as something that is a negative quality? The only reason it isn’t is b/c the political climate has dictated it to be an “identity.” Yet there are numerous “qualities” that have been deemed to be setbacks. We’re not really talking about science and anatomy here. We’re talking about culture. And like it or not, the hidden hand of culture dictates to us what will be an “identity” and what will be an “impairment.”

  18. Jeff Spector
    February 4, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    TinaSD,

    “First off, it may be helpful to consider why one would automatically equate gender expression that doesn’t fit societal expectations with pedophilia, alcoholism, violence, etc…unlike those other phenomenon, it doesn’t overtly hurt anyone.”

    First of all, I apologize if I upset you, that was not my intention. As I stated, it is a very complex issue. I knew that if I lumped those challenges in with gender, someone would have problem with it. But, since I also stated that I thought that heterosexuality was the normative and ideal state. So anything that disrupts that is a problem.

    I would dispute that a gender problem does not overtly hurt anyone. it hurts that person and perhaps that person family and, in my mind, that is more than enough hurt. those other problems don’t hurt anyone either unless acted upon.

    “Why is it that an individual who is born with one functional leg gets a “free pass” to seek medical treatment to alter his God-given body, and can use a prosthesis to give himself the semblance of two legs without being assailed by religionists for being “delusional” and “pretending” to be able bodied and defying the biological reality that no matter how many treatments he gets and how skillfully he adapts, he will never be a “real” able bodied person?”

    I am sorry, but the example you have used is not nearly the same issue. Being able-bodied has nothing to do with altering one’s gender through medical intervention. And, it does not have eternal ramifications. As we believe, all will be made whole in the next life if they are willing to endure to the end. And that is true of folks with gender issues as well.

    “So again, why does the scary guy with no face get a “free pass” and legal protections against discrimination and harassment even if his cancer was something he brought on himself by his poor choices?”

    What makes you think he gets a free pass? Plenty of people will scorn and ridicule him for how he looks. There is no legal protection for that.

    It appears from your comments, you are anti-religion, so I suppose it is might be pointless to discuss the issue from a religious POV.

  19. February 4, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Jeff,
    I think the question people are asking is why is transsexualism different from any other medical/psychological issue. Why should it go uncured if there is a cure available?

  20. TinaSD
    February 4, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    Ray- Thank you for the kind words and especially for pointing out the bit about Mormon doctrine re: gender duality of diety…As I said I certainly don’t want to assume anything I shouldn’t regarding Mormonism and I’m here to learn as well as provide any edification, so thanks for that…I’m finding the discussion among those who *do* have intimate knowledge of the subject to be pretty interesting.

    I also appreciate your and others’ general approach of seeking to reconcile this issue with doctrine from a more or less neutral position that welcomes all possibilities rather than to simply assume a conclusion and ignore anything that doesn’t support it, like so many people do…it’s refreshing to hear someone say “we don’t know”.

    On that note, I did want to speak to Neal’s comment that:

    “It also seems to me that we’re not distinguishing between intersex and transgender people…”

    This is a VERY contentious issue not just between transsexuals and the general public including legal and religious authorities, but between many transsexual and intersex activists, and even between various members of the TG population…

    as it stands, there is no one definitive biological marker that can be used to repeatedly test for transsexualism in all cases…this is the basis for Gender Identity Disorder being classified as a psychological issue- not because it has been rigorously proven to be based in psychology alone, but because absent any known biological factor it is simply *assumed* to be psychological.

    However there *is* quite a bit of scientific evidence to suggest (and more coming all the time)that at least in some cases, GID is in fact caused by a type of neurological intersex condition…and the in vitro hormonal causes for various IS conditions is part of that evidence.

    even the diagnostic criteria for GID specifically state that GID can only occur in non-intersexed individuals, which raises the question, “Why do some intersex individuals have similar innate gender issues to transsexuals and some do not?”

    “We don’t know” is currently the only correct answer, but some people being neurologically intersexed while others aren’t, independent of their physique would certainly explain it.

    But in the context of determining “legitimacy” of these feelings as some kind of benchmark for treatment or legal standing or stamp of morality, it’s important to note that there is very, very little in the way of established medical and legal protocols to help IS people who are in effect rejecting a birth assignment that was chosen for them, not by God but by parents and doctors.

    This results in a catch-22 where if an adult diagnosed as IS feels that the birth assignment was wrong, many doctors (especially those with dogmatic religious convictions or who simply don’t want to admit that doctors make mistakes) will only apply the standard IS protocols for reinforcing the birth assignment via hormones that will make their internal gender struggle even more of a living hell.

    So the only other option is to play the game and present as a supposedly “normal” person with GID who is a TS even though the diagnostic criteria say you can’t be both…it’s well documented that people who present as TS are fairly often on closer examination found to have an underlying IS condition.

    Gender therapists who specialize in treating GID and other gender dysphoria understand this, and will often warn patients to tread carefully where an IS diagnosis exists or might be made, and are careful to make referrals to medical doctors who will respect people’s innate gender identities and consider them when prescribing treatment.

  21. Ray
    February 4, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    TinaSD, one of the reasons I appreciate your contributions so much is specifically because they give us a non-Mormon-tinted perspective on a very complex subject. We have been told that all of us, even prophets (since Paul included himself in his words), “see through a glass, darkly” – and I believe sexuality is one of those areas where people historically have seen the most darkly and where we still see far too darkly. As humans, we want so badly to “know” that sometimes it’s hard to admit that, in reality, we simply “believe” or “feel” or “are conditioned” in many things.

    It is critical to me that we have so little on this general topic in our canonized words. Therefore, I am left to “study it out in my mind and in my heart” (a reference to modern Mormon scripture) and come to a temporary conclusion – knowing that further light and knowledge will come eventually (often through scientific breakthrough, sometimes through revelation, sometimes upon death) and alter radically my current understanding. With that foundation, I believe I have the responsibility to construct my best guess (wherever possible) in a way that preserves the core doctrinal foundation that brings me joy and peace while allowing for a theological construct that opens joy and peace to as many others as is possible. There is a strong, core thread of that in standard Mormon theology and doctrine, since none are denied the highest eternal reward based solely on ignorance (following their own consciences to the best of their abilities as they see through their own glasses, darkly), but I am left to navigate much of my efforts to understand in a way that is inclusive rather than exclusive – as I said, as long as I am able to do so in a way that does not deny my core theological foundation.

