Tuesday, March 21, 2017


I love my mother very much. She taught me so much that I’m not even sure she is aware of. I remember her saying often, “never be afraid to stand up for what you believe”, “follow your gut”, “a phone call home will save you a hell of a lot of trouble”, “there’s nothing more important than your education”, “don’t lose your faith in God”, and my personal favorite, “you don’t have to put up with other people’s crap”.

The majority of my life I’ve watched my mother have a humorous on-again-off-again relationship with Pepsi. I can still remember countless times as a child walking by her craft room to see her sitting at her sewing machine with an ice cold Pepsi sweating beads of condensation on the sewing desk my dad made for her. They were very happy memories.

In the 90’s there was quite a fuss among members on the specific doctrine of the Word of Wisdom and caffeinated sodas. The debate seemed to never end, and our bishopric at the time had a strict interpretation.

When my mother went in for her temple recommend interview the questions came.

The bishop asked, “Do you obey the Word of Wisdom?”

She replied, “Yes.”

He pressed, “Do you drink caffeine?”

She casually replied, “I drink Pepsi and I don’t give a s*#t.”

She finished the interview and walked out with her temple recommend.

For better or worse she has had some influence in shaping my perceptions of authority. I learned at a very young age not to allow religious figures to overstep their bounds.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

A Child’s Prayer

There are times at church I can’t bring myself to choke out another male pronoun. I would attempt to sing the hymns, but I could only mouth the lyrics in silence. I couldn’t even say His name. It felt dishonest to sing praises to His name, yet the silence of my praise felt equally dishonest.

Some time ago, I can’t say for sure when, I began substituting female deity pronouns for male deity pronouns while singing. I was quite shy at first. My vocals were hardly even noticeable. Who knew what kind of social ramifications awaited me if they knew I sang praises to our female deity? However, over time, the tameness of my vocals melted away each Sunday until I was confident enough to sing out female pronouns at a comparable volume to the rest of my fellow congregants. When I sing about Her, I’m sometimes reminded that perhaps as a woman I, too, am of a divine nature. Perhaps there is more waiting to be discovered beyond the emptiness of the projected narrative. Perhaps there is more to my future awaiting my initiation.

It’s not a significant change, nor do I expect my humble voice to sway the direction of the entire choir, but at the very least my song is now honest.

Heavenly Mother, are you really there?
And do you hear and answer ev'ry child's prayer?
Some say that heaven is far away,
But I feel it close around me as I pray.
Heavenly Mother, I remember now
Something that Jesus told disciples long ago:
"Suffer the children to come to me."
Mother, in prayer I'm coming now to thee.

Pray, She is there;
Speak, She is list'ning.
You are Her child;
Her love now surrounds you.
She hears your prayer;
She loves the children.
Of such is the kingdom, the kingdom of heav'n.

*Adaptation of A Child's Prayer

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Mormons Building Bridges Retreat

(Image Credit: sundancevacations.com)

I recently attended a Mormons Building Bridges Contemplative Retreat in Sundance, Utah. Attendees were asked to participate in introspective questioning and sharing about gender identity and sexual orientation in relation to LDS policy and Mormon theology. The retreat started in a large group of roughly 20 people, followed by breakout sessions of seven people, down to three people per group. Attendees included parents of LGBTQ kids, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and allies. Religious and spiritual beliefs varied across a broad spectrum, but were all in some way familiar with Mormonism.

As the retreat began it became increasingly clear there is a serious amount of conflicting emotions regarding queer Mormons and their place in various Mormon communities (for clarification, I’ll be referring to any member of the LGBTQ community as “queer” for the remainder of the paper). However, what was slightly surprising among the participants was the reaction straight allyship had to the recent policy change to ban the children of practicing homosexuals from baptism. Some were suffering to the same extent, or perhaps more, than actual members of the LGBTQ community. I particularly noticed the suffering of the mothers of queer children.

