by Sara Jade Woodhouse
I have been an active Latter Day Saint trans-woman for 10 years. Most of the time when I say that out loud, to people who ask, I am met with the same two responses…How? And Why? The “How?” is easy…the “Why?”…not so much. When Sunday rolls around each week, as it inevitably does, I get myself out of bed…shower…get dressed…and drive to my local ward. Once there…I get out of my car and walk inside. Take my seat and stay there for an hour and ten minutes…sometimes longer. That’s the “How?”
When I think about everything the Church is “perceived” to stand for…by member and non-member alike…it would seem counter-intuitive for me to remain an active participant in a church that is against such an integral part of my being. Being transgender is so much a part of who I am that not a moment of my day goes by that I am not aware of it. My idea of self makes itself known in every reflection in every window that I walk by. It is in every reaction, perceived or otherwise, that I face in every interaction throughout my day. When I finally retire, at the end of the day, it is in every aspect of my dreams…and nightmares. So… “Why?”
In my lifetime I have seen the Church evolve it’s concept of homosexuality many times. While the core dogma surrounding that integral personal orientation has not changed…the “disciplinary” actions that they have proscribed to take certainly have. From shock therapy and excommunication for the simple mention of a “same sex attraction”…to acceptance that it is not a choice and that celibacy is the only answer in order to remain an active participant in good standing in the LDS faith, the Church has proven that…if nothing else…change is possible.
When I transitioned to living my life honestly as who I was meant to be, virtually every priesthood leader that I encountered along the way said the same thing: “No matter what happens, you will always have a safe place to worship as long as I am here.” Most all of my bishops have expressed a sincere desire to understand. I have to say “most” because the unfortunate reality is that the Church…unlike the many times where they have detailed the official church doctrine surrounding homosexuality…has not expressed a clear doctrine on the aspect of transgender. There is only one line of text in the Bishop’s Handbook. This reads… “Sex reassignment surgery may be cause for excommunication.” (emphasis added by me). Because of this…my experience has not been without its complications. But the vast majority of my experiences with my personal bishops have been very supportive.
These two aspects of my journey as a transgender Mormon are enough to keep me going to church. But my reasoning doesn’t end there. I have a firm testimony that my Heavenly Parents love me. I feel their presence almost constantly. Their arms have surrounded me when life was at its worst. They have mixed their tears with mine when I have felt that all was lost. They have warmed my heart and filled me with the spirit until I was close to bursting. All along this rollercoaster ride they have assured me that I am going to be okay…and that I am doing the right thing.
In addition to my testimony of the truth that is my personal revelation…I have a firm belief that the future holds a multitude of promise and blessings for the faithful. The 9th Article of Faith rings especially true whenever I ponder everything LGBT and LDS. “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”
As the spring session of Conference approaches, I prepare myself…as a faithful latter day saint to receive “…many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” To be certain there are many teachings that come out of Conference that are clearly the teachings of men…however…should the day come when something “…great and important…” is revealed I want to make sure that I am spiritually ready to hear it. Conference is a wonderful time that allows me to reflect on the messages that apply to every aspect of my life…and to listen for the inspired messages that reveal a church that is a living thing. As something that is alive, the church is constantly changing and as long as its leaders stay close to the divine beings that are there to guide all of us…those changes will care for all of its children.
For me General Conference is the optimal place for change to happen…I want to be there when it does.