My Recommendation – Under Current Policies
CROSSDRESSERS: To avoid misunderstandings, I think that privacy is the best approach for Mormon crossdressers -- as long as discovery is unlikely. If discovery is a real possibility, then I would recommend a letter to the First Presidency as described below, for the same reasons.
INTERSEXUALS: Acceptance of intersexuality is likely, so there's no need to keep anything secret. However, everyone has a right to privacy; there's no reason to tell others about biologic details -- and socially inappropriate, too.
If there's a possibility of embarrassment or misunderstanding while doing temple work, it may be a good idea to privately discuss any concerns with the Temple President or Matron before the session begins.
TRANSSEXUALS: There's no reason for faithful transsexuals to be denied access to the fullness of the Gospel. Informal acceptance through local leaders can change at any time; while living with secrecy, insecurity, and uncertainty is spiritually destructive. The only Church authority able to grant a transsexual full unquestioned membership is the First Presidency. Having a letter of authorization from Church Headquarters will always overrule the personal biases of anyone you might encounter -- and prevent having to endure an endless series of Church Courts.
Follow the Apostle Paul's example: Appeal to Rome.
However, if the local leadership has already made a negative ruling, the First Presidency is unlikely to overrule them (though it's certainly worth a try.) Going the local route first probably precludes any later appeal to Salt Lake City.
Writing a Letter to the First Presidency
Your letter should be addressed to:
President Thomas S Monson
Corporation of the First Presidency
50 E. North Temple St.
Salt Lake City, UT 84150
Letter Section 1. Testimony
First, bear your testimony. Express your faith in God and His Son. Describe your commitment to the Gospel, the Scriptures and especially the Book of Mormon. Testify that God reveals His Will through his servants the prophets, including Joseph Smith & the current prophets. Covenant to obey the commandments and to live a pure life modeled on the teachings of your Redeemer.
DO NOT criticize the Church, it’s leaders or policies. Don’t advocate for new revelations or a change in policy. Church policy and doctrines aren’t subject to popular vote or social pressure.
Letter Section 2. Identify the Problem: Your Transsexuality
Describe who you are and how you know you’re transsexual. How you present yourself here is crucial:
IT'S NOT A CHOICE: If transsexuality were a choice, then it would be a bad choice and maybe even a sin. Don’t suggest choice by saying, “I identify as a woman” or “I want to change my gender.” The sinful choice myth is the primary reason transsexuals aren’t allowed to join or are automatically excommunic
IT'S NOT A MENTAL ILLNESS: If transsexuality were a mental illness, then psychotherapy and/or drugs would be the cure. After resurrection, mental illnesses will be gone. Any ordinance done while mentally ill will presumably be invalid.
Compliance with the WPATH Guidelines probably won't help convince the First Presidency. Don't enclose two letters of psychiatric permission to prove that you're transsexual.
The Church has always regarded psychiatric theory with skepticism. In fact, the Church built its own network of psychologists and a BYU program to train them. That network has close historic ties with the transphobic organization NARTH. Most of the research regarding aversion therapy was done by the BYU Psychology Department during the period 1970 - 2000 under Drs Eugene Thorne, Max McBride and Dean Byrd. Transsexuals claiming mental illness are likely to be referred to the LDS psychology program for a “second opinion” and further treatment.
TRANSSEXUALITY HAS A BIOLOGIC CAUSE. Gender is permanently determined early in fetal development. Transsexuality is a matter of reclaiming one’s true God-given eternal gender, while casting aside a façade imposed in error by others -- in accordance with Church doctrine.
Transsexuality could be called an intersexual condition, in which the brain's gender doesn't match other aspects of sexual biology.
A biologic cause can be established by:
-- Your true gender has been continuously present since birth. (In other words, you've struggled with a gender conflict since early childhood.)
-- You’ve always had the gifts, perspectives, interests and mental processes of your true gender.
-- You’re requesting the Church’s permission to correct biologic attributes that don’t correspond to your true gender.
-- Brain scan results. (fMRI)
In research, male fMRI's show a different pattern of activation compared to female subjects. A transsexual woman has the same fMRI pattern as other women; a transman has the same pattern as other men. It would be difficult to explain this result if transsexuality were a mental illness or a choice. Unfortunately, the WPATH Treatment Guidelines don't recommend fMRI testing.
Letter Section 3. Why Do You Need to Transition?
Describe the anguish you endure due to having anatomy that doesn’t correspond with your true gender. Tell how difficult it is to live a gender pretense that has been imposed after an erroneous "gender assignment" at birth. However, limit your comments to Type 1 Psychological Distress (resulting directly from being transsexual), not Type 2 Distress that is imposed by society as a punishment.
