I was raised Mormon. Growing up trans had been confusing for me. As far back as I can remember I had always wanted to do what the girls were doing. I resented having to wear a tie to church, while my sisters got Easter dresses. “Why is it that girls can wear pants sometimes, but boys never get to wear dresses?” I would ask. Church clothes bothered me. The collar was too tight. I hated the buttons. The way I looked made me cringe. I would run home after church and immediately change back into a t-shirt and sweatpants, the only thing I felt comfortable wearing. My parents once told me that the polo shirt they forced me to wear was like my grandfathers. They thought this would make me feel better. I couldn’t think of anything worse. I hated looking like a boy.
As a young man in the church, I was expected to go on a mission when I turned 19. I thought it might be a blessing. I had been stealing my sisters’ clothes since as far back as I could remember, and thought of it as an addiction. Maybe the mission could be a blessing, I thought. If I could get away from the temptation and focus on God maybe these feelings would go away. Nothing else had seemed to help.
I was interviewed by the local bishop, who happened to be one of my classmate’s father. This is common as clergy are chosen from the local communities. We went through the usual questions. Did I believe in God? Was I paying tithing? Was I living a chaste life? I didn’t know how to say it, so I took a piece of paper out of the bag I kept my bible in and wrote the words: “I wear women’s clothing.” I was too ashamed to have the words pass through my lips. He let me know it was unacceptable and that there would be a trial period to ensure I was done with such sin. In the meantime there were organizations for people struggling with “same sex attraction” and “gender confusion” and he would recommend me if I wanted. I did not. I didn’t think I could admit it to another soul.
I let my parents know there was a delay in order for me to repent of some things, but the plan was to go. I’m sure they knew it was related to the girl stuff I did not hide very well. We made plans, bought suits, and prepared.
After a 6 months wait to prove I could go without girl clothes, I was off to Germany. I was excited. That’s exactly where I hoped to go. But as a missionary, I agreed to wear a suit. I was to wear it every day, except when I was exercising or volunteering for manual labor. I hated putting it on. I hoped exposure would lessen the discomfort, but it made it worse. I was also assigned a “companion,” another missionary that was to be with me 24/7. The companion was rotated every two to three months. Think field trip buddy system, but for two years straight. I kept my girl thoughts and feelings from everyone; my depression got worse. Sometimes I wasn’t able to force myself out of bed. There was usually tension with these companions.
The last place I lived while I was in Germany, was a little settlement outside the city of Vilseck. It was tiny, a mere 20 houses in all. We rented a small apartment on the top floor. It had a beautiful view from the balcony looking over the Vils river. It even had a bidet. I had never seen a bidet.
We would drive into Vilseck to do our shopping. We were at the local Aldi when I spotted it on one of the aisles. A cute, simple blue bra and panty set. I was sick of the suit, and the idea landed in my head that if I had that, then I would have something to connect to that was feminine, and soft and comfortable. All the things a suit wasn’t. My companion was on the next aisle over. He didn’t need to know. He was often off in his own world. I would risk it. I snuck it onto the conveyer at the checkout. Wedged between two boxes of the German equivalent of Sugar Snaps, it made its way down the line while my companion finished unloading the cart. I avoided eye contact with the cashier for fear of what she might say. It was soon off the belt and straight into my coat pocket.
I wore the set around under my suit for a month or two, but that old shame came back. I was doing exactly what I promised I would not do before I came to Germany. I needed to get rid of them. The issue now was that there was no garbage pick up in our town. We had to drive it in to the local waste department and sort it ourselves. We had about twelve bins, if memory serves, to separate our trash. Three bins, one for each color of glass; paper waste, metals, several types of plastics, compost. I couldn’t just throw it in and hope he didn’t see it when we sorted.
A couple weeks later I had my opportunity. The mission was sending inspectors to look at the apartments. Nineteen year old boys on their own for the first time were not always responsible renters. They would be coming by to see how we were taking care of the place, so we had to stay home. My companion was busy writing letters home in the study, when I decided to execute my plan. I would burn it. Destroy the evidence.
I quickly made my way to the bathroom with a lighter. Standing over the sink, I held the bra up by a strap and put the flame under the strap. The fire took the bra quicker than I had envisioned. Soon the flames licked at my fingers. Panicking, I threw it in the only water around, the toilet. Only, I didn’t quite get it submerged. The flames curled over the seat, lighting it on fire as well. I was horrified. I turned on the sink, and splashed water on the seat. The damage was done. It was bad. The seat was now black and deformed around the inner rim. The smell of burned plastic began to fill the house. My companion was soon at the door.
“What’s that smell,” I hear through the door. “Well, I lit some… umm, toilet paper on fire,” I forced the words out, “to cover the smell…. and I umm lit the seat on fire.” I quickly grabbed some scissors and cut the rest of the bra, and then the panties and flushed them down the toilet to the septic system. I let him in to survey the damage.
We tried washing the burn marks off. No good. I opened the window to let the smoke out. I got a knife and started to whittle down the sharp bits. I was mortified. We couldn’t sit on the charred barbs. Not without causing some cuts in some very bad places. It was hopeless. The seat was in bad shape. It was then I saw the car pull up.
The inspectors were an elderly couple on their mission. I had seen them at mission events. It would take them a little while to get up the stairs to our door. I couldn’t let them see the toilet. How could keep them away? I had it. I put the lid to the toilet down. The seat was a normal color on the outside edge, it was the inner ring that was destroyed. I grabbed a mop and threw water all over the bathroom floor. The couple looked at our recently cleaned kitchen. It looked wonderful. They approached the bathroom. Mop in hand, I told them I would not allow footprints on my newly mopped floor. The gentleman furrowed his brow and leaned his head in the room. The floor was wet. Everything looked clean. He looked back at me and agreed. A brief citation for melting some Kinder chocolate in a nut tin on the radiator, and they were done. They hadn’t noticed.
I never did replace the seat. We whittled it down to get the sharp edges off. The inner edge was lopsided from the plastic we had to take off to remove the sharp edges. My companion was transferred out of the area a week later. I don’t know what he pieced together from any of it, if anything. I never explained fully what happened to the seat when his replacement arrived. I left the mission soon after, my two years up, not cured. In another 4 years, back at home, I was watching PBS and saw a report on a transwomen’s church choir. They seemed happy. Maybe I could find that same happiness someday.