    This is one area where I find it quite easy to construct a possible explanation that resolves much, if not all, of the problem without compromising any core foundational doctrine of Mormonism. It’s one of the things I love most about the LDS Church – the mind-boggling elasticity of the concept of continuing revelation and evolving understanding of what it means to become like God. Dogmatism sometimes gets in the way in the Church, but if we can re-work our understanding of the divine in the ways that we have over the decades, we can do so with topics like this – again, as long as we avoid dogmatism and don’t insist that we see through our own glasses, brightly, right away.

    In cases like this, where I simply am not sure, I would rather be charitable than judgmental – even if that causes some doctrinal or theological ambiguity in the process.

  22. TinaSD
    February 4, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    Hi Jeff-

    Last things first- I am certainly not “anti-religion” and I have attempted to be as non-judgmental in this discussion as possible and to respect the rights of anyone holding different views to have those beliefs…I would counter that what you perceive as “anti-religion” is simply an attempt to logically question some of those beliefs and the rationale for having them, and I don’t see any inherent contradiction in doing so.

    I can respect your right to hold that belief but that doesn’t mean that I must treat it as beyond question…so if you want to amend that to “anti-dogmatism”, then go right ahead, no complaint here.

    Earlier you spoke of heterosexual normativity and procreation being essential and intertwined, and I’m glad you bring them up again because there is a very important point to be made as this applies to intersexed people- fact is that many if not most profoundly IS people are born sterile, so basing how they may be treated and seen in terms of any human procreative imperative and moral implications of same runs the risk of not only being a moot point, but of also adding insult to injury.

    Also I would like to address this:

    “I would dispute that a gender problem does not overtly hurt anyone. it hurts that person and perhaps that person family and, in my mind, that is more than enough hurt. those other problems don’t hurt anyone either unless acted upon.”

    What needs to be addressed is the core idea of what exactly constitutes a gender “problem”?

    When individuals who have incongruities between their gender identity and physical sex are treated with real love and compassion, it doesn’t have to hurt any more than some noticeable physical deformity might. Plenty of the cultures mentioned earlier that respect non-binary gender expression aren’t hurt by it at all.

    Yes, it hurts to see a child struggle with this kind of issue whether it’s gender issues or a club foot, but that hardly makes it that child’s fault for not hiding his condition from the world at large. But that is precisely the message too many people send to the person with gender issues- that are really only an “issue” because OTHER people make them so.

    In the case of adults whose late transitions affect their families in profound ways, the fact that so many of them wait so long is a direct result of the way gender issues are treated in the first place- as something shameful and wrong and to be hidden no matter how much internal suffering it causes…MtoF transsexuals are told over and over again that if they just try hard enough and do manly things like marrying and fathering children, it will go away…which in the vast majority of cases never happens.
    The fact that so many transwomen were once Marines and Special Ops commandos and police and firemen and other macho professions ought to be a clue that simply acting a role does not make gender dysphoria go away.

    and at the risk of being accused of being “anti religion”, it isn’t secular humanists and atheists who are making a concerted effort to maintain this approach by any means necessary, and who keep prescribing behavioral modification that doesn’t work the vast majority of the time, that places women and children at risk for this outcome.

    You say “As we believe, all will be made whole in the next life if they are willing to endure to the end.”

    as Kuri rightly explained, the point of the analogy I made above is: why is transsexualism different from any other medical/psychological issue, and why should it go uncured if there is a cure available?

    Others in this discussion have attempted to reconcile Mormon doctrine with recognizing gender variance as something other than purely a choice, and have gone WAY farther in doing so than most unfamiliar with Mormon doctrine would have expected- yet you seem unwilling to treat it as anything but a choice and/or moral failing and seem to feel that even were it shown to be a strictly medical issue, that these people owe it to the world or God or something to suffer silently until they die.

    If other medical treatments don’t have “eternal ramifications”, please explain logically and non-dogmatically why a medical treatment for a gender related issue that was physiological in nature would, especially when the person in question cannot fulfill any imperative to procreate because they were born sterile?

    And WHY is the man with the bum leg *not* required to “endure to the end”? On what authority are these distinctions being made?

  23. Hawkgrrrl
    February 4, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    TinaSD – I appreciate your insights. IMO, intersex people and transgendered people are very little understood in general. I have seen many programs about these individuals, too, and it’s heart-breaking to see how these issues have been dealt with historically.

    I disagree with the implication some make that transgender and intersex people are like a variation of homosexuality. These are not the same issues.

    The real problem in Mormonism is that these are not issues that are clearly understood combined with the fact that they are rare enough that most of us don’t have a family member who is either intersex or transgender. The Proclamation on the Family makes statements about gender that make many heterosexuals in monogamous relationships squirm (mostly those under the age of 50 who expect more role partnership in a marriage than preceding generations). I’m inclined to feel that intersex people should get to choose the sex that fits them. I’m also inclined to be somewhat open-minded about the majority of transgendered people. It’s not a decision one would make lightly. The church’s stance probably has room for exceptions (I have to think intersex would be one), but I’m not privy to what those might be.

  24. Jeff Spector
    February 4, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    TinaSD,

    “Last things first- I am certainly not “anti-religion”” Ok, forgive me for that assumption, but when I see someone use the term “assailed by religionists,” it tends to be written by someone not particularly favorable to religion as opposed to using the term “religious people.” But, that might be my own interpretation of what you meant.

    I would make a distinction between people born with competing gender characteristics, meaning they have some or both sets of genitalia (is that intersexed?)and those who describe themselves as transgender, or they are one gender but see themselves as the other. I can certainly understand in the former case the need to “pick” one over the other. The transgender situation is more of a mystery to me. I don’t understand it and whether it is a life-long affliction or one that appears later in life. I suppose both cases are true.