Although transitioning will alleviate Type 1 Distress, Type 2 Distress will probably increase – especially in a rigid closed society like the LDS Church.
Letter Section 4. What Exactly Are You Asking For?
If specific requests aren't made, Church headquarters will probably grant permission to be baptized and to be placed in the official records of the Church. Local leaders are likely to impose restrictions on that membership -- similar to those listed above. Therefore, it's important to have a written list of what you're able to do as a member:
-- Restroom access?
-- Meeting attendance?
....and so on.
At the very least, letters of request can inform the First Presidency about the number and faith of the members who are being denied access to the Fullness of the Gospel. It's also important to inform the Church leadership about the scale of the obstacles faced by devoted believers -- not even being able to use the meetinghouse restroom, for example.
© Cassandra Branch MD
(1) CROSSDRESSERS: The LDS Church has no official policy regarding crossdressing. But local leaders may take disciplinary action (described above) due to the a widespread belief that a crossdresser is a transsexual who hasn't had surgery yet. Common restrictions include:
-- At all Church functions, the individual must follow the dresscode for their dominant gender (ie, no crossdressing at Church).
-- Some wards deny temple recommends and the priesthood.
-- Occasionally a ward will apply other membership restrictions (listed above).
-- Leaders may make the restrictions contingent upon "going a year without sin" (ie, no crossdressing, an impossibility).-- It would be catastrophic for a faithful crossdresser to be given a psychiatric diagnosis of "Transvestic Fetishism", a "sexual perversion".
(2) INTERSEXUALS: The Church also has no official policy regarding intersexuality. Fortunately, the general understanding is that intersexuals are different from transsexuals, so different rules apply. In fact, most people believe that intersexuals have the "biology of both sexes" and therefore have both genders (a belief not supported by the Proclamation on the Family.) As a result, intersexuals are allowed to "choose their own gender", undergo corrective surgery, and benefit from the full blessings of the Gospel for that gender.
Occasionally, a leader may require a letter from a physician -- hopefully to certify that the individual is indeed intersexual, not in any misguided attempt to enforce some arbitrary biologic trait (eg, chromosomes always determine gender, or gonads do, or whatever else does.)
In fact, the Church's acceptance of gender determination in intersexuality offers hope for transsexuals to achieve the same level of acceptance. It also lights a path toward that acceptance: Transsexuality must be presented as an intersexual condition with a biologic cause -- not as a mental illness, a "chosen identity", a "third sex", or as a rebellious act of non-conformity.
During a press conference with Elder Dallin H Oaks on 27 January 2015, the apostle replied as follows to a question about transsexuality:
"This question concerns transgender, and I think we need to acknowledge that while we have been acquainted with lesbians and homosexuals for some time, being acquainted with the unique problems of a transgender situation is something we have not had so much experience with, and we have some unfinished business in teaching on that."
Commentators suggested that, while intersexuals & transsexuals fit well into Mormon doctrines and values, other "transgender" people don't. In particular, Church leaders are concerned about androgynous people who claim a different gender "identity" from day to day.
This is a perfect example of harm to the transsexual community due to from the widespread adoption of the aggregate term "transgender" instead of the more accurate term, "transsexual".
Reference: Outward,13 Feb 2015, Taylor G Petrey http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2015/02/13/
The Church's Proclamation on the Family declares that gender is eternal and unchangeable. At least in this life, that statement is supported by current medical research: Gender identity is determined between days 28 - 56 of fetal development. After that, it can't be changed by any method -- by punishment, psychotherapy, by "reversion therapy", ...or by any level of Church discipline.
The Proclamation teaches, then, that transsexual women have female spirits and play a female role in God's Kingdom. Likewise, transmen have a male spirit and play a male role (see HERE).
In contrast, popular gender mythology conflicts with the doctrines presented in the Proclamation: Gender can't be "assigned at birth" by a doctor. It's not a "social construct". A person can't "identify as" a different gender. Since these myths are the basis of psychiatry's "mental illness" claim, the DSM and WPATH claims shouldn't influence Church policy in any way.
For that matter, what does “acceptance” mean for a transsexual disciple of Christ?
Consider a post-op transsexual who is devoted to keeping the Commandments. Jesus Christ is their role model. They study the Scriptures and pray constantly. They're honest and strive to do good to all mankind. They pay a full tithe. And they yearn to join the Gospel Community....
What level of membership does that person deserve?
