LDS Church: Why are you afraid to minister to and include transgender members?

LDS Church: Why are you afraid to minister to and include transgender members? April 20, 2018
The following letter is written by one of our transgender members after having listened to the messages shared in our last General Conference. I would encourage for all LDS members to share with your ecclesiastical leaders and within your ward councils. How are we equipped to minister to and serve our transgender members? How are we going to make the space for them to worship comfortably and be able to participate and serve in return?
Today’s guest post is written by Linda Swayne Gifford. Opinions shared on guest posts may not completely reflect the positions of the blog’s author. 
Linda Swayne has a BS in Civil Engineering with a Minor in Spanish and an MBA. She served a mission in Argentina and spent 38 years in the Air Force. She is recently divorced after 45 years of marriage. Linda came out as transgender in Sep 2017 at the age of 68. She is a member of the Butterfield Ward in the Tucson West Stake.
Dear Ward Leaders,
 
What an  inspiring conference we have had this weekend.  One of the biggest messages I heard was the need to love one another and to reach out and minister to each other.
 
I have been very troubled by the ways the church as an institution has responded to me as a transgender member.  The restrictions placed on me seem so contrary to the Lord’s teachings and even what the leaders have said at conference.  I had been a volunteer at the Family History Center for several years. Once I came out I was told I could no longer volunteer there as that was not a good representation for the church.  Most recently I was told that I can have no callings so was released from doing the bulletin. Both of these jobs can be done by non-members but as an outcast somehow I am not a worthy enough child of God to serve others in any way! How is this Christlike? Christ served the outcasts of society and was criticized for it.  Apparently in Christ’s church today that teaching has been replaced. What are you so afraid of?
 
I feel like a leper – unclean.
 
Linda Swayne

You tell me I can’t use the women’s restroom. Again, what are you afraid of?  Do you think I’m going to molest someone because I’m transgender? The LDS church does not have a history of transgenders molesting women. They have a real problem with priesthood leaders molesting women and children however. I would think the concern should lie much more there!

 
I’m also told I can’t attend Relief Society or Priesthood. I haven’t seen this document yet in spite of requesting it. I find it very hard to believe that the First Presidency would not want me to attend and be edified by the great men and women of the church.  I’ve just gotten divorced after 45 years. Do you have any idea how hard that is? How lonely I feel? And yet I’m not allowed to be a part of and feel the support of the members? I particularly need and want the love and support shown by the sisters of the ward. They are so much more understanding and I have felt more their love and want to be with them more but am denied that opportunity.  How does this make sense? Would you prefer I go to gay bars or other places to make friends?  Just what are you so afraid of? Do you think somehow I will contaminate you and the other members of the ward? This reminds me so much of the pharisees who were concerned with the letter of the law, not the spirit of the law. Is that what our church has become today?
 
Then there’s the issue of my legal name. The First Presidency told our stake leaders that they are not allowed to change my records to reflect my legal name. How disrespectful is that? We say we follow the law of the land. Even church handbook 1 says we use legal names. Why do we refuse to acknowledge a name change in this case? A name change is not uncommon, why is this such a big deal?
 
I know change is hard for all. I recognize that being a transgender woman is not yet fully accepted in our society. It’s interesting to note in the Native American culture I would be revered as a Two Spirit person to be greatly admired. Ephesians 2:19: Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God. Doesn’t this mean we are all invited to be participants in God’s church?  Isn’t diversity a wonderful thing? I know it took well over 100 yeas for the church to change it’s position on blacks and the priesthood. I hope it doesn’t take another 100 years for the church to embrace the LGBT members. Change is coming – I just hope to see it in my lifetime.
 
I believe the changes in the priesthood quorums and home teaching/visiting teaching should lead us to reconsider how to reach out and make all feel welcome. That’s a sign of the true church.
 
Linda
Natasha Helfer Parker, LCMFT, CST can be reached at natashaparker.org and runs an online practice, Symmetry Solutions, which focuses on helping families and individuals with faith concerns, sexuality and mental health. She hosts the Mormon Mental Health and Mormon Sex Info Podcasts, writes a regular column for Sunstone Magazine, is the current president of the Mormon Mental Health Association and runs a sex education program, Sex Talk with Natasha. She has over 20 years of experience working with primarily an LDS/Mormon clientele.
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