There’s one feeling I’ve just never been able to shake. It’s the feeling of being alone, and I don’t know why exactly it needs to be like it is. I believe that the Lord has a purpose for the trials He permits us to suffer. So there’s a reason He’s allowed me to feel this way. I just don’t know what the purpose is.
The reason I feel alone is I’m kind of trapped between two societies that don’t mix well together. On the one hand, there’s the Transgender community. It would be easy to mix with that group. There was a time I wished very much that I could join with them in sharing makeup and clothing tips and coaching each other through the “Transition.” At one point, when I felt particularly alone, I started looking at some message boards frequented by transgendered people. Their stories were very compelling, because they tracked with mine so very exactly. I found that many of them had been through the same things—feelings that started from the time they were very little; periods when they successfully pretended that it wasn’t there, but knowing that it was ever present. And what they all had in common was they reached a point where they decided, “I’m going to stop fighting it and just be who I am.” And what stories of rejoicing they had! It was like a Testimony meeting where people couldn’t get to the podium fast enough. All had the same message: “Reconciling my appearance with my mind has finally made me happy.” And I believe that they mean it. Indeed, I still have no reason to doubt that they are, for the most part, content with their new lives, in contrast to the turmoil they felt before. So it would have been very easy for me to fall in with that group.
On the other hand, there is the Church. It is a fellowship of Saints. It is a gathering place where we talk of Christ, we teach of Christ, and we rejoice in Christ. It is a place where we learn of the eternity of the soul and rejoice in the eternity of the Family. We hear the voices of living prophets regularly, and I always look forward to the next General Conference. We are led by them, as they are led by Jehovah Himself. I have felt the Spirit witness this to me so strongly that I know it as surely as I know my own name. We have been taught truths that are precious and rare among most of the world. And beyond that, my own study of the Gospel has led me to great rejoicings in the personal revelation I receive. I crave the blessed feeling of being touched by the Spirit. I yearn always for that moment, when my soul sings and I know I have been taught some truth. I have received many Priesthood blessings, and have been privileged to provide many for my wife and children. I have administered and taken the Sacrament, and have remembered the Lord’s suffering in Gethsemane and on the cross. I love the principle of service that bring us together as saints. I love to enter the Temple, where the Spirit can whisper sweet comforts to me without competing with outside voices.
So there I am. Socially, I feel a bond—a kinship even—with those who have shared my struggle. I have yearned to associate with them; to share with them my many long strugglings, and have somebody say, “Yes, I know exactly what you mean. I have been through that too, and I’m okay now.” But there is a chasm between me and them, and it is one that I cannot cross. In those circles, it is very unpopular to believe that SRS is contrary to God’s will. Many will profess Christian faith, believing that there is no conflict. I even once found a group consisting of both former and current members of the Church. But even among those, the general consensus was that the Brethren were naive and ill informed on gender issues. Those who had not outright left the Church and declared it a sham simply believed that the Brethren would eventually “come around” on the issue. Some tried to reconcile the faith of their Fathers with their own gender orientation by declaring that they were in fact simply women (I am generally referring to “Male to Female” individuals; there are certainly some going the other direction, but I have seen far fewer of them). I shared my life story with one of these groups, and received several sincere, hearfelt entreaties to join them in their happiness and stop denying who I was. In those circles, to openly declare that I believe that the Brethren are inspired, that they speak for the Lord Himself, and that my ability to sire children rather conclusively determines my eternal gender identity, is to invite scorn and hostility. The sentiment is understandable. To openly declare such a thing is to challenge the basis on which they have built their own identities. For them to acknowledge such a thing would be to invite the kind of tearing dilemma I felt myself.
On the other hand, if we are perfectly honest, Mormons, as a group, are not always the most accepting group for people who are “different.” This is not a criticism of the Church itself; rather, it is an observation of a common shortcoming among the Saints. We are, at least externally, a largely homogeneous people (though I suspect that if we could see into each others’ souls, I would not be the only one with a secret pain). We tend to look similar to each other, act similarly, and speak in common (sometimes trite) phrases. The sentiment is somewhat understandable, if not excusable. Here are individuals who have had the Spirit plainly testify to them that certain things are true. Here is a group of people who have had the same experience. We all look and act largely the same, therefore, those who do not look and act like us must be “wrong” somehow. Like I said, the sentiment is understandable, not excusable.
So I must admit, rather sadly, that I have not felt entirely comfortable sharing my feelings with many people in the Church. I suspect that if I did, it would be hard to have a normal relationship with many people in my ward (to say nothing of those I have responsibility for in my calling). I suspect that I would be a subject of gossip among some, since as a people, I think gossipping is one of our greatest sins. That’s not to say that everybody would respond like that—perhaps it would not even be a marjoirty. I have shared my story with a few carefully-selected people, and they have all been supportive and uplifting. But it would be enough to make going to Church unpleasant. And Sunday is my favorite day of the week. I don’t want to change that.
So on the one hand, I feel like there’s a group of people that I can be perfectly honest with about my GID, and they will be very accepting of me as long as I hide my belief in living Prophets. On the other hand, I feel like I can be completely honest about my testimony at Church—indeed, I have shared it over the pulpit and in classes many times—but I don’t feel comfortable being open about GID.
All taken together, I sometimes feel like I don’t really “fit in” anywhere, which is a lonely feeling. I know I’m not the only person in the world with GID. There are millions. I know I’m not the only member of the Church with GID. I’ve read many of their stories on discussion boards, talking about growing up with this painful secret, serving a mission, even marrying in the Temple. Unfortunately, they generally end with “And then I decided to stop fighting this, and just ‘be myself.’ So I am working towards/have had SRS.”
I cannot fathom that I am the only member of the Church with GID who has chosen to hold firm to my faith. But if they are out there on the blogosphere, I haven’t found them yet. I have searched occasionally, but I avoid making it a too-frequent habit. What I do find tends to point me down roads I have seen before and that have seemed enticing, and that I have ultimately had to willfully reject.
That’s one of the reasons I started this blog. I thougt, if there is no blog where I can discuss GID and my faith, maybe I just need to make it. Maybe if somebody else runs the same searches I have, among all the results he or she will see this, and think, “Here’s what I’ve been looking for.” So far, that person has not come along.
The people who have come along have been supportive and uplifting. They have been kind and understanding, even if they don’t have the same challenges. I’m grateful for that experience. And if against all probability and expectation, if contrary to the astronomical odds, there’s nobody else out there who is both gender confused and committed to staying with the Church, this has nevertheless been a good experience. I have finally been able to open up about things I have wished I could shout on the rooftops. I have been able to tell my whole story to anybody who cares to listen. I have been able to lay out all of my feelings and progress, and finally feel like a whole person—a person with GID and with a firm testimony. And while I still hope that other person shows up someday, even if he or she doesn’t, I don’t feel so alone. Because one of the most important things I have learned is I’m really not all that different. The trial itself may be different, but the principle is the same. We must lay our burdens on the Savior, and He will carry them for us. If we do that, it doesn’t matter if we call it GID, or SSA, or Death of a Spouse, or I Can’t Find My Pet. His yoke is easy and His burden is light.