Guest Post: A Letter to President Oaks

By Kris Irvin

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 General 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 like they are 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.
Kris Irvin

 

Kris is an asexual, non-transitioning transguy who lives in Utah. They are studying English Literature and Editing at BYU. Kris is married and has a brilliant 10 year-old son. You can follow their shenanigans on Twitter @krisis86 and on their blog, http://transmormonrising.wordpress.com

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13 Responses

  1. Eveline says:

    Would there be place in Christs life for “people like you”? A resounding YES, ABSOLUTELY! I think that is the only measuring stick the church should measure by. Not a PoF which is a man-made manifest.
    You are and will always be welcome in Christs’ fold. His atonement is your atonement, your path back to him. That’s the ultimate gospel truth. He is Alpha and Omega.

  2. SC says:

    Powerful and moving. I am so sorry that you are facing church discipline for making personal choices about your body when women who choose plastic surgery get off scott free. Bless you, Kris, for your magnanimity in the face of so much persecution. we ally-disciples wish we had heard more love for you from the General Conference pulpit, but lately that pulpit has been short on love and heavy on blame and rejection of God’s children. We allies stand with you in defending LGBTQs against persecution from powerful men, regardless of their titles or positions in society and the church!

    • Ari says:

      I think this is all a function of the same biases. We have models in our collective consciousness of what is an ideal man and what is an ideal woman. And, if a woman wants to go under the knife to make herself MORE similar to this ridiculous model of femininity, then everyone thinks that’s fine. (They are comfortable setting aside the fact that it’s usually not even a realistic model that any woman could ever be in nature. It’s like a cartoon version of womanhood.) But, if someone wants to go under the knife in order to conform LESS with whichever gender model they are expected to identify with, then people freak out.

      What we need to be is less rigid in our expectations of what females and males are SUPPOSED to be, and just let people be who they are. If we could do that, there would be way less pain and suffering.

      I don’t know how to make society be that way, though.

      • Kris says:

        “And, if a woman wants to go under the knife to make herself MORE similar to this ridiculous model of femininity, then everyone thinks that’s fine.”

        YES. The double standard drives me nuts. It’s not like I’m doing this on a whim. My mom has had a few plastic surgeries and nobody bats an eyelash because she’s cisgender (identifies as female.) I suspect that if I had a drastic reduction (as opposed to a full mastectomy) at this point I would still be subject to church discipline because I’m open about being trans. It’s frustrating.

  3. Ari says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I feel like our society has been ignorant for so long because stories like yours have been suppressed. I think it’s crazy that we have been allowing people who don’t know what it’s like to be transgender to be the ones telling us who transgender people are. (But why should it surprise me? We have thousands of years of recorded history in which people who don’t know what it’s like to be women have been telling me who I am. It was waking up to that reality that made me wake up to the idea that we should let trans people tell us who they are too.)

    Thanks for being brave. Whatever happens with the church and LGBTQ+ people, I believe that, if there’s a god, he loves us all and made us all different for a reason. We all have a purpose. And we all have a divine right to seek joy, connection, love, and understanding. And if our church doesn’t recognize that, then maybe our church is less divine than we’ve always thought.

    • Kris says:

      Well said on all accounts. A lot of knowledge and studies on trans people was lost during WWII. Hitler had most of the documents on LGBTQ+ related sciences burned. It’s really cool to hear about how different cultures have recognized nonbinary people but still rough since our culture has hidden us.

      It’s one reason I am so loud about being trans. Sometimes I feel like I talk too much about it but I don’t want anyone growing up the way I did–feeling alone and ashamed. It was such a relief when I learned that transgender people exist. So I will be as loud as I need to be until I don’t need to anymore 🙂

  4. Jason K. says:

    Thanks, Kris. For my part, I am glad to share the pews with you and will do my part to make room, even when the odds are against it. Hang in there.

  5. Andrew R. says:

    I can not imagine how this feels.

    If I was your Bishop, and taking into account what is written in the Handbook (below) I think I would view removing your breasts and your continuing to live as a women, married to your husband, as the best possible outcome to avoid a DC.

    I can’t think why anyone would want to add to your suffering. Breasts do not make a woman a woman, I know plenty of women with virtually no breasts (naturally).

    Handbook 1 6.7.2
    “Transsexual Operation
    Church leaders counsel against elective transsexual operations. If a member is contemplating such an operation, a presiding officer informs him of this counsel and advises him that the operation may be cause for formal Church discipline. Bishops refer questions on specific cases to the stake president. The stake president may direct questions to the Office of the First Presidency if necessary.”

    • Kris says:

      I don’t know how to express how much I agree with your comment. I told my bishop I knew top surgery wasn’t going to make me a cisgender man or change my gender so why would it matter?

      No answer.

  6. Ziff says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Kris. I’m so sorry that so many–including those in the top leadership–seem so eager to shove you out the door.

  7. Alix says:

    nice article. i think you very brave. curious, is byu okay with your marriage? is there any policy that would put you at risk of being kicked out and losing your degree? i was under that assumption but plz correct if im wrong. i was at byu too and in a relationship a few years ago but i kept it under the radar.

    • Kris says:

      BYU is fine with my marriage (as is the Church) because I still exist as a woman in their eyes. Neither of them will change my gender even if I transitioned completely with hormones and surgery. I could have a beard to my toes and still be listed as a woman on the records.

      Which is one reason I don’t understand why I’m not supposed to transition but whatever.

      In any case, I often feel guilty about being trans at BYU because I fly under the radar. I appear cis/hetero even though I’m not. So that’s an interesting guilt trip I give myself occasionally.

      • Libby says:

        Kris, stop giving yourself that guilt trip! Everyone I know who attended BYU knew they were breaking the rules in some way and beat themselves up about it–whether it was having members of the opposite sex in bedrooms or not following a bishop’s advice. BYU thrives on a culture of guilt. Do what you need to do in order to survive, and don’t feel any guilt about it. Your voice is loud enough. You are speaking your truth.

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