My co-editor, Aimee, and I were compiling Exponent II’s LGBTQ-themed Spring issue. It was heart-breaking. These stories, more than we could publish, kept me up at night. As I witnessed pain, loneliness, and helplessness in so many narratives, I also felt alone.
I tried to tell friends, including a current Young Women’s president.
“You know,” I said, “as I put this issue together, three of my former Young Women have told me they are gay. I didn’t have a clue that any of my Young Women were lesbians when I taught them and I wonder how I could have been more supportive had I known.”
My friend stared at me blankly and said, “Oh, that’s not a problem in our ward, though.”
I see that time as a sort of gestation period for my birth as a LGBT ally. My conscience was permanently altered, and after that magazine came out, I knew that I couldn’t go back to the way I had been before…sympathetic but publicly-silent.
So, I got in touch with Mitch Mayne and asked if he knew of a LDS LGBT group in Arizona. As luck (or divine providence) would have it, one had recently started. I went to the second meeting, intending to pop in for a moment and say, “Hey, I support you…let me know what I can do to help.”
Looking back, I think I meant it in a sort of superficial visiting-teacher-getting-you-checked-off-her-list way because I wasn’t sure I knew how to be an ally. (Incidentally, I think this is what visiting teachers do, too, when we don’t know how to be helpful to a sister in need.)
Fortunately, our group leaders had other plans.
“Actually, most of our group lives in Phoenix. Could you host our meetings every other month?”
So, my spouse and I did. I feel privileged to witness my new friends’ stories every month–ones of pain and hurt, but also deep testimonies of God’s love and the tender mercies of acceptance and love in unexpected places. We laugh together, we cry together, and I hope that I can give back a portion of the warm glow I feel from these friends each time I see them.
As a LGBT ally, I’m pretty quiet in the group. It’s not my place to speculate. I’m there to be supportive and listen. Sometimes, it is difficult to be in those meetings. I feel conflicted as I see many of these lovely, lovely people with strong testimonies feel rejected by the Church and often by God. I hurt for them, and I hurt for the church that is missing out on their strengths.
Often, I feel love and hope and know that everything is going to be all right. So much progress has happened in the last two years (hooray for mormonsandgays.org!). But, I also still worry that the current cultural attitudes and doctrine in place mean that change won’t come quick enough and we will continue to lose wonderful people and their families to depression, inactivity, and suicide.
I’m grateful for my birth as a LGBT ally, and I will continue to do what my friends ask of me. This means that some days, I try to speak up in meaningful and helpful ways. Other days, I go to our meetings bringing chips and salsa, a broken and small offering of my solidarity and support.