Saturday, November 7, 2015

Thresholds

I've been preparing to write this post for a long time, even before yesterday's announcement of LDS policy change regarding same-sex marriage and the children of same-sex unions. I've vacillated on this post's appropriateness, but today I'm compelled by the pain I feel, and out of concern for closeted LGBT youth and adults in the midst of LDS congregations.

Tomorrow, those of us within the faith who've not given up on holding to the rod will meet together for Sabbath, to worship our God and our Savior, to renew covenants to attend to commandments, to comfort, love, offer charity, and lift our fellow humankind. Spiritually, I need tomorrow's meetings more deeply than I have in quite some time. I need comfort. I need to feel my Heavenly Parents' love for me. And I'm even more terrified for the tender hearts of those closeted members who will sit in silence and hidden pain, because if social media is any indication of the rhetoric they'll encounter, I fear they'll leave feeling empty, downtrodden, and hopeless.

I'm calling for a deeper respect and civility than I've ever before encountered at Church. We have more LGBT members than I think anyone, even our bishops, might suppose. And while the policy toward those in same-sex unions and their children might have changed, none of us is unaware that homosexual acts have never been acceptable within the LDS Church. We know. 

By "we" I mean LGBT Mormons like myself. 

I came out of the closet in 1993 as the "B" in LGBT; a 3.5 on the Kinsey scale (because I can answer one of the questions both ways.)  While I'm obviously in a committed heterosexual relationship, and I live the law of chastity with careful attention, I do experience sexual attraction to women and I have since I was a blooming adolescent. My husband and my children know. A few of my bishops have known, and they've been pretty chill about it as long as I wasn't "acting out." My parents and step-siblings know too, but they've exhibited cold and derogatory language toward same-sex attraction around me to the point that it is clear that I'm expected to stay in the closet and take humiliation if I want to be part of their family. This is one of many reasons I choose not to be part of their family. My closest straight friends know, and my LGBT family knows. I'm more comfortable around queer folk, even in my heteronormativity, than with any other social group. They get me. I get them. Even though I'm not seeking homosexual relationships, and even though I possess conviction to follow the tenets of a faith that creates numerous complexities for me personally and socially. 

Why I've made the decision to pursue heteronormative relationships is personal, and not the point of this post. This post is about those standing in doorways.

I sometimes feel that I live as part of both the LGBT community and the LDS community as a threshold participant. In my early 20s, after choosing to only act on my heterosexual attractions, I almost retreated back into the closet. But I can't deselect my orientation, and so I sometimes feel stuck between two halves of my heart—unable to be completely true to myself with anyone but God. Because of this tenuous situation within two communities I find myself participating as an advocate and ally for LGBT youth, whether they choose to stay in the Church or not. I find I can listen without judgment and that in many instances I can offer comfort that they don't find anywhere else. The choices they make are theirs. My role is to comfort and console when the children who come to me share their brokenness. I've found myself filling this role for 18 years, and I've met and associated with young people who are now near and dear to my heart; so much so that I consider them family. 

Let me share not just from my experience, but from theirs, that sometimes the misunderstanding about same-sex attraction within the LDS community lends a severity to the tension between self and God that becomes harmful. Sometimes fatally so. Things said by straight members, even within the context of gospel standards hit hard. When I was young, these statements were enough for me to realize that I didn't fit in at Church the way my straight counterparts felt they fit in. It created a kind of deep-seeded self-hatred that isn't what God intends for anyone. And these unloving, uncharitable words, meant to proclaim righteousness, ripped me apart a little more every time I heard them. It didn't matter if I was acting on my attractions or not. I felt hideous, deeply wicked, and unworthy. It's only been within the last few years that I've come to understand that those feelings were not from God. 

While I've spent my life developing a relationship with my Savior and my Heavenly Parents, and though I feel deeply loved and accepted for what and who I am, there are a multitude of lost children who aren't there yet. Every time I enter the temple I take three concerns: my present woes, my search for the divine feminine, and a greater understanding of what God intends for His queer children. Every time, without definitive answers, I have felt an outpouring of love and radiating compassion for those souls. Not just for faithful LGBT Mormons, but for all of God's queer kids. We are loved and valued, and I wish more straight Mormons understood both that and the precariousness of life in the Church as an LGBT Mormon.

Like so many of my fellow saints, I don't understand the Church's new policy yet, and that present confusion and lack of understanding hurts me deeply. My young LGBT friends and family are aching as well, and I feel a certain culpability for their wellbeing. I know that the only way I'm going to get through this part of the challenge is to lean on God and trust that all will be well, and I'm assuming the same will be the case for them. 

Imagine them come together with us tomorrow to stand at the door and knock. Never have they so hungered to be called in from the doorway and allowed inclusion in the body of Christ. Never have they needed the tenderness and charity of the Savior's atonement to fill the actions and words of their fellow members. They are searching and hoping, some of them perhaps limping along on a final thread of faith. Let kindness and comfort be our standard tomorrow rather than reproof. Let us welcome them instead of insisting there is no room in our inn as they try to spiritually and emotionally sort out a place in the fold. Let us encircle and protect the delicate hearts of our youth (any of whom could be LGBT youth) whose blooming sexual orientation is sometimes confusing, sometimes alarming, and also so sacredly personal and personally sacred. Finally, if defense of the family is the present mission of the Church, let us protect and defend the spiritual journey of our precious young LGBT brothers and sisters standing like wallflowers before the sacrament bar waiting for our example to tell them if they belong. Let us open our hearts to these threshold children and create safety for them within our chapel walls. Let us help lead them in love to the arms of the only One who truly understands their trials and the beauty of their peculiar hearts.

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