When Grayson Moore, a young transgender Mormon man, initially came out as gay to his devout mother Neca Allgood six years ago, Allgood immediately told Moore she loved him and then spent the evening researching sexual and gender identity. She quickly realized that he might not be gay at all, but rather transgender.
She pointed to his body and said, “Here you’re a girl.” Then she pointed to his head and said, “Who are you here?”
“I have a boy’s soul,” said Grayson, who is also a member of the Mormon Church.
“When he said that, that was just so clear to me that I needed to help him make his life match his soul,” she said. With the help of his mom, Moore has since made a female-to-male transition, and Allgood is now the president of Mama Dragons, a support group for mothers of LGBTQIA children, most of whom have some connection with the Mormon Church.
But at the same time, Allgood has also remained an active member of the Mormon Church, a faith whose doctrine or institutional policies appear to sometimes stand in opposition to her work for acceptance and support of her son and all members of the LGBTQ community.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ (LDS) stance on same-sex relationships states that any sexual relations between two people who are the same gender are sinful. “Sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife,” according to its website.
The faith, made up of some 15 million members, doesn’t have a clear stance on transgender-related issues, but it isn’t known for updating a person’s gender on its official church records if the individual is transgender, said Allgood.
This means that the church still considers Moore female, so if he were to enter into a romantic relationship with a woman, it could be seen as sinful. It also has had an impact on his role in the church.
“Mormon men are all ordained to the priesthood, but they won’t ordain my son,” said Allgood.
“There are certainly very hard things about being a faithful Mormon and having an LGBT kid, because a lot of the policy and a lot of messages our church sends about LGBT people is pretty harmful,” she said.
But Allgood has no plans to say goodbye to the faith.
She said that while she has known many parents who transition out of Mormonism after their child comes out, for her, there are still key parts of the faith’s doctrine that she believes in and abides by.
Allgood said she has also been lucky because her ward has been very understanding and accepting of her and her son, which made his transition a lot easier.
The Mormon Church declined to comment for this story.
Mama Dragons was born out of a Facebook message thread in 2013 between Allgood and a handful of Mormon mothers of LGBT kids who were seeking advice and support.
The group now has over 1,000 members across the U.S., and holds online and in-person support-group meetings and organizes suicide prevention trainings.
The group also publishes a wide variety of educational resources on its website and Facebook pages, including a step-by-step guide for what to say if your child comes out.
The directions involve thanking the child for sharing this information, telling them that you love them, and then simply admitting that you don’t know everything about this but want to learn more.
Allgood said people who join Mama Dragons want to be accepting parents of LGBTQ kids, but simply may not know how to do that.
On the group’s public Facebook page, a woman named Melanie Penovich recently posted a message asking if there were any Mama Dragons available to meet in northern Utah. “It would be nice to talk to someone in a similar situation,” she wrote.
Almost immediately, two women responded to her post to say they live in that area, and another invited her to join the private Facebook group.
Allgood didn’t have the Mama Dragons when she found out her son was transgender, so she relied on prayer to figure out what she should do. She said she consistently received answers telling her to help Moore transition, so that’s exactly what she did.
Over the course of six weeks, she helped him socially transition, by telling family members, close friends and his high school. She also helped replace Moore’s feminine clothes with a male wardrobe, which meant buying him a suit for church services.
When the two of them strolled into a men’s suit store, Allgood said she decided to tell the salesperson exactly what they were looking for: “Grayson is transitioning to male and needs a nice masculine suit.”
By the time Moore entered his freshman year at the University of Utah, he was making legal arrangements to change his name and gender, and made a physical transition.
Now as a senior in college studying linguistics, Moore is still a member of the Mormon Church. But Allgood said if he decides to step away from his faith, she would support that decision.
“I know he’s someone who tries hard to do the right thing,” she said. “And it seems like church policies haven’t necessarily caught up with what might be the right thing for Grayson.”