I’ve written a couple of posts now emphasizing very strongly the struggle I had until I finally stopped being obsessed with wanting to know “why” I had a problem with gender confusion and started focusing on changing my heart and becoming more Christlike. As I have said in those posts, the turning point was realizing that admitting I needed a change of heart was not necessarily an admission that this was somehow my fault. The gender confusion was not something I had any control over. It was what it was. What I could change was my relationship with the Savior and my trust in Him.
But I want to point out that this realization was not the “end” of my journey. This did not magically make life a cake walk. This was in fact the beginning of my journey out of despair and darkness. I am still on that journey. The difference is now I feel hope where before, I felt none.
I would like to quote a passage from Elder Holland’s “Broken Things to Mend” that relates to this:
Are you battling a demon of addiction—tobacco or drugs or gambling, or the pernicious contemporary plague of pornography? Is your marriage in trouble or your child in danger? Are you confused with gender identity or searching for self-esteem? Do you—or someone you love—face disease or depression or death? Whatever other steps you may need to take to resolve these concerns, come first to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Trust in heaven’s promises. In that regard Alma’s testimony is my testimony: “I do know,” he says, “that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions.”
There are two things important here: One, “whatever other steps you need to take … come first to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” So coming unto Christ is the beginning. It is where we start. I see value in this for the second important point in this quote: “whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions.” Alma’s testimony of the Lord’s promise was not that He would take away all of our trials. It was that we would be supported in our trials; that our trials would not overwhelm us, but that we would be comforted.
Another reason that it is valuable to come first unto the Gospel of Jesus Christ is because of the help it gives us in the other steps we need to take, whatever they may be. For example, one way I try to come unto Christ is by intense daily scripture study. I do not just “read” the scriptures a little bit every day. I think about them and dissect them. I pray about them and ponder their meaning. I take extensive notes on what I am reading and what the Spirit is teaching me about what I am reading. When I do this, I gain tremendous insight and knowledge into the Scriptures and their meaning. But there is another benefit I think is even more valuable. I am learning to hear the voice of the Spirit in a context where I know it cannot be mistaken.
That’s really important to me, because my particular problem is one where there are many, many voices that all concertedly advocate steps that I believe are inconsistent with the Gospel. The best secular authority is that the only viable, long-term option for me to be at peace with myself is for me to start working on making myself look like a woman. Often, the process advocated includes intensive therapy, adoption of a public female persona, and preparation for eventual surgery. I decided very long ago that this was not possible for me. But I was miserable. I despaired of ever being happy. I read accounts of those who had walked this path and professed their great peace and happiness with their modified bodies and personas. I thought, “Why, if I am doing the Lord’s will, do I feel miserable, while those who do what the Spirit forbids me to do, claim to be so happy?”
The answer, of course, was the need for a change of heart. I had to believe that I truly could be as happy—in fact even happier—than those who chose that course. That was difficult for me to accept, for that path was exactly what the natural man (woman?) most desired. But as I learned to yield to the Spirit, I found that He spoke peace to my troubled heart. And as I learned to hear His voice, He spoke things to me that I may not have considered alone.
For example, I have always enjoyed the soft look and feel of nylon stockings. And I always felt guilty for that. But then one day I had a very distinct feeling that rather than fight constantly with those feelings, maybe I should just go ahead and wear them. At first, I thought this was crazy, and I would have ascribed it to the deceit of that other spirit, but like I said, I have learned to discern what the True Spirit feels like. This thought was so astoundingly novel to me, I mulled it over for nearly a year. I researched the issue, and found that there are men who wear pantyhose for medical reasons (like circulation and diabetes). And there is apparently a small fashion movement (mostly in Europe) to make it more publicly acceptable for men to wear pantyhose in public. In fact, hosiery was originally an article of men’s clothing (for example, in Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” Rosalind dons “doublet and hose” to disguise herself as a page boy, or in other words, a girl wearing hose was considered cross dressing). As I learned more, it seemed less strange. I even asked my mother, whom I knew to be very close with the Spirit, to pray with me about it, for I hardly dared to trust my own feelings on something that seemed so indulgent (i.e., I really wanted it to be true, so that made me reluctant to believe it was). When she called me back, her comment was, “Well, ultimately, they’re just socks. But the other thing the Spirit tells me strongly is you need to be sensitive about [my wife].” I thought this was beyond reasonable, since I knew by now how important it was to be open with her.
