The purpose of Transgender Awareness Month is to inspire greater awareness to the personal experiences and views of Latter-day Saints affected by gender dysphoria. Posts in this series are typically written or compiled primarily by members of North Star’s Transgender, Intersex, and Gender Identity community, as well as the Spouses community. All views expressed or errors made are the sole responsibility of site contributors and should not be interpreted as representing the views of North Star or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. See other posts addressing gender dysphoria and transgenderism.
Nick is a BYU student studying mechanical engineering and looks forward to a career in medical engineering. He is the oldest of eight kids in his family and likes to run, play piano, bake, learn, and be around people.
I experience gender dysphoria. I am physically male, but that doesn’t always feel right to me. I feel like I should be a woman and do not like my body and male circumstances. Sometimes the dissonance is painful and sometimes it is manageable. I have had these feelings since I was young and at some points thought it would be best to physically change myself to become a woman. However, I have decided to not transition physically in order to stay true to my faith in the principles and teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I believe this is the path that God wants me to take.
Living Out of Fear
When I was younger I was afraid of my feelings. I did not understand them and they conflicted with my religious beliefs. I wished that I could be female and still and member in full faith with the Church. I thought something was wrong with me and so I fought my feelings of dysphoria and tried to live well as a man. It was a very hard struggle. I tried keeping myself constantly busy to avoid feeling dissonance with my physiological sex. I buried my feelings as deep as I could and hated myself every time the resurfaced. I hated that I wanted to be female. Why couldn’t I just be normal and fit nicely within the gospel framework? Over time I learned that fear and burying feelings is not the way God wanted me to live. If I was going to have a relationship with Him and find peace in this life I needed to learn how to love, accept, and choose.
I decided recently to look at myself and who I was and determine who I wanted to be. I knew I could not sustain my current lifestyle being in the Church and wanting something else. After a year of careful reflection and prayer I felt and decided that the path God wanted me to take was to stay in the Church and not transition. I believe that God will keep His promises to bring peace in this life and ultimate fulfillment and happiness in the next life. I do not know what that will be for me, but I know that if I am obedient in this life, the end will take care of itself. When I made this choice, I expected some amount of misery. I felt I was sacrificing a core part of who I was to stay within gospel parameters. I did not have a lot of hope in the future for relationships or peace.
Living Out of Love
However, very soon after I made this decision, I experienced immense inner peace and strength. I believe there is power in choosing out of love instead of fear.
I know that God will always love me. I know He will love me if I choose to become a woman. I know I can choose whatever I want in this life. I want God’s trust as well as His love. I want to choose what He wants me to do more than what I want to do. I trust that He knows what path is best for my happiness. I know that I can be a woman, but it is not what God wants me to do. I have found power in being able to see clearly two options and choosing one above the other. I used to choose out of fear and the choice did not carry strength or peace. I am actively choosing to stay in the Church and keep my covenants because I want to do what God wants me to do.
Lessons Learned on the Journey
In making this choice, my gender dysphoria has not gone away. I still feel dissonance, and some times are worse than others depending on my emotional and spiritual state. However, I do not feel alone in this experience. In making this choice I have received insights into what I experience and new ways to live with it. Here are a few things I have learned in my journey:
- When the dissonance is distracting, I can remove gender from defining who I am. Much of my life I structured activities, desires, and behaviors under masculine or feminine. This binary division cause a great deal of anxiety because I would feel dissonance between behaviors that were masculine and feminine. I have now removed these from the definition of myself. I am Nick. I am a child of God. I am interested in many things in life and I would be interested in them whether I was physically male or female. It is simple part of who I am. I don’t care whether a part of me is more masculine or feminine, it is simply part of me.
- I am so much more than just someone who feels transgender. My identity confusion would become unbearable sometimes because it was the only thing on my mind. I felt it defined who I was and I could not move on until it was resolved. I have since discovered that I have many defining characteristics besides experiencing gender dysphoria. I am a sibling, friend, engineer, student, reader, athlete, pianist, and child of God. I do not have to let my gender confusion dominate my existence. I can fill my life with other meaningful hobbies, goals, and interests within the commandments of God and find fulfillment in progression. There is much good I can do in life with the body I have. I can respect the body given to me and give meaningful service to God with it.
- I focus on what I have and not what I don’t have. Gratitude has been a great comfort and salve during the harder times of gender dysphoria. When it presses hard on my mind I can remember all the things God has given me and focus on the blessings I currently have and can have with this body and life. Focusing on what I don’t have has not brought me happiness. Focusing on what I do and can have brings me peace.
- I find happiness in living according to God’s truth and conforming appetites to His will and not trying to bend God to my wants. I trust that He knows what’s best for my future happiness and ultimate fulfillment. I was able to find a lot more peace in my life committing to trust God. He has given me ample experiences to demonstrate His desire to help me find happiness and fulfillment. Though I cannot explain why I have gender dysphoria or know when or if it will end, I know that God will fulfill His promises of eternal happiness if I keep His commandments.
- I need a support group. As much as I take pride in doing everything myself, I cannot make it through this life alone. Loving family and friends have been miracles of support in my life. I find strength in people who love me for who I am and support my choices. I need people who are willing to talk, listen, and share. Finding meaningful, intimate connections helps me stay fulfilled and not over focus on gender dissonance.
I feel like I am in a good place in life. I feel like my current path is sustainable. I have more hope in my future than I have ever had before. I believe I can find happiness and fulfillment in this life now as I continue to follow God’s direction. I do not expect my gender dysphoria to ever leave or resolve in this life, but I know God will be with me as I seek Him along the journey. I am not alone and I am who I choose to be. I am a child of God and a disciple of Jesus Christ.