Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Sticks and Stones: Wounds and Tears from the Current Transgender Discourse among Church members

Kudos to the guy that builds these!
I often compare building my place among the membership of the Church to physically constructing a house in Zion. As a transgender member, I often feel like I am building my abode out of toothpicks stacking them one at a time, very slowly. The merest breath of public disapprobation causes some of my carefully placed toothpicks to tumble down; I painstakingly gather up the fallen toothpicks and place them again, and again. I'm constantly starting over as toothpicks fall, I'm never finished, I'm always building.

If public disapproval or lack of understanding is a breeze, condemnation feels like rocks being cast down onto my little house. Lately, I feel like a lot of rocks have been falling on my home hurtling broken toothpicks like shrapnel, leaving giant gaps in my lovingly crafted, yet fragile abode. I start repairing the damage and another rock falls. Sometimes I feel like I can't keep up with the damage. I wonder how anything is left standing at all, only a fragile skeleton of a home remains trembling at the slightest breath of wind.

This latest bout of stones was brought on by the LDS Church's amicus brief regarding the transgender bathroom issue. Now, I should clarify it was not the Church's brief (which was consistent with past policy, and didn't really affect me or change anything... still waiting for further teaching from the brethren here), but rather the response from my fellow Church members.

Let's be clear, in every way I try to be a faithful member of the Church. I attend church regularly. I play organ every Sunday. I teach Sunday School and try to get the kids to love God as much as I do. I fulfill my callings, honor my covenants, heck I even do my home teaching. Those rocks being thrown are aimed at those "other" people, the "rebellious" ones not living "right," the nameless victims of the unending culture war that we are constantly waging. Yet each time those stones are hurled, they land in my house. They break my heart, and they attempt to evict me from my little shack here in Zion.

Let me explain. People say lots of different things about transgender people, but a surprising portion of those critiques are of mental states, of cosmologies, rather than of lifestyle, like you'd expect. Lots of statements such as: "God doesn't make mistakes." "Your feelings are delusions, they aren't real." "Just be like the rest of us." "What is right is right, what is wrong is wrong." -- Black and white. Right and wrong. Get with the program. Your struggles aren't real, your problems are fake or you are simply crazy, stop wasting our time and get a grip.

Some are far more pernicious, attempting to take away my right to be human: "If a person thinks they are dog, it doesn't make it right to urinate in public." Such comparisons to animals, to criminals, and to pedophiles abound.

Lest you doubt me, these are all quotes from Facebook and discussion sections on the Deseret News and Salt Lake Trib, and I can send you links to them if you'd like.

Now, you might say something like, "but Kyle, these quotes obviously aren't talking about you. You aren't one of them," meaning, I presume, that I haven't transitioned to an extent that makes people uncomfortable. I'm following the "right" path. But the difference between me and the people for whom those comments are meant is minor, a difference of degree of expression rather than condition. I understand their desire to transition because I too have felt that desire. I understand their need to fit in because I also want to fit in. In every way, I share in the "delusion" of gender dysphoria, only expressing it differently from some people. I am that trans Other in every way that matters, and thus, those stones hit me too.

Some might say, "But Kyle, Dumbledore says our choices make us who we are, not our characteristics, and your choices are different, so don't take these things to heart." How can I not? I don't feel so very different. My experience is not so very different. The vast majority of these careless remarks focus on the experience of having gender dysphoria, feelings just about every trans person I've ever heard of experiences every day, including me.

I was recently asked by a good friend how they could help, what they could do. All I wish for in this unending war is that we can treat the Other side with a touch of human dignity and compassion. So if you too would like to help, please stand up, remind others that we are human, that harsh words hurt people like me too. Please don't be silent. Share my story. Share the stories of other transgender individuals you know. If you don't know me, please ask me questions, and get to know me. Teach your children that it's okay to disagree, it's okay to not understand, but it's never okay to denigrate a child of God.

As you think about this. I'm busy trying to repair my place in Zion. I'm picking up scattered toothpicks and trying to super glue them back together. I'm carefully returning them to their place. Some of you might still cast stones. Others of you might wonder why I am even here, thinking me insane for building over and over again, but hopefully some of you might come lend a hand. I've come to see that the good Lord has plenty of toothpicks for us all.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, Kyle. There are lots of us out here who'd like to help you build that house.

