I have a deep, dark secret that I have lived with for too much of my life. I hate my gender. Maybe I don’t hate to the point I feel born the wrong gender or wish to change or anything. I just have a deep seated loathing of what men are and by extension, what I am. At least, I loathe what I have been taught all my life, in countless little ways, that men are. In popular culture there is this notion of a woman taking the man, rough around the edges, and healing him, making him a better person. This has always resonated with me. What could be more admirable? If you want to melt a woman’s heart, let her know that she makes you want to be a better person. This is ultimately Christ-like and truly an admirable impulse, embodied in the myth of Beauty and the Beast. I have always felt there was something amazing about the idea of the magically transforming female bringing out the best in others through love.
But there was a darker reason this resonated with me. It was this nagging belief that there was something inherently wrong with me because I am a man. I have believed for a good portion of my life that men rely on the woman to domesticate us and draw us back in to society. Without them we are doomed to be drifters. We will selfishly walk this earth, feeding our violent animal urges at the peril of anyone who gets in the way. Without women, we will fail to take responsibility for anything and anyone. We will lose perspective and respect for others. It’s dark, it’s unhelpful and it’s cynical and yet it’s not an idea I can give up easily.
Looking back, it’s easy to see where this feeling comes from. Our modesty rhetoric seems to teach that men are slaves to their sexuality. Women have to dress modestly to take charge of our filthy, lusting minds to keep us from being consumed helplessly by sin. What else are we to do? Over my lifetime we have made some very laudable and necessary changes in the teaching of primary classes, with two deep leadership to guard against the possibility of child abuse. No doubt the need for this rule was made all too apparent by real and tragic cases of abuse occurring in what should have been a safe, sacred space. I really do recognize the need. I see the harm that denial could cause. I feel the evil that would be enabled. Here is my problem. These changes have been made and enforced in regard to men only. Women can still teach a primary class by themselves. The underlying concept seems to be that women are safe and men are dangerous and cannot be trusted. I realize that numbers back this assumption up. I know the science that shows testosterone is associated with aggression. Men are the perpetrators in the vast majority of cases of sexual abuse at least, and I believe the majority of physical abuse as well.  In my own ward, we have been told that the young men are not to ever be considered to help with child care for any activity ever.  The implication is that they are dangerous.
What I can’t help wonder is what this does to a young man’s psyche. How can they grow into fathers with they idea planted in them that they may just eat their young.  Actually, I know because I was once that young man. I am as repulsed by the idea of violence and abuse as anyone. Any group with members that could treat others that way, that was capable of being that sick and craven, is not something I wanted of which I wanted to be a part. Yet here I am, biologically built for violence. I grew up feeling there was a monster inside of me. This idea was subtly reinforced by a certain Mormon perception, and perhaps it is an American perception, that men always marry above themselves in the spirituality and righteousness scale. In fact, this is a staple of the defense of why men are given the priesthood and women are not. It was an argument I bought hook, line and sinker. I threw myself into countless online conversations with an energetic defense of this idea. I think it is easy to write off this defense as disingenuous, that perhaps it is just false modesty coming from arrogant, rationalizing men. I can assure you in my case it was not. I had a sincere and deep self-loathing based on my gender. It was a big part of the depression and excessive guilt I have struggled with in my life. As I have moved into a healthier headspace through time and work, this defense of men needing the priesthood more than women now rings hollow.
Beyond the obvious conundrum of why priesthood is meaningful if it can only be used by second class citizens, can the idea that women are naturally more spiritual cause men to vacate spiritual leadership in the family, priesthood? Can we be fathers to our children at all without God making up for our natural deficiencies with an infusion of his power? Is it our fault if we fail?  Should we just give up?
I am not sure how this idea of natural male depravity took root in a theology that emphatically rejects the idea that the Fall of Adam led to the moral depravity of mankind but here it is. In the end, it is my firm belief that I am a child of God and hold a spark of the divine within me that has rescued me. I have held onto that through some truly dark times. Through it all, I still believe in the value of our relationships to each other. I believe in the power of eternal marriage. I know we can strengthen each other in our weaknesses. I know dealing with each other’s weaknesses teaches us love in a real and tangible way. What has taken me time is realizing those weaknesses are unique to each individual and present in every partner.  Each couple will have its own dynamics. One half of the dyad does not save the other. Instead, we save each other with a whole lot of pain and soul stretching growth on both sides along the way. I believe this is the redemptive power of any social relationship. It is the redemptive power of Zion.

Jeremy is a father of three and husband of one, all of whom he loves dearly. He currently serves as Sunday School president in his ward in Gilbert, Arizona. Born in Provo and raised in Sugar City, Idaho, Jeremy received his education at Utah State University and attended Medical School at St. Louis University receiving his MD. He then specialized in Pediatric Neurology.

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