TheChurch Handbook specifies a limited membership. At the very least, the faithful have no access to priesthood blessings and no temple recommend. In some wards those restrictions are expanded to include any or all of the following:
-- No Church callings
-- Can’t be appointed as a home or visiting teacher
-- Cannot give talks or offer prayers
-- No meeting attendance other than Sacrament Meeting
-- Can’t partake of the Sacrament
-- Can only attend wrong-gender meetings (ie, transmen must attend Relief Society or transsexual women must attend Priesthood Meeting)
-- No access to gender-appropriate restrooms
-- No contact with children below a certain age
-- Can't wear gender-appropriate clothing
-- Mandatory referral for an evaluation by Church psychologists, which may or may not include reversion therapy
Note 1: “Disfellowship”
This is a term used by the Church for a limited membership as described above. The most common reason for being disfellowshipped is adultery or a loss of chastity outside of marriage. Conviction of a felony crime is another reason. Usually the penalty is time-limited (often 1 - 2 years). Reinstatement is almost always a local matter depending on repentance and good behavior during the observation period.
However, transsexuality has no time limit. Reinstatement requires the approval of the First Presidency. The criteria for “good behavior” are unspecified.
Note 2: "Outing"
The outcome of a Church Court is usually made public. In cases where privacy is an issue, the public announcement may be limited to a stake’s Melchizedek Priesthood holders. A public confession (eg, in Fast & Testimony Meeting) may be required as part of the “repentance process”.
© Cassandra Branch MD (2015)
A Chance to Start Over: Church Disciplinary Councils and the Restoration of Blessings
"Disciplinary councils may also be convened to consider a member’s standing in the Church following serious transgression such as abortion, transsexual operation, attempted murder, rape, forcible sexual abuse, intentionally inflicting serious physical injuries on others, adultery, fornication, homosexual relations, child abuse (sexual or physical), spouse abuse, deliberate abandonment of family responsibilities, robbery, burglary, embezzlement, theft, sale of illegal drugs, fraud, perjury, or false swearing."
BY ELDER M. RUSSELL BALLARD Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Sept 1990
NOTE: Taken from the official Church website (https://www.lds.org) on 11 Oct 2014 (This is the only statement provided in a site search for the word “transsexual”. )
The New Gender Paradigm
CONCLUSION: The website censors are quite right: the Church Handbook doesn’t actually use the words, “automatic excommunication”. But post-op transsexuals aren’t exactly welcomed into Christ’s Church with open arms, either.
However in practice, many local leaders read the above passages and conclude that automatic excommunication is indeed the official Church policy. It’s undeniable that large numbers of cross-dressers and transsexuals have found themselves in the gutter the instant their secret got out. I know of wards that even posted guards at the chapel doors to make sure a transsexual didn’t “pollute” their sanctuary.
On the other hand, "may be cause for formal Church discipline" seems to allow for kindness, love and mercy:
-- “May be” suggests that sometimes surgery doesn’t trigger “Church discipline”.
-- What is a “transsexual operation” and when is it "elective"?
-- Even the term “Church discipline” is vague: It could mean limited membership, stern admonishment, probation or disfellowshipping, short of outright excommunication.
In fact, there’s a growing number of enlightened local Church leaders who do indeed permit transsexuals to retain their membership status even after surgery. ...It's a glimmer of hope for the transsexual community.
But which leaders are they? How can they be tracked down? What are the magic words that lead to acceptance? (It would certainly help if accepting wards could fly the rainbow flag out front, so the faithful in the gender community would know where to move.)
As long as doubt remains, every closeted member must sit in a congregation and worry: Is my Bishop an excommunicator or is he open-minded? Of course, the question can't be asked without risking everything. Those members have a Dark Secret, the revelation of which could destroy every aspect of their life, their family and their hopes regarding the afterlife. Having a Secret is an overwhelming obstacle to full fellowship and total commitment. Someone with a secret avoids contact with their leaders; they’re thrown into panic whenever called for an interview.
Even if the current bishop & stake president do turn out to be accepting, their decision isn’t final. Membership records aren’t annotated with some kind of perpetual indulgence. Any day a new non-accepting bishop could be called as a replacement. Next stop: Church court. (In addition, any transsexual may be forced by circumstances to move to a new -- non-accepting -- ward.)
Clinging to hope -- ignoring the elephant in the room -- only leads to a lifetime of secrecy, uncertainty and insecurity.
SUMMARY – Membership Options
For a post-op transsexual, Church Membership can be like a trip on Celestial Airlines:
SECURITY RISK – No Fly
Most transsexuals – members and prospective members – can’t even get past security to enter the boarding area. The most humble & faithful transsexual is considered to be a terrorist; a threat to innocent fellow travelers. Supposedly, those in the gender community carry a bomb in their underwear that can knock the whole airplane out of the heavens.
