With the recent surge of harassment and intimidation that has been reported widespread throughout our country this past week since the USA election results… I find this following guest very timely. Transgender people are more than twice as likely to experience some form of physical violence than the general population. Not to mention emotional abuse and other forms of discrimination and bullying. So the fact that Tyler Armstrong, only 14, a member of our church, would choose to share his story with us on what happens to be Transgender Awareness Week, is an incredibly courageous, authentic and honorable thing to do. Tyler loves photography, mine craft, Skyrim and other video games, motorcycles and is a good student.
Comments will be heavily moderated. Absolutely no level of bullying will be allowed.
First a few comments from his father Drew.
My 14 year old son is transgender. I don’t talk about him too much on Facebook or other social media outlets out of respect for his privacy. However, this week is Transgender Awareness Week and my son talked to me about this.
It has been a year and a half since he wrote this letter and he has been through a lot. People have chosen to treat him differently because of this.
Some people… even in my own church ward treat our family differently because of this… And his congregation at his mother’s house is no different. Worse in many ways actually.
Thank you to those of you who try to make things more comfortable for him and for us and for other families who have transgender or gay kids.
He is strong. And happy… And these people do exist. Right in our own neighborhoods.
This was scary… a year ago… as a parent but I am bursting with pride. He decided he wanted to do this and I went over some of the negative ramifications of making this public proclamation with him at the time… He still wanted to do it… Wrote it himself. (I suggested the Quentin L Cook quote but that was it…)
And now Tyler’s letter:
So recently, if you have been paying attention, there have been subtle changes to my Facebook lately that may leave some of you questioning… Or maybe, confused?
Some of you already know the meaning behind this, some of you may have just presumed it wasn’t anything relevant.
Well today, I’m about to tell you. There is a reason behind this, and it is very relevant to who I am, so I think it’s about time I clear some things up…
So here it goes…
I am Transgender.
Now before you go jumping to conclusions, please, hear me out.
I’m not confused. I’m not lost. I’m not “heading down a bad path.” I was born like this, and even ask my dad, was speaking my mind about it by the time I could first talk… I’ve always been a boy, (and I say this meaning I am not just a tomboy) I’ve always been this way… It just took me a little research and time to bring it to light and figure out what was REALLY going on.
I am a Mormon. I have a testimony, and I’m still trying to be part of the church as best I can. I love my Heavenly Parents. I love this Gospel and believe it to be true.
At times I do struggle, it is hard. Sometimes I am unhappy. But I will tell you now, with the utmost sincerity, it is not because of my decisions. I know the road I have chosen to take. I know the consequences it may bring. But I also know the benefits. Friends and family… it is important for you to know that any unhappiness I may experience comes from those who choose to be ignorant and abusive about this situation. I depend on your support, love, and acceptance. It means the world to me… But I also know something else. I am much happier now that I have come out and made the decision to transition. I’m finally free to be me, and that in the long run, is what truly matters.
Now, I am not ashamed of this. It’s who I am, and who I’ve ALWAYS been. I did not choose this. I am not being defiant. I’m not being immature. I’m not confused. There is nothing wrong with me whatsoever. I’m still the same person, just now I wear a bigger smile. I’m aware I’m very young and inexperienced beside the vastness of this world and its methods, but I can tell you this… I am ready, and I have made my decision with no regrets.
As of now, the church doesn’t have much on transgender issues within its doctrine and leaders have only begun to touch on the subject of gay marriage (this was written prior to last November). There’s still a lot of questions and a lot we don’t know. Sometimes I am afraid of what’s to come for me and my future within the church, but I pray I will still be able to be as involved as possible with my fellow brothers and sisters(+) and my God.
Also, I’d just like to quickly touch on the Proclamation to the Family. Yes, I am very aware of it and I know it’s some people’s favorite argument. Well let me bring this to mind for you… It states in the Proclamation…
“Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” -A Proclamation to the World
Note, it says GENDER. Quick lesson: Gender — what’s between your ears, your gender identity, is what you identify as in your mind. BIOLOGICAL SEX is your anatomy, the physical body you were born with. Now most people’s match up. (Cisgender). But sometimes, they don’t (Transgender). So tell me, why does it say GENDER Is an essential part? Clearly they know the difference between gender and sex? I think that was intended…
I truly believe with my unique experience of gender and the new perspectives, challenges, and blessings it has given me are indeed essential to my spiritual growth. .. as a MALE.
So with all of this being said, I hope you all are a bit more informed. It takes a lot of courage and preparation to share with you this big part of my identity and I hope you can all come support and love me for who I am regardless. My parents and family this far have been very supportive and sympathetic to my situation.
Thousands of us are out there and struggling today. Children are being kicked out of their homes and taking their own lives on a daily basis. Rejection and discrimination still fill many’s hearts. Please. Open your minds. Love one another regardless. We are all just people trying to make it through this confusing maze of life. Don’t make it any harder for anyone than it already is. Please. Open your minds, consider changing your ways.
“As a church, nobody should be more loving and compassionate. Let us be at the forefront in terms of expressing love, compassion and outreach. Let’s not have families exclude or be disrespectful of those who choose a different lifestyle as a result of their feelings about their own gender.” Elder Quintin L. Cook.
So on a more serious note: from now on, I will be going by Male Pronouns/ References. My name is Tyler. Those who fail to refer to me correctly, do not expect our friendship to go any further. (Although I do understand it can be difficult at first and I am open to that so don’t worry).
I love you all.
Thank You for listening to me and my story. I’m so grateful for all the opportunities I get to experience each day. I love my life and I’m still learning. I hope you all can continue to learn and educate yourselves. This is me and I love it.
“This is our time! “
Natasha Helfer Parker, LCMFT, CST can be reached at natashaparker.org. She authors the Mormon Therapist Blog, hosts the Mormon Mental Health and Mormon Sex Info Podcasts, writes a regular column for Sunstone Magazine and is the current president of the Mormon Mental Health Association. She has over 20 years of experience working with primarily an LDS/Mormon clientele.