Wearing pants to church was a small sign to show that I recognize the pain of feeling unwelcomed or undervalued at church.

December 16, 2012

I wore pants to church today.  There are no rules against women wearing pants in a Mormon church, but culturally skirts and dresses are definitely the norm.  I can remember only one other time, when not camping, that I wore pants to church in all my 30+ years of attending church.  For an explanation of the issues and history see here.  I think this post matches my feelings and motivation.

It was an interesting Sunday, atypical in so many ways.  Lonnie had to go out of town for work, and we decided to come along with him and enjoy a change of scenery.  On Saturday we drove the 6 hours from Auckland to Napier.  Lonnie had to work on Sunday morning, which thankfully only happens maybe once a year, and we were left without a car.  While I had initially thought I could walk with the kids to church, after seeing that it would take an adult more than 40 mins to walk I decided it wasn’t very smart to try and get my two 4 1/2 year olds (Max and Maya) plus my 18 month old (Trent) to walk that far.  Even with the pram we would have arrived grumpy and sweaty.  So I decided to call a taxi (I had never before taken a taxi to church).  I arrived at an unknown ward, in a taxi, as a single mom (for the day) of three young kids, wearing pants. Read More

If you think that wearing pants to church is no big deal, then wear pants to church

Since Jerilyn put up the facebook page, many people have commented that wearing pants to church is no big deal. Women do it all the time. Its not even a thing. We’re making a big deal out of nothing. And to you who think that, I challenge you to put your words to the test. Wear pants to church on December 15 and see what happens.

I started wearing pants to church every Sunday in March of this year. The first time, I was terrified, but it was Stake Conference and an unusual kind of Sunday. The next Sunday I felt a little braver, but one of the other primary leaders was visibly startled. No one said anything. It didn’t seem to be a big deal, though I did notice that several individuals who used to say hi to me in the halls at church no longer did. I tried to shrug it off.

I thought my pants were doing just fine at church until I was asked to meet with the bishop. He told me that someone in my ward called the stake president to report my pants. The stake president called the bishop and asked him to check it out. My bishop is a good man, we talked, and he was supportive. He didn’t think that pants at church were a big deal, but the stake president wanted him to speak with me. Read More

I didn’t ask to be this way. God made me this way.

I grew up in a very active and devoted Mormon family. Throughout all of my childhood years, I was frequently reminded of my gender identity as a girl because gender is very important to our eternal identity and purpose. The only problem was that my inner gender identity did not match my outer gender identity. I self identified as a boy, but my body is a female body.

I attended church every Sunday feeling very awkward in my dress. Imagine a boy you know being asked to wear a dress in public every week even though he knows he is not a girl. It would be humiliating. I was humiliated every single week. I hated my gender identity. I hated being grouped with the girls. I hated being denied opportunities in the church because I lacked the wrong reproductive organs.

As I grew older, and matured, I felt deep depression because of my gender dysphoria. Spending eternity as a woman felt like a personal hell. I felt completely out of place and like a stranger while attending Young Women’s and Relief Society.

The church has no doctrine regarding gender that suits my nature. The church has no doctrine to satisfy the questions in my mind regarding gender dysphoria and its resulting consequences. I tried to fit in for many years, assimilating to the female expectations in my church life, but I felt a great deal of crushing depression because denying my identity was not healthy for me mentally, spiritually, or physically.

I now accept who I am and I am happier than I ever have been in my life. I am a gender queer woman. I am in a homosexual relationship and it fits me perfectly because my inner identity as male needs to be with a woman to feel complete. God did not intend for me to be miserable. He did not intend for me to feel lonley and isolated because of my gender dysphoria.

I will be wearing pants to church because I want people to know that gender dysphoria exists, and that I am a Mormon man on the inside, with a woman’s body on the outside. I didn’t ask to be this way. God made me this way.

I’m going to wear pants to remind church members that there are people in the church that are not represented in the general population, and they need a voice and recognition. Denial and silence  does real damage to people’s lives. I want others to know that they are not alone in feeling awkward and out of place within the religion that they cherish.

– Anonymous

Our words are not enough anymore. Our words are empty.

I am a Mormon woman. I attend my ward every Sunday where I serve as the ward chorister. I also attend the sacrament meeting of our local Spanish branch to fulfill my calling as sacrament meeting accompanist. I attend the temple regularly and enjoy my worship there.