ECONOMY SEATING – Absolutely No Frills
It’s true that some travelers are granted membership – they’re permitted to take the journey. But they’re squeezed into cramped seats in the back of the chapel. They get no service. They’re denied the sacrament and other fruits of the Gospel. They can’t even use the restrooms. No wonder the other passengers carefully avoid them. A limited membership can be so uncomfortable that these wretched souls start to envy those who weren’t allowed to board in the first place.
And there are a lucky few who find themselves in an exit row due to kind-hearted flight attendants. The seats are more definitely comfortable – they may even be able to attend Relief Society or the adult priest’s quorum. They may get leftovers from the other passengers; say, a calling as an usher or building custodian. They might even have the opportunity to partake of the sacrament. The problem with an exit seat is the ever-constant risk that a grumpy member of the flight crew -- or Church leadership -- may pop open the exit window. The hapless passenger will be suddenly sucked out of the airplane and cast into the dark abyss.
BUSINESS CLASS – A Step Up
Mormon gender activists are petitioning the Church leadership to allow transsexuals a membership upgrade. In this "business class", the seats would be assigned and reliable, not subject to the whim of the crew. Established policy could be changed so that transsexuals could travel more comfortably with some of the following perks: -- Attendance in all appropriate meetings (e.g. Relief Society or Priest's Quorum) -- A welcoming smile -- Limited service (ie, non-priesthood callings) -- Limited meals (eg, partaking the sacrament but no access to the temple) -- Unlimited restroom access
FIRST CLASS MEMBERSHIP -- Don't Even Think About It
First Class accommodations are what Church members strive for and what the Church is designed to provide. Callings offer experience in service & leadership. Temple work points the way to exultation. Marriage and a family are the greatest callings a person can have on earth. Family relationships sealed through the priesthood are the fundamental structure to life eternal in the presence of our Heavenly Father.
Transsexuals are forbidden access to the First Class section. They can be paragons of faith, virtue, compassion, and obedience – they may portray every aspect of a Christ-like life. But brain anatomy and the contents of their underwear keep them from entering the gate.
Perhaps this is the ultimate expression of “automatic excommunication”: having to watch from the sidelines while the rest of the Saints feast with the Bridegroom. Current Church policy determines that even the most devoted transsexual disciple of Christ is categorically excluded from the Celestial Kingdom without possibility of redemption.
© Cassandra Branch MD
The Mormon Portal
This website offers a series of articles of interest to faithful LGBT members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons):
1. The Bible: The scriptures do NOT condemn gays or "crossdressers". The current anti-LGBT mythology results from intentional mistranslation.
2. Rejection of the Faithful: I believe in a God of Love, not hate. It's ridiculous to think that God would reject or exclude someone because of the way He created them.
3. Church Doctrine on Gender: Transsexual women have a female spirit with a (defective) male body -- which will be made whole at the time of resurrection.
4, The New Anti-Gay Policy: In November 2015 Church General Authorities proclaimed that gays were apostates while their children would be automatically disfellowshipped.
I was recently excommunicated from a Mormon transgender support group for teaching heresy: I had suggested that transsexuals are automatically excommunicated from the LDS Church after surgery. I admit that “automatic excommunication” might be a debatable generalization, but removal from the group seemed to be an overreaction from the site censors. Apparently automatic excommunication was not something to be discussed openly. The censors worried that hearing the words will throw the Mormon gender population into a panic.
Except, excommunication is exactly what’s in the back of everyone’s mind. Apparently there’s an elephant in the room. Supposedly we’re safe as long as everyone ignores him. Pointing him out will trigger a wild rampage of destruction.
I disagree. I think the best approach is to identify the elephant and deal with him. With a united effort, it would even be possible to make the elephant go away.
Let’s begin with the facts. Official Church Policy can be found in the Church Handbook of Instructions Vol 1, a book put in the hands of Church leadership, but but the contents are not available to the general membership. The following statements have been extracted from the most recent edition (2010):
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 1st Presidency if necessary.
Members who have undergone an elective transsexual operation may not receive the priesthood.
A member who has undergone an elective transsexual operation may not receive a temple recommend.
Fellowshipping after discipline:
A person disfellowshipped or excommunicated for an elective transsexual operation requires permission from the 1st Presidency to be reinstated to full fellowship or re-baptism.
A person who is considering an elective transsexual operation may not be baptized or confirmed. Baptism and confirmation of a person who has already undergone an elective transsexual operation requires the approval of the 1st Presidency. The mission president may request this approval if he has interviewed the person, found him or her to be otherwise worthy, and can recommend baptism. However, such person may not receive the priesthood or a temple recommend.