Understanding Transgender I: Black Hairy Limbs
Reading and writing is entertaining when funny stories lead to the main topic. But this time you will be brought to the subject of Transgender. Also mentioned, are helpful ideas about how to respond to a family/friend/co-worker who is LGBT. Most people dislike reading lengthy posts, or at least want a quick pick-me-up when blog- scrolling. Time on this plateau will NOT be quick, more like a meander, trying hard to stay on the path and not trample on delicate flowers. This documentation is divided into 8 parts. I will post this as one complete body of work, for those who want to read it all at once. Then I will post each section separately for those who need/want a shorter read.
Learning about the LGBT community is a process for me. My feelings and findings may evolve during the next decade. Most people know what it means to be homosexual, heterosexual and bisexual. Lately the word queer hasn’t been used in the familiar context of being attracted to the same sex. In recent years the word has evolved, in Ann Dohrendwend’s book, Coming Around, she explains queer thinking: “Queer has been reclaimed by today’s generation…Those who refer to their sexual orientations as queer reject traditional labels of heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual. They see such labels as limited and limiting, because they are majority conceptions shaped by majority biases and mores.” (8) Growing up the words, ‘Gay’, ‘Lesbian’, and ‘queer’ were used for taunting. In my 36 years of living, I have never personally used it to taunt. However, to write about LGBT is still a bit daunting for me. By worldly standards, I am conservative. Within my LDS religion, I am liberal.
The dial on the iron is turned to cotton-press. Quickly the iron slides over the yellow polka-dot sleeveless blouse. Slash-like holes are burned through the side of the back. Clearly the blouse is not cotton. A thought occurred, necessary precautions were taken so this wouldn’t happen again. All well, if a cardigan is worn, the blouse will provide its function; to match the color scheme for our family photos. Family and ironing prompt the pondering question- what are roles of masculine and feminine? Ironing is not my strong skill-set nor is being a delicious cook; I fancy performing neither of the two. Since my skills of such lack the luster and shine, does this make me an incompetent female or house wife? A pale part of me says yes, at least to the latter.
In grade school, mother let me dress myself. She took me shopping and spent a great deal of money. Disagreements over which clothes to wear or buy, never occurred. Mother has my honor for leasing the right to self-govern my image. However, my style never seemed to be the same as my classmates. Occasionally she offered that I make more an effort on my short-haired perm; to not let it flop flat and wet. Up until High School I was the odd boy… oops, girl. The word ‘odd’ is used because my teeth said it all: crooked, too big, and a major over bite. Lucky Me had such a huge mouth my teeth hadn’t a chance to hide, so I got braces. I desperately wanted glasses, so in 7th grade, dear mother bought me a non-prescription pair. I loved having braces and glasses. Looking back, my mom was probably thinking, “Whatever keeps the kissing and hand-holding at bay.” The word ‘boy’ is used because I was flat chested with black hairy limbs. In church once, my older sister leaned over and instructed that I shave my mustache before coming to church. One morning in 8th grade I used a Nair-type product. Time was limited. So half my upper lip was complete and consequently it burned the skin. So imagine in a classroom setting, a half-burned, half-haired lipped girl engaging in shallow conversation with a hairless boy nicknamed Egg. Somehow he got her on the topic of mustaches. Hmmm, wonder why? She couldn’t help thinking that the joke was on her.
Understanding Transgender II: Society is to Blame
Dad is a perfectly-pressed ironer. He enjoys a good conversation in person and on the phone. A curse word has never been muttered by him in my presence, nor has he raised his voice in an argument. Maybe an eyebrow, but never a tyrant vocal. Does this make him a feminine man? My father’s roles around the house are: mowing and edging the lawn, taking care of the car, doing the dishes, and paying the bills. Do these characteristics make him a masculine man? Mom does most of the renovations to our home: tiling, painting, wood working, and cabinet resurfacing. I view her as self-reliant and an autodidactic champ at accomplishing hard things. Do these characteristics suggest her a masculine woman? Mother’s roles around the house are: cooking, knitting, sewing, and decorating the yard with birds and flowers. Do these traits make her a feminine woman?
I find myself wanting to blame society or institutions where people are put into one of the two traditional gender roles. Well guess what? Forcing one to fit within the modern societal role of a particular gender is going to create irregularity, because gender doesn’t come in just pink or blue. Growing up the color purple made me kind of sick and I didn’t quite know why. As an adult it’s in my top three favorable colors and that’s due because I like its rays of diversity. The book, Why Gender Matters by Leonard Sax, M.D., Ph.D. helped me understand how the brain works in males and females. The author accredits everything he says with scientific research. I’m a little skeptical with statistics because most times the tests have a rooted agenda. However, this doctor’s results has helped me understand why institutions stereotype genders.
