From the outside, my family seems perfectly “Mormon.” With two darling kids, and a husband sporting BYU blue, you wouldn’t look twice if you passed us at Costco.
But here’s my secret: I’m transgender.
For years, I gave my best performance of “being a girl.” I wasn’t completely convincing. My tomboyish ways and bedraggled style often garnered teasing and disapproval. But I still must have been close enough that no one questioned me marrying a man for time and all eternity.
In the sealing room of the Salt Lake Temple, I experienced true peace, joy and belonging. I’ve never felt out of place within those dedicated walls. I blend in with the sisters clothed all in white, and we serve and worship together in reverent harmony.
Like Sarah and Abraham, I’ve taken on a new name as I’ve matured — inspired by the one my parents gave me, as well as a literary character I admire. I’ve asked family and friends to call me “they” or “them,” as that’s what feels most like me.
Though some may argue I’m going against God’s intended design, I’m unshakably certain that the opposite is true. The night before Elder Dallin Oaks delivered another infamous conference address — where he asserted that “we all lived as male or female spirits” before our mortal existence — my Heavenly Parents affirmed to me that I am eternally, and wonderfully, transgender. I felt the words distinctly (“I’m trans!”), accompanied by a flood of warmth through my whole body, as if my insides had been filled with golden light. One phrase always accompanies that memory: “I know it, I know that God knows it, and I cannot deny it.”
What gets me into trouble is trying to reconcile personal revelation about my identity with the policies of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In February, the church added a section on transgender individuals to its General Handbook. In addition to discouraging “elective medical or surgical intervention for the purpose of attempting to transition to the opposite gender of a person’s birth sex,” which results in “Church membership restrictions,” the policy also frowns upon socially transitioning.
The handbook defines this as “changing dress or grooming, or changing a name or pronouns, to present oneself as other than his or her birth sex. Leaders advise that those who socially transition will experience some Church membership restrictions for the duration of this transition ... Restrictions include receiving or exercising the priesthood, receiving or using a temple recommend, and receiving some Church callings.”
In short, because I have dared to be true to my divine nature — because I’ve corrected my name and pronouns, despite not pursuing gender-affirming medical transition, and because I will not defy what God has declared — I no longer qualify for a temple recommend.
My worthiness has remained constant since I last attended the temple (which I hope won’t mark my final visit inside). My devotion to embodying Christlike love is deeper than ever. All that’s different now is I exist boldly beyond a false and divisive dichotomy, which is so deeply rooted in LDS theology that anyone who doesn’t easily fit within it is rapidly cast aside.
I know I should still belong. But until the church finds room for people like me, we are spiritually abandoned. Refusing to accommodate trans people, and rejecting our testimony about our own souls, cannot justify excluding us from sacred ordinances.
The Christ I know looks upon the heart, and leaves ninety-nine other sheep to rescue the forsaken one. I’m praying that the church which bears His name will decide, sooner than later, to do the same.
Ash Rowan is an autistic advocate for disability and diversity celebration and inclusion, a bird buff and giddy gatherer of fonts, and, in general, an enthusiast. Describing themself as “liminally Mormon,” Ash strives to emulate the devoted discipleship and radical kindness of Fred Rogers, and seeks goodness wherever it may be found.