My name is Valerie Nicole Green. I am a transgender woman who remains active in the church. I am widowed as of 2016 after 34 years of marriage. I have five children and six grandchildren. At my request, I am still known as “father” and “grandfather” to them.
I knew from my earliest memories that I was different, though I probably could not have told you that I was living a life in the wrong gender. I didn't understand it. Around the age of 10, I learned, as a result of my love for tennis and reading a story about Dr. Renee Richards (the first, and as far as I know, only professional transgender women tennis player), that social and physical transition were possible. I knew then that that's what I wanted in life, but was also acutely aware that it was unlikely to happen.
My mother always "knew." As a young single mother of two small boys she was doing everything she could to raise us as well as she could. I remember several talks in which she asked me to stop dressing in her clothes. She bought Skousen's "So You Want to Raise a Boy" and would have me read passages from it. I am certain that she bought this book because of her concerns for me. I have no memory of what those passages said. I just remember these sessions with my mom. I bear her no ill will for how she handled things. She was doing the best she could. There's no way to know how she would have worked with a group like Mama Dragons if it existed then. She passed away in 2018.
So I lived an approximation of a normal Mormon boy's life. Boy Scouts, scout camp, Aaronic Priesthood, Melchizedek Priesthood, etc. My wife and I married and were sealed in the Washington DC temple at 18 (no mission for either of us) because someone was dumb enough to tell us that we couldn't. We started our family, raising five children, and lived what appeared to be a common Mormon life. My wife had no idea that I was transgender.
In the mid-90s we were in couples counseling (because we lived a normal Mormon life, not a perfect Mormon life) and my therapist challenged me to document who I was. Not what I do, not what I find interesting, but who I am. Scary stuff, that. I finally realized that the secret I had harbored for so many years needed to come to light. Over the next couple of weeks I finally shed all of the guilt and shame that had been heaped upon me by both church and society. I finally revealed myself to her and to my wife.
For now, we'll just say that things were rocky for a bit and compromises were reached. Part of that meant that I lived as a closeted crossdresser for the next 20+ years. The kids were not informed because we did not want our children to have to keep secrets about their parents and we were not making any of this public.
As recently as the spring of 2018 I thought I might still live this dual life. But one evening as I was sitting in an outdoor theater waiting for a play to start, enjoying Valerie time, I looked around and realized that "this" was right. It was time to shed the facade I had created and lived behind for my protection and that of my family for so many decades.
I informed family, church, and work. I socially transitioned at home immediately, letting the kids know that I would no longer be anyone but myself in my own home. I let work know that my transition date there would be January 1, 2019. I told church the same thing, but since they decided to impose membership restrictions immediately (in August of 2018), I transitioned there without waiting.
My ward has been amazing. It took some of them a little while, but there were some members who were immediately on board. I've been told of the conversations that occurred both at church and in homes. Questions were asked and allies responded. This was happening in the background without my knowledge. I have never felt anything but love and acceptance from my ward members. Even the leaders who were the messengers of my restrictions were kind and loving. I don't for a second believe that they agreed with any of them. That was an entirely institutional thing.
One thing of note is that my RS President became an advocate. She worked within my restrictions to include me in every way she could. She let it be known to the Bishopric that my presence was welcome in RS. Since I could not be assigned visiting teachers, she made certain that I was assigned a ministering couple rather than ministering brothers. When she explained why to the couple assigned to me, their response was "That's the best reason I've ever heard for assigning a couple."
When the new handbook came out, finally codifying a policy for transgender member participation, she contacted me within hours to let me know that she had already contacted the Bishopric to request that I be allowed to attend RS meetings and activities. The Bishop called me just a few days later to officially invite me to Relief Society. I thanked him through tears.
My RS President has been a perfect example of ministering to a transgender member. I can't thank her enough.
So here I am. A 56-year-old transgender lesbian woman. I am an ordained High Priest. I have been a Ward Executive Secretary, an Elder's Quorum President, a High Priest Group Leader, a Ward Financial Clerk, a Stake Financial Auditor, etc. (The church has been ordaining women for decades, they just didn't know it.)
I finally found the rest of the LGBTQ+ Mormon members. Like most of us, I had no idea that we were around in such numbers. I also had no idea there were so many allies within the church. As I mentioned to my Bishop, when someone comes to him or anyone in his position and informs him that they are a member of the LGBTQ+ community, he has no official resources to give them for support and to help them thrive as a queer member who wishes to remain fully active in the church.
Since I will always obviously be transgender, I have made it one of my missions to be visible and to be a support to those who may be struggling. Whether that struggle is understanding of self, understanding of family members (especially spouses), how and when to come out, or how to thrive either within or without the organization of the church, I will do what I can to help— always bearing in mind that I'm no mental health professional.
A friend of mine, Second Counselor in our Stake Presidency, made this comment as he was releasing me from my last calling. He said, "I understand you will be navigating the gospel and unique and interesting ways."
Truer words were never spoken.