Transmormon, a documentary recently selected to be part of National Geographic's Short Film Showcase, explores what it's like growing up transgender and Mormon. The story is told through the eyes of Eri Hayward, a transgender woman raised in a Mormon community in Utah, and her family.
"For the longest time I kind of had this fantasy... that a fairy godmother would come and turn me into a girl and make everything better," said Eri, who was assigned male at birth. "It was such an escape for me."
Eri's father, Ed, recalled her saying as a 4-year-old, "Daddy, I want to be a girl." Ed said he thought it was a "phase" his child was going through, a theory that seemed to be corroborated in Eri's teenage years when she started dressing in more masculine styles and dating a girl. But that didn't last long, either.
Eri had been ordained to the priesthood in the LDS church and was the first assistant to the bishop, her father said. But one day when she didn't show up to church he went to check on her, and Eri told him she was gay. It was her way of explaining to her family and friends what was going on with her, without having the language yet to describe that she was in fact transgender.
"I don't think I succumbed to my body, I think I succumbed to my spirit and what it needed," Eri said. "When it comes down to it, the only thing I can believe in is the relationship between me and God."
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes gender to be an "eternal" aspect of a person's identity. The church refuses to baptize anyone planning on undergoing sex-reassignment surgery and will not ordain transgender people to the priesthood. Elective sex-reassignment surgery “may be cause for formal church discipline,” according to the church’s handbook.
Watch the short documentary below to learn how Eri eventually came out as transgender to her family and how this impacted her relationship to her Mormon faith:
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