Transgender Children: An Easy Way for the LDS Church to Get it Right


While shadowing Dr. Norm Spack in his work with the GeMS clinic at Children’s hospital Boston, I couldn’t help but wonder what my Mormon pioneer ancestors would think if they could see me now. Dr. Spack is one of the rockstars of LGBTQ health (with more of Kanye’s swagger than Taylor Swift’s mass appeal) and his work with transgender children has placed him at the forefront of the controversy over what role medicine has to play in helping gender-nonconforming kids grow up to be healthy and happy adults in bodies that match their gender.

The treatments offered by Dr. Spack at the GeMS clinic might alarm the average LDS reader–but they shouldn’t. Children who present to the clinic with severe adolescent gender dysphoria are supported with counselling and therapy until their bodies begin to go through natural puberty–a process fraught with terror for a transgender child. If you are a man, imagine suddenly waking up with growing breast tissue or a menstrual period. Women can picture their voices suddenly dropping and an unfamiliar growth between their legs. Now imagine going through this at age 13. These traumatic developments lead many transgender kids to self-mutilate, fighting back against their bodies that have so suddenly turned against them.

Not Dr. Spack’s patients.

This is because Dr. Spack’s patients are given GnRH analogues (so called “puberty blockers”), a reversible treatment that halts the onset of puberty (think Peter Pan) to give children, their parents, and their treatment team more time to evaluate the stability of the child’s gender identity before irreversible changes come–whether by the child’s own hormones or hormones supplied by the doctor.

The Family: A Proclamation to the World, a document akin to scripture in Modern Mormonism, states, “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” What it doesn’t say is how God intends us to know what the gender of the spirit residing in each body around us actually is.

Indulge me for a second as I engage in a little LGBTQ teminology 101. Sex and Gender are two separate things. The words male and female have to do with an individual’s sex. Man and woman with an individual’s gender. Remember, it is our gender that was declared eternal in the Family Proclamation, not our sex.

Science summary that can be skipped by all people who will agree that gender and sex are distinct terms:

During embryonic development, human beings start with a blank slate (actually, our default setting is to develop as female, but hey, this is 101). Their growing bodies are then acted upon by hormones derived from the action of their own chromosomes and those of their biological mother to differentiate along the spectrums of both gender and sex (again NOT synonyms. See Genderbread Person).


These hormones work centrally to change the development of one’s brain and help it differentiate along the man/woman spectrum. This brain development will then interact with societal and cultural norms to create the individual’s gender, one’s personal identity along the spectrum between man and woman.

The hormones also work peripherally on an individual’s genitals and other body tissues to create one’s sex, an individual’s place on the spectrum of maleness/femaleness, a place determined largely by the shape of the person’s genitals and chromosomes. At birth, the process is only partially completed. Once puberty comes, the hormones are once again ramped up by the body and differentiation continues.

End of Boring Science Summary


Did you catch all that? Well it’s important! At least it likely is to someone you love.

In over 99% of the population, the central “gender” identity of the person coincides with the peripheral “sex” of the person’s body. These are the people for whom the words of the Family Proclamation make sense. For everyone else, how are they to know what the gender of the spirit inhabiting their body is?

Is it in the genitals? These people will have a tough time figuring that out.

What about the chromosomes? Still not the answer for these people

Well then how about in the individual’s personal firm and consistent identity, found through either prayer or just being alive, that lets the person claim the gender they’ve always had.

That is an answer my pioneer ancestors would resonate with. Personal revelation. God showing the answer in the face of much uncertainty, tailored to the individual to meet an individual need.


That is how things seemed to work in Kristy, a 15 year-old girl with severe developmental delay who happened to come into Dr. Spack’s office the same day I was shadowing. Kristy would not have been a candidate for baptism into the LDS church for two reasons. First of all, her mental capacities did not meet the standard of accountability set by the church for baptism. She is one of the spirits LDS leaders have said “retain the status of innocence” held by children incapable of sin.

The second reason is that Kristy was born a male and was initiating the process that will eventually lead to fully transitioning her body to match her gender as a girl. How did Kristy’s parents know this was the right choice for their child? Kristy showed them. She wore her sister’s dresses and refused to let her hair be cut. By age 8, she referred to herself as a girl and became increasingly uncomfortable with the sight of her penis.

I was lucky enough to be present at the appointment in which it was finally decided Kristy could receive her hormones, the ones that would make her body look like those of her girl friends at school. I will never forget how Kristy’s face lit up when the doctor asked if she would like to start her hormones. “YES!” she exclaimed without hesitation, beaming up at her parent’s on each side of her with excitement and a hint of gratitude. It was the kind of glee only a child can feel. I felt it my first time seeing Mickey Mouse at Disneyland. She felt it when she learned that she was finally going to look on the outside how she was on the inside.

By embracing their daughter’s gender early, Kristy’s parents have protected their daughter from the costs and risks of medical procedures used to help people transition after the body has gone through the irreversible changes of natural puberty. They have also ensured that Kristy’s ability to pass as a woman will be drastically improved, protecting her from the crippling burden of society’s transphobia that leads to a rising tide of violence and discrimination. I mean, the central holiday of the transgender community is a day of remembrance in which they commemorate all of their members who have been attacked or killed in the last year. Kristy (and society for that matter) can use all of the help she can get.

There is no reason for the LDS church to feel threatened by children like Kristy. After all, what could possibly affirm the premise that the gender of a human being is eternal and unchangeable than a person who is born in an unfamiliar body and yet knows his or her gender regardless. While Kristy’s embracing of the gender binary is not common to all gender minority people, it plants her firmly on a path consistent with LDS doctrine. Kristy is a woman spirit who was born in a male body. She is taking the appropriate medical measures to correct this problem. While her gender is eternal, the discrepancy with her sex is simply a result of being born to a fallen world where problems have been known to arise. It really can be that simple.

While I personally believe that every non-affirming message sent to a member of the LGBTQ community by the LDS church–or any group for that matter–is a mistake and a tragedy, I also believe that some of these rejecting messages are entrenched in the current doctrine. For example, Mormonism’s enshrinement of heterosexual union requires complex mental gymnastics (or maybe just a grad degree from the Harvard Divinity School) to reconcile with full acceptance of homosexuality.

