SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Transgender members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints brace themselves ahead of general conference. They’re concerned more messages across the pulpit would further alienate them from their family and religion.
The apprehension by the LGBTQIA community comes days after a clarified gender definition released by the church that many are calling disastrous.
At three-years-old, Kris Irvin knew that they were a boy in a girl’s body.
“If you haven’t struggled with your gender identity, it’s extremely difficult to understand,” Irvin said.
While remaining an active member of the faith, Irvin transitioned with the guidance from local priesthood leaders in the church.
“There was wiggle room, I guess,” Irvin said. "You could kind of make it work for your own specific situation, depending on where you’re at.”
But that wiggle room is apparently gone after First Counselor Dallin H. Oaks in the church's First Presidency said the church recognizes people by their “biological sex at birth.”
“It concerns us that one of the places that we are being attacked again, now, is our church, our spiritual home,” Irvin said.
The clarification is alienating transgender and non-binary members who, like Irvin, believed church teachings allowed them to identify differently while still being considered faithful.
“When religious leaders are coming out and saying over the pulpit, ‘You are wrong. Your identity is incorrect,' that is damaging,” said Bek Birkett, who is a former member of the church and identifies as genderqueer.
LGBTQIA advocates worry the remark could have destructive effects on people already struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts.
While the church declined to comment on this story, Oaks told members to "reach out with understanding and respect toward individuals struggling with …gender identity."
“That’s not coming from a place of love. That is sowing confusion and shame for people who are already struggling to find their place in a society that is not ready to accommodate, and more often, ostracize people like that,” Transgender Advocates of Utah Executive Director Candice Metzler said.
The Pride Center in Salt Lake City tells FOX13 they have mental health professionals poised to help anyone in crisis over conference weekend.