12 minute read

Change is possible. In a strict LDS household, I confronted the challenges of gender identity in a world where sexuality and gender discussions were taboo.

Embracing Change: A Journey Through Uncertainty and Self-Discovery

I grew up in a religious LDS home characterized by strict rules and expectations about morals and conduct. While boys were expected to transform into men of honour, embracing the responsibility of receiving the priesthood and proudly providing for their families, girls were supposed to fulfill their divine role as the nurturing caretakers of the home. Deviating from these gender norms was not an option, leaving no room for exploring alternative paths or possibilities. However, I knew something wasn’t quite right from a young age. I felt like a girl trapped inside a boy’s body, and I struggled to make sense of these feelings in a world that refused to acknowledge their existence.

Despite grappling with inner turmoil, my upbringing in a household where discussions about sexuality and gender identity were strictly taboo left me feeling isolated and alone. Any mention of 2SLGBTQIA+ issues was prohibited, and even joking about such topics was forbidden. As a result, I had no language to describe my experiences or connect with others who might share them. Because of this, I felt utterly alone and isolated, like I was the only person in the world struggling with these feelings.

Secluded and alone, fear and uncertainty consumed me, weighing heavily on my mind and filling me with a sense of dread. The weight of my secret was crushing, and I carried the burden of my Trans identity all alone. As a child, I had no way of knowing there were others like me and no resources or support systems to turn to for guidance. The world felt dark and frightening, and I was terrified of what might happen if anyone ever found out the truth about who I truly was.

Breaking the Chains: Embracing Change and Defying Societal Norms

Even as a child, I vividly recall the suffocating sensation of being trapped inside a cage that was far too small. Every day, I had to navigate a minefield of societal expectations that felt suffocating and unbearable. The weight of those expectations pressed down on me like a heavy stone, and I felt like I was drowning in a sea of gender norms I simply couldn’t conform to.

A gender non-conforming 10-year-old child playing outside.
Photo by Alexander Grey on Unsplash

I was constantly the target of bullying and abuse simply because I didn’t fit into the traditional male mould expected of me. The abuse started with an older brother who wanted to “toughen me up.” Then it shifted to older boys in school who saw me as a target for their aggression, then to male coworkers who pushed me around. The verbal abuse I endured left me with a deep-seated fear of any angry male voice, as it was always associated with pain and suffering.

The worst part was how the abuse left me feeling utterly powerless. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t shake the feeling I was fundamentally flawed, that there was something wrong with me that I could never fix.

A Journey of Change: Breaking Silence and Seeking Acceptance

As I got older, the weight of keeping my feelings to myself became unbearable. The constant internal struggle over my gender identity left me feeling smothered and alone. I knew I needed help, but the prospect of seeking assistance from others filled me with uncertainty and fear. Despite my apprehension, I summoned the courage to turn to my church, as it had been instilled in me since childhood to do so in times of need. I approached my Bishop with a heart full of hope and a mind racing with questions, only to be met with a deafening silence and a blank, dumbfounded stare. It was as if the very air had been sucked out of the room, leaving me gasping for breath and searching for answers I might not find.

A Picture of a Framed Photo of the Cardston Alberta Temple with a small pride flag representing change can happen anywhere..
Photo by Jayce Wilson

Undeterred, I pressed on and requested to see an LDS therapist. Sitting in the cold, sterile environment of my new therapist’s office, I felt a wave of nervousness wash over me. With trembling hands and a voice thick with emotion, I recited my carefully worded “Coming Out” story. I confided in him about my lifelong struggle of feeling trapped within the wrong body, the constant ache of a soul that longed to break free and, as such, recognized for who I truly am. I described the emotional rollercoaster of dysphoria that had plagued me for as long as I could remember, the unyielding weight of shame and guilt that came with every passing day. I told him how the church’s teachings contradicted my most profound sense of self, leaving me feeling lost and alone in a world I couldn’t fully understand.

Despite pouring my heart out, my words were met with another blank, bewildered stare, leaving me feeling unheard and alone in my struggles. It was as if my therapist couldn’t fully comprehend the depth of my pain, the sheer magnitude of the battle I faced daily. The silence hung heavy in the air, punctuated only by the soft ticking of a clock on the wall. At that moment, I realized the road ahead would be a long and difficult one, but I knew I had to travel if I ever hoped to find peace and acceptance in this world.

Breaking Free: Embracing Change Amidst Adversity

As I continued therapy, he taught me many things aimed at fracturing and separating my male and female halves, only to show love to my male side and deny the female. Finally, after many failed attempts and during my final session to further divide my male and female identities, my counsellor coached me in having a conversation between my two halves; he did this to talk me out of and away from being female. I had expressed to him how difficult this was for me, and it felt like I was betraying an innate part of who I was. The therapist kept pushing me to work through this and wouldn’t let up, making me feel more uncomfortable as the session sluggishly progressed. I emerged from his office; the weight of defeat bore down on me, drowning any flicker of hope that I could ever be fixed, that I was broken beyond repair.

As I walked out of his office, the world around me felt different. The air was thick with the weight of my heart, my mind consumed by the weight of my pain. I walked down the hallway, my footsteps echoing off the sterile walls. I exited the building, while the sun still shone bright and hot. The heat was oppressive, pressing down on me like a physical weight, adding to the pressure I already felt. I got into my car, the metal hot to the touch, and turned the key in the ignition. I left, but I was too upset to go home just yet, so I found myself driving fast down a gravel road.

