“I respect your decision.”
This has been a response I have received when coming out as transgender to some of my siblings. I want to believe the comment is intended as a supportive one, but I can’t help but wonder if there is not a hidden meaning, especially with my family.
To understand my wonder and concern I need to explain a bit about my family. I was born fifty-two years ago, to a very religious family, in a small Idaho town of roughly thirty-five thousand. I am the seventh child of eight. I have five brothers and two sisters, all are older than I am except for one of my brothers. My family, for multiple generations, have been active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints (Mormon or LDS). This religion is a Christian religion which has much of it’s doctrine rooted in the concept of free agency. So much so that even being born on Earth was a choice every person made in a pre-Earth life. There is much more background I can give but this should be enough to begin discussing the topic at hand.
I must also state I have not followed the Mormon teachings for quite a number of years. This is due to me finding fault with much of the logic and revelation given to the members as doctrine and truth. This would include bigoted patterns and practices. I found I could not be a part of an organization which supports such things.
On with the topic. Before coming out to my siblings, I prepared these notes to make sure I get across what I intend without forgetting anything.
- I want to talk to you about some important things I have discovered about myself.
- I’ve figured out how to bring more happiness into my life.
- We don’t talk much as a family but because you are so very important to me I want to speak with you, to listen to your responses and try to answer questions you may have.
- I have struggled with and hidden this most of my life.
- Recently I have sought out some professional assistance with my self discovery process.
- Through this process and a great amount of thought, I have discovered I am a transgender woman.
- Please keep this private as I want to talk to each family member personally. Spouses may be told. Once I have talked to everyone on my list I’ll give the go ahead for open conversation.
My calls have so far allowed me to get to the point of stating I’m a transgender woman before any real involved conversation starts. It is at this point where the responses have been both extremely supportive and also more of a depressed tone from my siblings. I have one older and one younger brother who are gay. The responses from these two have been AWESOME! That, however, is another story.
One brother, who has gay children, made the comment “I support your decision.” but followed it with “I don’t fully understand what you are going through.” and “I love you and accept you.” His tone of voice was more in line with someone who is truly trying to understand and appreciates how big of a deal coming out is to me. The call ends and I begin to wonder if he was just struggling with the words to show his acceptance of me or if there was something more. Another brother also made this same comment. His tone of voice was more of a depressed and disappointed nature. This brother also stated that he loves me and wishes me the best in my journey.
The “I support your decision” comment from both brothers has weighed on my mind. What did they mean?
Was it my decision to call them to talk? Yes, I rarely speak directly to my family so when something as life changing as me realizing I am transgender happens, of course I want to share the good news. While this is a decision, I don’t think this is what was meant.
Could they have meant my decision to take action on my discovery? This is a possibility. After all, I decided to begin presenting as female as much as I could. This couldn’t be it, I hadn’t relayed that information yet.
Was it that I also chose to begin hormone replacement therapy? No, this was also not relayed.
Did they mean to imply these decisions have been made? Many people think to be transgender means you are actively changing your body, however this is not always the case. Many transgender people do not or can not make changes to their bodies.
The information of me being a transgender woman was communicated but I fear not comprehended. This fear is based in the decades of religious teachings we endured. I’d like to discuss a couple possible choices. Some of this discussion will touch on teachings of the Mormon religion. Please bear with me on this. While I no longer follow these teachings, they are still a part of how I was raised so they often enter my thoughts.
Remember everything is a choice in the Mormon religion. I am a transgender woman. Does this mean at some point in my life I chose to be transgender? All of the scientific evidence I have found has proven this to be false. The existence of transgender humans is a fact of nature. Many of earths species have variations in gender. Why would I choose a life of difficulty, ridicule and mental anguish. The answer I have found many times over is I did not choose to be transgender.
One Mormon principle is we all chose to be born on Earth when we existed in a Pre-Earth life. Jesus and Satan, our older brothers, proposed plans to save all God’s children and return them to live with God after living a mortal life. Jesus’ plan was based on free agency, the right to choose to return to live with God by being righteous. Satan’s plan was that everyone would be forced to always live righteously and all would return to live with God. Thus Satan’s plan lacks the free agency component. The followers of Jesus won this “war” and as a result chose to be born on Earth.
Supposing this principle is true, in my Pre-Earth life, was I a female spirit and chose to be born into a male body? I struggle to find validity with this possibility. Why anyone would choose a life of difficulty is my first of many issues with this possibility. Below is one option in which this would make sense to me if I still followed the Mormon religion.
A female spirit watches life on Earth and sees the turmoil and hatred caused by other humans when a variance in gender occurs in humans on Earth. She feels that somehow she can overcome the challenge of being a female spirit born into a male body and teach humankind through her experience.
Could this have been the decision my brothers were referring to? I don’t think so. My brothers, despite the years of life experience they have, do not have much, if any, experience with people who are transgender. I doubt they would have come up with such an explanation to justify my existence as a transgender woman.
This leads me to the more troubling of possibilities. My brothers, however wise I may have thought them to be, are lacking knowledge and facts. They have been indoctrinated so thoroughly in the religious views of my family that they will never truly accept me for the woman I am. For this I am very sad. I wish I could explain what and how I feel. Words fail me on this. While this is an overly simplified explanation this Internet meme holds a lot of truth.
Another possibility is that I have done as I usually do. I have over thought the reply. I have heard that this trait of over thinking is common among transgender persons. Overthinking in general is linked to anxiety, fear, moodiness, worry, envy and frustration. Expanding on these would take quite some time as I along with most all transgender persons deal with varying degrees of each.
The more I over think the possible options the more I am liking this final one. My brothers may truly be accepting of me as a transgender woman. They just lack the knowledge and experience needed to express this support in an clear and concise manner which does not foster doubt.
One final note, I mentioned my feelings on this phrase to my wife. She paused for a few seconds and using her sarcastic sense of humor replied with “I respect your decision.” then gave me a hug. Holding back tears of joy, I replied “I know what YOU mean.” I would not have the courage to take action on the fact of me being transgender without her support. I love her immensely.