I sort of touched on this subject several months ago in an earlier post, but I wanted to revisit it because I've had some new thoughts and ideas on the topic. I was reminded about it after catching an old episode of Oprah a few weeks ago. Those of you in North America probably saw it months ago, since Oprah is delayed by a couple of months here because they need to add subtitles.
The guests on Oprah were young transgenders, who underwent hormone therapy and/or a sex change operation because they felt they had been born into the wrong body. One had been born a boy, but was living as a woman. The other had been born a girl and was now living as a man.
The more that I witness the personal stories of such people, the harder it is for me (or anyone, in my opinion) to deny that what they feel is extremely real and often devastating, depending on the support -- or lack of it -- that they receive from their loved ones.
I found the story of the young girl-to-man especially compelling. It was interesting to see old pictures of when he was a little girl. You could see the unhappiness and, more than anything, the awkwardness. I don't meant to be mean, but she was a very homely girl. Why? Because she looked like a boy in a wig and dress. Now that "she" has become a "he," he looks normal. His mother described the living hell that their family went through when this young girl was suicidal because of her mental and emotional agony. As soon as she began with hormone therapy and started on the road to becoming a man, he became a happy person, the depression and the suicidal feelings disappeared. Being Mormon, I tried to imagine being in the position of that mother, who wasn't Mormon. If she had followed Church policy on gender -- which, from what I understand includes excommunication for those who undergo transgender operations -- and pushed for her daughter to continue living as a girl, the daughter very likely would have taken her life or at least remained terribly depressed her entire life. Talk about feeling torn.
One thing that really puzzles me whenever I try to reconcile Church doctrine on gender and sexuality with such personal accounts from real people is the fact that almost all of them report feeling either that they were gay or were born the wrong gender from a very early age -- before the age of accountability. We are taught that Satan has no power on those under the age of 8. To me, that means that if a child is feeling a homosexual attraction or gender confusion at age 5, for example, then it can't be a temptation coming from Satan. So where does it come from? God?
Another thing I've thought about is the perplexing question of those people who are born intersex.
"Intersexuality is the state of a living thing of a gonochoristic species whose sex chromosomes, genitalia, and/or secondary sex characteristics are determined to be neither exclusively male nor female. An intersex organism may have biological characteristics of both the male and female sexes. Intersexuality is the term adopted by medicine during the 20th century applied to human beings who cannot be classified as either male or female." (Wikepedia)
In "The Family: A Proclamation To The World," the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles stated:
"All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose."
Where does this leave intersex people? They're neither one nor the other. Do they have to choose? Is their gender determined by how they feel or is it determined purely by biology and whether or not they have a Y chromosome?
I've tried to imagine what it would be like if someone said to me, "FD, you are a man, so you just need to accept it. You need to start thinking, acting, walking, talking, and dressing like a man. And therefore you should be attracted to women."
Can you imagine what it would be like if you had to convince yourself that you were actually the opposite sex that you think and feel you are?
I agree with the the "Proclamation On The Family" that "(G)ender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose." I believe that our gender is eternal and that Heavenly Father didn't just leave it up randomly to our DNA to decide whether we would be one gender or the other.
I'm thinking more and more that gender really is a state of mind and spirit: one that is as much a part of us as all the other aspects of our spirit and intelligence. I am female because I feel and act female. If I were sitting in a male body at this very moment but with the same mind that I have now, would I consider myself to not be female?
Heavenly Father can and does allow some of us to be born into bodies that are defective or imperfect, for reasons that are often a mystery to us. The physical state of such individuals does not change their spirit. Could it not also be the same case with physical gender? Could he not have allowed certain individuals to be born into the "wrong" physical body, which then causes a conflict with their spirit, which is of a different gender?
We are taught in Mormonism that our physical bodies are imperfect, subject to disease and defect, and that our spirits and intelligences are eternal. Why, then, should our gender be defined solely by our physical bodies? Should not the mind/spirit take precedence over the body?
This is just a theory that has got me thinking a lot. I'm sure many would say that I'm wrong and they may be correct, but to me personally, it's the only way that I can reconcile the Church's teachings on gender with the compelling personal accounts of those who are intersex, transgender, or struggling with the feeling of being in the wrong body. It's the only thing that makes sense to me.
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