It does not take a genius, however, to see that even current LDS doctrine holds a place for full acceptance of transgender people who embrace the gender binary right in the middle of mainstream Mormonism–a place that comes with great benefits (and I’m not just talking about having regular home teachers).  We, as Mormons, should be looking for reasons to embrace rather than exclude others. Transgender children seem like an easy and important place to start.

Jesus with chilren-quarter sized

42 comments for “Transgender Children: An Easy Way for the LDS Church to Get it Right

  1. Shad
    January 23, 2013 at 11:13 am

    Gordon B Hinkley once said “People inquire about our position on those who consider themselves so-called gays and lesbians. My response is that we love them as sons and daughters of God. They may have certain inclinations which are powerful and which may be difficult to control. Most people have inclinations of one kind or another at various times. If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church. If they violate the law of chastity and the moral standards of the Church, then they are subject to the discipline of the Church, just as others are”

    I believe this quote encompasses the whole LGBT community.

    You said “While I personally believe that every non-affirming message sent to a member of the LGBTQ community by the LDS church–or any group for that matter–is a mistake and a tragedy, I also believe that some of these rejecting messages are entrenched in the current doctrine.”

    I have a hard time approving and encouraging behavior I believe is sinful (the act, not the temptation). The Lord is directing His church, and I believe the doctorine that lies within the church is correct.

    Members of my family have come out and are living an active LGBT lifestyle. Does this mean I love them any less? No, but I cannot bring myself to approve behavior I believe is wrong. I don’t believe the church will change their stance.

    • John
      January 23, 2013 at 2:21 pm

      The first unkind word in Hickley’s comment where [so-called]. LGBT are not [so-called’s]. You can be a “so-called” when LGBT is not something you choose. When you are inherently LGBT you can’t [so-call] yourself “heterosexual.” “Now” that the church has removed all the language from the Handbooks 1 & 2 that said homosexuality was a sin, and instead “now” saying that homosexuality is “now not” the sin, and “now not” the choice that makes clear that that is the way God made you. “Yes-so!” The Mormon leaders comments are very damaging to the LGBT community especially in the “new” Bishop’s pamphlet. In that pamphlet, the said Mormon church begins with very damaging words that put down and deny that inherent part of a persons sexuality right up front! Their comments don’t foster love and understanding. They don’t bridge a gap with healthy esteem or self worth. You don’t tear a person completely down and hope to all of sudden build them up in a church that’s already ruin their self esteem. The Mormon church’s comments are full of misunderstanding, separation and fear. Such damaging statement and teachings that tell a person who is inherently LGBT – to not act the way they are – is destructive to a persons self exteem and self worth. It would be best for anyone who is LGBT to not be part of the Mormon church. They will not be happy nor will they be full filled in life. People who are LGBT [there are very few] who stick around the Mormon church all eventually leave because the damage the said Mormon church does to individuals eventually pushes them out the door. Most of the members turn their backs on them. The good news is that that many MANY resources in the community and other faiths who will reach out and love and promote a persons inherent self worth and self esteem. Their is SO much happiness for LGBT when they finally realize that they don’t have to live among-st people who constantly reject them, who deny the God given worth of their souls. I am glad I left the Mormon church. My life is happy full filled and my relationship with my husband is the happiest and best thing that ever happened to me in the world! We have a wonderful life filled with friends. We also have a very deep relationship with God and thank His Son everyday, numerous times what they have done for us. One of the most special times of my whole day, is when I knell next to my husband hold his hand in mine, and we pray to God and give thanks to Him for all the blessings He has showered upon our life. The love and intimacy in our relationship is fully vested with spiritual and physical emotions. In those moments, you realize you are one with that person, and that there is not anything in this life that you wouldn’t do for them. I am so happy with my life and hope others can find their way as I have done in my life, and has my husband has done in his life. –God bless you who still choose to go through the rejection. Ask God to comfort you and help you figure things out. I promise, He will not leave you or abandon you. He will give you direction and the strength that you need to walk away from relationship that are damaging and destructive to the well-being of your life’s.

      • Shan
        March 5, 2014 at 5:07 pm

        While I understand your offence at the wording, and cynicism at it being changed, it is important to note that those words have changed meaning since they were spoken. Homosexuality in the common vernacular used to refer to a lifestyle, while now it refers to a state of being. It is unreasonable to expect people to predict those colloquial changes, and reasonable to re-write things to better reflect the original meaning.

  2. Tabitha
    January 23, 2013 at 11:26 am

    Wow- thank you for sharing your personal knowledge in this area and for expanding my mind!

  3. January 23, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    So incredibly helpful and informative. Thanks, Cary!

  4. Melody
    January 23, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    Thank-you so much for the science lesson as well as the rest of your message. I love “…what could possibly affirm the premise that the gender of a human being is eternal and unchangeable than a person who is born in an unfamiliar body and yet knows his or her gender regardless.” That really resonates as truth for me. I hope your message will be read and spread.

  5. Kaydence
    January 23, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    Thank you so much for this. We are the parents of a 6 year old transgender daughter. We went through so much alienation and stress in our ward. Our bishop told us we were not allowed to bring our daughter to church in a dress. When I attempted to explain the science, and the fact that we had seen 5 separate doctors, including 2 who were LDS, he told me he told me he wanted “different science.” We had felt so strongly that loving and supporting our child was what we needed to do and both he and our stake president told us we were wrong, God didn’t approve of what we were doing, that Satan was involved, etc… When the primary kids teased our child, we were told “They are just telling the truth.” We eventually left the church, after fighting the good fight. There was no room for my daughter there. I don’t hold any anger, because we ended up where we needed to be, however, my heart aches for those children like Atty whose parents are afraid, ashamed, or uninformed. I hope this paves the way for an informed acceptance.

    • Cary Crall
      January 23, 2013 at 5:13 pm

      Thank you so much for sharing your story with me. I am so sorry that you had to make the near impossible choice between your church and your child. Your daughter is very lucky to have you and vice versa.