At first I had written the next paragraph about my distaste for institutions segregating males and females with certain activities such as: physical education in schools and in my three hour block at church there is an hour class time where they separate males and females who are older than 12 years. However, Dr Sax teaches that having separate learning activities for each gender is a good idea. Raising children pro gender neutral has its setbacks. Dr Sax points out that one of the reasons why children today have more anxiety than children in the 1950-60’s is because they are less rooted in their gender. (236) Boys need to have activities where they learn from men and girls need activities where they learn from women. When I think back at times I felt most feminine, was when I went out to lunch with my mom and her sisters, or being with girls my age where women were in charge of us. But if I could add, to not limit a gender specific learning environment to their stereotypical interests.
Understanding Transgender III: Dress or Tie?
I want to understand why is it so weird to see a man in a dress, or a woman in tie? Personally I love Diane Keaton’s look when she dresses in a suite and a tie. She wears masculinity and femininity beautifully. Steven Tyler is another person who seductively incorporates masculine and feminine into his style. I love his long hair, feathery- fringed jackets and tight pants. To my knowledge however, these two examples are comfortable with their gender identity. But I can’t help to think, if a dress is related to women and a man wants to wear a dress, then it would make sense for him to think he is a woman.
Why do American bathroom signs say pants are for boys and skirts are for girls, when Kilts and loins are being worn by men elsewhere? When were these earthly temporal boundaries established? Styles have changed so dramatically over time. Why has our fashion ended with where it is now? Is it possible to make the change again? If so, let’s make it happen sooner rather than later!
Department stores should have an open floor plan that together showcase male and female clothing. I’ve purchased boy clothes and haven’t felt weird about it. But I imagine it’s a different experience when a man wants to buy women’s clothing. Wouldn’t it be nicer to not have the Sesame Street lyrics playing in the back of our minds, “One of these things are not like the other?”
Song on Sesame Street Television Program-
Diane Keaton on Jimmy Fallon!
Understanding Transgender IV: Pliable Perception
What is my role in and around Transgender? For each of us, the answer will be different. “With greater self-awareness, you will be less likely to make statements that may inadvertently hurt your child. With insight, you will be more likely to offer sound, empathic advice.” (Dohrenwend,xiii) For me, educating myself will help give support to a family member and/or friend. Imagining my child identifying as LGBT has visually motivated my understanding. My LGBT family member or friend and I don’t need to agree on religious beliefs to be sympathetically connected. It’s perfectly obtainable for my spiritual views to honor and respect beliefs that differ. “You need not change your religious affiliation nor reject deeply held beliefs.” (Dohrenwend, xiii) To those of us who are Christian or at least respect Jesus as a great leader; what did He say? “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:37-39). The final product of motherhood for me will never be obtained in this life. It’s a fluid, workable goal that’s always reaching for higher grounds. I need to allow my perception to be pliable. My family and friends have helped me understand how to have unconditional love. In my younger years, people’s decisions and lifestyles went into one of my strict black or white categories. Thankfully time and people have broadened my perception. If my girl(s) are Transgender, I want to see them for their entirety. Even though my eyes cannot see their spirit, I want spiritual connection with them to not be set off-course by their earthly tabernacle.
The Whittington’s story of how they helped their child transition-
Understanding Transgender V: Fitting Into the Box
The difficulty with knowledge about Transgender or LGB will be fitting it into a shapely, decorative box that looks nicely in all the institutions I’ve associated myself with. The secret card folded into my sleeve is: I have never fit into any sort of shapely box. So if I don’t find one, that’s fine by me. The book, Coming Around has given me helpful tools if my child were to ‘come out’. Here are bullet points I’ve taken to heart:
- Don’t confront or tell your child they are Gay, Lesbian or Transgender. (13)
- Listen and understand their language and words. (8)
- Guilt serves one purpose- to change course. After that it’s destructive. (13)
- Get beyond stereotypes. Find time to evaluate perceptions. (15)
- It’s important that their self-esteem remains intact. Discussing sexuality/gender with a parent exposes the child’s vulnerability. (16)
- When your child comes out to you, saying these three words are essential. 1- I love you. 2- I’m proud of you. 3-I’m glad you told me. (23)
- If you are baffled, focus on their feelings until you can get a hold of yours. (27)
- Hold, hug and kiss them while they are coming out. (29)
- It’s okay if a parent doesn’t always say the right thing. But it’s best if we are prepared to apologize when we are wrong. (29)
I’ve often wondered why the need to ‘come out’. This quote resonated with me, “Disclosure is an important aspect of intimacy and connection. If we are to be authentic and truly present in a relationship then it is necessary to disclose who we are and what matters to us.” (20) It is of my opinion that living an honest life is benevolent. Also, everyone deserves respect on what they want to keep private and to whom they choose to share certain information.
