There is a Latin verb, trare, which means “to cross over, beyond, to the other side.” The participial form of that verb would be trans, and that became a preposition in its own right, meaning “across,” a usage that has become common in English formations. One of the ways we use that preposition is in the words transgender and transexual, denoting or relating to a person whose self-identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender.
When I was a young man, I was completely flummoxed by this phenomenon. I simply couldn’t fathom making the conscious choice to be a woman. That lack of understanding is common in our culture, which is why trans people face so much discrimination.
Well, many years ago Sunstone used to sponsor a regional symposium in Chicago. The first Sunstone symposium I ever attended was not in Salt Lake City, but rather was the local Chicago iteration. And one of the sessions I attended was on intersex, given by a medical doctor (I want to say his name was Mark Hatch, but I’m not sure at this late date), with lots of pictures. I had never even heard of intersex before, but his presentation was simply outstanding. The main thing I came away with from it was that sexual identity is complicated, and not a simple function of one’s secondary sexual characteristics. Intersex and transgenderism are not the same thing, but that realization opened my eyes and enabled me to see the phenomenon of transgenderism in an entirely new light.
I think it was about a year ago that I saw the 15-minute short film “Transmormon,” about a young LDS man who was transitioning to becoming a woman. (If you would like to watch it, just google Transmormon.) The woman’s name is Eri Hayward, and it is her picture at the top of this post. I was especially interested in this piece, because Eri’s father, Ed Hayward, was a close friend of mine growing up (we were even in a stereotypical teenage band together; he had all the talent, and I “sort of” played bass).
I was interested in this not just because of our shared personal connection, but because I knew that Ed was a very conservative guy, and a very committed member of the Church. While this was very difficult for him, I was so impressed that his love for his daughter won out in the end. You can read his own words about the struggle he and his wife went through during this time here.
I know that Ed has been talking to leaders of the Church about this issue. This Slate article by Taylor Petrey suggests that there is a growing awareness among Church leaders that they don’t fully understand the issue and need to learn more about it, which I find very encouraging.
I’ve been watching the TV show “I Am Cait,” and I’ve been enjoying it, mainly because it is more than just a stereotypical reality show. It is in many ways an educational program.
I try to approach this issue with a sense of humility for how little I understand about it, a sense of empathy for those affected by it, and a sense of hope for a brighter future for transgender people.
What have your experiences been with this issue?