    • Don
      January 23, 2013 at 6:15 pm

      I am sorry for the distress of your life over this unfortunate circumstance. I cannot begin to understand the feelings and emotions involved in dealing with this issue. I think there is an important underlying question at the heart of this discussion; Is the Mormon Church true or false. If true, then reason dictates a certain choice, if false, then another…

    • brandon
      January 27, 2013 at 11:11 pm

      Kaydence, my heart ached as I read your comment. I am the father of a transgender 7 year old boy. So much of what you say rings true. There is no place for him at church either. One ward member walked up to us in the chapel before sacrament meeting and said “you have such a strange child.” We also left the church and moved out of state to provide a better life in an area with more acceptance and resources to support our family.

      We celebrated his birthday and a full year of living as a boy today. He can’t be happier.

      • brandon
        January 27, 2013 at 11:13 pm

        Have you found TYFA? Perhaps there is a chapter close to your home. We should connect somehow. You are the first Mormon family we have met with a transgender child.

        Here is a link to our blog:

        • Kaydence
          February 8, 2013 at 2:12 pm

          You can read my blog here:

          I just got this comment, I am so sorry it took so long to reply. I will for sure be reading your blog. I remember searching for any other family who was in the church, who shared this experience. It’s always comforting to find a kindred spirit. Even though the church was not welcoming, our community was. So we were lucky enough not to have to move. I applaud your family and your bravery to allow your child to live an authentic life. No one can truly understand unless they have been there.

    • Pam D.
      September 1, 2013 at 8:17 pm

      I was interested to read all of your comments. I am the parent of a child with gender disphoria. Since three years old we have wondered if he was maybe gay. Around 7 or 8 he told us that he could no longer use the mens washrooms because men were there and he was a girl. SHE has transitioned at home for the last two years and 5 months ago SHE transitioned at church. Our Bishop initially was worried about HER acceptance but adults and children have welcomed the change and noticed how happier SHE looks. SHE is now 10 years old and this week will return to school as HERSELF. My husband is a former Bishop of the LDS church and I am not sure there will be a future for HER at church. I judge no one for their not understanding the problem as we ourselves were ignorant of gender issues. SHE is teaching all of us and we are learning what christianity is all about.
      My heart goes out to all parents and individuals who have similar challenges.

    • Karen Butler
      October 2, 2013 at 8:10 pm

      Thank you so, so much for sharing your story. My heart is hurting right now as my 15 yr old son is going through the same thing. There is no place for him at church unless he behaves and dresses like a girl. He doesn’t have as bathroom he can use. He got as card the other day from as young woman who was trying to be kind and it said, “You used to be cool.” :*(

      • Scott Bertoch
        February 25, 2015 at 10:35 pm

        I’m so sorry. It’s the same way for me in my dad’s ward. They’re always pushing me to be a girl and it’s very damaging. I’m a 15 year old transguy and plan on leaving soon for a safer environment.

  6. Sonia Cervantes Perez
    January 23, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    Very informative. So simple. So beautiful. Thank you.

  7. Brad Carmack
    January 23, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    Said like a rock star. Well reasoned, Cary.

  8. January 23, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    Cary — Beautiful, articulate post an an urgent, critical subject.

    Kaydence — thanks for sharing your personal experience with this. Heartbreaking that you encountered the responses you did. But heartening that you not only did the right thing by your daughter, but that you stuck it out for as long as you did with Church leaders who may have meant well, but simply didn’t have a clue.

    When I was first coming out as a gay man, transgender was something that made me extremely uncomfortable, partly because gay folks often get stereotyped as people who are “gender confused.” My discomfort was very much based on my own lack of knowledge. Once I had the issues explained to me clearly and succinctly (as Cary has so wonderfully here), it made so much more sense to me.

    We just need to be open to the data… There is good, hard, concrete data out there on this. If the data causes us to feel uncomfortable in our beliefs, we owe it to ourselves and to our transgender sisters and brothers to wrestle with our beliefs.

    • Kaydence
      January 23, 2013 at 2:34 pm

      Thank you. I agree that there is a sometimes confusing and misleading link between homosexuality and being transgender. Even today the church groups “gender confusion” in with homosexuality. We were immediately referred to NARTH and Evergreen, both organizations we were opposed to. To me, the specialists we talked to made it clear that Atty was dealing with a biological issue, not a mental one. I never had trouble accepting it. But I could not believe the resistance to the information. My bishop wouldn’t even READ the information I gave him. Like you said, we owe it to our brothers and sisters to feel uncomfortable enough to seek understanding.

  9. Derek Bell
    January 23, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    An excellent article written with compassion and it would seem a strong medical background. You approach an issue many people find difficult to understand let alone one to which they can open their hearts and minds to.
    I’ll be sharing your article. Thank you.

  10. jh
    January 23, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    very interesting article – i think you make a very good argument. however it may be misleading to add the sub-title, ‘an easy way for the LDS church to get it right.’

    perhaps it is easy if the lds church applies its gender binaryism to transgender persons like Kristy in your example. if a person ‘knows’ they are spiritually a different gender than that which is expressed biologically then this kind of framework would work and we could intervene earlier to help steer children toward their true and chosen gender identity both in biology and total expression. but the easiness is lost when we leave the non gender binarism that seems to be increasingly relevant theoretically and practically for people confronted with these notions of gender identity. but i don’t know – i really am a novice in this area.

    perhaps it’s like baby steps and making a step toward spiritual/intuitive gender binarism from biological is a step in the right direction. many questions here though and i don’t think it’s as easy as the title asserts.

  11. Cary Crall
    January 23, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    Here’s an amazing story from a recent 20/20 with Barbara Walters highlighting a happy transgender kid with tons of family support. This is how it should work.

  12. Julieanna H.B
    January 23, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    Very informative and interesting!!

  13. Neal
    January 24, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    All I can say is – you nailed it! Thanks you so much for saying so eloquently what we all needed to know.

