Guest Post: “As Is”
(This essay was previously published at Approaching Justice as part of their Queer Pioneer Week writing event. The author is specifically sharing now with the Mormon Building Bridges community.)
I am an intensely private person.
Most people who know me would probably disagree with that, but that is only because they don’t know what they don’t know. I am the embodiment of the onion that Shrek speaks of; there are layers and layers hidden behind the brick walls I have erected to keep others at bay.
I don’t like to self-identify because honestly I just really don’t feel like it is anyone’s business but my own. If I am pushed hard though, I identify myself as queer. It is the only label that even fits remotely comfortably and even at that it still feels a bit tight. The only reason I am writing this is because I think it is an important topic that never gets enough attention and if my voice out loud can help one person understand themselves or another better then it is worth it to me.
For as long as I can remember I knew I was different than the other kids around me. I grew up in a fairly large family—I was born the youngest of six children to very young parents. It took me quite a long time to struggle to articulate what it was that was different though.
I started my education with Catholic School, where if your face wasn’t, the uniform was a dead giveaway as to what sex you were. Shortly before I started school (at 4 years old) my mother had chopped off my very long hair to make it easier to manage. It was what was at the time referred to as “boy short”. The unceremonious chopping of my Samson-like power mane is an entirely different post unto itself so suffice it to say on a young child such as myself it made it hard for others to distinguish my sex.
Every year all the way through 7th grade on the first day of school (without fail) came the question I hated most: “Are you a boy or a girl?”. Some were genuinely curious, but mostly it was a dig at my expense since 1. I wore a uniform that very plainly told them what I was, 2. The answer hadn’t changed since last year when they asked me, and 3. I had re-grown my hair to various long lengths in that time period. It was the final push that I needed (combined with puberty) to push me over the edge. I hated that I was a girl. I hated everything to do with a girl; pronouns, toys, clothing, playground games, all of it. None of it was me. Finally I could find my words—I was a boy trapped in a girl’s body.
With that clarity came some peace, but such inner turmoil! The terminology alone—that I was trapped—was enough to send me spinning out of control. For the several years that would follow I would attempt suicide on multiple occasions, as well as getting into some pretty deep troubles with the law, in school, and at home. Getting into therapy helped me channel the raging monster a bit, but it wasn’t until I joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when I was in my mid-teens that my life would really start to take a different course.
I had always believed in God, of course, but I was angry. I was so angry that God had made a mistake and sent me here in a girl body instead of the right body; the male body that I was supposed to be here in. I’ll skip the details of my conversion, but it was complete. No more acting out and I felt that maybe God and I could have a truce. Maybe I could push this “problem” to the back of my mind and it just wouldn’t be a problem anymore. If I ignore it, it will simply go away. It did not. For an impressive amount of years I was able to push it down, down, down. I had received confirmation of my truth when I was in the Temple when I was 16, and that confirmation was enough to help me not worry about it anymore at least for right then.
Fast forward to 23/24 years old, and the angst and the heartache and the worry are all back upon me. I was in the process of going through a complicated divorce and I hit the ground hard all over again. I was inactive and semi-active in The Church at the time for unrelated reasons, but my belief structure kept me from doing a massive tailspin all over again—for that I was grateful.
However my anger and questions returned. How was this fair? Particularly in a Church that placed so much emphasis on gender roles and fitting me into a tiny little box based on my biological sex (which as we have discussed did *not* match my soul, my gender). I wrestled, and I struggled to find the answer, to find who I was, to find why I was. I found my answers in an unlikely place—Hedwig and The Angry Inch. The Origin of Love based on Plato’s Symposium was precisely what I needed to find what I had been missing all along. I had been missing an important piece of the puzzle which is why I never could experience lasting peace. Hedwig was my healing balm; it spoke to my soul in a way that I didn’t even think was possible because of all of the cognitive dissonance I was experiencing.
The concept of the third sex is not anything new, though it was to me at the time. Once I was able to embrace that I wasn’t a man _trapped_ in a woman’s body anymore than I was a woman _trapped_ in a man’s body I could heal. I have healed. I am a woman. I am a man. I am both at varying degrees and varying times but I am always a divine child of my Parents. I belong here, as is.