Music- I Stand All Amazed
Anything Box Living in Oblivion
Understanding Transgender VI: The Most Important Institution is Family
Non Fictional literature has always taken more energy for me to read. To further my research I feel some grounding needs to take place. This section is intended to put oil in my lamp, and hopefully it will do the same for the readers. My religious views are deep seeded and have 36 years of growing. In regards to LGBT, my beliefs and opinions sometimes conflict with one another. It can be difficult and heart breaking. Keep in mind, I am definitely okay with readers not agreeing with me. Also, even though I link the LDS website in my blog, the LDS faith isn’t responsible for anything I write.
Opinon: When referring to male and female roles, the word ‘role’ feels like a negative concept. It suggests I dress, act and like certain things. However, roles are meant to be empowering not confining. Once we understand our roles, we feel empowered. Once we view roles as empowering, then we are to understand how they apply to us. Responsibility and duty are some synonyms for the word ‘role’. When I think of fulfilling our roles, I also relate this to fulfilling the measure of our creation; which then reverses the implication from negative to positive. I struggle with the right perspective, and maybe there isn’t one. Do we teach our child who sees themselves as the opposite gender that their spirit is the gender they were born with? Or do we help our children transition? I think with either of these options it is best to really meditate on what is best for each person.
Beliefs: A Parent’s Guide is an interesting article found on the LDS website that helps us learn and teach our children about families and our roles. In chapter 1, Intimacy and the Purposes of Earthly Families teaches us the eternal roles of men and women. There is much I loved about this article. I suggest taking the time to read its entirety with a humble heart and open mind. In short, here are bullet points from the article: https://www.lds.org/manual/a-parents-guide/chapter-1-intimacy-and-the-purposes-of-earthly-families?lang=eng
- In the pre-existence we were all brothers and sister, having one heavenly mother (I added her in) and father. It’s important to help each other to attain immortality and eternal life with our Heavenly parents.
- Everything we do must bring the blessings of righteousness into the lives of our children.
- Prayer is the source of communication to our Heavenly Father.
- When we receive the Holy Ghost and seek gifts of the Spirit, we become Christ-like in his nature –kind, pure in heart, meek and charitable.
- The Priesthood helps the Lord’s sons receive revelations, inspiration and understanding for their family. A father’s responsibility is to provide for their family’s needs: Shelter, food, clothing, compassion, counsel, comfort and direction. A father willingly accepts responsibility and is responsible for the outcome.
- The Lord gives equal amount of responsibilities to his daughters. Women give mortal tabernacles to the spirit children of God and then nurtures them to return to live with Heavenly Father.
- Women receive inspiration and understanding for their family. During pregnancy, she nurtures the child with her own body. “The child is literally flesh of her flesh, and the natural affection that exists between a creator and his creation exists in its strongest earthly form between a mother and child.”
Family is part of Heavenly Father’s Plan of Happiness and therefore shouldn’t be sacrificed. We live here as families and will continue to when we return to heaven. (A Parent’s Guide Chapter 1) Jesus Christ is the light and savior of the world. Opposite of this light is darkness, or Lucifer. At different points in my life, I have felt the works of Lucifer and therefore cannot dismiss he exists. I believe Lucifer knows God’s plan of happiness. Lucifer doesn’t want anyone to obtain it. If Satan destroys the family unit here on earth, then he destroys God’s plan. By destroying God’s plan, Lucifer wins the great battle. Satan makes the good look bad, and the bad look good. He reverses lies into truths. I feel, if we have a close relationship with God it will be easier to see His truth. When someone is Transgender, lets defeat Satan and do all we can to keep our family unit strong.
Music- Families Can Be Together Forever
A Child’s Prayer by Janice Kapp Perry
Understanding Transgender VII: Feeling ‘At Home’ Within Our Earthly Tabernacle
Having a female body feels comfortable to me and my spirit enjoys caverning here. But what about those spirits who feel a guest inside their body; how come they don’t feel ‘at home’ in their tabernacle?