When I first spoke to her about it, she was disturbed by the thought, and I dropped it for a while. But eventually, she came to at least tolerate the idea, if not actually encouraging it. So I started shaving my legs and wearing pantyhose rather regularly (that is another thing—I have always hated having hairy legs; it bothers me immensely; in fact, I don’t think hairy legs look good on anybody, male or female) (also note, I don’t wear lacy sexy stockings. That would be too weird for me. I favor Sheer Energy nude or suntan or just opaque tights). And I found that it helped to temper the extreme feelings of disorientation in my body. During this time was when I saw an LDS counselor briefly, and he explained that it helped because it was kind of a pressure release valve—an outlet through which I could express my feminine feelings. I also thought that another good thing about it was that it was something I could do without drawing undue attention to myself, advertising my problems publicly, or pretending to hold myself out as a woman.
Now, my point in telling you all this is not to preach to you that if you have GID, this is what you should do. I can’t tell you what is or is not right for you. My point is that I would have assumed that this was wrong if the Spirit had not whispered to me, and if I had not learned to recognize that voice.
Another thing that would seem non-conventional that the Spirit has led me to do stems from something the LDS counselor had me do. He asked me to get a small journal and start writing down my impressions and feelings as I dealt with this. He said I didn’t need to share it with him or with anybody else. But I needed to be absolutely honest in it, and it could serve as a self-evaluation tool that would help me know what we needed to talk about.
As I started writing, one thing I found myself doing was writing things I would do, say, think, or feel if I were a woman. Then for some reason, I decided to create a sort of fictional alter-ego who was this woman I wanted to be. I made her into a fictional twin sister, one whose life could parallel my own so I had a place to put all these feelings that were part of me. I gave her a name, and wrote some of her personal history. Then I started keeping a fictional journal of her daily life. I wrote about how she interacted with me and the family. I gave her some angst of her own to overcome. She started to feel very, very real. I didn’t write every day, just when I felt like it. And I found that this was an incredibly effective way to process my feelings. Rather than keeping them all pent up inside, I now had a place for them to go. They could flow into this fictional sister and give her life. At first, she focused a lot on “girly” things like her clothes and mood swings and food she liked. But as she (meaning as I) matured, she started getting more of my spiritual insights. She was writing about the things I had learned from studying the scriptures that day, or deep impressions on the importance of womanhood and motherhood in God’s plan. These are the things that gave her dimension and life, and like I said, the more seemingly “real” she became, the more effective she was as an outlet for my feelings. So she’ll still sometimes write about the cute Mary Jane pumps or seersucker dress she found on sale (after all, if all I needed was a place to record what I learn from the scriptures, I already have a study journal for that), but she has also become a deeply spiritual part of me. And again, this is not something I necessarily would have thought to do without the promptings of the Spirit.
One last thing the Spirit has prompted me to do is this very blog. Like the others, this is something I probably never would have thought to do on my own. Especially not in the very open, vulnerable way I am doing it. But I find that writing is one of the most effective things I do to cope with my GID. (I know I’m repeating myself, but) It’s a way to process my feelings and give them an outlet without pretending to be or trying to convince myself that I am something I’m not. And I really hope that someday, somebody who feels hopeless—even if you are not a Mormon, or even if your particular challenge is not GID—will read this and feel the Spirit, and realize that ther is hope in the Gospel of Jesus Christ; that He can heal us, even when, for His own purposes, he does not cure us (credit to Samantha and her blog buddy for that turn of phrase). It is my testimony that He can, that He does, and that He will. It is my testimony that there is peace—peace more sincere, deep, and abiding than is available through any other means—in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.