  14. James L. Hopkins, MD
    January 24, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    This article was excellent. I write often in TGIMormons. I’d like to share a letter that I recently wrote on issues related to transsexuals and heterosexual cross-dressers. I am the later. I’ll put as much as I can on this comment section:
    Many that I correspond with have fasted and prayed many days that you and the brethren will clarify some issues for the many devoted transgendered members, potential members, and former members who sincerely and faithfully look to the General Authorities for guidance in all aspects of their lives. Of the nearly 250 transsexuals and heterosexual cross-dressers with whom I correspond, many have experienced the following problems:
    1) Many who are asked to make decisions regarding these transgendered persons on the local level–stake presidents and bishops who in good faith are doing the best they can with these tough issues—seem to feel unguided and uninstructed in these matters. The marked variation in decisions from one leader to the next suggests that something needs to be done to clarify how to handle the concerns and needs of a growing number of transgendered members and prospective members.
    2) Despite advances in the care of transgendered persons, many trans-gendered LDS members encounter tremendous problems getting rational treatment of their conditions and maintaining membership and full fellowship in the church. Some transsexual investigators are told that they cannot join the church. Some are told that they must de-transition in order to qualify for baptism or remain in good standing in the church despite the essentially irreversible nature of the changes and features that transition treatment creates. Some are told that they cannot use the bathrooms assigned to persons with the gender they appear to be. Some are told that they can not sit next to children despite their outwardly normal appearance. Apparent males are told they cannot attend priesthood meetings, and apparent females are told they cannot attend Relief Society. One female-appearing transsexual who had not yet undergone surgery on her still male genitalia and who wished to marry a straight male member was told that she could be baptized and be married in the church only if she did NOT undergo genital surgery!
    3) Many would like to see a website developed that is similar to that addresses issues related to trans-gendered LDS or potentially LDS persons. Transgendered persons generally regard themselves as straight and face issues that are entirely different from those with same-sex attraction.
    4) It is the hope of many in the transgendered community that medically and legally designated males who are otherwise worthy will be permitted to be baptized, hold the priesthood, and marry in the temple as males and that medically and legally designated females who are otherwise worthy will be permitted to be baptized and enter the temple as females without regard to the anatomical configuration of their genitalia, which many would regard as an absolutely private matter.
    5) It seems inappropriate that priesthood leaders be expected to do the work of physicians and judges in determining gender and managing incongruities between mind and body gender. Determining how completely one’s genital anatomy corresponds to one’s medically and legally determined gender are functions that many feel fall well outside of the responsibilities of priesthood holders and the expertise of laymen.
    6) Genital surgery for transsexuals is costly and traumatic. Many must save up for years to pay for the surgery. Furthermore, this surgery is not done now until transsexuals turn 18 years of age. Currently only about 1 in 10 transsexuals undergo genital surgery.
    7) Many believe that “God does not make mistakes” and that having, for example, a female spirit in a male body is impossible. Those familiar with the treatment of persons with inter-sex conditions and children with ambiguous genitalia, however, know that genital anatomy, chromosome studies, gonad biopsies, exploratory surgery, and determinations of sex hormone levels can all be misleading in determining the self-perceived gender of a child. Even modern brain scanning techniques capable of picking up subtle differences associated with gender in the brain’s anatomy and function are not reliable enough to predict gender self-perception with certainty. A child’s self-perception of gender is the only reliable way to guide therapy that does not lead to feelings that one has been changed into or assigned to the wrong sex.
    8) Many transsexuals are diagnosed with what is now called gender dysphoria (GD) – broadly defined as discomfort or distress that is caused by a discrepancy between a person’s self-perceived gender and that person’s sex assigned at birth and the associated gender roles and/or primary and secondary sex characteristics they display. A great number prefer castration over maintaining their birth-acquired genitalia and reproductive capability. Commonly they feel that their spirit bodies have the genitalia of the gender that they perceive they are. Their physical genitalia, in contrast, are repugnant to them and seem as foreign as a flipper arm.
    9) Detesting anatomical features and even the hair length and dress associated with the gender assigned to transsexuals at birth is common. Female-to-male (FTM) transsexuals who self-identify as males and wish to have normal male bodies commonly feel extremely uncomfortable in dresses. They detest long hair and hate their breasts. Requiring such a person to wear a dress in Sacrament Meeting would be for them as uncomfortable and, in their mind inappropriate, as forcing a bishop to dress like a Relief Society president to conduct a Priesthood meeting. Male-to-female (MTF) transsexuals who self-identify as females, detest wearing suits and ties, cutting their hair short, wearing beards, and are disgusted by their male genitalia. Some even attempt to remove their male genitalia as children or young adults. Forcing them to wear a suit to church in their minds is as uncomfortable and inappropriate as a Relief Society president coming dressed like a bishop to conduct Relief Society.
    10) Not identifying mind-body gender incongruity in early childhood, many believe, constitutes a serious medical error that can lead to serious mental and physical illness that can and has led to significant and entirely preventable disability and death. Transsexualism is treatable and ideally should be dealt with as early as possible. Unfortunately, the condition is often not disclosed or fully recognized until adulthood when the social, emotional, and physical price of correcting that incongruity is very high.
    11) One should view current hormone and surgical treatment to facilitate male-to-female and female-to-male transition not as sex reassignment techniques but as mind-body gender alignment techniques that ameliorate birth defects resulting in GD.
    12) Correcting errors in gender designation on legal papers and on the records of the church when doctors and judges have determined that such errors have been made seems reasonable and kind to those affected by these errors.
    13) Misunderstanding and persecution of transgendered children and adults are common among those who are born into or belong to families that frequently attend any church including our own.