  2. Kyle you are a great inspiration. Your analogy is perfect. The lord loves you as he does all of his children. Your strength is astounding. I'm sure the love of our Heavenly Father strengthens you everyday. I was having conflicting thoughts on Sunday because of the amicus brief. I was asking myself what in the world I was doing at church? I'm the mother of a transgender daughter. How can I support her and be a member of the church? As I was sitting in sacrament the spirit was really strong, almost unbearable. I even said Ok I get it. Wanting the tears to stop flowing. Later I received a personal blessing while being set apart for a calling, that gave me guidance for my family. I don't understand all things, but I trust God.

  3. Wow, absolutely beautiful. Than you so much for sharing. I have a son who has autism and isn't able to fully communicate with me. He talks often of feeling like he is not the correct gender. I'm terrified for him, because he's already judged for having autism at church. Your words help me know that he is not alone. Your example shows me and others the Savior's way, and I thank you.

  4. I'm really sorry, I found this to be too true:

    "Yet each time those stones are hurled, they land in my house. They break my heart, and they attempt to evict me from my little shack here in Zion. . . . Black and white. Right and wrong. Get with the program. Your struggles aren't real, your problems are fake or you are simply crazy, stop wasting our time and get a grip. . . . Teach your children that it's okay to disagree, it's okay to not understand, but it's never okay to denigrate a child of God."

    Know that there are those that love you regardless of choices/identity/circumstances and accept your reality. I support you in it. I grew up with a slight amount of gender dysphoria, and it was painful, I can only imagine the pain you have described to be much, much worse by comparison. My heart goes out to you.

  5. "I start repairing the damage and another rock falls."

    It was a difficult decision, but I decided to build my house away from a mountain with loose rocks so that I wouldn't have to worry about base human fundamental level things from being destroyed. I'm sure you get the analogy.

  6. My heart goes out to you friend. People can be hurtful and judgemental about things they don't underatand. It has always been my policy to ignore them as best I can, and correct them when I cant.

    Honestly, the comments section of deseret news and facebook are almost always filled with vitriol, no matter the topic.

    I still entirely don't underatand gender dysphoria at all, even after reading several of your blog posts, but I hope to eventually.

  7. If people really had the Spirit and walked their talk, they wouldn't act so. When I was a little kid, I had very bad vision and was severely cross-eyed. I enjoyed coming to church because that was the only place I could go where the other kids wouldn't tease me. Sad to say, this is no longer true. I brought a black investigator to church once. Nobody would speak to us and sit by us.

    People are uncomfortable being around people whom they perceive as being different in any way. But, when people truly have the Spirit, they love everyone, and the differences don't matter to them. Either that, or they see them as blessings.

    You might not like me saying this, but sooner or later, you will come to the realization that this is not the church you and I grew up believing that it was.

  8. Thank you. This is very valuable. Very insightful and real. Please continue to write.

  9. Thank you for the encouragement to share your story. A few times at church, I've been present when comments that oversimplify or dismiss gender dysphoria are made. I tend to stumble over my words when speaking orally, especially about a topic I very much want to word carefully because it matters a great deal, so I haven't said anything (except perhaps a quiet "it's more complicated than that," hoping someone sitting near will listen and hear). Inside, I think "but you don't know Kyle. You haven't considered that the implications of this struggle are far more vast than you may even think to think, because it's something that is usually so inherently simple, the base of our paradigm. If you could only read the blog, you'd come to notice and appreciate the depths so much more, and I hope you'd be loving."

    Just an hour ago, I saw a Facebook video shared (but not made) by an LDS person about how children shouldn't be able to transition, despite the AAP allowing or encouraging it. I agreed with that basic premise, but because it and the other points were presented so matter-of-factly, so black and white, I wrote a little spiel about how we need to be compassionate, illustrated with indirect (not named) examples of worries you've shared. I love that you've shared your thoughts so I can hopefully help be an ally in what ways I can, and I hope I don't do it wrong or hurtfully. It's hard to know how to balance conviction and testimony with empathy and tolerance sometimes, but it's well worth the effort to try.