In listening to the experiences and perspectives of these mothers it seemed the reoccurring question was, “Where does my queer child fit in this church and in the eternities?” This question is a source of angst that produced a variety of emotions and responses—everything from anger to sorrow. Many feel as though they are forced to choose their child or their church. Obviously, this could cause turmoil to even the most devout disciple or committed mother.

Imagine a Mormon female being raised in a religious tradition that correlated her value with her ability to produce offspring and rear those offspring toward exaltation.  The plan seems simple at first, until one of the offspring has identified as queer. This is in direct opposition with current LDS policy, culture, and structure. The esthetics of the “eternal family” have been prescribed according to not just the biological limitations of sex, but also the social construct of gender. The conflation of biological sex and socially constructed gender performances (which are two separate ideas) have produced a false sense of the “natural order” without consideration to those who fall outside the prescribed “natural order”—mainly non-heterosexuals and non-cisgender individuals. When a Mormon mother, who was quite literally raised to breed children and fiercely rear them into salvation, is confronted to choose between her pre-ordained calling of motherhood and the religious institution that taught her this divine purpose, there will undoubtedly be conflict. However, the conflict is far deeper than a surface level misunderstanding. This conflict calls into question the very nature of her existence and purpose as a mother. How is she supposed to choose between her child and her church?

The recent LDS policy change to the church handbook has been a catalyst in the transformation of many Mormon parents, with reactions ranging from confusion to outrage. The policy specifically states “apostasy refers to members who are in a same-gender marriage.” This qualifies homosexuals, specifically same-sex married couples, as apostates.

For a Mormon mother this means that if her child chose to enter into a same-sex relationship with the hopes of marriage and an eternal family, they will automatically be rejected as apostates. They would not qualify for the blessings of eternal marriage or an eternal family, which is central to the theological, governmental, and cultural teachings of the LDS Church. If a Mormon mother’s existence and purpose is to breed eternal families, her child’s orientation is not just a problem, but is sometimes treated as a disease that needs to be eradicated before admittance into any sort of exaltation.

At the retreat I listened to the painful struggles of what a Mormon mother of a queer child is experiencing; I listened to their stories. I watched them cry as some described suicide attempts, self-mutilation, self-loathing, and substance abuse of their children. Many of them, for the first time ever, are finding themselves in a place of theological uncertainty. They were not prepared, nor equipped to address the conflict that has now caused them to question the very foundation of their existence.
Despite the harrowing stories, I also saw hope. Observing the interaction between the queer participants and the mothers of queer children was encouraging and inspiring. Amid the sorrow and frustrations there was also consolation and hope that perhaps one day their children could find a place of belonging. Many people embraced one another and dried each other’s tears with empathy and concern. While this is hardly an excuse for the jarring conflict between their church and their child, I see many people seeking reconciliatory ways of moving forward.
For example, some of the attendees participate in groups such as Understanding Same-Gender Attraction (USGA) at BYU. USGA “is an unofficial group of Brigham Young University students, faculty and guests who wish to strengthen families and the BYU community by providing a place for open, respectful discussion on the topic of same-gender attraction and LGBTQ issues.” Though change is slow, the conversation is happening in ways it never has before. More opportunities are becoming widely available in an effort to help those in the LGBTQ community and their loved ones.  Medical reports, psychological research, and social pressures have changed attitudes toward such harmful practices as conversion therapy. While homosexuality isn’t condoned in LDS policy, I am observing a slow and steady change in attitudes and misconceptions.

As I left the retreat we hugged each other goodbye. Many exchanged contact information in hopes of being a source of support during times of turbulence. It was both humbling and inspiring to engage in such a wonderful, thoughtful experience. For anyone looking for introspection, contemplation, reconciliation, and friendship, I highly recommend the experience.

Published at Rational Faiths on Tuesday, February 20, 2017

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Human Fragility: a transhumanist love poem

(Image Credit: Embrace by Agnes Cecile)

Stuck in human fragility
leaving me to my vulnerability.
Love without expression.
Prayer without honest lips.
Stricken with feelings that we hide,
I mourn the loss of a love that hasn’t been,
but could be.