    But, again, burdens are meant to be carried in this life, so I am not sure why we assume that all burdens should be lifted from us, just because they can be by some medical procedure.

    “And WHY is the man with the bum leg *not* required to “endure to the end”? On what authority are these distinctions being made?”

    Who said he is not required to endure to the end. We all must, no matter why our issues are. Fixable or not.

  25. TinaSD
    February 4, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    Jeff-

    you said-

    “when I see someone use the term “assailed by religionists,” it tends to be written by someone not particularly favorable to religion as opposed to using the term “religious people.” But, that might be my own interpretation of what you meant.”

    I very carefully avoided using the less precise term of “religious people” for a very important reason…

    “religionism” is defined as “religious zeal, esp. when excessive or affected” and “exaggerated religious zealotry”, also “Affectation or pretense of religion”.

    Obviously not all “religious people” are zealots or acting under a pretense of affected piety, but when they are they can be more accurately described as “religionists”. Hope this clears things up.

    you also state-

    “I would make a distinction between people born with competing gender characteristics, meaning they have some or both sets of genitalia (is that intersexed?)and those who describe themselves as transgender, or they are one gender but see themselves as the other.”

    As was pointed out earlier, in reality there is often no distinction, especially in a legal and medical treatment context…many intersexed people do not have mixed genitalia but instead have what to even a trained eye appear to be perfectly normal male or female bodies, but which genetically are the opposite sex-

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Androgen_insensitivity_syndrome#1._Complete_AIS

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XX_male#Pathophysiology

    -what simply cannot be ignored is how often these people and others who are not “lucky” enough to have ambiguous or malformed genitalia that point to an IS condition are not diagnosed on a genetic level, as the testing is expensive and is often only done later in life when related issues appear…so when these people who *appear* to be male and female present with gender issues over the sex assigned to them at birth based on nothing but a visual once-over, they are often treated as mentally disordered transsexuals when in fact their condition has a biological cause.

    I applaud the fact that you are willing to make a distinction for at least some IS people when it comes to transitioning to a sex/gender role that works better for them, but the point is that many who I would describe as “religionists” refuse to make any distinction whatsoever, especially when the IS person has no obvious outward physical signs of it, and the same goes for many doctors who impose their notions of what is worthy of treatment and what isn’t with no regard whatsoever for the patient’s innate sense of where they best fit.

    Finally you say-

    “But, again, burdens are meant to be carried in this life, so I am not sure why we assume that all burdens should be lifted from us, just because they can be by some medical procedure.

    “And WHY is the man with the bum leg *not* required to “endure to the end”? On what authority are these distinctions being made?”

    Who said he is not required to endure to the end. We all must, no matter why our issues are. Fixable or not.”

    With all due respect I am at a loss to understand what you are saying here, as you seem to say that medical procedures are OK, unless they aren’t, but have provided no means by which to make a distinction one way or another when it comes to gender related treatments.

    And the last sentence makes even less sense- you chose to speak earlier of a person with gender issues “enduring” them in the specific context of not seeking medical transition and living with the discomfort, yet here you use the term in a very vague and generic sense where the state of “enduring” a condition has no relation to any treatment that may mitigate the discomfort caused by the condition- as if “enduring” a condition without treatment and “enduring” it after having it fixed are one in the same.

    I don’t know how Mormon doctrine sees it, but my belief is that God gave humans the brains to develop medical treatments so that we would *use* them to end suffering, or alleviate it if a complete cure isn’t possible…not so that they could be withheld from people.

  26. Ray
    February 4, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    Tina, I haven’t read your comment yet, but all comments that contain more than one link in the text automatically go into the system’s spam moderation queue. I saw it and released it, but you should keep that in mind for future posts.

  27. Ray
    February 4, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    #25 – Tina said:

    I don’t know how Mormon doctrine sees it, but my belief is that God gave humans the brains to develop medical treatments so that we would *use* them to end suffering, or alleviate it if a complete cure isn’t possible…not so that they could be withheld from people.

    That is precisley why I actually wish the number of people in every state on drugs for depression and bi-polar disorder and other psychological difficulties matched Utah’s use – that medicine is a WONDERFUL thing, and that it should be used whenever it can help alleviate “natural” suffering. I have NO problem with using modern scientific discoveries (especially medical advances) to help inter-sex and gender-confused (physically, not mentally) individuals correct to their internally understood gender. Again, since I can think of very reasonable ways to make this fit into our current theology, I have no problems with it. I think it’s a very serious step and shouldn’t be taken lightly, but I doubt it ever is taken lightly.

  28. TinaSD
    February 5, 2009 at 2:25 am

    Russell Stevenson said-

    “Frankly, why can’t we view sexual ambiguity as something that is a negative quality? The only reason it isn’t is b/c the political climate has dictated it to be an “identity.” Yet there are numerous “qualities” that have been deemed to be setbacks.”

    First, there are obviously situations where “sexual ambiguity” as you put it might be considered a negative, but I would counter that the only reason that so many treat it as *always* being a negative is because a climate of unquestioned religious fundamentalism has claimed it to be an “aberration” in spite of the fact that sexual ambiguity, hermaphroditism and natural sex changes (sequential hermaphroditism) among flora and fauna of all levels of complexity is a well documented natural phenomenon that simply cannot be denied.

    But besides that, there’s a major paradox at play when discussing transsexuals and intersex and “sexual ambiguity”- fact of the matter is that most transsexuals find any hint of sexual and gender ambiguity to be unbearable and to be avoided at all costs…the whole point of transition for the vast majority of transsexuals is to align mind and body into as non-ambiguous a state as possible. They aren’t trying to subvert cultural gender norms but often play into them far more than many non-TS people do.

