Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What about the “T” in GLBT?

In the Mormon queerosphere, there is a lot of “G”, a little “L”, perhaps a sprinkling of “B”, but virtually no “T” - at least none who make their presence known (that I'm aware of).

I'll be the first to admit that I don't understand what it would be like to be transgendered. Is this the 'gender confused' that we sometimes hear about at church? But, being part of a subculture myself - I am, perhaps, a bit more tolerant towards those who do not fit the 'molly mormon' / 'peter priesthood' image in our Mormon culture.

In one sense, the transgendered saints are even more marginalized than the gay saints are - often being lumped together with the gay saints in discussions.

On the other hand, the church actually does have very specific policies towards transgendered people. It is possible for a person who has undergone elective surgery to change their gender to remain a member of the church. A non member who has undergone such surgery can even be baptized. However, such a person cannot be ordained to the priesthood, nor can they attend the temple - transgendered saints are essentially in the same position that blacks were prior to 1978. Contrast that with practicing homosexuals who are excommunicated - or 'cut off from the people' to use a scriptural term.

Wait a minute, this is all starting to have a familiar ring to it.


When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran, said in his speach on September 24, 2007 at Columbia University that "In Iran, we don't have homosexuals, like in your country", there were several news stories that followed about the gay underground in Iran. The sin of homosexuality carries a death sentence in Iran forcing Iranian homosexuals to hide their sexual orientation. Interestingly, transsexuals are more tolerated in Iran. The state will even subsidize gender change surgery and help fund continuing hormone treatments. Iran carries out more gender change operations than any other country in the world besides Thailand. Sex changes have been legal since the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, spiritual leader of the 1979 Islamic revolution passed a fatwa authorizing them nearly 25 years ago. While homosexuality is considered a sin, transsexuality is categorized as an illness subject to cure. To be fair, such individuals are lower class citizens in Iranian society; but, they do not live under the constant fear of a death sentence as their gay counterparts do.


I'm not sure where I'm going with this. I just find it interesting the parallels between Iranian culture and Mormon culture. In Iran, homosexuals are threatened with physical death. In Mormondom, homosexuals are threatened with spiritual death. In Iran, transexuals are allowed in Iranian society, albeit as lower class citizens. In Mormondom, transexuals are allowed in the church, albeit significantly curtailed in their participation.

Here is a YouTube vlog from someone who grew up LDS


Max Power said...

Very interesting indeed. I had no idea that transexuals were tolerated in Iran. Thanks for the insight.

Grant Haws said...

I knew one transgendered person that was Mormon and even if Church discipline isn't as hard on them, church culture was horrifying, beyond what I think it is for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals in the church. At least we have a fellow same-sex attracted support system for each other. This individual I knew felt like they had no one to relate to in the church. And whereas we find a rare member here and there that is sympathetic to our struggles, this individual rarely found someone willing to a friend to them.

Abelard Enigma said...

church culture was horrifying

Isn't that interesting. The church as an institution seems more accepting of transgender than homosexuality - but church culture is less accepting of transgender than homosexuality.

A.J. said...

I don't think a current member would be allowed to undergo a sex change operation. I think that person would be subject to church discipline but if someone has already had the surgery they could become a member with restrictions.

Abelard Enigma said...

I don't think a current member would be allowed to undergo a sex change operation.

It is from the current handbook of instructions (for bishoprics, stake presidencies, etc.) where I got the information about gender change surgery for members and potential converts.

Frank Lee Scarlet said...

Great post! It's sad to see gay people--including MoHos--doubt and hurt transgendered (or bisexual) people, since the gay population is questioned and hurt itself. It seems hypocritical to ask straight people for understanding and then deny it to transgendered/transsexual people. Thanks for shedding light on this topic, Abelard.

Andrew S said...

I thought I had seen a transsexual Mormon blog, but apparently, I was just thinking of one non-Mormon who had commented on a topic at Feminist Mormon Housewives. It was interesting because there was still a kind of discrimination perpetrated...for example, the TS person at FMH noted that she was "offended" by the term transgender and she felt transgender people were hijacking the label. She used the term 'classical transsexual' to describe herself (and does so on her blog), because she changed her sex, not her gender.

And even though she said she wasn't Mormon, she *did* say something interested -- she thought the Proclamation on the Family spoke out to her, because it noted that gender is eternal...of course, this person believed that she was always female -- she just had the wrong body.

Mormon Matters had a discussion on the perception of gender vs. sex ( hxxp:// -- I replaced "http" with "hxxp" so no link trackback), and while most members seemed to think that "gender" referred to physical genitalia, some noted that some are looking at gender as the mind/mental aspect, thus allowing for more charitable views.

Captain Midnight said...

One of my best friends is transgendered :)

Brianne Blanchard said...

I want to first thank you for posting what you did, and clarifying that you can't know for sure what it would be like to be a transgendered member of the LDS faith. I'm a transgendered 29 year old woman who grew up Mormon (Dad was a seminary and institute teacher) in Utah County.

While it may be true that a transgendered/gender queer person may convert to Mormonism in a lower status, she or he is told not to "act on" who he or she is - just as a gay man may convert, but must not act on his homosexuality.

In regards to members, we are also talking about the same problem. When I came out to my mission president, I was told that I just thought I was a girl because I had never had sex with one. As long as I didn't "act on it" (dress as a woman or think about myself as such)I would be fine. Isn't this the same problem that all members of the queer Mormon community face? You're okay as long as you aren't yourself.

Also, the Mormon community only questions the validity and moral standing of who gay men are attracted to and fall in love with. Transgendered members have their entire gender identity put into question as well as who he or she is allowed to love - what exactly is a "straight" relationship for a transgendered person within a Mormon context. Does God want me to be with a man because I'm a woman? Or is it moral for me to be with a woman because I'm really just a confused man? We do get lumped in with gay men on most of the theological discussion, but we get a little extra venom sometimes I think :)

Abelard Enigma said...

Brianne, I appreciate your comment. I think you are probably right - there is probably even less acceptance of a transgendered person than there is for gay persons.

Please feel free to email me (email id in profile) as this is something I would like to understand better.