How could this body hold my love and rage?
Please. Stop!
Don’t turn the page.
Pull my body into your embrace.
Breathe in my essence,
intersecting and interlaced.
Undress my mind,
until you find me inside.
I felt religion in your arms,
breaching boundaries
in a sinless love.

Run the simulation again and again,
Don’t let my memories end.
Nothing more than a slave to biology,
I’ll be ripped from my fleshy cage.
Perhaps these words will fall
into the abyss of digital space.
Yet, I furiously punch the memories into code,
so that somewhere in the future it might be known,
that a simple human like me
loved a simple human like you.

They may think I’m insane,
I admit, my religion is strange,
But what do they think love means,
beyond human fragility?
Did I go too far, or not far enough?
Some say it’s meaningless
when I’m a product of programming.
But even so,
I’ll live the illusion with you,
and hope that love might be made true.

I pray these meager words might remain,
for future generations to maintain
so, God willing, our love might live,
beyond human fragility.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Queer, Mormon, and Transhuman: Part II

(Image Credit: Plot Magazine)

After publishing my post Queer, Mormon, and Transhuman, I received some criticism. Most of the criticisms of my character were clich├ęd projections built upon inaccurate assumptions. However, I’d like to clarify some of the more controversial subject matter. Deconstructing the gender binary is not an “agenda of the alt-left,” it’s a matter of biology. Men and women are not the only genders that “naturally” exist.

I’d like to make two points in this post:

1.  A third biological sex naturally exists in our human species.

2. Accepting the intersex population isn’t a matter of progressivism, conservatism, or even philosophy. It’s about recognizing the natural biological variances that exist within the tangible world in which we live.

In my previous post I stated, “The gender spectrum is filled with eight billion uniquely different genders diverse in biology, identity, embodiment, performance, expression, and fluidity.”

Sometimes when people consider the gender binary as a social construct, they often ignore the biological realties of the natural world. Many aspects of gender may indeed be the figments of our imaginations perpetuated by socially constructed ideas imposed on each rising generation. However, I’d like to focus our attention first on the biology of sex that produces natural variances within a small portion of the human population: the intersex population.

There are biological anatomies and chromosomes that categorize a person’s biological sex, not just ideological or social performances. Females have XX chromosomes while males have XY chromosomes. However, a third gender exists quite naturally without any technological, social, or philosophical intervention. Roughly 1 in 1,000 births are of XXY chromosomes (Klinefelter syndrome). These individuals are intersex and are not chromosomally classified as male or female even though their genitalia may or may not present indicators of their chromosomal variance. This portion of the intersex population is not solely male or female, chromosomally speaking.

A slightly larger portion of the intersex community is born with physiological variances like ambiguous genitalia, although medical experts vary on the definition of what constitutes a person as intersex. If we include ambiguous genitalia and chromosomal abnormalities roughly 1.7% of the world population is intersex. Keep in mind less than two percent of the world’s population consists of redheads. Arguably, depending on how you define intersex, the intersex population is comparable to the redhead population. To deny the existence of a third gender within the “natural” world is to deny the existence of a small, but real portion of the human population. According to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, intersex people “do not fit the typical definitions for male or female bodies.”

An intersex individual may choose to conform to socially constructed standards of the gender binary, but chromosomally or physiologically speaking the gender binary would be an inaccurate or incomplete categorical frame.

Some may wonder, so what? Why does this matter? It’s a matter of human rights and morphological freedom. Intersex is a non-binary gender that is sorely underrepresented in gender-related conversations and human rights discussions. Intersex infants are naturally born, yet hormonally and surgically altered to conform to socially accepted “norms” to perpetuate the gender binary. These non-consensual, “normalizing,” aesthetical interventions have little to no firm evidence that treatment offers medical benefits other than perpetuation of social gender constructs.

Morphological freedom includes the right to accept or reject one’s own anatomy according to their volition. It’s about respecting agency, consent, and personhood. Social conceptions of the gender binary, misogyny, and misconceptions of biological sex produce undue stress and potentially oppressive procedures on the intersex population.

