I am a husband, a father, and an active member of the Church with a responsible calling. I have been blessed to receive a fine education, and I have a great job that I enjoy and where I honestly feel like I’m paid more than I’m worth (how many people can say that). I have a life full of rich blessings too many to enumerate here.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has always been a part of my life. My first ancestors on my father’s side joined the Church in the early 1830s. They crossed the plains and settled in parts of Utah. I figured out once that I am a 7th or 8th generation member on that side. And my father has been faithful and active in the Church since his birth. My mother is a convert to the Church. She joined when she was 17. But she was solid even before she was baptized and has never faltered since. If I know anyone whose calling and election I think are made sure, it is she. So like Nephi, I was born of goodly parents who taught correct principles from my birth. To the extent I have done any good, I owe it to the solid foundation I was given. Not only did they teach me right from the start, but they laid the foundation for my own testimony. The first time I remember having a real spiritual witness was when I was about seven. We were told in Primary that a person could know that the Book of Mormon is true by praying about it. My parents reinforced this teaching in a Family Home Evening. So with youthful trust and innocence, I did that. And when I did, I was given a witness of the truthfulness of that Book. That seed of testimony grew and strengthened gradually over time. With that start, I never doubted that the Church was true or that its doctrines were correct.
So I should be just fine, right? I am and always have been active. I served a mission. I married the most wonderful woman in the world in the Temple. I have the best kids in the world. What better life story could a person hope for.
But even with all that, my very earliest memories are memories of wanting very badly to be a girl. When I was four or five years old, I remember day dreaming about having a machine that I could step into, and it would paint my nails and give me long hair and make me a little girl. I didn’t know, or even think about, why I wanted to be a girl. At that young age, I barely understood that there was any difference between boys and girls beyond the superficial aspects of dress and appearance. But I definitely knew I wanted to be a girl.
I guess I felt something inherently shameful about this, because I didn’t tell anybody about it. But I remember I would sneak into my mom’s closet and find her shoes, dresses and nylons and play dress up. Of course, at 5 years old, I wasn’t terribly sneaky, so my parents knew I was doing this. At first, I think my mother thought it was just normal kid stuff, but the fact that I was trying to hide bothered her. It made her think that I thought I was doing something wrong. So eventually my father sat down to talk to me. At this point, I must point out that I have been blessed with two extraordinarily loving and understanding parents. I cannot credit either of them with a perfect understanding of my condition, but I know and have always known that they love me and want what is best for me. So when my father talked to me, it was not in an angry or accusatory tone. He simply explained to me that boys are not supposed to wear girls’ clothes. And in my youthful trust, I accepted that. So I stopped sneaking into my mom’s closet, and eventually I stopped thinking about the machine that would make me a girl. I pushed it all as far towards the back of my mind as I could. Still, as I look back, there was a general discomfort about my gender always hovering in the back of my consciousness. It was covered for a while, but it never went away.
Then I started going through puberty. This is a confusing time, even for a “normal” teenager, so you can imagine the curve ball it threw me. As my hormones started to change, I found that the feelings from my childhood came back, but stronger. This was a dark time of my life, and I won’t recount it in detail. I kept up the proper exterior image of the “good kid” everybody knew I was, but in private I felt filthy and bad. I was filled with guilt, shame, and anguish. I started dressing up in my mom’s clothes again, but now I was more careful. I never got caught. Looking back, I almost wish I had been, because the secrecy was my wost mistake. Because I was ashamed, I never told anybody about any of it. What would they think? I was supposed to be the “good kid.” I was supposed to be the son of this faithful, model family. Sons of faithful, model families don’t go wearing their moms’ clothes. So I kept it all to myself.
Eventually, the weight of the shame was so tremendous that I managed, through whatever quantum of will I possess myself, and more importantly, with the help of the Spirit, despite my prideful refusal to seek help, to stop what I was doing. But I still didn’t tell anybody. I kept it all to myself. For years, I resisted the promptings of the Spirit to talk to my Bishop so that I could share my burden. It was not until I was in the MTC, where the Spirit is overwhelming, that I could no longer resist the Spirit. I spoke with my Branch President, a good, loving man. More than anything, he expressed sorrow that I had carried this burden alone for so long when it would have been so simple to be free of it earlier. He assured me that many teenagers feel confusion as they sort out their identities, and that it wasn’t that unusual. So that’s it, I told myself—just youthful teenage confusion that many people feel. By this time, I had managed to push the strong, ever-present feeling of wanting to be a girl to the back again, and I thought I had beaten it. I was sure it was just a symptom of teenage hormonal changes.
I served my mission and returned home feeling honorable and clean. I felt like I was the person I wanted to be now. I even felt comfortable enough to discuss my teenage years with my parents and talk about what I had put myself through. I learned that my mother had suspected what was going on—with no other evidence than the gentle whisperings of the Spirit—and that it was related to my playing dress up as a child. I appreciated the understanding ear, but now I was looking back on what I thought was a problem I used to have but had beaten.
Again, looking back, I can see that it was actually always there. It wasn’t always quite as strong and forcefully present, but it was definitely there. I had just managed to bury it.
I started college, and two years later, I was blessed to marry the most wonderful woman on the face of the Earth in the temple. I cannot say enough good of my wife. She is kind, faithful, patient and loving. She is an anchor to my soul and a constant source of good in my life. We had known each other since we were teenagers, we had become friends over time, she had written to me (as a friend) while I was on my mission, and eventually we fell in love and married. It was a story book romance better than any I had ever read, and I knew that all was now well.
I felt no need to tell her about my erstwhile feelings of wanting to be a girl. That was all in the past now. I was moving on to a new chapter of my life.
I remember with vivid horror the moment everything came back. It was about six months after we got married. It was late, my wife was already asleep. I had stayed up to study, and I took a break to play a silly computer game. Then all at once, this feeling just washed over me, and I felt everything come back with a vengeance. The dark presence was so strong, I felt paralyzed. It was like this specter was making up for the few years of peace it had given me. It now had gripped me, and to this day, it has not let go of its own accord.
Again, I didn’t tell anybody. This time, I thought, there was no reason to tell. I wasn’t doing anything. It was just a strong, persistent feeling. Sure, my thoughts were often less than upright, but you don’t have to go to the Bishop every time you have a bad thought. You repent, improve, move on. I would get my mind fixed on good things, and overcome it through force of will. So again, i didn’t say anything to anybody. In fact, and rather ironically, one of the things that made my determination not to do anything wrong so iron clad was knowing that if I did, I would have to go see a Bishop and talk about it all again. That would be such an embarrassment. And if I started working with the Bishop, my wife would know something was going on. And I knew she could never know. What would she think? I knew that if she knew, she would surely leave me in a heartbeat, and that would destroy me.
So I lived with it. Again, I put on a public show of “all is well,” but inside I was miserable and eaten up with my thoughts. I felt very dark and empty inside. But over a very, very long time, the Spirit again worked against my rebellious and proud spirit. Eventually, I realized that I absolutely could not do this alone. I needed to be able to talk about this, and I couldn’t keep it from my wife. She deserved to know the truth. Yet even after I decided to do it, I could never find the “right time. ” There was always some excuse for delay. Then, finally, one day shortly after our 5th wedding anniversary, I let go of the excuses, and sat next to her on our bed and explained what was going on.
Understandably, she felt shocked, hurt and betrayed. I can’t begin to understand what must have gone through her heart and mind as I explained it all, but for a few days, she was so disturbed she could hardly look at me. The fact that she did not get on a plane the next day and fly home and leave forever I can ascribe only to her saintly nature. She is far too good for me. She is far better than I deserve. To this day, my GID is as difficult for her as it is for me, but she has faithfully stood with me the whole time.
After I spoke to my wife, I felt a huge weight released. I then was able to call and talk to my parents and let them know what was going on. They were supportive, as always—especially my dear mother, with whom I have always been close. Sharing my burden with people I could trust lifted the burden. I finally realized that confession is good for the soul, even if you haven’t done anything that requires a Bishop’s intervention for repentance. After I opened up, I was finally on the way to a long, slow road to redemption (I’m still on it). I still had huge trials ahead of me, but at least I felt I was going in the right direction.
And I’m serious when I say I still had trials ahead. I still struggled. My thoughts were still troubled. I still failed far too often. Things came to a head at one point when I had to be separated from my wife for a period of time. Like I said, she is my anchor. She is the quieting influence in my life. I don’t do well without her. So when we had to be separated for a time, I started sliding backwards. I could see where I was headed. This is when I finally spoke to a Bishop again. He gave me some good counsel, and then gave me a blessing, anointing me with oil and promising me that I would someday be healed (more on this later). He also advised me that LDS Social Services might be able to help, and gave me the name of a counselor. Unfortunately, circumstances delayed the appointment, and then we moved to another state.
Once I was back with my wife, I felt better, so I just kept going for a little while. But eventually I started feeling overwhelmed again. This time I knew what to do. With my wife’s support, I spoke to our Bishop. I explained that I wasn’t coming to confess any grave sin, but that I was just struggling with these feelings. Our Bishop was a man of mighty faith, and though he did not understand the problem well, he comforted and strengthened me and gave me a blessing. He then referred me to LDS social services again. This time I was able to get in and see a counselor.
I wish I could say that this good brother had all the answers, but he didn’t, and it wasn’t until some time later that I realized that didn’t matter (see the post on Two Conference Talks). What he was able to do was to give me some good, sound advice. I think I will speak of that more in other posts, but the important thing is that he kept me going in the right direction.
Since I opened up about my problem, I have been able to lean heavily on the Priesthood. I cannot count the number of Priesthood blessings my father has given me. I also received a powerful blessing from my grandfather, a Patriarch with a beautiful power of expression and a loving heart.
And here I am today. You will notice I have chosen to remain anonymous. That is not from the shame I used to feel, but from the fact that not everybody needs to know. I have shared with the people who do need to know, and it has helped. A lot. But I also know there are many in the Church who would immediately assume that I am some kind of leper if they knew of these feelings. So I’d just rather not go there. It is enough that I can share on this forum.
I will continue to share my feelings, insights, and the things I have learned over many years of dealing with this. As I said in the About page, I hope that I can offer some insight to somebody struggling with this like I am. And I hope you can share your experience and strengthen me. I can’t promise you all the answers. I don’t have them. I just have some things that have worked for me. But if I had to choose one piece of advice that is more important than any other, it is this: Don’t do it alone. Share with somebody. Open up. Don’t hide behind your shame. It doesn’t work. Share with somebody and get some help.