Guest Post: A Mormon and a Lesbian
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.
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?”
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.
 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.