    14) Despite good results in transition and a deep sense of wellness and peace in their transitioned state and despite the familial stability and joy that some transgendered persons achieve when they are properly understood, supported, and accepted, many LDS transgendered persons feel deeply saddened and embittered that coming out and transitioning commonly leads to loss of spouse and family, loss of church membership, and loss of temple blessings often in spite of having strong testimonies, having served faithfully in the church for years, and having been active youths, good parents, and faithful spouses.
    15) Treatment of GD with hormones at appropriate ages that correspond to the self-perceived gender of the individuals getting them commonly relieves the symptoms of GD and decreases the severity of many stress-related medical conditions or causes them to disappear altogether. These positive results of self-perceived gender-guided hormone therapy have been observed often enough that the Supreme Court has recently ruled that the withholding of transition-related hormone therapy from transgendered prisoners is now considered cruel and unusual punishment!
    16) What was formerly called the Harry Benjamin Society is now called the World Professional Association of Transgender Health, or WPATH. It has an excellent set of Standards of Care that can help parents, professionals, and religious leaders optimize the treatment of children, adolescents, and adults with GD. Current standards of care for applying MTF and FTM transition treatments do a remarkably good job in treating GD, reducing suicides, and alleviating depression, anxiety, attention and mood disorders, and a host of stress-related medical problems in truly trans-gendered persons. When the current protocols are followed, outcomes are usually good and are improving.
    17) Support groups for heterosexual cross-dressers like Tri-Ess have an excellent record in helping prevent suicides and consolidating family relationships among their members. Many would like to see greater support for and recognition of the work done by such groups.
    18) The Proclamation on the Family clearly states that gender is an eternal characteristic of all of God’s children and that many of God’s greatest blessings are linked to gender. Given that this is the case, the sooner an individual, his or her family and friends, and the church correctly determines what gender an individual is, the better off he or she and everyone who surrounds and should support that individual will be. The sooner gender is determined correctly, the better gender nurturing can be and the sooner the blessing of being one gender or another can be realized.
    19) Heterosexual cross-dressers overwhelmingly self-identify as males, have normal male genitalia, and have a normal sexual orientation toward females. Although some seek to transition from male to female, it is generally believed to be inappropriate to do so. Tri-Ess, a nationally respected support group for heterosexual cross-dressers, does not allow persons seeking hormonal or surgical transition treatment to be members of their organization.
    20) Although most transsexuals clearly self-identify as either male or female, a few with whom I correspond with do indeed suffer from gender identity confusion and have a gender self-perception that includes both male and female components in nearly equal proportions. Determining which gender feelings predominate and correspond most fully to one’s sexual orientation seems a wise thing to do as early in life as possible.
    21) The presentation of GD among those with whom I correspond is remarkably similar from case to case. MTF transsexuals commonly report telling their parents at around age four that they are females and wish to wear dresses, play with girls, and get dolls for Christmas and birthdays. FTM transsexuals with this condition commonly report telling their parents around the same age that they are males and wish to have trucks and trains and guns for presents, wear male clothing, and play with other males.
    22) Parents commonly and understandably dispute their children’s self-perceptions of their gender and to varying degrees try to suppress or modify these feelings in their children. Many transsexual children are spanked and otherwise punished for saying that their gender is opposite to what it appears to be, and some are violently abused and severely mocked or ostracized.
    23) Feelings of suicide are common among trans-gendered persons and heterosexual cross-dressers. Generally speaking, these persons feel that live members of their groups are better off and better able to contribute to society than dead ones. Many, including some church members and leaders, seem to disagree with this notion and frequently say so to persons with these conditions.
    24) Many MTF transsexuals report that as children they wondered when their male genitalia would disappear and when they would start looking like the girl they felt they were. Many FTM transsexuals report that as children they wondered when their male genitalia would appear so that everyone would know that they were really males. Nearly all learned very quickly, however, that sharing their desires to look like or be treated as members of the sex opposite to that suggested by their genitalia or displaying behaviors congruent with their perceived genders is dangerous.
    25) The greatest and the most common problems among transsexuals, however, involve men who said they were females at around age four, were punished for making that assertion, but like many good children, did attempt to obey their parents and assume the roles their genitalia suggested that they should assume, obtained the priesthood, served missions, and eventually married in the temple, and had families with female companions that they came to love deeply even though they never stopped perceiving themselves as females. Incongruity between their perceived gender and the gender they were assigned at birth at some point, however, commonly becomes unbearable. Many hide their self-perceived gender for years to protect themselves physically and emotionally until they can no longer tolerate the incongruity of their mind and body genders.
    26) Coming out with one’s transsexual feelings or the feeling that one has a female “second self” that needs expression as an adult is almost always an excruciating experience that often leaves a long trail of broken hearts and broken dreams especially in persons whose family, friends, neighbors, and fellow church members view any deviations from norms of sexuality as inherently evil. In many cases, disclosure results in nasty and painful divorces, many with full support from bishops, high councils, and stake presidents despite years of fidelity and responsibility as parents and spouses.
    27) The number of transsexuals and heterosexual cross-dressers seems to be increasing not only because of increased reporting or disclosure of trans-gendered feelings but also due to an increasing prevalence of these conditions that many are coming to believe is related to increased intrauterine exposure to substances called hormone disruptors that can affect genital and brain gender-related structures and functions. Well studied substances that have been shown to have these effects include DES or diethyl stilbesterol, an estrogen-like hormone used to prevent premature labor that was available over the counter along with prenatal vitamins from the late 1940s to the mid 1970s, DDT, an insecticide widely used for mosquito control in the US until the mid-1970s, lead, a heavy metal to which our population was widely exposed in the form of leaded gasoline, leaded paint, and lead-laden ceramics, estrogen compounds used for birth control and to fatten cattle and chickens and, PCBs and dioxins produced in the manufacture of plastics and other materials and chemicals.