    And in the case of intersexed people, the ones who *do* seek to express a sexual ambiguity do so in an attempt to be true to their innate natural selves that are already aligned with their body’s physically ambiguous natural state…

    so when you say-

    “We’re not really talking about science and anatomy here. We’re talking about culture. And like it or not, the hidden hand of culture dictates to us what will be an “identity” and what will be an “impairment.””

    -we are actually talking about both: science and anatomy readily acknowledge sexual ambiguity and non-binary sexual differentiation as a natural state found in many plants and animals, while human culture in many cases refuses to do so.

    And it is certainly human culture that treats some naturally occurring functional anatomy as being “disordered” and other natural anatomy as being sacred and never to be altered…it’s mind boggling is that for all the complaints about transsexuals “mutilating healthy tissue”, many of those complaints come from people who themselves have male genitalia that was surgically altered from its natural state by circumcision and/or have had it done to their male kids…and it never crosses their minds that there is any contradiction at all in that.

    And while it is true that “the hidden hand of culture dictates to us what will be an “identity” and what will be an “impairment””, it is highly disingenuous to on the one hand accept cultural dictums as something to be respected and given the force of moral law when you agree with them, but to turn around and vilify other cultural dictums when they aren’t to your liking.

    Obviously you like the cultural dictum that states that “sexual ambiguity” is by default a negative impairment, and don’t like the cultural dictum that states that “sexual ambiguity” can be part and parcel of one’s identity and be morally neutral.

    Which is fine, I guess, but when you endorse the former on the grounds that it is a cultural imperative while opposing the latter on the grounds that it is a cultural imperative, your position becomes logically irreconcilable.

  29. Ray
    February 5, 2009 at 2:48 am

    As I said earlier, Tina, your comments are greatly appreciated. They ground the theoretical in the practical, and that is important – at the very least for consideration and education.

  30. February 5, 2009 at 3:32 am

    I just want to second what Ray just said. Tina, I’m really grateful for your valuable perspective. You’re certainly a lot more knowledgeable about this subject than I am and you’re just the type of person I had hoped to hear from when I first wrote the post.

  31. February 5, 2009 at 10:04 am

    Let me begin by saying I was an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the early eighties. I requested that my name by removed from the church roles a number of years ago.

    About two decades prior to making that request I’d stopped being active in the church, and part of the reason was because of gender identity issue — my natal sex ( the stuff “between my legs”) didn’t match my gender identity (the stuff “between my ears”). I would disagree with the characterization that this is “gender confusion” — I’m not confused at all about my gender identity, and instead am absolutely sure that my gender identity is female. What I was more confused about was what to do about having what “was between my legs” and I believe that nuance is pretty significant.

    I requested withdrawal of my name from the roles of the LDS church about two years ago (I was inactive) because the church’s position is that transsexualism is wrong. That’s in accordance with M. Russell Ballard’s “A Chance to Start Over: Church Disciplinary Councils and the Restoration of Blessings,” Ensign magazine, 1990-SEP, Page 112 ( http://tinyurl.com/5a4dg ):

    “Disciplinary councils may also be convened to consider a member’s standing in the Church following serious transgression such as abortion, transsexual operation, attempted murder, rape, forcible sexual abuse, intentionally inflicting serious physical injuries on others, adultery, fornication, homosexual relations, child abuse (sexual or physical), spouse abuse, deliberate abandonment of family responsibilities, robbery, burglary, embezzlement, theft, sale of illegal drugs, fraud, perjury, or false swearing.”

    I would probably have been formally excommunicated if I were active — specifically because I identify and live as female, but I was born with male genitalia.

    I found solace in scripture. In 1 Samuel 16:7b, the Lord said to Samuel:

    ~~
    [T]he LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.
    ~~

    And, Jesus Christ was quoted as saying in Matthew 19:12:

    ~~
    For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.
    ~~

    I’m about sure that the “some eunuchs which were so born from their mother’s womb” refers to intersexed people. The other eunuchs received the only form of genital reconstruction surgery available to people in the ancient world. That some can do it “for the kingdom of heaven’s sake” seems to be to be an important concept.

    And, this is what Isaiah 56:3-5 states about eunuchs:

    ~~
    Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, The LORD hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree.

    For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my Sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant;

    Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.
    ~~

    I realize these are scriptures from the Bible, and not the Book of Mormon, and that there is a modern prophet, apostles, and a council of seventy who are there to receive inspiration. I’m just not sure, though, that every doctrine or interpretation of scripture is truly inspired — it seems to me that one of the gifts of God is intelligence, and people of conscience sometimes need to question doctrine.

    To answer Neal Davis’s question of how intersexed people were addressed by ancient world churches — the Catholic Church had teaching on intersexuals that indicated that those with two sets of fully functional genitalia could have relations with a partner of either sex, but those with less than fully functioning genitalia were required to be celibate. John Boswell’s “Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (Appendix Two)” has a translation of Peter Cantor’s De vitio sodomitico — or “On Sodomy” (d. 1192 AD). Here’s the excerpt from that text on “hermaphrodites” (or as we’d call them now, intersexuals):

    ~~~
    The Lord formed man from the slime of the earth on the plan of Damascus, later fashioning woman from his rib in Eden. Thus in considering the formation of woman, lest any should believe they would be hermaphrodites, he stated, “Male and female created he them,” as if to say, “There will not be intercourse of men with men or women with women, but only of men with women and vice versa.” For this reason the church allows a hermaphrodite — that is, someone with the organs of both sexes, capable of either active or passive functions — to use the organ by which (s)he is most aroused or the one which (s)he is more susceptible.

    If (s)he is more active [literally, “lustful], (s)he may wed as a man, but if (s)he is more passive, (s)he may marry as a woman. If; however, (s)he should fail with one organ, the use of the other can never be permitted, but (s)he must be perpetually celibate to avoid any similarity to the role inversion of sodomy, which is detested by God.
    ~~

  32. Jeff Spector
    February 5, 2009 at 11:51 am

    TinaSD,

    I do appreciate you having this dialogue with me. And I am sure it must be somewhat frustrating to you because my level of knowledge of this subject is so far less than yours, it is tough to relate. But, I am coming at it with a totally different perspective, I admit. I think you see this “condition” as totally in-born and innate and thus “repairable” by medical science. You also view other culture’s and society’s (historical and current) view of this condition as having relevance in how we, as followers of Jesus Christ today, should also react. I do not agree with either of those suppositions.

