Hi, my name is Kris. I’m a spouse, a parent, a student at BYU, and a Mormon. Oh, and I’m transgender. I’m pretty ordinary, but even ordinary people have a story to tell.
I never expected a response to my letter to President Oaks. I know he is a busy man and I am just one person. But yesterday I received a letter from the office of the First Presidency. It took me a while to work up the courage to open it. Because as long as I didn’t open it, I didn’t have to see an apostle yelling at me. I didn’t have to read that I’m deluded and mentally ill and wrong and a General in Satan’s Air Force. If I didn’t look at it, I didn’t have to see words that might haunt me for the rest of my life.
But I had to know what he said. So I opened it. This was his response.
“Dear Sister Irvin,
Thank you for your letter of October 30th, which is both heart-rending and helpful. It, of course, repeats much that I read in the long article, “Transgender dilemma” in the Salt Lake Tribune on Aug. 19, 2018.
I assure you that I do not “strongly dislike or even hate transgender people.” Please see the enclosed copy of my talk at BYU-Idaho. Please also understand that the leaders of the Church continue to rely on and earnestly seek guidance from the Lord on the issues that afflict our members. Your concerns are among them.
You and your husband and son have my prayers and best wishes, always.
Sincerely your brother,
Dallin H. Oaks”
I truly do appreciate that President Oaks took the time to respond to me personally. That’s kind of a big deal and I recognize that. But I’m having a hard time with this letter for a few reasons.
I asked, in my letter, if I have a place in the Church. I didn’t get a response to that. I was hoping for some confirmation that I do have a place. As I’ve said to some friends, it feels like the members tell me I am welcome and I have a place in the Church, but the leadership is telling me otherwise. I’m lost and confused and hurting.
President Oaks’ just sounded … really irritated. I understand time constraints, but he was brusque and his assurance that he doesn’t hate trans people seems hollow. There’s nothing to back that assurance up. There’s no help regarding intersex members. There are no answers here.
He says my letter was helpful. I would like to know how. Because from the content of his response, it doesn’t seem like it helped in the slightest.
(I am super heckin’ thankful that he didn’t say “leave your breasts on your chest.” Whew.)
I want to believe. I want to belong. I want a place in my religion. But I am so tired of having to fight for it all the time. I’m hurt and broken and exhausted. I’ll get my fire back at some point, but for now I’m just… empty.
Dear President Oaks,
My name is Kris and I am a 32 year old lifelong member of the Church. I live in the Salt Lake valley along with my husband of 12 years and our 10 year old son. I am studying English Literature at BYU and hope to graduate in a year or so. I am also transgender.
I’ve known I was trans for as long as I can remember. It was my deepest, darkest secret for most of my life. I felt so ashamed and irreparably broken. I felt that there was no way God could love me. I didn’t even know that there was a word for people like me until I was 28 years old. When I found out that there are other trans people in the world, I felt such relief. I no longer felt alone and gross and awful. I tried for 25 years to cure myself of being trans, but the only thing that has alleviated some of the depression and pain I’ve felt has been to be open about being transgender.
I would like to remain a member of the Church. It is my spiritual home. But talks like the one you gave in our recent Conference only serve to alienate me and those like me from our spiritual haven. Elder Ballard once said that there is room for LGBTQ+ people in the Church. But your talk makes me wonder if that’s really true. Is there room for me? Or should I just give up and move on with my life?
Your talk completely erased intersex people—those who are born with ambiguous genitalia—from the picture. Statistics show that at least 2% of the world’s population is intersex. Do intersex people have a place in the Church? If not, why? And if intersex people DO have a place in the Church, what about those whose chromosomes don’t match their gender, like someone who has XXY chromosomes?
You once said that more study was needed in regards to transgender members. I would be happy to put you in touch with other trans Church members or send you resources that could help you with your research, both from a religious and from a scientific perspective. I know many, including myself, who have chosen NOT to transition genders. We struggle with depression, anxiety, and gender dysphoria. I also know many trans people who have transitioned and are much healthier and happier for doing so, regardless of losing their membership in the Church. In my personal case, I have chosen not to transition because my husband is against it. That was an excruciatingly hard decision to make. Despite not transitioning, I would still like to have a double mastectomy. I feel that I can handle being trans if I don’t have to deal with breasts. Not only do they cause mental pain, but they also cause physical pain. I have had competent medical professionals recommend a breast reduction or mastectomy, yet because I am transgender, my bishop says that such a surgery will be cause for church discipline. I don’t understand: at what point does my breast size nullify my membership in the Church?
These things I do know: that my bishop is fantastic and has been a wonderful support to my family as we’ve navigated the last few years. I also know that no matter what happens, my belief in God can’t be taken away from me, even if my membership in the Church is. I know that I want to raise my son in the Church, even if I strongly disagree with the Policy of Exclusion, which makes LGBTQ+ people feel worth less than their cisgender, heterosexual counterparts (and it doesn’t feel like Christ would approve of anything that excludes children from the gospel.)
President Oaks, it seems like you strongly dislike or even hate transgender people. I’m truly sorry if that is the case. I have met some of the most spiritual people I know on the fringes of the Church. It hurts to see them wounded by sentiments like your Conference talk. Regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, we are ALL children of God.
Thank you for your time.
Thanks for joining me!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton