‘Please, when I wake up, change me into a boy.’ I’d make deals with God and wake up excited. Nothing changed.’: Transgender man finally ‘at peace,’ loves who he sees ‘looking back in the mirror’

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“Halloween has always been one of my favorite times of the year, because that was when I could be anyone I wanted to be. I could wear my brother’s clothes and draw a mustache on my face and no one would think twice. The first year I did that was when I was 5 or 6.

Courtesy of Emmett Claren
Courtesy of Emmett Claren
Courtesy of Emmett Claren

But I started weirding people out when I wanted to do that every year, so I made up for it later by being Miss Piggy, and then a witch, and then I said enough is enough and I went to school the next year as a pumpkin. A very androgynous pumpkin. As I got older, puberty hit hard. My body was changing in ways that felt so wrong to me.

Courtesy of Emmett Claren

I love going on walks and I like to put in my music and daydream while I’m walking. I started doing this when I was about 12. And where I grew up, a small town in Wisconsin, there was a football field behind my house. I went there almost every day. I’d lie down in the middle of the football field, look up at the sky, and beg God to strike me with a lightning bolt or something. And just change me. Change my body. Every day I did this.

Courtesy of Emmett Claren

And then every night for months, I sat or knelt by my bedroom window. It would be wide open, and I’d be freezing cold, but I’d stare up at the moon and I would plead with God. ‘Please, when I wake up in the morning, change me into a boy. I have faith. I believe in you and I know You can do all things. I will keep all of Your commandments. I will try my very best to live a good life. I will stop stealing candy from the kitchen and hiding the evidence in my brother’s closet.’ I tried to make these deals with God. Because I knew who I was. So, I would say these prayers and stay up until 3 in the morning at times, just sobbing. Then I’d go to sleep. And I would wake up excited and anticipating this transformation to have occurred and… nothing had changed.

Years went by and I still prayed I could be transformed. I was depressed and tried to end my life when I was 14 years old. 3 years later, when I was 17, I came out to my parents as ‘gay.’ I didn’t know I was transgender at the time. I didn’t have a word for how I felt. I knew I was attracted to women. But I also knew I felt like a boy trapped in a girl’s body, and I didn’t hear the word ‘transgender’ until a year later. I had a friend who was transitioning to female and when she explained to me how she felt like a girl trapped in a boy’s body, it just clicked. It made sense. As I was coming to the realization that I was transgender, I was also preparing to leave on a full-time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Courtesy of Emmett Claren

A few months before I left, I brought it up briefly to my parents and it wasn’t received very well, as you can imagine. So, I kind of boxed it up and pushed it away. And we kind of pretended that conversation never happened. Then I left for my mission.

I loved my mission and the person I became because of it. And it’s because of the mission that I have the testimony I have today and also the relationship I have with God, something I cherish deeply. But it was hard. It was hard to teach and stay focused when all you’re thinking about during comp study is how cute your companion is. Add to that, feeling uncomfortable every day because you have to wear a dress, instead of a suit. And a badge that says ‘Sister.’ And I prayed so much.

Courtesy of Emmett Claren

I think I kind of hoped that by serving faithfully, my feelings would go away. That I’d feel comfortable in my body. About halfway through my mission, I told my mission president about my attraction to women. I also told a few of my companions. But I still kept my feelings of being a male spirit in a female body to myself. My last 6 weeks, I met with a counselor. The mission president’s wife suggested it. And we talked about my feelings and the next step for me when I returned home from my mission, which was marriage to a man in the temple. I was mortified to say the least.

Well, I returned home in March of 2015, and in April left for school at BYU, Idaho. I did everything that was expected of me. I was involved in the ward activities. I was performing musical numbers and bearing my testimony. I went on a lot of dates. I was doing everything right by the book. And I was dying inside. I started meeting with a therapist again and something just always felt off. Like something wasn’t quite matching up. And that’s when I really started to realize who I was. I began praying to know who I really was inside. I prayed like I had when I was a child. I was fasting and going to the temple multiple times a week. And I received the confirmation that my spirit is male. And that I am transgender. And it’s okay. I took this knowledge to my therapist and she said if that was the direction I wanted to go, she could no longer help me and I was dropped. I never really understood what it felt like to experience complete hopelessness and vulnerability until that day.

Courtesy of Emmett Claren

When I had began attending BYU in Idaho, I started going on walks every night. With my music in my ears, daydreaming. Praying. I’d walk to the Temple. I’d walk around campus. Around town. Then I started walking to the railroad tracks and the sketchy parts of town, not caring what happened to me. And I wanted it to just be over. I was extremely suicidal, but I felt very strongly that I was supposed to be true to myself. To my spirit. My soul. And that I needed to live.

Courtesy of Emmett Claren

And after much prayer, I went to my bishop. He knew about my depression. I told him about my attraction to women. And then I told him that I felt I was transgender. He read the handbook to me. And then he said, ‘Okay, for the next week, I want you to just be yourself. Dress the way you feel comfortable. Wear makeup or don’t wear makeup. Come back and meet with me next week and we’ll talk about it and see how you feel.’ My bishop was older, so I was not expecting that at all. But that next week I dressed more androgynous, and I didn’t wear any makeup. I didn’t do my hair. And I tried letting go of the learned mannerisms I had felt like I was forced to learn and I was just…me. And I was so happy.

Courtesy of Emmett Claren

For the first time since I could remember, I was truly happy. I went back to my bishop after that week, and told him how I felt and he said that this was between me and the Lord. Shortly after that meeting, both he and my Stake President gave me a blessing and basically said I would be guided as to what I needed to do. I then became acquainted with other Transgender Mormons, which was incredible to me because I literally thought I was the only one on the planet. I knew it was time for me to leave BYU. I came out publicly on YouTube and moved to Utah to pursue my transition.

Courtesy of Emmett Claren
Courtesy of Emmett Claren
Courtesy of Emmett Claren

When I came out, I did lose a lot of ‘friends’ and got a lot of negative feedback. My parents weren’t at all accepting. But I was surprised that for every one person I lost, I gained four new and supportive people into my life. Over time, I’ve gained people back. My family needed time but after coming closer to understanding me, my parents have come to accept me for who I am.

Courtesy of Emmett Claren
Courtesy of Emmett Claren

I’ve had my ups and downs in the past 4 years of transitioning. At the beginning, it was very difficult because I had lots of unkind comments and messages sent to me. I was being called names I’d never even heard of before. People were so cruel. But now, I’ve gotten used to it. I’ve heard pretty much every name in the book, and the words just bounce off. I know who I am and God knows who I am. That’s all that matters. I am so much more confident in who I am now. I love who I see looking back at me in the mirror. And I feel so much more comfortable in my body. I am happy and excitedly pursuing my goals and dreams in sunny California!

When I’m asked how I can feel peace when someone tries to bring me down, or I see rude comments on my YouTube channel or receive hateful messages, or when I can feel judgment from people around me, my answer to that is simple: I know that I am right with God. He’s been by my side my whole life. He’s never let me down and He is still beside me. Every time I doubt the decision I made to transition, to match my mortal body as best I can to my spirit, every time I doubt myself, or who I am, I turn to God. He loves all of His children. And he just wants us to be happy.”

Courtesy of Emmett Claren

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Emmett Claren of Los Angeles, California. You can follow his journey on Instagram and YouTube. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read more inspiring stories like this:

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‘My son wanted to wear a dress to my wedding, so I let him. It shouldn’t be controversial.’: Mom lets son wear dresses, claims we must ‘let our children be who they’re meant to be’

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