    We come to earth to experience mortal life. Our spirits are united with our bodies, giving us opportunities to grow and develop in ways that were not possible in premortal life. This part of our existence is a time of learning in which we can prove ourselves, choose to come unto Christ, and prepare to be worthy of eternal life. It is also a time when we can help others find the truth and gain a testimony of the plan of salvation. (Church website) We come to earth with the body we are given by nature and the birth process. In some cases, we come with a perfect body and in some cases, not.

    I agree with you that in many cases, medical science can fix many defects that we are born with. But, sometimes, not. what I am not sure about is whether every medical advancement comes from God and should be used. For example, if it can’t be done now, shortly, medical science will be able to clone humans. If can be done, but should it? Is that something that God wants us to circumvent the natural procreative process? use genetic selection and create the perfect race of humans.

    In this day and age, we are part of a very self-indulgent society where people who are not satisfied with themselves change. They change their nose, their boobs, their butt, teeth, their hair, etc. So, many times, I can’t determine if changing their gender is a result of misalignment or just a whim.

    Having said that, it is not really for me to judge. I know that. Ultimately, it is between the person and God if they decided to have a re-assignment surgery. I support the church position on the subject at this point.

    I think that is all I have to say on this topic. I probably jumped in where I should not have.

  33. Rigel Hawthorne
    February 5, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    A prophet of the Lord walks a fine line. Remember it has been taught that the Lord will remove him from office if he should attempt to lead the people astray. On the one hand it is his duty to admonish people to follow God’s plan, which includes being fruitful, multiplying, and finding joy in posterity (hard to do naturally after sexual reassignment surgery). On the other hand, he is also serving those who have basic challenges in their ability to fit the plan as it has been traditionally recognized. He must also think of those in the middle or on the fringe, who although may have a degree of bisexuality (which is a separate issue)or intersexuality (is it possible for that to be present in shades of gray rather than black and white?) have enough plasticity to adapt to what has been the most consistent societal norm. If the doctrine was changed to allow one to jump into an alternate camp freely, then would that be encouraging those on the borderline to abandon their spouse, children, covenants to follow an “itch” that they have learned, over time, not to scratch? Jeff stated that ultimately it is between the person and God if they decided to have a re-assignment surgery. God would, however, hold a prophet responsible if God’s destiny for His child was not reached because His word was changed from His will. This is where the responsibility of being the prophet for the whole church becomes weighty. The black and white cases are compelling, but the cases that could go either way become problematic when the door is opened. If God’s will becomes flexible, would one option be more worthy than the other? I certainly feel sympathy for those who have described a very serious and life-threatening problem, and I feel hopeful when hearing these stories of those who have moved forward in the church after dealing with such a complex issue.

  34. Jeff Spector
    February 5, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    “God would, however, hold a prophet responsible if God’s destiny for His child was not reached because His word was changed from His will.”

    How do we account for agency? A Prophet cannot control a person’s choice to act one way or the other. So long as the Prophet speaks the Lord’s will, it is left to us to make the choices.

  35. Danny Clark
    February 6, 2009 at 12:01 am

    Just so everybody is clear what the Handbook says:

    “Persons who are considering an elective transsexual operation should not be baptized. Persons who have already undergone an elective transsexual operation may be baptized if they are otherwise found worthy in an interview with the mission president or a priesthood leader he assigns. Such persons may not receive the priesthood or a temple recommend”

    The only part that is open for interpretation is the word “elective” If you have a bishop who believed people can be born in the wrong body, then it would not be elective, but a necessity. But you could get a bishop who felt all transsexual operations would be elective.

  36. TinaSD
    February 6, 2009 at 3:31 am

    I would just like to say in response to all those who have thanked me for commenting that I truly appreciate the reception I have gotten here, and especially the open minded manner in which the ideas and information I have presented have been considered…

    All too often when this subject comes up with people of a religious bent, even the most indisputable scientific fact is dismissed and countered with platitudes, fearmongering and superstition, and the very act of suggesting any other perspective or simply not being disgusted enough by “those people” is met with recriminations and outright slander.

    Sadly that kind of mean spirited and unthinking fundamentalism often causes those in the LGBT community and their allies to respond in kind and develop prejudices and reactionary attitudes in the face of religious discourse that are understandable to some degree, but ultimately self defeating…it saddens me to no end to see trans people consumed by the same kinds of fundamentalist thinking and bitter judgmentalism that refuses to acknowledge any common ground with people of faith and dismisses their take on things outright. Again, understandable after a lifetime of being persecuted and beaten down emotionally and even physically by a few bad apples among that group, but those are the kinds of tribulations that we all must rise above and grow from.

    So my goal is to offer everyone who will listen what perspective I can in the hope that it might cause them to think and find ways to reconcile these often contentious issues while maintaining their faith and any moral obligations that come with it.

    Usually it’s much more of a fight, as so many people feel that it’s settled and there’s no room for interpretation and simply don’t want to hear anything that suggests otherwise. That hasn’t been the case here *at all*, quite the opposite…and everyone’s kind and thoughtful consideration and reasoned discourse has helped to remind me just how easy it is to make erroneous assumptions about groups you don’t belong to and don’t fully understand, and how critically important it is to be vigilant about doing so…I think we can all agree that no one is immune and as humans we can all do better no matter where our convictions lie.

    So I thank you all for helping me to come away from this more open minded and hopefully a bit wiser.

    I also found the discussion of the finer points of Mormon doctrine very edifying, especially that its interpretation could be so freely discussed with some degree of wiggle room (for lack of a better term) acknowledged, and that it expands on traditional Christian scripture and addresses things like transsexualism and its treatment directly and with what appears to be some degree of latitude.

    Of course all of that doesn’t exactly make the hardline fundamentalist Christian religionist ideologues big fans of Mormonism…ironic that gender variant people and Mormons would find commonality in that position.