Taking gender biology even further, one could also argue extreme hormonal abnormalities could constitute a gender variance that is non-binary. For example, women who contain high levels of testosterone may experience deepening of the voice, increased muscle mass, enlarged clitoris, or frontal balding, similar to men. Their hormonal variance can play a significant role in how they experience gender.

High concentrations of androgens (male steroid hormones) have been associated to infertility in women, particularly polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Another interesting aspect of the study conducted by researchers from the London Women’s Clinic found that lesbians are twice as likely to have an imbalance of sex hormones. "Our research neither suggests nor indicates that polycystic ovaries-PCOS causes lesbianism, only that polycystic ovaries-PCOS is more prevalent in lesbian women. We do, however, hypothesise that hyperandrogenism - which is associated with PCOS - may be one of the factors contributing to the sexual orientation of women."

This could be the beginning of linking biological sex variances with sexual orientation and/or fertility. This is one reason it’s important to understand biological sex, independent of gender performance, before making conclusions about sexual orientation. We are a product of our anatomies and a better understanding of our biology could lead us to better understand sexual orientation.

After all, if an intersex person is biologically both male and female and are attracted to males they are both heterosexual and homosexual, but not bisexual. However, if an intersex person is only attracted to other intersex individuals that, too, could mean they are homosexual. Or does homosexuality only apply when two intersex people choose the same gender performance independent of their biological sex? As you can see the limitations of our language and understanding of biology pose certain complexities concerning gender and sexuality.

From a Mormon perspective, it’s imperative to the health and well-being of our siblings that we make space in our language, theology, and dialogue for those that aren’t of the gender binary. Fortunately, there is room in Mormon theology for not only better treatment of cis women, but also the non-binary population and various sexual orientations.

I am not “a ‘NOM’ and ‘cultural Mormon’ for whom the church is a blob of silly putty upon which can be imprinted.” I am a Latter-day Saint who embraces Mormon theology and doctrine authentically and radically.  I was taught “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” I was taught that Jesus said, “…lovest thou me? Feed my sheep.” I was taught in continuing revelation as part of an ongoing restoration. Are you sleeping through the restoration? I was also taught, “We believe in continuing revelation, not continuous revelation. We are often left to work out problems without the dictation or specific direction of the Spirit. That is part of the experience we must have in mortality.”

In essence, I was taught if we love God and Jesus we should show our love through our works towards our siblings. Although I was taught God reveals more light and knowledge, we are also responsible for working out discrepancies amongst ourselves as part of our growth, progression, and development.

Some may claim broadening our understanding of gender beyond male and female is part of the “leftist gay agenda” void of conservative values, but in actuality it’s about realizing the already existing biological variances within the natural world in which we live.

*Note to my intersex readers: My perceptions and opinions are based upon academic research only, as I have no experience as an intersex person. If you think I have inaccurately represented the intersex community, feel free to contact me. I’m happy to learn more about your unique experiences.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Edge of the Cliff

(Image credit)

I stood on the edge of the cliff.
Salty sea air bushed across my skin.
My lover by my side.
His wings spread wide with confidence,
then he jumped.

I watched and smiled in delight,
light reflected off his wings,
as he pursued his heart’s desire.
He was happy, 
so I was happy.

The man dressed in white, 
came to the cliff to clip my wings.
He was kind and soft-spoken.
He called himself, Protector.
My wings needed taming.

I didn't mind. 
He was gentle, 
and my wings were just as fair as my lover’s,
perhaps even more fair.
Maybe that's why they needed taming.

Much later, my lover flew,
I stood still, watching from the cliff's edge. 
I smiled in his shadow.
He made such lovely shadows.
Large shadows.

The man dressed in white, 
came to clip my wings again.
My lovely wings needed taming.
They were to be admired, adored,
not used.

I didn't mind, I had other work to do.
My sons needed rearing.
They grew until they flew.
They were happy,
so I was happy.

Much later,
my sons flew with my lover.
Their wings spread wide with confidence. 
I stood on the cliff’s edge lonely, but joyful,
observing their freedom.

The man dressed in white, 
came to clip my wings again.
My abdomen was swollen with my daughter.
Even if he hadn't clipped my wings,
could I even fly?