    28) Studies of males who were sons of women who took DES during pregnancy, for example, found that 25% were either gay, transsexual, or transvestite. Some forms of ambiguous genitalia have also been associated with the use of DES. Some of its adverse effects have even been observed in the children of those exposed as fetuses to DES. These environmental hormone disruptors have also been associated with a variety of medical conditions including endometriosis, the autistic spectrum of disorders including Asperger’s Syndrome, as well as transsexualism, transvestism, and gay/lesbian behavior and are currently being studied intensively.
    29) Exposure to these substances can result in ambiguous genitalia if exposure is early in pregnancy or normal genitalia with self-perceptions of gender and gender-associated behaviors that are at odds or incongruous with one’s anatomy and chromosomes if exposure occurs later in pregnancy. Even wild life, especially fish and ducks, exposed to such substances have been observed to exhibit trans-gendered behavior. Abnormally feathered male ducks have been observed courting, in a manner typical of females, normally feathered and normally behaving male ducks in the Potomac River, for example.
    30) Promiscuity is not common among LDS transgendered persons. Hypogonadism and asexuality are more problematic. Marital fidelity and good parenting are the norm among most transsexual persons and heterosexual cross-dressers, who both perceive themselves as straight.
    31) The prevalence of promiscuity and pornography production among gays, lesbians, bisexuals, many of whom cross-dress, gay female impersonators, drag queens, and so called she-males or tranny prostitutes are disturbing enough to many transsexuals and heterosexual cross-dressers that many wish that the T in GLBT be removed.
    32) Some transsexual feelings have been found to be associated with trauma to the maternal-child relationship in early childhood, but such trauma appears to be relatively rare among transgendered persons. A significant number of children with transsexual feelings, however, will revert to having a self-perceived gender that is congruent with their anatomy if parents allow these children to have a trial of living in and being accepted as the gender they perceive themselves to be.
    33) Adult transsexuals who from their early childhood felt they were members of the sex opposite to their perceived birth sex and male heterosexual transvestites whose cross-dressing urges are persistent and intense seem to defy all attempts to be “cured” or “normalized.” Their self-perceived gender and their need to give expression to a female “second self” frequently seems to become hard-wired into their psyche.
    34) If these conditions were understood by larger numbers of people, particularly LDS parents, adults, and leaders, better support would be given to these individuals, less abuse and ostracism would occur, fewer unfortunate marriage choices would be made, fewer spouses would feel betrayed, fewer divorces would take place, fewer children would feel abandoned, and fewer suicides would occur.
    35) Helping the spouse of a transgendered person work out some sort of arrangement that accommodates at least to some degree the legitimate needs of both parties seems a better, more enlightened, kinder, and ultimately more celestial solution to the problem.
    In Matthew 19:12, Christ seems to describe some whom we now might call trans-gendered: 1) eunuchs which were so born form their mother’s womb, much like inter-sex persons with ambiguous genitalia; many now believe that transgendered persons are similar to inter-sexed persons; 2) eunuchs which were made so by men, that is, emasculated men who oversaw harems and were sometimes given positions as trusted officials. Today men suffering gender dysphoria allow doctors to do surgery that aligns their physical body with the gender they perceive themselves to be and in doing so are castrated and become somewhat like eunuchs. In Isaiah 56:4-5, the Lord said unto “the eunuchs that keep my Sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant; Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters; I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.”
    Morally as followers of Christ, we believe in caring for the hungry, the naked, and the sick. Healing conditions created by toxins and mutagens seems like something as worthy of a follower of Christ as seeking the cures of and healing leprosy and blindness rather than attributing these conditions to sin and poor choices and ostracizing and censuring those afflicted. Currently, the way many members and leaders in our church treat transsexuals and heterosexual cross-dressers seems more like the way that the Levite and the priest who passed by the man injured on the road to Jericho without helping him than the Good Samaritan.
    Many of those I correspond with were heartened by Elder Nelson’s remarks in his talk last February at the world leadership conference that “some [who]. . . struggle with gender issues or other conditions . . . may not be fully understood. We need to help and encourage them and their family members without, of course, condoning sinful behavior.”
    Many who read those words with joy and hope, however, wondered just what would be regarded as “sinful behavior.” Are the sins referred to basically the Ten Commandments with some emphasis on the law of chastity? Or is cross dressing by one who has an incurable need to do so a sin and a violation of temple covenants that require divorce and censure? Would transitioning with hormone therapy and SRS be regarded as sinful behavior for those plagued with GD? Does saying that one has GD and wishes to undergo treatment constitute a sin? Is it a sin for a four-year-old to say that he/she is female when his/her genitalia suggest the he/she is a male? Should such children be disciplined and silenced? And should those who have been abused and coerced to suppress their feelings for years be forced to endure the torture of having unresolved mind/spirit-body gender incongruity indefinitely? Currently the AMA supports “public and private health insurance coverage for treatment of gender identity disorder [now called gender dysphoria] as recommended by the patient’s physician.” What should our church recommend?
    I wonder at the courage that some spirits must have had facing their turn on earth as they found out that they would be coming at a time in history when pollution was so rampant and toxic that many would be joined to bodies that would be defective in many ways including having brains that had gender characteristics that were different from the bodies they would receive!
    We are taught that every person who comes to earth was a much cherished veteran on the Lord’s side of the War in Heaven and that Christ loved us all so much that he suffered for everyone’s sins and maladies and underwent the suffering of Gethsemane, scourging, and crucifixion to save our souls. I doubt that few if any of us would have come to earth were it not for the atonement of Christ and the doctrine of vicarious work for the dead.
    The souls who agreed to come and face the calamities and pollutions of our day must have been among the most faithful and courageous of our brothers and sisters. Their faith in the Lord’s atonement and in the members who would do missionary work and build temples and eventually perform vicarious ordinances on their behave, if they didn’t find the Gospel in this life or mistakenly rejected it, must have been very great. I think, that like the Savior, we are not here to condemn those afflicted with incurable conditions but to help save all we can by assisting as many as we can to face and overcome what seem to be overwhelming challenges and disadvantages.
    James L. Hopkins, MD