  37. Cicero
    February 6, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    Insanity is pitiable, but it does not change the truth.

    I do not believe perception determines truth. Truth is independent of what you or I think.

    Therefore if a woman thinks she is man, then she is an insane woman, not a sane man.

    This is reminding me of the argument I got into once about the definition of the word Tomboy, when some po-mo idiot tried to argue that we should just call tomboys boys, because there was no difference between a girl who acts like a boy and an actual boy.

    As for the intergendered, I have no idea. I let God worry about that. And for anyone who does face that issue, that they and their leaders seek and follow God’s instruction and guidance.

    I don’t get how that applies though to the vast majority of humans who very clearly have a physical gender.

  38. Ray
    February 6, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Cicero, that is a common perception.

  39. TinaSD
    February 6, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    Cicero-

    I would suggest that before one starts tossing around terms like “insanity”, that they consider the following:

    1) Many people consider those who claim to speak to God and receive answers directly from him via prophesy to be “insane” as well, and in many instances there is ample medical evidence to suggest that that is exactly the case…and even in the cases where some underlying issue of clinical insanity isn’t obvious, there is nothing but opinion and anecdotal evidence and other subjective perceptions to “prove” otherwise.

    2) The standards of care for transsexuals seeking medical transition begin with a rigorous battery of psychological tests and medical observations precisely to determine if in fact they are suffering from any of a number of other conditions whether they be purely psychological (like multiple personality and body dysmorphic disorders) or physiological (intersex) in nature.

    In the case of purely psychological issues of “insanity”, medical transition is contraindicated as it won’t help to cure or even palliate the underlying cause, and stands a good chance of making it worse.

    So to put it bluntly, those who are approved for transition to align their physical sex with their innate gender identities are only given the go ahead if they *aren’t* found to be clinically insane.

    Of course many of those who would deny people this treatment don’t like to hear this and will claim that the psychologists and psychiatrists who support and prescribe it are themselves deluded and simply agents of a godless and permissive society…without considering that it is those very same psychologists and psychiatrists who promote the idea that transsexuality is a purely psychological disorder in the first place, based more on personal bias and tradition (including religious dogma) than any documentary scientific evidence… an inability to present solid factual data is always held up as one of psychology’s failings when someone doesn’t like what psychologists have to say, but when psychologists are aligned with someone’s personal prejudices, it suddenly isn’t an issue at all.

    You simply can’t have it both ways and maintain any objective credibility.

    you say-

    “I don’t get how that applies though to the vast majority of humans who very clearly have a physical gender.”

    What you refer to as “physical gender” is ones biological sex…gender is one’s innate sense of being a man or woman and their expression of associated roles…

    but that aside, quite obviously the “vast majority of humans” don’t have a gender identity that is incongruous with their biological sex, and would never in a million years consider physically changing their bodies or even adopting the roles and mannerisms of the sex/gender opposite theirs.

    But since when is there some threshold that says that unless a certain percentage of people have a condition or some definitive biological cause is known, that those who present with it are automatically “insane”?

    That’s the kind of thinking that caused untold suffering and persecution in the past for people with conditions like epilepsy and even left-handedness….not to mention Joseph Smith and that minority who believe in his visions and Mormon doctrine, who to this day are regularly accused of being “insane”.

    If anything, the lack of attention and serious research that goes along with conditions that only affect a tiny minority would suggest that these are precisely the conditions where it is unwise to assume firm conclusions based on the scant scientific evidence available…*especially* when they involve such a poorly understood realm as that of sexuality and sexual identity.

    For anyone who is interested, here is what Harry Benjamin, a pioneer in the study of transsexualism who developed the standards of care for its treatment had to say in 1966-

    “In this country, psychology and psychoanalysis still dominate the field of sexual deviations. Many psychologists, particularly analysts, have little biological background and training. Some seem actually contemptuous of biological facts and persistently overstate psychological data, so much so that a distorted, one-sided picture of the problem under consideration results.
    Psychiatrists with biological orientation strongly disagree and even decry the exclusive psychoanalytic interpretations. But their voice is heard too rarely.”

    then there’s this to support what I said above about the psychological treatment of transsexuals and any alleged “insanity” on their part-

    “In summary, neither biological studies nor psychological studies provide a satisfactory explanation for the intriguing phenomenon of gender identity disorders. In both disciplines, studies have been able to correlate certain findings to gender identity disorders, but the findings are not robust and cannot be generalized to the whole population…

    One study investigating the need for psychotherapy for sex reassignment applicants, based on questionnaire scores, suggests that ‘classical’ forms of psychotherapy prior to medical interventions are not needed in about two thirds of the applicants (Seikowski 2007).

    Seikowski K 2007 Psychotherapy and transsexualism. Andrologia 39:248-252

    http://www.endo-society.org/_MDDocReviewFiles/Transgender%20Guideline%20(1st%20Draft%2011.17.08).pdf

  40. Ray
    February 6, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    I had to type a quick response and leave the computer for a couple of minutes. I intended to respond more fully to #37, but Tina has done a much better job than I would have – so I simply will echo her commentary about people in glass houses throwing stones. Mormons are the LAST people on earth who should toss the term “insane” around when describing entire groups of people. “Do unto others” and all that.

  41. Rigel Hawthorne
    February 6, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    I was listening to an interesting story on NPR several months ago about parents raising children who clearly had an intersexual disorder as young as 2 years of age. Two cases were presented; one who had a counselor who advised the parents to go with it and one who had a counselor who advised the parents to defy it. The one where defiance was attempted led to an extremely depressed child and eventually they also permitted the anatomic boy to live as a girl.

    The next part of the story came when the boy approached puberty and if intervention was not taken, it would not have been possible to conceal the sexual changes. The options were discussed with the parents and child and it was decided to use medical treatment to suppress the development of puberty for a time, until the boy reached an age where he was mature enough to decide if he wanted it permanently (surgery) or have it reversed (stopped the medicine).

