Mormon and hardcore Star Trek fan explains how Spock helped him accept himself as a transgender man

Star Trek

A transgender Mormon who struggled with his identity has shared how he found acceptance through Spock’s emotional journey in Star Trek.

As any Trekkie will tell you, the first time you watch Star Trek is an unforgettable experience. For Andy Winder, it was life-defining.

He grew up living with his gender identity in secret, knowing that if he came out to his Mormon family it would mean alienation from the church he saw as his home.

With over 80 per cent of his classmates also being Mormon, Winder also felt unable to trust others around him at school and so battled with his identity all alone.

“I felt that if they knew I wished I had been born male, they would see me as lesser and no longer want to be around me,” he wrote for the official Star Trek website.

“I repressed it as much as I could, but I still felt unworthy compared to my friends and family because I couldn’t get rid of it.”

Then a teacher introduced him to the Starship Enterprise, and everything changed.

Something about the way Spock tried so hard to repress an inherent, but shameful part of himself spoke to me.

At the time Winder was 15 and had just started a creative writing course at school. The teacher played a clip from “The Naked Time”, which sees Spock fail to control his emotions after being infected with a mysterious illness that breaks down social inhibitions.

Watching Spock grapple with the human and Vulcan sides of himself resonated personally with Winder, and he suddenly felt less alone.

“I was enamoured with this scene and especially with Spock. Something about the way he tried so hard to repress an inherent, but shameful part of himself spoke to me,” he said.

He couldn’t get Spock’s internal conflict out of his mind and spent the rest of his sophomore year binging the rest of the original series — all 79 episodes — and even making a dent in The Next Generation as well.

“I was in love with the idea of a future where people sought to understand the unknown instead of fear it, where a sense of hope and awe seemed to illuminate the universe,” he said.

“Star Trek gave me characters that helped me feel less alone. Through [the character] Data, I discovered the importance of going on our own journeys of what it means to be human. And through Soren [a member of a genderless alien species], I empathised with how hard it can be to fight for your gender identity when your community responds with disgust.

“But Spock’s story is one that resonated with me the hardest and the longest as I grappled with my gender identity.”

As a “child of two worlds,” Spock was often made to feel like he belonged in neither, but over the course of the original Star Trek series he gradually began to appreciate and respect both sides of himself.

In the middle of his sophomore year, Winder decided to do the same and came out as trans.

Star Trek

The cast of the original series of Star Trek onboard the Starship Enterprise (Sunset Boulevard/Corbis/Getty)

Winder began his transition while at school and later became one of the first transgender men on hormone replacement therapy at Mormon Brigham Young University.

“Like Spock’s respect for Vulcan philosophy, I still value the lessons Mormonism taught me,” he said.

“But through Spock, I’ve learned that growing older means taking what you’ve learned and discovering for yourself what is right or wrong.

“Though the Mormon church views LGBTQ identities and relationships as a sin, I’ve learned more about unconditional love and courage through my queer friends than I ever had sitting in church.

“My religion taught me the value of prayer, and it was through prayer that I made the choice to transition.”