Much later,
my lover flew with our young daughter.
It was beauty beyond my imagination.
She was happy,
so I was happy.

The man dressed in white, 
came to clip my wings again.
I asked him, “Why must you clip my wings?”
He replied, "You know why.
It has always been so."

The man in white called for my daughter.
She couldn’t hear him.
Her wings were so young and fragile.
How could she possibly need taming?
She could barely fly.

The man in white called for her again,
but she was too engrossed in freedom to notice.
He would not clip her wings.
I told the man in white to leave,
and never return.

Much later,
my lover flew with our children.
My wings were lovely, but frail.
Perhaps tamed beyond use,
could I even fly?

I stood on the edge of the cliff.
Salty sea air bushed across my skin.
With the sun setting in the distance, 
my wings spread wide with confidence,

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Ye Are the Body of Christ

(Christ Walking on Water by Julius von Klever)

Over the past year, my son has been searching for a better understanding of Jesus and Christ, which I have encouraged him not to conflate. He recently asked me, “How can I know if all the things they say about Jesus are true?”

I empathize with him. As a young girl, I often questioned the stories of Jesus. Though they were quite beautiful narratives, I couldn’t reconcile them with what I knew of the natural world I live in. What miracles actually took place, if any? How did these miraculous events happen? Why don’t they happen today? If Jesus suffered for everyone how could he suffer for the pains and afflictions of women? If all His miracles weren’t real is there any value in what I was being taught from the scriptures?

Christmas can be particularly challenging when fellow believers bear testimonies of mystical, superstitious narratives that perpetuate escapist attitudes and relinquish our responsibilities as “joint-heirs with Christ.” Fellow congregates may bear testimonies of faith in Jesus, but their “faith without works is dead.” If our faith in a miraculous Jesus is without action on our part, our faith becomes nihilistic. If Jesus suffered for all of us, broken the bands of death, and graciously gifted us immortality, what is our role as the body of Christ? To blindly comply to the latest authoritarian?

In 1st Corinthians 12, we are taught that we are all the body of Christ, “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, and one body: so also is Christ. For the body is not one member, but many. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ and members in particular.”

These scriptures remind me of the song Christ Has No Body Now on Earth But Yours.

Christ has no body but yours;
No hands, no feet, on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which He looks with compassion on this world;
Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good;
Yours are the hands with which He blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, Yours and the feet;
Yours are the eyes; You are His body.
Christ has no body now but yours;
No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which He looks with compassion on this world;
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

As members of the body of Christ all things are possible and events that seem unlikely or even impossible can be made true. We can suffer with humanity. We can reconcile with humanity. We can atone with humanity. We can rejoice with humanity. This is what it means to become the body of Christ—to join Jesus in atoning. Our doctrine mandates our participation. In a very real sense Christ’s suffering and reconciliation, when engaged in more thoughtfully, is not limited to Jesus, but all humanity.

We take the sacrament every Sunday to remind us we are the body of Christ. Mark 14:22 says, “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take it: this is my body.’” We symbiotically take on the name of Christ each week in religious ritual. We do it “in remembrance” as a “witness” to participate in Christ by immersively taking upon the name of Jesus.

The body of Christ knows no gender, race, nationality, ability, or orientation. The body of Christ is unified not in homogenization, but in the commonality of our belief in the atonement. Just as a human body is composed of diverse cells that have various functions, each collectively works together in unison to produce a functional body. We are the cells of Christ.

The scriptures also suggest that all parts of the body of Christ are an important and valued member. 1st Corinthians 12 expands on the body of Christ, “If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were heading, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body which seem to be more feeble, are necessary.”

We may each subscribe differently to appeals of Jesus’ divinity, his miracles, or the particulars of his life, but I trust his example is worth following. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas time, it is also important we celebrate the birth of an idea. Christ. It is the idea that absolutely nothing is beyond reconciliation, even death. To be Christ we must immersively follow Jesus’ example, atone with humanity, and participate in the work of redemption in compassion and love.