    I do remember listening to the description of one of the boys and it described him having 50 barbie dolls, or something like that, as a pre-school aged child. I thought that 50 barbies sounded indulgent, even for a girl, and wondered if allowing the child to accept hormonal therapy to block puberty could be the ultimate indulgence?

    Such cases are rare enough that its easy enough to live in denial that something like that could ever happen in my family, and it would certainly grieve me if it did. We’ve been discussing adults receiving discipline for a decision to have elective surgery. Where would children and parents of children fall when a case is recognized that early?

  42. TinaSD
    February 7, 2009 at 2:48 am

    I agree that 50 Barbies is overindulging a pre-school aged child…50 of anything at that age is probably overindulging them regardless of their sex.

    But that’s a completely different thing than that notion that allowing gender non-conforming behavior to go on somehow causes children to become transgendered.

    Some degree of gender non-conforming behaviors are pretty normal for all kids growing up, and most are fleeting experiments…very young boys might assume female roles and dress during play, young girls might be more interested in rough and tumble play, etc.

    But consider that there exists a double standard- girls who act like boys are labeled “tomboys” and for the most part they are allowed to be this way without too many worries about their sexual preferences when they are young and sexual activity is a long way off.

    But boys who have a similar nature don’t have a nice happy label that simply marks them as different, they are “sissies” and even as pre-schoolers are often assumed to be in need of immediate direct intervention based on the unspoken fear that they are gay or transgendered and need to be “fixed” before it’s too late.

    Obviously how to treat trans kids is a thorny issue that needs to be addressed by erring to the side of keeping options open while the kid develops the ability to reason and weigh the pros and cons of permanent treatment…but the double standard described above has the exact opposite effect- it takes away for boys the option of exploring cross gendered role behavior largely free from societal pressure and character judgments, the way girls can.

    Just like the majority of tomboys don’t grow up to be transsexual, the majority of boys labeled “sissy” don’t grow up to be TS either. But for those boys and girls who do, the incidence and severity of co-morbid pyschopathologies like depression, anxiety, suicide, eating disorders and the like is far higher among MtoF transsexuals…and the fact that these boys have often had every single thing they think and do scrutinized since they were toddlers for the purposes of eliminating any and all even remotely cross gendered behaviors has to be considered when seeking an explanation for why they have these issues in far greater numbers than their FtoM counterparts; they’ve never been allowed to just *be*.

    So “indulgence” is a particularly loaded term when a girl being allowed to wear pants isn’t automatically seen as “indulging” cross gender behavior but allowing a boy to wear a skirt is almost *always* seen that way.

    So in that kind of climate it is almost impossible for male born gender non-conforming youths to make decisions about their future that aren’t severely compromised by outside pressures of shame and fear…as information becomes more available and they realize that they are not alone in being the way they are, younger kids are coming out as trans and this is often mistaken as being some effect of permissiveness and indulgence causing kids to “choose” to be transgendered- but in reality it’s just that transpeople are finding the courage to openly be who they are and reject the shame and fear that has made hiding their only safe option for so long.

    Even if one hopes that their kid or people in general make the decision to not seek drastic medical transition, it makes little sense to have them make that choice under duress, becauser how then can you know that it is honest and final?

    By the time a kid who has IDed themselves for years as transgendered is facing puberty, if he or she has been allowed to express their inner nature and explore who they are and where they fit in the world, determining whether or not delaying puberty is something they will regret will not be anywhere near the problem that most people who don’t know any transpeople think it might be.

    That’s why I wish that people who have questions or are torn on these issues would seek out and spend time with real live transgendered people…it’s easy to make pronouncements from a distance that they are insane, or that “anyone born with a penis will always be a man”, but the fact is that even with individuals who don’t “pass” that well, after spending a short amount of time with them you realize that they aren’t anything more or less than what they claim to be, and have given far more reasoned thought to these issues and who they are than most folks…they aren’t “confused”, and it isn’t something they “choose” on a “whim”, it is as far from that as anyone could imagine.

    The final realization that these people are who they say they are doesn’t come from analyzing their various traits for accuracy as you interact, it comes when you realize that you forgot that they were somehow different from any other woman or man, and you realize that you had to make an effort to place them back in that “other than” category because there’s nothing really that unusual or remarkable about them compared to anyone else.

  43. Ray
    February 7, 2009 at 4:22 am

    “That’s why I wish that people who have questions or are torn on these issues would seek out and spend time with real live transgendered people.”

    That’s bedrock advice for understanding ANYONE who is different than me in any way. If I really want to understand them fully, that understanding can’t be merely academic or philosophical or theological. It must be personal. I don’t have to experience their actual lives, but I do have to experience their actual selves.

  44. Holden Caulfield
    February 7, 2009 at 10:54 am

    Ignorance is the foundation of prejudice. Having experienced the widespread ignorance and prejudice of my fellow Mormons as it relates to homosexuality, I have distanced myself from members. I attend but little else. My son is no longer welcome in the ward he grew up singing beautiful hymns with his beautiful tenor voice.

    Cicero’s “insanity” claim is a perfect example. We claim to know so much about the universe and the being who created it, but know little about the person next to us. We, somehow, never let that get in our way.

  45. TinaSD
    February 7, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    Ray’s last post is right on.

    Philosophers and social scientists refer to “othering”, which is that act of securing one’s own identity and values as being positive through stigmatizing those whose identity and values are different.

    Or as an old Hindu saying goes, “Some people make themselves taller by cutting off other people’s heads”.

    Sadly, in the case of transsexuals and gender variant behavior in general, this “othering” is so pervasive and draconian that it becomes difficult to meet and speak with anyone, because so many are genuinely fearful for their physical safety and emotional well-being.

    There are essentially two roads that transsexuals can take post-transition…they can “go stealth” if they are lucky enough to visually pass and live somewhere where their legal documentation can be altered to reflect their new life, or they can be “out” and choose not to hide their trans status or past.