God made us in His image. Our spirits match ( or in likeness) that of our earthly bodies as do our bodies match our spirits, as said in D&C section 77 verse 2. We were made spiritually before naturally placed here on earth, as said in Moses chapter 3 verses 5 and 7. It feels to me like we are mocking God when we say He made a mistake when he sent His spirit child into the wrong body. God making a mistake doesn’t fit His position of perfect, omnipotent and omniscient.
If one is in the belief that there are only two genders and also believes in a Christian view of resurrection, Transgender can be confusing. After being resurrected, the Spirit goes back into the same body it was born with, but is healed from all its imperfections. Well, what exactly counts as imperfections and does that include any that our Spirit might have? This is where my information and all my pondering will not fit into a nicely, decorative box. I simply don’t know; and need to exercise faith.
Dr Sax quotes Dr. Gaya about how the brain is a sexual organ and gender of the brain is a huge part of determining the human gender identity. (11) Dr Sax also mentions a study done in the Netherlands that may or may not be accurate, but states the brain of a transsexual man resembles the brain of woman without receiving any feminizing hormonal treatments. (213) Is it fair to ask our child, even though their body is female, and possibly their spirit; to live a life that conflicts with the functioning of their brain? If a born female thinks and feels male, wouldn’t they be more effective and productive by transitioning their bodies to match the way they mentally see themselves? This is a very personal decision. Respect and integrity should be given to either choice of transitioning or not. Free Agency was given to everyone.
I have used the source of prayer to help discover who I am. Heavenly Father is better equipped to guide me than man or society. I feel He wants us to know about our sexuality and gender. He is the one who created our bodies, therefore He knows best on how they function. He knows the effects earth life has on the mortal body and the reactions spirits may have dwelling inside His tabernacles. Using our faith in God will help us not be confused and will help us feel peace with our choices, even if that means we won’t receive our answers.
Music- The Lord Gave Me a Temple
Understanding Transgender VIII: Coming Together
It would be nice if all my religious beliefs and political views came together in harmonious watermelon crunch. There is much more information about LGBT that needs discussing. My research barely skims the surface. LGBT rights are progressing and thankfully is no longer a hush-hush topic. The web links provided in this document show that religious institutions are becoming more aware and sensitive to the diversities of their congregations.
Why would I care about the LGBT community? Because their rates of suicide, victims of bullying and depression are high. LGBT children who are accepted by their parents are less likely to be self-destructive (Dohrenwend,141). They are my brothers and sisters. I care for them and their happiness. They have their journey and I am but yet a personage who will either help them or hinder them in their happiness. America is supposed to be a place where all people are allowed freedoms. Many people have sacrificed their lives for the cause of freedom. When Joseph Smith was Prophet of the LDS church, Mormons struggled to find a place they could live their beliefs. Joseph’s life was taken because he was a seeker of truth. I give back the same generosity that has been bestowed upon us (me) and allow whomever the right to, or not to believe what they choose.
Why do we need to learn about Transgender? Recently I spoke briefly with a religious leader about this topic. His demeanor was respectful, but yet at the same time he seemed aloof to my interest. Maybe his detachment was because of his generations above me. But age aside, I’m guessing the number of people who do feel connected towards Transgender is less than the ones who don’t. I felt like telling this person, Haven’t you even let your mind ponder the idea? What if all this ‘gender’ business is because our eyes are not yet opened…and they need to be. Compassion has widened the walls of my heart. Having more knowledge about gender helps me know myself better. Knowing more about the masculine brain helps me better understand my husband and males in general. I am glad to have allowed my mind to go through this process and will allow it to continue…
Inspiring non-religious devotional-
Russell Brand-Awakened Man
Here are the resources that helped me with Coming to Understand Transgender
- The movie Transamerica http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0407265/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
- Lana Wachowski https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crHHycz7T_c
- Affirmations LGBT Mormons families and friends http://affirmation.org/teens/for-strength-of-Gay-youth/
- A Transgender who holds the Priesthood, but wants to attend Relief Society. http://www.good4utah.com/story/openly-Transgendered-mormon-woman-attends-priesthood/d/story/GqRleCXdFkOfQj1WWk6Fjw
- The Welcoming Church Movement http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Transgender+mormons&qpvt=Transgender+mormons&FORM=VDRE#view=detail&mid=E6ECEACE01439E3AB882E6ECEACE01439E3AB882
- Coming Around by Anne Dohrenwend, PhD, ABPP
- The Right to Be Out by Stuart Biegel
- Why Gender Matters,Leonard Sax, M.D., Ph.D.