While my church attendance and service look like those of a mainstream member of the LDS church, I also have a husband who openly struggles with addiction. I have made choices that have required the intervening power of the Atonement. I have family members who have made very public choices that don’t fall in line with church culture. I currently wear pants to church every Sunday and have been the subject of judgment and ridicule for doing so. Several years ago, I stood outside the doorway of a roomful of women who were supposed to be my Relief Society sisters and heard them say some pretty nasty things about me. I think my current bishop, as well as any and all of my former bishops, will agree (several of whom will likely read this) that I am a challenging member of our ward.

Nobody knows how painful all of that is for me and I don’t post it here, in this very public way, to garner sympathy. I don’t need sympathy or empathy or anything; I’m tougher than that. Most of the time.

However, there are millions of women (and men) who attend the Mormon church and wonder if they belong. They wonder if they have a genuine friend in their ward. They attend, hoping to make a connection with someone. An unacceptable percentage of these brothers and sisters will leave the Mormon church because they don’t feel like they have an ally.

It’s a shame that in a Christian church, people must resort to a choice in clothing to send the message, “I can love you as you are. I want you to be here” because our words are not enough anymore. Our words are empty. It is time for pants.

– Jerilyn

I am that woman

From Clayton M. Christensen’s The Power of Everyday Missionaries: “On one Sunday Sister Virginia Perry, whose husband, L. Tom Perry, was president of the Boston Stake, noticed a woman who had quietly found a space on the back row in the Weston chapel, having arrived a few minutes late for sacrament meeting. She was wearing jeans and a T-shirt and had come on her motorcycle. Sister Perry quickly sensed that the woman felt that she didn’t fit in. Everyone else was wearing their Sunday best and was sitting with their families. So Sister Perry left her family alone, went to the back pew, and asked the visitor if she would mind if she sat beside her. When the woman smiled in the affirmative, Sister Perry put her arm around her. The next Sunday Sister Perry came to church wearing Levi’s and a T-shirt.”

I am that woman. I know many others who are that woman. I love Sister Perry for this story. The purpose of the event isn’t to make everybody wear pants. Skirts are great. I wear them often. (Last year I heard a number of people expressing glee that the event had “failed” because most sisters did not show up in pants). The purpose was and is to show love for those who did show up in pants. For those who worry they do not belong. And in that sense, “Wear Pants to Church” was both a great success and a great failure. I hope that this year, and in years to come, the success will be higher than the failure. Last year, I was the only one in my ward to wear pants. This year, two sisters from that ward have RSPVed. And the gesture means more to me than I can say.

– Noelle

What is the Fourth Annual Wear Pants to Church Day?

Mormon feminists, women and men, wore dress pants and the color purple to their local LDS Church services on December 16, 2012, December 15, 2013, and December 14, 2014. People wore pants for many different reasons, but many of those who participated were concerned about gender equality in the LDS Church.

This year, Mormon feminists will be wearing dress pants and/or the color purple to LDS Church services on December 13. We are wearing pants to celebrate inclusiveness in the LDS Church. We believe that everyone is welcome at church.

and he inviteth them all to come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile (2 Nephi 26:33)

What is the goal of the Fourth Annual Wear Pants to Church Day?

We are active and faithful Mormon feminists who want to show that there is more than one way to be a good Mormon woman. We believe that everyone is welcome at church.

Relief Society and the gospel should embrace every woman. Every one of you is welcome and needed whether you are eighteen or eighty, married or single, speak English or Portuguese, live on an island or in the mountains, have children or simply love children but have none of your own, have an advanced degree or little formal education, have a husband who is not active or are married to a stake president, have a testimony or are struggling to receive one. You belong here! You and your talents, strengths, and contributions are needed urgently in the Church. (M. Russell Ballard, “Equality through Diversity,” November 1993)

Is this a protest?

No. This event is not about being critical of the LDS Church or changing Church policy. We want to emphasize that there is more than one way to be a good Mormon woman and encourage changes in Mormon culture to support that idea.

Wearing pants to church on December 14th is an act of solidarity. We want to show our commitment to Jesus Christ, the Gospel, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We want to show our belief that God speaks to us through a living prophet.  And ultimately, we want to show that we believe that “man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Wherever you are, whatever you are wearing, whatever language you are hearing, you [women] are part of a powerful force of joy, peace, and goodness. We are here to rejoice together. . . . Rejoice in the diversity of our sisterhood! It is the diversity of colors in a spectrum that makes a rainbow. It is the diversity in our circumstances that gives us compassionate hearts. (Chieko Okazaki, First Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, 1993)

Are women going against LDS Church policy by wearing pants to Sunday services?