As I drove down the gravel road, the sound of the rocks crunching beneath my tires filled the air. My thoughts were a whirlwind, a storm of emotions crashing around inside my head. Fear, anger, resentment, but most of all, failure over the fact I couldn’t change who I was to fit into the LDS church. I felt like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. As I drove down that gravel road, I was going faster than I should have, and I remember thinking how easy it would be to steer the car nose-first into the steep ditch and end it all. This experience, however, scared me, and I realized I needed help beyond the LDS church. I could not reconcile my faith and Queer identity. No matter my previous attempts to change, I could not change how I felt.

Embracing Change: Navigating Rejection and Seeking New Paths

Pride Flag flying proudly over the Taber Provincial building.
Photo by Jayce Wilson

Feeling uncertain about my unsuccessful attempts to seek help, I reached out to the local mental health clinic. The clinic was in the provincial building of my small town, and my turbulent emotions seemed to suck the life out of the air around it. Upon entering, the pungent scent of disinfectant invaded my senses, accompanied by the muffled sound of hushed voices emanating from behind closed doors. I asked for help with my gender identity, where I was denied service and told I needed my Doctor to refer me to a specialist. The rejection felt like a cold slap in the face, leaving me feeling small and insignificant.

Feeling uncertain and defeated after being turned away by the mental health clinic, I hesitantly made an appointment with my LDS Doctor. As I entered his barren office, I couldn’t help but feel as though the walls, painted a pristine white, were taunting me for my imperfections, making me feel all the more out of place. The air was heavy with the scent of antiseptic, and the sound of quiet voices in the hall amplified the silence. He looked at me with a mix of pity and discomfort, as if he didn’t want to touch this ‘controversial’ topic and said he had no idea what to tell me.

After reluctantly sharing my struggles with him, he informed me another doctor in the clinic was seeing people like me and asked if he could make a referral, to which I agreed. The next day, I received a call from the new Doctor’s assistant to schedule an appointment.

When the appointment came, I sat apprehensively in the tiny exam room, waiting to see this new Doctor. The room was small and smothered by my apprehension. The white, tired walls seemed to mock my anxiety, reminding me I had always felt trapped and isolated in my struggles.

Three DIY signs that read, “Don’t Dive Up, “You Are Not Alone,” and “You Matter.”
Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

During my entire coming out process, wrought with utter failure, I was faced with skepticism and disbelief, like something was wrong with me. But then the new Doctor entered the room with a whole-hearted smile and greeted me warmly. Her enthusiasm was palpable, and I felt truly seen and heard for the first time in my life. She validated my gender identity and showed me there was a way forward, one where I could find peace and acceptance.

Embracing Change: The Journey of Transition and Self-Discovery

I started my transition with a mix of nervousness and excitement, holding the small bottle of estrogen in my shaking hand. Looking at it, I felt a flutter of anticipation in my stomach, wondering how the hormone would affect my body over the coming years. The label on the bottle seemed to taunt me with warnings and instructions, and I couldn’t help but feel a sense of uncertainty and apprehension. But despite the doubts and fears that swirled in my head, I knew I had to take this step to save my mental health from further decline.

Monarch butterfly under a rainbow by Aimée Gramblin.
Photo by Aimée Gramblin on Unsplash

As I swallowed the first pill, I closed my eyes and tried to focus on the sensations in my body. I imagined the estrogen coursing through my veins like a warm current bringing me closer to my true self. Of course, I knew the physical changes would take time and come with their own challenges and uncertainties. But I also knew I was taking control of my destiny, which was a powerful feeling.

The next few months and years were a rollercoaster of emotions as I watched my body transform in ways that both thrilled and frightened me. My skin became suppler, my curves more pronounced, and my hair softer. But with every change, I felt a sense of vulnerability and exposure, as if I was opening myself up to the judgment and criticism of others. I tried to hide my femininity under baggy clothes and hats, hoping to avoid unwanted attention and discrimination. But as time passed, I realized I couldn’t keep hiding and had to face the world as my true self, no matter the cost.

Embracing Change: A Parent’s Journey of Love and Growth

My child came out to me as 2S LGBTQIA + several years ago. Living with their mother had become increasingly arduous. So when my Kiddo came to live with me, they came with many traumas inflicted by life and several anxiety disorders. The last few years have been challenging for both of us, but those challenges have taught me that if I want to see a change in our lives, I need to be that change.

Photo by Chris Johnson on Unsplash

Living with my child has been a journey of ups and downs, filled with moments of joy, love, and frustration. Their arrival brought a burst of energy and excitement to my life, but it also exposed me to new fears and responsibilities. As we navigated our new roles and dynamics, I felt a sense of overwhelming love and protectiveness mixed with moments of doubt and uncertainty. I struggled to understand their struggles and pains and sometimes felt helpless and inadequate in the face of their traumas and anxiety.

But despite the challenges, I also felt a sense of purpose and growth. My child’s courage and resilience inspired me to be more open-minded, compassionate, and accepting. I learned to listen more deeply, communicate more clearly, and seek help and support when needed. And in the process, I discovered that being a parent meant more than just providing for my child’s basic needs; it meant being there for them in the good times and the bad and standing up for their rights and dignity, no matter the obstacles.

Embracing Change: A Journey of Transformation and Empathy

These life experiences have moulded and transformed me, like a potter with clay, into the person I am today. They have left their marks on my heart and soul, etching compassion and tolerance into every fibre of my being. My personal struggles and challenges have sharpened my capacity to alleviate the agony of others and treat them with the same reverence and empathy I long to receive myself.

As I reflect on my journey, I am struck by how the darkness of my past has given way to a brighter future. I can still feel the weight of those early struggles, like a heavy burden pressing down on me, but I have learned to bear them with courage and determination. The moments of uncertainty and doubt have taught me to find strength within myself I never knew existed. The path that once seemed insurmountable is now a road I walk with resolve and the hope of a brighter tomorrow.

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