Guest Post: A Mormon and a Lesbian

by Allie

I was excited when I started getting texts and messages from friends asking if I’d heard that Tyler Glenn, the lead singer of the Neon Trees, had come out. I’m always happy to hear about another gay Mormon (especially famous ones, who have the ability to spark conversations and change people’s conceptions of either LGBTQ people or of Mormons on a much greater scale than I can). I was even happier when I started actually reading more about him. He claims being both gay and Mormon with a refreshing plainness and lack of handwringing over the logistics of being both; he just is. As he put it, “I consider myself Mormon, I believe in Mormonism, I believe in the Book of Mormon and I try to follow the teachings… I don’t always attend church on Sunday, but I wasn’t going to throw away my faith.” He’s aware that it’s not always that simple, noting that there are some things he and the band “definitely are going to have to face,” but he seems distinctly disinterested in listening to arguments from people who think it’s impossible for him to be both gay and Mormon. In short, he seems disinterested in playing into common roles that people want to assign to gay Mormons, and I’m excited about that.

There are numerous roles that people (both Mormon and non-Mormon, both LGBTQ and not) want to shove me into when they realize I’m a gay Mormon, and ones I have heard about from other gay Mormons. One possibility is that I’m tragic and deluded. I’m being kept down by The Man, and can only be true to myself if I give up this Mormon nonsense. In this case, stories about the strength I find in my beliefs or how I sometimes feel like my being gay and my being Mormon are weirdly inextricable are confusing, uncomfortable, and not welcome. Alternately, I can be “soooo brave.” In this scenario, I am expected to offer anecdotes about how hard my struggle has been, and about my uphill battle of carrying the gospel of LGBTQ equality to well-meaning but backwards church members.[1]

There are infinite other possibilities, but you get the idea. In none of these scenarios am I allowed to have conflicted feelings about my identity, or to express frustration with how it is perceived by others. In any of these, it’s impossible for me to just be a girl who likes to talk about both church history and queer theory with her friends, who has a weakness for coffee and for her aunt’s jello salad, and who is still, after nearly a decade of being “out” and a lifetime of church membership, trying to figure out her relationships to the church as an institution and to the amorphous structures of the LGBTQ community. It’s not that I don’t occasionally fit into these roles or blend them; it’s more that I’m tired of having one assigned to me based on preconceived notions of what my identities must mean. In the words of the great philosopher Taylor Swift, “This is exhausting, you know?”

Tyler Glenn

I’m sure that people will struggle to work Tyler Glenn into a role; in fact, I’ve already seen it happening. However, I’m excited by the possibilities his example provides. Hopefully, as LGBTQ Mormons continue to come out, we’ll be presented with a cornucopia of new roles, political stances, and identities for people to associate with us. In the meantime, hopefully Tyler Glenn can provide people with some new possibilities.

 

[1]    Interestingly, I hear this one from both non-Mormons and Mormons in roughly equal measure.

Allie is a grad student in the Southwest. She reads too much and likes to bake. 

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13 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    Allie,
    Thanks so much for giving me a window into some of the complicated identity negotiation you experience as a LGBTQ Mormon.

    Interesting that the roles people try to shove you into as a lesbian Mormon (deluded on the one hand and brave on the other) are similar to the roles that people try to shove feminist Mormons into. I too hope for more complications, roles, and identities as more LGBTQ Mormons (and feminist Mormons) come out.

  2. daniel parkinson says:

    I just want to let the readers know that a secret facebook group exists for LGBT Mormon who want to be active in the church, while pursuing or living in a same-sex relationship. If anybody feels they would benefit from those discussions, they can contact me and I can put them in touch with the moderators, or they can find it at affirmation.org

  3. Aimee says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience here, Allie. I was recently reading a scientific journal about how the child’s mind is preconditioned to reject difference and that overcoming racism and bigotry is something we all have to face within ourselves to overcome this primitive state of mind. Such overcoming seems very much in keeping with the Book of Mormon teaching “to put off the natural man” and become more god-like.

    But I like how you’ve articulated something even beyond that–how in our well-meaning attempts to accept difference we can end up sub-dividing people into different categories and pigeon-holing them anew. Diversity doesn’t just mean difference but variety. Thanks for a glimpse into your unique perspective, Allie.

  4. Libby says:

    Allie, it sounds as though you’re in a very interesting situation indeed. I’m glad you’re around to tell us about it.

  5. EmilyCC says:

    “In none of these scenarios am I allowed to have conflicted feelings about my identity, or to express frustration with how it is perceived by others.”

    I love this…so often I think, people want to know *exactly* where one stands when (particularly as it pertains to spirituality) I think where we stand is often fluid and shifting when we deal with such cognitive dissonance.

    Thanks for sharing your perspective, Allie! I hope we’ll hear more from you!

  6. Liz says:

    I love, love, love this. I think this is exactly why it’s so important to tell our stories – if people only hear one story (or very few stories), they end up painting with a broader brush than if they had heard several stories of different colors. Your story is so desperately needed, as is Tyler Glenn’s, as are others. I wish we could hear more from our lesbian/trans sisters.

    This also reminds me of a TED talk, not from a lesbian Mormon, but from an African woman:
    http://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story

  7. Jess R says:

    “In none of these scenarios am I allowed to have conflicted feelings about my identity, or to express frustration with how it is perceived by others.”

    Thank you for pointing this out. Putting labels on people takes away their voice, and when we lose our voices we lose our power. Thank you so much for speaking up despite all the attempts people make to put you in a box. Tell your truth sister!

  8. Rachel says:

    Tyler used to live with one of my best friend’s, so I would see him often, though I do not know him well, or really at all. Still, like you, I have loved reading his recent interviews, especially especially the simplicity of them.

    It doesn’t feel good to me when someone suggests that I can’t be Mormon and a feminist. I imagine that it wouldn’t feel good to have someone suggest that you (or Tyler) can’t be Mormon and a lesbian. Thank you for your voice.

  9. spunky says:

    I love this, Allie. Thank you so much for sharing yourself in this space!

  10. Corrina says:

    Allie, thank you for writing this piece and for sharing your experiences/perspective. Your words apply to all of us.

    I actually just got home from seeing Neon Trees live in Tucson. It was an amazing, energizing concert (although I’m dreading my kids waking me up before 7 tomorrow morning…). About midway through the concert, Tyler stood by himself on the stage and talked to us for about 5 minutes regarding things he’s learned in life. There was one especially powerful moment when he said that he was “a faithful-man of God AND gay,” and he stood there looking out as the crowd cheered. But the expression on his face was unforgettable. I saw some pain in his expression, but also peace and triumph. It really was a moving moment. Then he went on to say that the most important thing is to just BE the person you are and how that is enough. I believe that’s how our Heavenly Parents view us. We can never be “less than,” and we don’t need to fit into these labeled boxes that we humans have created.

    Also, that boy can dance!

    And Elaine Bradley–now there’s a Mormon mom idol for ya. She can rock!

    • Rachel` says:

      He is such a great performer. Somehow I never saw them play when I lived in Provo, but I did see them play when I lived in Boston. It was so fun. And Elaine is also a real role model.

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