No. Scott Trotter, an LDS spokesman, responded to last year’s event by saying “Attending church is about worship and learning to be followers of Jesus Christ. Generally church members are encouraged to wear their best clothing as a sign of respect for the Savior, but we don’t counsel people beyond that” (Dec. 11, 2012).

Who is organizing the Third Annual Wear Pants to Church Day?

Jerilyn Hassell Pool is a wife of one and a mother of five. She lives in Oregon where she has served as a Primary chorister, a Gospel Doctrine teacher, a Sunday School teacher, a member of Primary and Young Women presidencies and currently serves as the accompanist for the local Spanish-speaking branch.

Nancy Ross lives with her husband and two children in Utah. She has served as a counselor in the Primary presidency, a Young Women’s secretary, an Early Morning Seminary teacher, an Activity Days leader, a Primary teacher, and a Relief Society pianist. She currently serves as a Sunbeam teacher in her ward.

When will this event be happening?

Sunday, December 13

Who can participate?

Everyone can participate in this event.

How do I participate?

You can participate by wearing dress pants and/or the color purple to your local LDS Church services on Sunday, December 13.

I was so hurt, so angry, so in utter disbelief that people could get this upset over an extra seam in the fabric between my legs

I wore the pants twice. Once, on “protest day.” The other was a few weeks later, on a day when it was -13 degrees outside. I decided that since it was not a big deal for anyone the first time, and since it was freaking frigid outside, I would wear them. Both times, I chose an outfit that I wear to church often, subbing in a black pair of dress slacks in place of the black skirt I would wear. I went about my Sunday mornings the same as I always do, preparing as reverently as possible with four kids in the house. I felt that I looked nice, that I was wearing some of my best clothing, and that I was ready to participate in the sacred ordinance of renewing my covenants. Again, it was uneventful. Mostly, people seemed not even to notice. I say this, not because I was expecting or waiting for a big response, but for the sake of illustration. I had honestly hoped that there would be no response at all. In my extremely conservative Lehi ward, that seemed like a tall order. Read More

I considered backing out

Announcing my participation in the first Wear Pants to Church Day event was the first time I had really spoken out as a Mormon feminist, and I was surprised at the reactions I received.  Several people told me they’d never noticed any inequality, and they were interested in what I had to say about it.  But most people told me that they thought it was horribly inappropriate, that Heavenly Father had asked us to wear dresses to church, that anyone who participated in something like this was akin to apostasy, that we were all just a bunch of femi-nazis…the list goes on and on, and it’s not pretty.  I wrote a blog post explaining why I would be participating (in short, because I wanted to stand in solidarity with other women who did not feel they had a place in the Church because they didn’t fit the gender norms accepted in Church culture), which received more comments than any other post in the seven years I’d been blogging.  Non-member friends couldn’t understand why it was such a big deal to everyone – those of them who were church-goers wore pants most Sundays anyway, and those of them who weren’t church-goes couldn’t understand why anyone’s clothing should matter to God.  By the time the day of the event rolled around, I was so nervous of what the reaction in my ward would be that I considered backing out. Read More

I was worried about the rejection of my fellow Saints

On last year’s pants day, I changed into–and then out of–a pair of dress slacks. It was a rather cold day here in Alberta, my pants were definitely the best article of clothing I had (at 8 months pregnant, some of those dresses start looking awkward). And yet, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. What would people think? How would they treat me? Would they know that I didn’t really “belong” anymore? I couldn’t bring myself to do it. So I trudged out in the snow and negative temperatures wearing a skirt because I was worried about the rejection of my fellow Saints. But this year I am so excited to wear pants in solidarity with my sisters and brothers to claim my truth and my voice.

– Amy

Why did you decide to participate in the Wear Pants to Church campaign? Responses from the Survey of Mormon Feminists

I had 3 boys, but when our daughter was born, I started to see the world in a whole new light. I tried to see the world through the eyes of this little girl, and it seemed like there were so many things that were so blatantly unequal and unfair to her, just because she is female. And to see what she is going to walk through as a girl growing in and through Mormonism…. there’s just a lot that is so un Christlike. I can’t change all this, I can’t change the situation, but I’m aware and I see it and I’m going to try to make it better for her. Read More