Queer Mormon Women*: How Can You Know What You Are Till You Know What You Want

Guest post by Anonymous

 

Anonymous is 25 and getting a degree in film studies. She has lived on both coasts of the U.S. but is sometimes tempted to go back to Utah where she finds a wider dating pool, ironically enough. 

 

You’re home on a break from school, and out to lunch with a former Young Women’s President who storms (2)you have loved and trusted for years. She is one of a handful of people you have ever felt marginally comfortable discussing your love life with, so maybe it’s not really so odd that she casually asks you, “So! How is dating out there? Find any cute boys?”

 

Your heart is pounding in your ears, so hard it feels liable to burst out of your chest. She has gift-wrapped an opportunity for you to finally be honest. It takes every fiber of your strength just to meet her patiently curious gaze as you tell her in halting speech, each word fighting to stay inside you, “Actually. There’s. A…” (Deep breath, it slips out.) “There’s a girl.”

 

She looks lightly surprised and sits back a little, but then one of the first things she says is “I guess I’m not surprised.” You don’t know whether this is a relief, frustrating, something to panic about, nothing to worry about, or all of the above. The first thing she makes sure you know is that she loves you and supports you.

 

(But she questions your ability to know yourself. Maybe after living with female roommates for such a long time, you are just really comfortable with women? Maybe you just never really got over that bad break-up after high school? And most of all she pressures you to tell your parents, who she loves and respects almost above her own, because what are you going to do – wait until you’re off living in some, like, gay colony who-know-where before you tell them?)

 

That first conversation was just over a year ago (!), and you know that now she would be embarrassed to recall having said such things. You were exasperated and sometimes a little offended by her line of inquiry, but you knew it was all coming from a loving place, from someone who would never pressure you to be something or someone you are not, so you patiently answered her questions. She intently listened. She learned. So did you.

 

At one point, you could count on one hand the people you had told and the order in which you had told them. The number is ever-increasing as you are prompted to confide in friends, old roommates, church leaders. So far, there has been only one “I love you, but.” That is where a very dear friend tells you how much they love you but cannot support your lifestyle. It is where she informs you that she actually has a sister like you, who is married to a woman, but that her wife “is not welcome in our family’s homes or conversations.” What does that even mean? How on earth can you say your sister still feels loved when you completely ignore the love of her life? I always thought you got married too young. And your husband makes stupid jokes. So he had better not be there any time I come to visit. I don’t want to see him or talk about him. How’s that sound?

 

It feels selfish to harp on that one instance – nobody else has been anything but sincerely loving. And nearly all of them have said to you some variation of the same thing: I wish I could give you some advice, but I can’t. The unfairness of the situation registers for them. One suggests “can’t you still date, at least? As long as you don’t have sex?” And you laugh in her face. Kissing is not permitted. Cuddling is not permitted. Holding hands is pushing it. And you can see, in her eyes, the crumbling of the lie she has had no problem accepting until now – the scathing falsehood that the church asks the same of all its unmarried members, be they straight or “same-sex attracted.”

 

You know they want to help and they hate that they don’t know how.

 

You are still learning what to tell them. Just listening, just validating your experience, is all you ask at first. Ask them to speak up when they hear someone say something ignorant and hurtful. And then, if you think of it, ask them to refer you to any out Mormon woman they know because you are so desperate for kinship. Most of the women you’ve found in your situation are beyond disillusioned with the church, and while you can’t at all blame them, it makes it hard to know who to date. You hate feeling jealous, but you are so envious of the gay Mormon boys you know who always seem to find each other and so many of whom seem anxious to find a way to stay involved with the church. You want that so badly.

 

What helps is knowing that you are no longer alone. You laugh at the idea that you had once been convinced of your ability to carry this secret to your grave. It is a matter of time before your beloved home ward knows (will mothers let me near their activity day daughters anymore? Will the young women still run up to hug me when I visit home?). Soon you will sign your name to writings like this.

 

You have been given so much. You are still figuring things out. You are surrounded by an embarrassment of riches – friends and family who support you no matter what. And though sometimes you still hurt, you wish everyone could be as blessed as you are.

