Exponent II Spring 2016: The Exclusion Policy
The following is the Letter From the Editor, by Pandora Brewer, for the Spring 2016 issue about the exclusion policy. In order to guarantee that you will receive a copy of this issue, you must subscribe by May 1. The painting is by Katrina Whitney and will serve as the cover of the issue.
Three years ago I was walking through Washington, D.C. with my younger son on our way to meet my oldest son at the Supreme Court. My oldest son was working for the Human Rights Campaign, which had joined forces with the #UnitedforMarriage organization to stage an anti-DOMA protest on the steps of the courthouse building. We were told that the “anti” protesters should be wearing red and so we were decked out in hoodies, t-shirts, and hats to proclaim our support for marriage equality.
About a mile from our destination I saw another red-clad woman who looked lost. Bolstered by the spirit of solidarity, I called out and asked if she was trying to find the Supreme Court. She said yes and we walked together the rest of the way. We hit it off immediately, chatting about our families, jobs, where we lived and how excited we were to be in DC. As we approached the crowds, she took a picture of me and the boys and we parted, exchanging email addresses before hugging goodbye.
It was then that I looked around and realized that although there were two obvious factions of protesters for and against the proposed law, everyone was wearing red! Suddenly it occurred to me that I had no idea which side my new friend was on; we had talked about a lot of issues but I had not directly asked her why she had chosen to be there that day. I had assumed she felt the same way we did because she was wearing red. I scanned both groups but never saw where she was marching.
I have thought of this story over and over since last November when the exclusion policy regarding LGBTQ members and their families was first leaked and then officially released. People immediately took sides and, depending on each perspective, began to assign hurtful labels such as apostate, bigot, unrighteous, unloving, disobedient, out of touch. I wondered what would have happened if we had been all wearing the same color t-shirts and had been forced to ask a few questions before we jumped to assumptions about how the other felt or believed. What if we had remained on the same side long enough to establish understanding and build relationships before sharing our reactions, concerns and decisions?
In this issue of Exponent II, we chose a side. Generally when we tackle controversial topics we try to present a range of opinions across a spectrum of belief. In this case, we believe that this is a troubling, divisive policy and we took an editorial stand. We selected voices who are directly affected, either because they are struggling to find their place in the church or because they are uncertain how these changes will impact them or their families. With this stated, we also tried to present a bias toward connection—all of these essays promote love, protection, insight, self awareness, confidence and mutual respect.
We begin with Mie Inouye’s essay, “Zion Mormonism.” Mie beautifully sets the tone of the issue with personal reflection, insight and deep love for her community. Kelly Montgomery echoes this engagement with her community as she recounts how she, her wife, and their four children once navigated their ward with a hope now lost in the wake of the policy. Chelsea Gibbs parallels her experience as a queer woman while watching the musical Les Miserables. Lisa Dame shares her story of a mother searching to find something important for herself and her daughter in “Lost and Found.” And, after many other thoughtful, moving articles, poems and images, we close with the testimony of Jessie Sutton. If you are uncertain about our position in curating this issue, or your feelings about this topic in general, if you pick just one piece to read, this is it. Jessie’s words and Fara’s framework of a ward’s response to Jessie’s honesty embodies Christ’s love and portrays a true vision of what the body of the church could aspire to be.
We chose a side, but there are not really sides. There are so many stories weaving a rich dialogue too complex to reduce to binary opposition. Our desire is to break down barriers and provide a platform for different perspectives to speak to one another, to share and listen and respect each other’s experience. This collective narrative takes on the strength to persevere and the power to change. Aren’t we all wearing the same color? Aren’t we all sisters in Zion? Aren’t we all children of God?
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