I believe in the spiritual nature of love and the objectivity of good is rooted in the love of God. I also firmly believe that this love is entirely compatible with science.
There comes a time when long-held and culturally biased beliefs of man are shown to be flawed and incomplete. When new information based on scientific research shows prior beliefs to be incongruent, a new, informed choice can be made.
The purpose of science is to make observations with the goal to arrive at consistent conclusions based on these observations. Religious claims may become inconsistent with new scientific explanations. Copernicus and Galileo introduced us to the new scientific fact that we do not live in a geocentric universe. Our Earth does not rest on the back of a turtle and lightning bolts were never thrown by Zeus.
Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who claim exclusive power and revelation directly from God, are increasingly attempting to redefine scientific principles. Principles which have been researched, tested, re-tested, cross-correlated, peer-reviewed, and refined over decades by qualified scientists and researchers.
Today’s challenge is that these men, who claim to be speaking for God, are now defining principles of biology and the physical and emotional human experience that lie outside of their scope of practice.
More importantly, many of these men are indeed trained in science and medicine. Governing and licensing bodies that they have belonged to and relied upon for their professional credentials line up with prevailing scientific theory. Claims that these men make in the name of God, are simply not compatible with scientific scrutiny. They are historically, culturally, anecdotally and scientifically not compatible with the observational reality of the world we live in.
A recent update of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Handbook of Instructions has a new section regarding transgender people and what the church considers permissible behavior. It is clear that the church has taken all scientific and anecdotal messages regarding transgender people and tossed them aside.
The church is actively promoting anti-suicide messaging, yet at the same time it is denying transgender people, particularly youth, the most life-saving treatment that there is, that of social and medical transition.
As a transgender and gender non-binary (GNB) person is affirmed in each of the four major areas of life — familial, social, educational, and professional — their risk of suicidality, depression and anxiety is reduced. There is significant research in this area, and the shared experiences of transgender people confirm these findings repeatedly. I will step forward and be counted as ‘Exhibit A’.
My former bishop and stake president told me not to openly transition. They said that it would cause the ward and stake members “confusion” and told me to keep quiet about my private life. I ignored their counsel and proceeded in the way that ultimately shattered my family, but saved my life.
There is pain in a life of denial about your core belief of self. I know this pain first-hand. My children and former spouse live in the echo of that pain. For that, I am profoundly sorry. For the chance to live my authentic life and move forward in productive ways, I will not apologize.
I cannot sit idly by and allow other transgender and GNB children to grow up in a life of denial and inauthenticity with harmful consequences. I must speak out and advocate for transgender and GNB people’s right to self-determine the course of their lives.
I recently wrote the following words to be released by two different organizations I am a board member of:
“Parity and the Truth and Transparency Foundation both stand in solidarity with a message of support, affirmation and love for our Transgender and Gender non-Binary friends today — and every day. We believe that Transgender and Gender non-Binary people have the right to self-identify according to their own conscience and pursue a life of fulfillment and self-determination in alignment with personal values. We believe that Transgender and Gender non-Binary people have the right to pursue social and medical transition. We believe that medical and mental health professionals trained in best-practices of care for transgender youth, in combination with their appropriately informed guardians, can pursue whatever appropriate transitional direction of their own choosing. We stand with them and join in their daily struggle for equality and protection under the law as well as true equality within all social, familial, educational, and spiritual aspects of their lives.”
President Dallin H. Oaks said in the LDS General Conference of October 2018, “We need to be cautious as we seek truth and choose sources for that search. Expertise in one field should not be taken as expertise on truth in other subjects. We should also be cautious about the motivation of the one who provides information. Our personal decisions should be based on information from sources that are qualified on the subject and free from selfish motivations.”
I could not agree more with Oaks in the above statement. None of the leaders of the LDS Church are experts in transgender or gender non-binary medical or mental health care. None of those who are authors of this recent change in the handbook are qualified to be making health care decisions for any individuals who are not under their professional care.
I have dedicated the remainder of my life to working as a therapist with transgender and gender non-binary children, adults and their families. I am part of several workgroups and organizations in the San Francisco Bay area who are some of the world’s leading experts in mental health and medical health care for transgender people. We are dedicated to careers rooted in best-practices and the scientific method.
I have gathered over 200 peer-reviewed studies about the efficacy of social and medical transition interventions for transgender people. My therapeutic practice with transgender people is rooted in the foundational results of these studies which come from across nearly every major medical and psychological organization in the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe.
The reality of the transgender experience cannot be argued successfully by anyone who believes in science. More importantly, the lived and shared experience of millions of transgender and GNB people show that we have always been here in every culture with a recorded history.
I wake up every day asking myself how I can be more like Mr. Rogers and show compassion and love to everyone I meet. In my personal and professional arenas as well. I have dedicated the rest of my life to this end.
Kimberly Anderson is a transgender woman who has served as a prior vice president for Affirmation – LGBTQ Mormons, Families and Friends. She is a current board member for Parity, an LGBTQ+ non-denominational religious service organization based in New York City, as well as the Truth and Transparency Foundation which is a nonprofit, investigative newsroom dedicated promoting transparency within religious institutions. She is a practicing marriage and family therapist in the Sacramento and San Francisco Bay areas.