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10 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    Beautiful, Anonymous.

    This line was so poignant and powerful. “And you can see, in her eyes, the crumbling of the lie she has had no problem accepting until now – the scathing falsehood that the church asks the same of all its unmarried members, be they straight or “same-sex attracted.””

    How true. I had never thought much about it, but you are absolutely right. There is not space in current Mormon rhetoric for chaste gay dating — which does indeed mean that the church has an altogether different standard for LGBT singles than for hetero singles. It’s heartening to hear that so many of your Mormon friends and loved ones are supportive, loving, and cognizant of the double standard foisted upon you as an LGBT person.

  2. Corrina says:

    This is such a beautiful post, and helps me really see the uncertainties and questions that you face. Thank you for sharing and may your path continue to be lighted!

  3. Cruelest Month says:

    Beautiful, heartbreaking, and brave.

  4. Liz says:

    This is gorgeous. I hope that more people get to see what a lie it is that “it’s the same” for single members in the church, no matter their sexual orientation, because it’s clearly not. Thank you for this post!

  5. Amelia says:

    I’ve been saying for a lot of years that it is not at all the same, what the church asks of its straight single members and its LGBTQ members. I hadn’t really made the point you make here, anonymous–that you can’t even date in the same fashion that straight single members can. I think it’s an important one, since it’s probably the most visible evidence of the double standard. Just imagine two women sitting snuggled up next to each other in Sacrament Meeting (as many straight dating couples do, at least in singles wards), imagine the response, and you can’t help but see the double standard.

    It’s one of the things that makes me the most angry about the church’s rhetoric around LGBTQ members and what is expected of them. As a church, we preach the sanctity and necessity of marriage so much that it has approached idolatry of marriage/family. And even without getting into the question of whether we engage in a form of worship of marriage/family, we certainly send the message (and very effectively) that a single life is of lesser value. Even as a straight woman who was unmarried until the age of 37, I felt the despair of being uncoupled in a Mormon community. I cannot imagine how severely that despair could be compounded if it was a life sentence to remain uncoupled because I was queer.

    I understand that there are some people out there who probably do not feel despair at being uncoupled. But I believe many, if not most, Mormons who are single do suffer as a result of the church’s teachings re: marriage and family and not having those options available for themselves. It is just callous for the church to pretend that what they ask of LGBTQ members is the same as what they ask of straight members. At least those of us who are straight get to still hope that we can find a partner in this life, one who is everything we want/need in a companionate, sexual marriage.

    Sorry to get on my soapbox about that…

    Thank you so much for sharing this perspective–it is such a powerful narrative. I’m so glad that most of those you have told have responded with love and support. I hope that continues.

  6. Ziff says:

    Great post, Anonymous. I particularly appreciate your smackdown of the Elder Oaks-inspired suggestion that gay people’s spouses or partners shouldn’t be welcomed by their families:

    “It is where she informs you that she actually has a sister like you, who is married to a woman, but that her wife “is not welcome in our family’s homes or conversations.” What does that even mean? How on earth can you say your sister still feels loved when you completely ignore the love of her life? I always thought you got married too young. And your husband makes stupid jokes. So he had better not be there any time I come to visit. I don’t want to see him or talk about him. How’s that sound?”

    As you point out so well, this “we can’t accept your partner” puts the lie to all the “but we looooove gay people” rhetoric. We need to put our money where our mouth is and either accept people or accept that we are how we act, and our actions are hateful.

  7. EmilyCC says:

    Thank you so much for this, Anonymous. I learned so much reading your narrative of coming out to different women.

    This is what struck me the most, “You hate feeling jealous, but you are so envious of the gay Mormon boys you know who always seem to find each other and so many of whom seem anxious to find a way to stay involved with the church. You want that so badly.”

    I feel privileged to have gotten to know Queer Mormon Women* for the beautiful and budding community it is through this series. Thank you for sharing your story and done this so that fewer queer women will feel that loneliness.

  1. February 22, 2015

    […] Guest post by Anonymous Anonymous is 25 and getting a degree in film studies. She has lived on both coasts …read more       […]

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