Transgender Mormon shares story of finding his identity while embracing his faith

Posted at 9:31 PM, Mar 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-13 23:35:05-04

UTAH COUNTY -- A Utah County man, still active in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is documenting his transition from female to male through a series of YouTube videos, and he said his faith is part of what makes him feel complete.

“As a child I prayed to Heavenly Father every day, and I asked him to turn me into a boy,” Emmett Claren said.

Emmett was born Eva. He says he was a happy child, but he always felt he was a boy inside. He tried to bury the feeling, striving to be more ‘girly’. He said that led to bouts of depression, with his first suicide attempt coming at 14 years old.

After high school, and while still living as Eva, he served a mission for the LDS Church.

“The next step for me was marriage, in a temple, to a man, and that scared me more than anything,” Claren said.

During his mission, Claren said he received his own testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was then, he says, that he knew it was time to come out to his family as transgender.

“It’s the best feeling to feel I’m not alone in this, and I feel like Heavenly Father has my back in a sense…God created me the way that I am,” Claren said.

In August of last year, Emmett began testosterone therapy to make his body more masculine. In April, he will have surgery to continue the transition. He is documenting each month with an updated video on YouTube, which show the effects of the hormones. The most recent post shows the impacts after five months.

“I feel more complete than I have ever felt in my entire life,” Claren said.

Part of feeling complete is maintaining his LDS faith. Emmett no longer goes to LDS temples. He still attends the first two hours of Sunday services, choosing to leave before either the Priesthood or Relief Society meetings, which are gender-specific and generally comprise the third hour of services.

“I’ve been very blessed with bishops who have been kind and understanding, and who have validated me as brother Claren,” he said.

Though he does not identify as gay, Emmett says he was hurt, like others, when the LDS Church updated its policy regarding members in same-sex marriages and their children.

“Church leaders are men," he said. "They are human beings and they make mistakes…The gospel of Jesus Christ does not have policies. The gospel of Jesus Christ does not exclude people and push them away. It is a gospel of love.”

Claren said he may someday face the label of ‘apostate’ from the church he loves.

“The only reason that I wouldn't be a member of the church is because they will kick me out, not because I left,” Claren said.

He hopes that day will never come, and he is sharing his story to inspire others. The link below is one of the first videos Emmett posted to YouTube, documenting his lifelong struggle.