Growing Up Nonbinary, LDS, and What That Means
Guest Post by B Winward (Bee). Bee grew up a Latter-day Saint in the heart of Utah County, graduated from Young Women’s and Seminary, served a mission to Guatemala and was most recently a Relief Society teacher before the pandemic. Bee uses they/them pronouns, and while coming out as a member of the LGBTQ community eight years ago, they more recently discovered the title of nonbinary or genderqueer as the best way to claim their gender identity. They have a bachelor’s degree in Leadership and have visited 16 countries with a goal to share that every human life has inherent worth.
I have been a confident human the majority of my life- with the exception of middle school. You couldn’t pay me enough to relive that time. Why? Well, because that’s when the changes started.
I have a twin sister who fits fairly well into the mold of “girl”. For years people would say things like ‘you don’t have to be the opposite of your sister’ and I didn’t understand why they would say things like that. I was just being me. Playing with the boys, loving getting dirty, loving hot wheels cars and playing sports. I even spread a rumor as a 3 year old that my family was getting a brother (my mom was appalled at this when people started asking if she was pregnant haha). Turns out the brother was me! Or at least I wanted him to be.
So elementary school was all fine and dandy, I didn’t turn into a brother but did end up getting one later on *wink*. Going to middle school was really rough though, it’s when people started talking about their crushes, puberty starts to come around for some, and boys and girls have a starker line separating them as well. My guy friends were now too cool to hang out with me, and because they weren’t attracted to me, they excluded me. I made some great friends, and still definitely got bullied. I didn’t really understand what was going on until years later. And while I started having some crushes I knew it wasn’t appropriate to talk about them. So I picked the guys that were popular and that others talked about and would have “crushes” on them when really, I wanted to be them. This model followed me into my 20s.
My parents generally let me pick out my own clothing, and I loved picking back to school clothes from the boys section. They would pressure me to pick girlier clothing and keep my hair long because I was “so beautiful” and sometimes the kids at school would make fun of me for wearing boys’ clothes. Around age 13 is when I discovered self harm and the release it gave. I could hide anything down deep and release it through self harm. So I did.
I would constantly ask my parents how I could get more muscles. At age 12 I stopped drinking soda and eating sugar for years in hopes of getting muscles. I would watch movies and practice walking like the cool guys- to which my dad would scold me with a thump on the head and a “stop walking like a guy”.
I direly wanted my hair short, but any time I brought it up people would talk about how I would look weird or bad or how much more beautiful long hair is.
I constantly wondered why I found girls and women so much more interesting, and what the warm tingly feeling was that I would get around them, and why did I want to impress them so badly? While at the same time not feeling comfortable with the guys, knowing I didn’t exactly fit in and I definitely didn’t want what they wanted- to be physical.
It all came to a head when I decided that the only way out of these feelings was to be out of this life. I am so grateful that plan didn’t work out.
College opened many doors for me, including coming out as gay (I personally never felt right with the label lesbian), and eventually coming out as genderqueer. I now have had top surgery and am on testosterone replacement micro dose. I feel more like myself than I ever have, and I’m constantly in awe of the fact that most people walk around every day feeling at home in their bodies.
Unlike many trans folks, I didn’t ever ask God to ‘heal’ me. I would ask forgiveness. I truly believed I was bad. Inherently bad, even evil; no possibility of being good– all while doing many things and becoming a person most people would consider to be a good person. This was my internalized transphobia and it was wrong. I am GOOD.
I know now that my God, the one who lives inside of me and everyone around me is loving and accepting. My God is either a she or they and she knows my heart and doesn’t have the conditions many religions put on her. They are the best parent and guide there ever was, if I believe in any god at all.
***Note: I would love for leaders to understand that even if they think they don’t know any LGBTQ+ people, they probably do, they just don’t know it yet. LGBTQ+ kids exist in every ward and stake. Some will probably identify as nonbinary just like me. Many of them will think it is a survival tactic to push those parts of themselves down and away, just like I did. And when they come out, if they ever choose to, your reaction will matter so much!
If a child comes out to you and you are scared, remember– it’s not about you. Don’t show fear or shame to that child. Talk to someone who has positive experiences with coming out and various expressions of gender and self.
If you as a parent or leader are concerned or uncomfortable for the youth talking to you because they don’t fit into what you have been taught, learn to sit in being uncomfortable. If they are not harming themselves or others don’t force labels on them or even ideas on them that could be harmful i.e. – girls have to have long hair. This human’s best life could come in a form you have never seen before.
For me, it would have been extremely helpful to have had open questions at each of these stages of growing up for example, when I said I didn’t have any friends to have gotten some questions in a safe space such as, “Your teacher said you get along well with others, what is a friend to you?”. Another example would be when I would talk about short hair, “What do you find so amazing about short hair?”.
Any time inclusive language can be used, let’s use it. Things like saying “hey friends” instead of brothers and sisters would have been so great to hear growing up. It also shows you are a safe person.
I also think that just asking direct questions like “do you think you might like girls instead of boys?” or “are you thinking about dying often?” or “what kind of clothes make you feel the most comfortable and why?” Just normalizing that every person has a different experience in life and showing love in each of those experiences.
One of my favorite bishops ever would remind me often that characteristics and traits we tend to label as masculine and feminine all belong in the divine, and Jesus showed and developed them all.