Dear 100 Hour Board,
I am a transgender member of the church. I go back and forth on my personal answer to this question, but I was hoping to hear your thoughts. Do transgender and nonbinary people have a place in the Church? Why or why not? Should we have to deny our trans-ness to stay church members? Why? How can we as regular members (meaning not in leadership positions) make the church safer for gender variant people?
Thank you for your answers to Questions 92474. It meant a lot to see you stand up for Ms. Snow.
Dear Awesome Possum,
First of all, you are amazing and strong and an inspiration to me and so many other people, so thank you for being you, and for being open and honest.
I believe there is always a place for you in the Church. The gospel is very clear that Jesus turns away from none, loves all equally, and welcomes anyone and everyone to listen to Him and participate in the joy of His message. You deserve to be a part of the community and get any spiritual enlightenment that you may desire from going to church. That's the main reason it's there. So yes, you belong. Everyone belongs.
However, there will also probably always - at least in our lifetime - be people who do not make you feel welcome and may even antagonize you, and who try to tell you that God doesn't love you, or that you shouldn't be there. Exclusion is not what Jesus taught, but it's hard for imperfect people to really grasp the concept of loving everyone. And that's hard to watch, because a lot of times they feel justified. But it isn't their place to judge or ask questions or make assumptions. God knows you, knows your heart, and your wishes... and He loves you.
There is a growing mass of allies in the Church that will love and support you, and I think that your presence would also be a great benefit to the community, because you are an excellent teacher and example. But, if Church becomes a place that you feel unsafe, hurt, rejected... I can't, in good conscience, encourage you to keep going. You should not feel the need to deny your identity or endure constant negativity from other members. You deserve to be happy! So, while I think there is a place for you in the Church, if it brings you misery to go every Sunday and participate, you should do what you think is best for your happiness.
I think Calvin Burke and Papa Ostler do a good job of showing how we can be allies as regular members. Ultimately, we must only love and welcome with open arms. That's the charge that was given to us by the gospel. Not monitoring the behavior or spirituality of other people, or judging them, or giving them unsolicited advice, or forcing our opinions on them. People can be better allies by standing up for LGBTQ+ members if they are being bullied in Church - or elsewhere - and just generally by loving everyone and being a good friend.
I believe there is a place in the Church of Jesus Christ for all of God's children (whether transgender, non-binary, or otherwise). If not, then something needs to change.
-Sunday Night Banter
Dear fantastic human,
My own opinion would be a very depressing answer for transgender and nonbinary people who are trying to make it work in the Church, so I'm just going to say you keep being who you are and be a pioneer in the Church. You are changing minds and lives everyday. And if you decide to be a pioneer and set out from the Church, then good on you. Either way, be true to yourself.
-guppy of doom
Dear awesome blossom,
Absolutely yes! I think that we can use all sorts of different people in the church. The mission of the church is about uniting disciples of Jesus Christ and helping others, and transgender and nonbinary people can do great at both of those things. For me, to be a Christian is to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, and we are recognized His disciples "if [we] have love one to another." I think Christ was specifically talking about charity, and this kind of love can only come from God and Jesus Christ. As such, Christians (including members of the church) should be earnestly praying for charity and seeking to become more charitable in their everyday lives. Christians are to be examples of those who love others, no matter their differences.
There are no official church statements concerning transgenderism. Something that is often brought up is The Family: A Proclamation to the World. Here, we learn that gender is an eternal characteristic; however this principle applies differently to individual circumstances. Gender dysphoria is a real thing, and I honestly do not know how it applies to this. Although gender itself is not a social construct, the stereotypes around gender and the way that people understand gender in different cultures certainly might be, and this may add to the gender dysphoria that people feel.