    There are both practical and philosophical reasons for either choice, but what is important to realize is that-

    a) the really passable transsexuals are everywhere and you may already know or have met one or more of them without knowing it- in which case you interacted with and judged them based on the same things you would have with any other person, which most likely didn’t include what was in their pants- in real life it is totally irrelevant unless you are their lover, or doctor.

    b) It’s hard to find “out” people in traditionally respected positions like that of teacher, doctor, elected official, etc. to hold up as examples because being trans itself is so stigmatized that it is nearly impossible to get there…it’s hard enough to become competent in those fields without the added burden of being continually under attack and having to deal with scurrilous rumors and character assassination at every turn, so many otherwise qualified people just avoid it.

    Also, among the “out” people who you might see on TV or making a spectacle of themselves on the street or making a speech, you have to consider that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and the most visible and activist members of any group are rarely representative of the average group member.

    it’s no different than with people of faith, many of whom have and want nothing to do with the strident, mean spirited ideologues or complete wackjobs who claim to speak for them with some kind of divine authority.

    Just my small interaction and reading here has shed a different light on what Mormons believe and how they think than I had absorbed in my limited previous interaction and study…but I’ll bet that were I to seek out someone claiming to speak from a position of authority such as someone from an official church-sanctioned speaker’s bureau, their “official” positions might be far more rigid and less contemplative than those I’ve seen here…

    so just in case anyone does decide to seek out transpeople to talk to, keep in mind that the people most wiling to tell you things are often the ones with the biggest stake in some agenda.

  46. TinaSD
    February 7, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    just as an addendum to the above- the following link is a great resource for anyone wanting to delve into the personal histories and lives of real everyday transsexual women who are anything but the “confused” misfits and sex freaks portrayed in so many media accounts (and from so many pulpits)…

    the site’s creator Lynn Conway is herself a highly respected pioneer in computer hardware design and a Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Emerita, at the University of Michigan, whose silicon chip research developments at IBM and PARC in the 60’s and 70’s are acknowledged as the basis for much of the modern computer chip design that is making this conversation even possible.

    Her story alone is fascinating and illustrates the kind of intellect and determination behind transitioning- this person was never insane and didn’t need anyone to tell her who and what she is, and had the strength and ability to become a renowned professional in her field *twice*…once as a man, and again as a transwoman after she lost the career she had worked to establish, just for being true to herself.

    If you read through the various biographies and look at the photos on the site, it becomes evident that these people are apart from their accomplishments as doctors and scientists and musicians and commercial airline pilots and professors and architects, pretty normal human beings…typical and even boring, in the best sense of those terms-

    http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/TSsuccesses/TSsuccesses.html

  47. Ray
    February 7, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    Tina, the Mormon Church’s stance on this issue is moderate – much more liberal than some, still more conservative than some. Overall, I’m satisfied with it, hoping it continues to progress some more. Individual members’ opinions vary widely, mostly because, as you point out, the majority don’t know anyone personally and haven’t thought about it much, if at all.

    I’m an optimist, however, so mileage will vary.

  48. Rigel Hawthorne
    February 9, 2009 at 10:40 am

    Thanks for the reply Tina. I’ve known parents that allowed their son to wear a dress to let his fleeting experiment take place, although they weren’t thrilled about it. Their educated friends nodded in understanding when they explained it, but didn’t refrain from snide comments about the practice when the parents were not in earshot. It was almost as if there was a prideful reaction that ‘our son is more boyish than theirs.’ I’m glad you took issue with my term “indulgence”. I used it to express the honest reaction that crossed my brain when I listened to the story. I wasn’t saying that my gut reaction was the right one, it just happened.

    As far as going stealth, it would seem the easiest option, if that option was available. If all post surgical transexuals looked like Tula, the model from the James Bond movie, the level of acceptance would undoubtedly be higher. 🙂

  49. TinaSD
    February 10, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    Rigel said:

    “As far as going stealth, it would seem the easiest option, if that option was available. If all post surgical transexuals looked like Tula, the model from the James Bond movie, the level of acceptance would undoubtedly be higher.”

    Which is a pretty sad commentary on the shallow state of human interaction in general, imho.

    As for stealth being an easier path, it is in the context of accepting and working within that shallow state of human interaction, but when people’s entire lives are as affected by those kinds of shallow and arbitrary social constraints as are the lives of gender variant people (mostly male born, as females are given FAR more leeway in adopting “masculine” looks), they tend to have a huge internal struggle with doing something that perpetuates that way of thinking.

    So there is a trend towards people being more out and less concerned with trying to fit in to established roles and looks. This is happening all over as people are doing things like body piercing and other modifications and tattooing, men are adopting “metrosexual” and androgynous behaviors and looks, etc.

    While many people, especially traditional religious types, decry this as some evidence of cultural collapse, I personally see it as embracing the notion that how we look and can be physically/socially categorized distracts from the far more important aspect of who we are spiritually…”There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”

    Many people who would loosely be classified as “freaks” based on their outward appearance adopt that look as a kind of litmus test; they want to know up front if a person they meet is able to accept someone with unusual looks, or if they will judge them on looks alone.

    It’s also one reason why many gay and TG people make a point of being “out”…many of them know the unspeakable pain of having allegedly supportive friends and family abandon them after finding out, so they choose the relatively minor pain of being rebuffed by people who would never be true friends anyway.

    One other thing that rarely gets mentioned- regardless of how one feels about homosexual acts or TG related transition, there is the issue of those non-gay and non-TG people who are treated with derision and even violence for simply “looking gay” or “like a tranny”.

    To blame these people for their predicament is uncharitable, especially when it is because of their God-given physical attributes they cannot change, i.e. a very tall woman with broad shoulders and no hips/butt and a square jaw- but that is exactly what some people do, because to do otherwise would require that they give up their assumed right to judge and marginalize genuine gays and transsexuals based on their looks.

    BTW, glad you bring up Tula- besides being a prime example of beauty and femininity, she illustrates my earlier point about intersex and transsexualism not being so cut and dried- she is in fact someone with Klinefelter’s syndrome and a genotype of 48, XXXY.

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