  15. Rae
    January 24, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    Hi! Just wanted to say thanks for the great article. I wish there were a way that non-binary transgender people could fall so easily into the scope of the proclamation. If only the church could not only accept your argument, but go a step further and understand that there are more than 2 genders. Sigh. Well, maybe given enough time… who knows….

  16. Greg Astill
    January 25, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    Cary, this article is great. Thanks for tackling difficult issues with such tact and intelligence. Keep up the good work you’ve done through your writing. (I still have a copy of your letter to the Daily Universe.)

    • Cary Crall
      January 28, 2013 at 12:12 am

      So glad you found this Greg. I miss you and the chickens (but mostly you).

  17. Tristen Lawrence
    January 27, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    Cary, well said, I thoroughly agree! Keep up the great work here. 🙂

  18. Nicole
    February 8, 2013 at 11:45 pm

    “Embracing the gender binary” is NOT the issue here. If we find out about somebody like Kristy who was born with a male body but feels female that doesn’t lead one to think, “There’s more genders in addition to male and female.”

    BTW, I just linked to your article from here:

  19. SJ
    March 4, 2013 at 11:43 pm

    What it doesn’t say is how God intends us to know what the gender of the spirit residing in each body around us actually is.

    -One of the reasons why I’m in such a predicament, as a genderqueer (in between male and female) person.

    And thank you for the amazing article 🙂

  20. Róisín
    October 19, 2013 at 4:29 am

    So most people know their gender identity as young children.

    LDS teaching is that under-8s are not accountable for their actions, therefore innocent, and cannot be tempted by Satan.

    I’d say that from an LDS perspective, that would mean a Trans Gender Identity couldn’t possibly be from the devil.

    I wonder what the LDS position would be with people suffering Swyer Syndrome, AIS etc who are genetically male (XY) but are born with a vagina.

    (I’m not LDS but studied the doctrine as at one time was considering converting).

  21. Gae Lyn
    January 30, 2014 at 9:24 am

    I’m a professor at Utah Valley University and want to thank you for posting this article Cary. Also I’m wondering if your information (as well as that of Dr. Hopkins posted here) is being offered to LDS Church officials for their consideration?

    Do any of those posting here have information about organizations in Utah are most helpful or supportive to transgender young adults?


    Gae Lyn Henderson, Ph.D.

    • January 31, 2014 at 2:17 am

      Gae Lyn, I am with a group that is working to get good information on this subject to LDS Church officials. I have just sent you a friend request on Facebook if you’d like to accept it so I can get you more information.

  22. B
    October 27, 2014 at 5:10 am

    I’m not sure how many LDS people these words are going to reach, but I deeply appreciate the fact that someone took the time and put forth the effort to write an article like this. I don’t normally comment on websites that I don’t frequent, but I felt compelled to express my personal gratitude and share my story. I’m 24 years old and I left the Church several months ago– for many years I struggled to find a place in the church that didn’t exist for me. I was one in about 2,000/1,500 children born with an intersex condition. I wasn’t given much support when I got a diagnosis and was actually encouraged by my mother not to tell others, including the majority of my family, who have no idea to this day “what lead me astray” and into my “lifestyle.”
    I actually received a letter in 2010 (the response says it came directly from the Quorum of the Twelve actually) in regards to what I should do, and I was encouraged to ‘take the necessary procedures’ to ‘amend the physical ailments’ of my body. To put it crudely, they encouraged me to go under the knife to become as female-bodied as possible. This is what they encourage people like me to do, as I would come to find out I am not the only individual who received advice like this. “Sometimes it happens” and the right thing to do, is to live as the sex that is “the closest” that you resemble, physically– no matter how you might feel on the inside. Never mind the fact that my ovary isn’t the sex organ I possess that is functional. Needless to say. Hearing this advice over and over again and being told there are no exceptions to those who are like myself, and those who are similar, took their toll on me, and I’m sorry to say it almost drove me to suicide that required hospitalization. I am now on hormone replacement therapy and living a complete, happy, and fulfilled life away from the church as a male with a wonderful boyfriend who also happens to be transgender ( it is possible to have both an intersex condition and still be transgender!)– for good measure, I also moved states.
    I’m touched by your good intentions and deeply appreciate you, and if anything, I hope it at the very least makes people ask important questions. The leaders of the Church are more aware of the science, and what they are doing to people then others think that they are. They are overly confident in their outdated, wrong beliefs and one day they will have to answer for them and the lives that they help destroy. I’m a firm believer now that it was my destiny to be born in the Church to make me stronger, so I could get away from it — and survive in a harsh world. I do not hate Mormons I only pity them now. I still have several mormon friends and family.
    I’m also very touched to see so many parents who chose their children over the church. You’re all so brave and I love you so, so much I am SO SORRY that you went through that but you are WONDERFUL people– please don’t believe for a moment you did the wrong thing for your children. I wish I had that support, it would have saved me so much self-hatred and pain– it might have even saved my relationship with god.

    • October 27, 2014 at 9:06 pm

      Thanks for sharing your story, B. I expect there are others out there with stories similar to your own: the math predicts that there very likely are.

      I’ve written and presented on intersex and LGBT issues in Mormonism extensively (e.g. LDS Transsexual Policy: a Critique & Mormonism Beyond the Gender Binary ). I hope that more Mormons will choose to educate themselves on this issue; I’m convinced the will to remedy the current policies would burgeon if more knew what you and Cary have expressed here.

  23. Robert Harrison
    November 26, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    Some wonderful and understanding comments have been made to the original “Transgender Children: An Easy Way for the LDS Church to Get it Right”. As a member of the church along with my wife for some 55years, this is the first time that I have realized that this subject is such a misunderstood issue by the church.
    We have just become friends with a Transgender person, the kindest soul you could ever meet. Born as a boy, abused by his father and forced to get married and have children, yet all of his understanding life he realized he should have been born a girl.
    Eventually the feeling became so strong that he told his wife about his feeling which led to their divorce.
    It was many years later when we met her. It was at a time when she had made up her mind to have the operation to become a whole woman. She has adopted my wife and I and understanding children as her own family. She learned of the Church’s stand on Transsexual persons and so has joined a local church which has fully accepted her as what she now is.
    Those of you who understand the difference between Sex and Gender of a person at birth and later in life, are understanding of the Churches attitude to making changes in accepting these children of God into FULL fellowship.

    My respects to you all.


    • November 27, 2014 at 12:38 am

      “She learned of the Church’s stand on Transsexual persons and so has joined a local church which has fully accepted her as what she now is.”

      Have been making it my life’s mission to make sure people are better informed on this topic. A lot of people think the Church’s position is, “Mormons hate transsexuals,” and it’s not like that. There have actually been approved sex changes within the Church. I am well aware that the Church could still use some improved understanding of the matter but it hurts me to see people leave the Church based on a misunderstanding. It also hurts me to see people base their perception of the truthfulness of the Gospel and the Church on nothing more than on how their individual situation is being handled.

      • B
        November 27, 2014 at 7:09 am

        Nicole, I want you to understand that it took me years and years and years before I made the decision to leave. I never believed that I was hated, just grossly misunderstood and instructed to do things that were killing me. It hurts me to hear people say that I only left because I didn’t get what I wanted, that isn’t true. Ultimately, I left for the sake of my mental health and because I came to find out that what happened to me wasn’t one isolated indecent.