I don't feel that I am in any situation to make judgements about transgender members of the church, especially because I do not personally know any people who are transgender, and therefore do not understand well enough to cast judgement. I would imagine that there is a wide variety in the way people feel about and experience gender. I think that Van Goff and Auto Surf have given me some idea of this, but I think that it would be much better if I knew someone personally who was transgender and understood better how that affects them and how they experience that on a day-to-day basis.
My personal advice for you is to find people who support and love you. I hope that you will be able to find members of your ward that will be able to strengthen you. If not, please reach out to me (inklings(at)theboard.byu.edu) or any of the other Board members. There are people who are willing to defend you and help support you through thick and thin. One of the great things about the Church is that we are all working toward the same goal and come from different backgrounds. Our eternal progression is not a race, but rather a celestial migration, and we all help each other on the path. We are all engaged in this migration, and I am sure that there are many who would be happy to help you. That statement applies to everyone, not just transgender members of the Church, and not even just church members. We all need to find the things that help us reach our potential and become who we want to be. Probably most importantly, I would urge you to figure it out with God. He knows you perfectly and can help you better understand yourself and what path you should take. His love will be strong for you and you will be able to feel it even when you feel that others don't love you. I've learned that when I seek out what He wants for me and put in the effort to know and do His will, things turn out much better and I am much happier.
I have a lot of things to say about your question, but I also wanted to give you more than our very cis* thoughts on the matter. So I passed your question on to Van Goff, a former writer who's transgender, as well as to one of my friends who has a transgender sister (my friend's is still a cis perspective, but perhaps a more considered cis perspective than many). In the interest of this answer not being forever long, I'll include their responses in the answer directly below this one.
First of all, I'm so sorry that this has been such a source of turmoil for you. And I'm heartbroken that you feel so marginalized that something like us standing up for people's right to not be misgendered is rare enough that you aren't just able to take it for granted.
Is there a place for gender variant people in the Church?
YES. In terms of what our current structure and culture carves out for trans and non-binary members, it's not much. But at the very least we *should* have space for those people.
How to make the Church safer for gender variant people?
Raise awareness of the fact that gender variant people are all around us! It's one thing for people to say, "Oh, those crazy liberals are trying to ignore biology and make up all these non-existent genders." It's another, much harder thing to listen to someone's heartfelt story of just trying to figure out who they are and be true to themselves and tell them that they're wrong for it. Hopefully as Church members get to know more transgender and non-binary people they'll realize that we aren't as different as they may initially think. Seeing people as complex individuals rather than stereotypes will hopefully challenge all the stereotypes that Church members may hold about an entire group. And while gender is a big part of someone's story, its not their whole identity, and there are SO. MANY. things that even conservative members can find they have in common with gender variant folk. So as more people are speaking up about their gender identity, more and more people will have a personal connection with someone who doesn't fit into the traditional gender binary, and more and more people will hopefully be able to challenge their stereotypes. I would also love to see the Church do videos similar to the ones they did on Mormon and Gay, where they highlight people who are trans or NB, but I don't know if that's going to happen anytime soon.
My first point of how to make the Church safer for gender variant people relies a lot on gender variant people being willing to speak up and share their stories. And while I do think that's important, I also recognize that it can be really daunting to share such a personal story in a space that doesn't necessarily feel very safe. So for all the cis members out there, speak up when you hear people getting judgey! Work to create an environment where transgender people feel they can share their experiences. And if you don't feel like really getting into it in Relief Society and challenging the gender binary right then and there, at least say something about the importance of not judging others who are different from us, and loving everyone no matter what. And if/when the time comes that gender variant people in your ward feel like they can speak up, do everything you can to amplify their voices (meaning don't talk over them or put words in their mouth, but do what you can to help them share their own experiences as authentically as possible)!
*For anyone who's confused, cis, or cisgender, refers to someone who identifies with their biological sex at birth.
We wanted to get this answer to you, as you have already been waiting for more than long enough. When/if we get responses from the persons that were mentioned above, we will post their comments as corrections to this question. We wish you the best, sorry for the wait.
- The Editors