*Published at Rational Faiths on Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Queer, Mormon, and Transhuman

(Image Credit: “Spectrum” by Richard Phillips)

A friend recently asked, “Is Transhumanism compatible with the LGBTQ community?”

My answer is a resounding, “YES!”

Not only that, I find queer theory highly compatible with Mormon Transhumanism. While LDS policies and practices pose certain challenges, there is certainly room in Mormon theology for a diversity of genders, families, and orientations.

First, Transhumanism broadly is “the belief or theory that the human race can evolve beyond its current physical and mental limitations, especially by means of science and technology.” As the human species gains greater cognitive capacities I would venture that our understanding and perceptions of gender, sexuality, and procreation will radically change. Some may advocate for a radical post-gender society, but homogenization hardly seems like a product of evolution when evolution generally favors increased diversification. Gender, when deconstructed of its binary notions, is as unique as each individual. The gender spectrum is filled with eight billion uniquely different genders diverse in biology, identity, embodiment, performance, expression, and fluidity. It seems likely our rudimentary labels of male and female will adapt even more with increased cognitive function and physical freedom. Two people may identify as female, but they both wear their gender uniquely. Think of it this way, vermillion and cardinal are both red, but each is distinctly unique. The gender spectrum is limitless.

I am especially enthusiastic about reproductive technologies that would help loving, committed parents of any gender conceive their own biological children. I have been a grateful recipient of such technologies. Technologies such as artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, surrogacy, and uterus transplants have helped many diverse families in their procreative aspirations. Uterus transplants for transwomen are on the horizon, as well as two-mother and/or  two-father children. As medical technologies continue to progress sexual preferences in relation to procreation will become less relevant. That is not meant to undermine the pain, trauma, and bigotry that people in the queer community currently face, but rather meant as an encouraging trajectory for better days ahead.

Even further into the future, I imagine technologies such as brain-to-brain interfaces that could radically change our views of intimacy and human sexuality. To share a mind with a person would not only include every sexual fantasy and experience you’ve ever had, but every intimate aspect of your being. Sharing your body with a person, same-sex or otherwise, would be overshadowed in comparison to the intimacy of sharing a mind with another person. Pleasurable experiences, such as orgasm, could take place independent of physical contact entirely with one or multiple person(s). As technologies enable us to have a greater capacity to have intimate experiences, our perceptions of sexuality, relationships, intimacy, and even pleasure will develop in ways that are hardly imaginable.

Second, Mormon theology also offers opportunities for diverse orientations and genders. Many arguments made against same-sex families are perpetuated by conflating the mortal human model of conception and reproduction with a Godly model of reproduction, which I have already addressed. The most notable example of same-sex creation is found in canonized scripture and LDS temple rituals when women were entirely absent in accounts of the creation. Adam’s embodiment was created by Elohim and Jehovah, two male personifications. Two males created a male. Eve’s mortal body was also created by two males and formed from the rib of another male, Adam. There is no account of her physical embodiment being produced by an earthly mother. I trust the Gods have far more sophisticated ways of reproducing which would render the argument of same-sex reproduction meaningless, or perhaps encouraged if we are to follow the creation narrative literally.

Mormon theology’s emphasis on theosis and deification gives way to an exceptionally diverse God. Moving our limited perceptions of the singular, male esthetic of God toward an all encompassing image of God allows individuals to see the image of God within themselves, independent of genderized, heteronormative assumptions. Humans tend to make Gods in their image, or rather interpret God in their image. If a woman or intersex person is made in the image of God, I don’t see how God is not composed of both male and female attributes. Perhaps God is so diverse that they would surpass our current perceptions of gender. After all, the scriptures depict God as a dove and burning bush. I trust God’s morphological freedom to be far more interesting than gender morphology.

Personally, Mormon Transhumanism has helped me in my own path of reconciliation. While many opinions among Mormon Transhumanists differ and resistance to new ideas is to be expected, I have found a lot of support and acceptance among members of the Mormon Transhumanist Association when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

*Published at Rational Faiths on Wednesday, December 8, 2016