        How big does the number of individual cases within the church have to be before it becomes the general position that the Church has on transgender people?

        I have heard of a few cases in which people went through transition and married in the temple, but they did so secretly and continue to keep their transition secret. I am also aware of a few members who have transitioned and became members later in life, but they are not allowed to hold the priesthood or receive a temple recommend. There are those who haven’t left the church that continue to consider themselves mormon and transgender, but they, for the most part, are inactive. If there have been approved sex changes within the church that have gone unpunished, I’d be extremely interested in learning about them.

        Paraphrased from CHI

        CHI vol 1 Section 3.3.4
        transsexuals cannot receive a temple recommend
        -No caveats listed for first presidency approval or anything like that as is common in other sections.

        CHI vol 1 Section 6.7.2
        Bishops are to counsel against elective transsexual surgery.
        Bishops are to refer questions about the policy to the Stake and the stake should ask the First Presidency
        This section also states that such an operation may be grounds for church discipline

        CHI vol 1 Section 16.3.16
        transsexuals (including those considering transsexual operations) cannot be:
        Baptized, Confirmed, or receive the priesthood
        -An exception policy for Baptism/Confirmation is listed as needing approval from the First Presidency.
        -No exception listed for the Priesthood

        The Church leaders should be more thoroughly educated on the differences between ‘transexual’ and ‘transgender’ and what is ‘elective’ surgery, and what is necessary to someone’s physical and mental well-being, because currently there is no difference to them. Sex and gender within the church are heavily linked. I hope one day to see acceptance and change within the church and I continue to have hope for those who want to remain LDS and transgender. This is why articles like this move me. I’m happy in my heart to see that many are finally understanding, I just wish that the church leaders would. I don’t believe all mormons hate transgender people, but that isn’t the issue to begin with. I might have left but I don’t want anyone else to go through what I experienced, and I know many feel the same way that I do.

        • November 27, 2014 at 10:22 am

          “It hurts me to hear people say that I only left because I didn’t get what I wanted.”

          Others might have stated it that way; I haven’t.

          “Ultimately, I left for the sake of my mental health and because I came to find out that what happened to me wasn’t one isolated indecent.”

          Yes, and all these cases are tragic. But they aren’t the only such cases. But they are still tragic and hopefully there will be less and less of them until they finally occur no more.

          “I have heard of a few cases in which people went through transition and married in the temple, but they did so secretly and continue to keep their transition secret.”

          Yes, I know of a handful of these. I think in each case the Church thinks that they have taken care of the one such case and that it will never have to be dealt with again. Or something like that. But then we still end up with numerous people with a transsexual condition who feel like they are the only one who has ever felt that way and don’t know that anything could be done to help them.

          “I am also aware of a few members who have transitioned and became members later in life, but they are not allowed to hold the priesthood or receive a temple recommend.”

          I also know of a number of cases like this. This is why I aim to educate everyone, the Church, its members, inactive and active transsexual Mormons, and anyone else. Inconsistent decision making is being done because of incomplete information on the topic.

          “There are those who haven’t left the church that continue to consider themselves mormon and transgender, but they, for the most part, are inactive.”

          I know of a number of active ones, plus, yes, many inactive ones. Click the link in my name at the top of this post and it points out several such cases, as well as giving LOTS of pertinent information on this topic for everyone concerned, which, in my opinion, should be just about everyone. I still have more such cases I could mention. I mention this site to people a lot but it gets almost universally ignored and then I see people continue in misunderstandings that wouldn’t continue if they had just read and ingested the content there. We also have a Facebook group going (and a Yahoo group and a Google group… ) for people in this situation to meet and realize they are not alone in this matter. We are also making some inroads in educating “the Church” on this issue. We were also recently allowed to use a meetinghouse in the Salt Lake area to discuss this topic some more. A number of attendees even showed up in the mode of their desired gender preference.

          I am aware of all the stuff the Handbook says on this. I am wondering if your quotes come from the most updated version. They might be. From 1987 until now I have seen successive editions get more and more lenient on this. They still have a ways to go, but at least I am seeing a clear trajectory.

          “The Church leaders should be more thoroughly educated on the differences between ‘transexual’ and ‘transgender’ and what is ‘elective’ surgery, and what is necessary to someone’s physical and mental well-being, because currently there is no difference to them.”

          I think you have hit the nail on the head. Education will clear up misconceptions. I think the mere fact that they have an inkling of a difference between ‘elective’ and ‘non-elective’ shows a glimmer of hope. Plus, the Handbook says absolutely nothing against ‘non-elective’ operations.

          Believe me, I have a wealth of information and want to gush it all out now but better not write too much in one comment on someone else’s blog.

          “Sex and gender within the church are heavily linked.”

          Yes, gender is the eternal part. Body sex can be ambiguous and unreliable in mortality and does not always align with one’s spirit gender. But you are correct that most in the Church presume as a default that whatever one’s body appears to be is always 100% indicative of what that person’s spirit gender is.

          I don’t know your entire thinking on the matter but I have encountered a flood of transsexuals with an LDS background who inextricably link “how the Church handles some or many cases of transsexuals” with “whether or not the Church is true.” Now matter how poorly they have handled these (not all, but many) cases, it still doesn’t undermine my own personal testimony of the eternal principles of the gospel. I do not state this to bash someone else or to rant about it until someone submits to thinking in exactly the same way. I state it to show that it can be done, to show that certain truths still exist even if some people understand a fringe issue poorly.

  24. March 29, 2015 at 2:11 am

    Excellent essay Cary. Thank you. Excellent comments. Some are so heartbreaking to me though.

    I realize that some of these comments are over 2 years old, but I just want to say as a parent of a Transgender son who is 22 that we have a group on Facebook for active LDS (or former LDS who would like to stay close to their roots) who would like to find a way to stay close to the church while still including and loving our transgender loved ones. It is for trans* individuals, spouses, parents, and other family members (no allies at this time). We would love to have you join us. We also have a monthly FHE group that meets.

  25. JC Martin
    June 4, 2015 at 4:18 pm

    Ha, it wasn’t until I had finished reading this article several comments that I realized this was written by Cary Crall! Nice thoughts, Cary

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