Queer Mormon Women*: Personal Narrative 101

pen and paper (2)by K.M.

This is a post that is a part of the Queer Mormon Women* series.  Click HERE to see all the posts to date.

“Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person.”

-Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

 

Narrative One: You always knew there was something strange about you; you just didn’t know what to call it.

In the first grade, you’re lining up outside after recess, and there’s a girl named Meggie with long, curly brown hair who loves horses and wears purple. You want to kiss her, just once, on her perfect freckled cheek. So you lean in and as you do, and a boy yells, “Ooh, she’s gonna kiss a girl!” All the kids start laughing. Your face turns red and you yell, “I was not!” You were just going to tell her a secret, you explain. You cup your hand and lean down to her ear to make the lie real, but you can’t think of anything to say.

Narrative Two: You were the perfect straight Utah Mormon girl until you grew up and were exposed to The Media and The Intellectuals, who taught you words like “bisexual” and “queer.” Now, you’re going through A Phase.

Your bishop asks, “Are you sure you’re not just trying to make your parents mad?” Your BYU therapist says, “Most young girls go through a period of fascination with the female form; that doesn’t make you bisexual.” Your friend tearfully asks, “Why are you trying to rewrite your own history?” Under their scrutiny, you start to question yourself. You haven’t so much as kissed a girl before. But you remember the time you thought God set Y Mountain on fire to punish you for how you felt about women. You stick to your guns, insist to everyone that no, you really are bisexual. As a result, chaste as you are, you lose your bishop’s trust and (you think) your family’s love.

Narrative Three: You’re either a repressed lesbian or a straight person with a weird kink. Bisexuals don’t exist.

To certain lesbian and straight communities, people like you are lying about something. You worry that whether you marry a man or a woman, no one will take your sexuality seriously—they’ll see you with your partner and merge the two of you into . You’re as nervous about coming out in lesbian circles as you are in straight ones. Once you’re married, neither side will care what you have to say. And why should they?

Narrative Four: God hates people like you.

You’re pretty sure this isn’t true, but if everyone believes the lie, you’re not sure the truth matters. People insist that God loves all His children equally, but for some reason, He doesn’t want them to have the same civil rights. After every Conference session, you approach your parents and peers with a little more trepidation, knowing that although they’ve been told to have charity, love one another, and learn to live with difference, the main thing they’ll remember is this: people like you are attacking their families. People like you are a danger to society. People like you will never be people like them.

Narrative Five: One story is not the only story.

I haven’t had a voice in so long that I’m not sure where to begin. I’ve assumed the labels and identities others inscribed on me—the angry feminist, the malcontent Mormon, the queer activist, the suicidal daughter. I’ve played a part in other people’s stories. I’ve accepted narratives others have told to me, about me.

I’m tired of it, but I don’t know how to craft my own identity. Which labels do I keep? Which do I shrug off? Who am I if not the person my friends, my family, my spiritual leaders think I am?

I have to start from scratch. I have to pick up my own pen and doodle on my own skin instead of letting others tattoo their opinions on me. I will draw waves and birds and ships on my parchment skin. I will write poems on my stomach and stain my feet red with desert dust. I will cry if I feel like it and laugh if I feel like it. I will double pierce my ears and take back what is mine—my body, my choices, my sexuality, my language. I will scrawl “I am a bisexual Mormon woman” across the page in blue cursive script, and I won’t be ashamed.

It isn’t much, but it feels like a start.

K.M writes: I am a graduate student studying English. My husband and I are both from Utah and enjoy hiking in the Utah desert and mountains. I recommend that everyone listen to the Ted Talk in the epigraph, which is entitled “The Danger of a Single Story.”  

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16 Responses

  1. Rachel says:

    Thank you so much for sharing these stories, these narratives, here.

  2. Cruelest Month says:

    “I have to start from scratch. I have to pick up my own pen and doodle on my own skin instead of letting others tattoo their opinions on me. I will draw waves and birds and ships on my parchment skin. I will write poems on my stomach and stain my feet red with desert dust. I will cry if I feel like it and laugh if I feel like it. I will double pierce my ears and take back what is mine—my body, my choices, my sexuality, my language. I will scrawl “I am a bisexual Mormon woman” across the page in blue cursive script, and I won’t be ashamed.”
    Yes this! So tired of false narratives. I’ve started from scratch too. Freedom fills good.

    • Caroline says:

      I also loved that last paragraph. Absolutely perfect. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences and thoughts here, K.M.

  3. A says:

    This is beautiful and so accurate. Thank you for sharing this. You are writing your own story and that is *awesome* 🙂

  4. Lovely. Absolutely lovely.

  5. Kmillecam says:

    I am in tears, K.

    “I haven’t had a voice in so long that I’m not sure where to begin. I’ve assumed the labels and identities others inscribed on me—the angry feminist, the malcontent Mormon, the queer activist, the suicidal daughter. I’ve played a part in other people’s stories. I’ve accepted narratives others have told to me, about me.

    I’m tired of it, but I don’t know how to craft my own identity. Which labels do I keep? Which do I shrug off? Who am I if not the person my friends, my family, my spiritual leaders think I am?

    I have to start from scratch. I have to pick up my own pen and doodle on my own skin instead of letting others tattoo their opinions on me. I will draw waves and birds and ships on my parchment skin. I will write poems on my stomach and stain my feet red with desert dust. I will cry if I feel like it and laugh if I feel like it. I will double pierce my ears and take back what is mine—my body, my choices, my sexuality, my language. I will scrawl “I am a bisexual Mormon woman” across the page in blue cursive script, and I won’t be ashamed.

    It isn’t much, but it feels like a start.”

    This is written on my heart, too. I see you.

  6. Liz says:

    This is gorgeous. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  7. Ziff says:

    Thanks for this, K.M. This is so brilliantly expressed. Like everyone before me, I particularly love your conclusion.

  8. Emily U says:

    ” I’ve played a part in other people’s stories.” That sentence really struck me. I’ll try to be a good listener, so that when you and others tell their stories, they are heard.

  9. EmilyCC says:

    K.M., this is so, so powerful that I don’t even have words to adequately respond. Breaking through the narratives and writing to find out who you really are, that you don’t fit into any neat binary as much as family and friends want you to. It touches me. I hope you’ll continue to write and I’d be honored if I could help with that process. So much love to you, my friend.

  10. Alisa says:

    Reading your ‘found’ voice leaves me in wondering silence. I’m in awe of how beautifully written these narratives are, how painful and terrible and beautiful are these stories. I’ve not seen that TED talk, but I certainly will if it has inspired such a beautiful reflection.

  11. Violadiva says:

    This narrative strikes me at how utterly horrible some folks can speak and act, while, astonishingly, you stand resilient. I’m really impressed!

  12. anonymous says:

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful words. I wonder, too, about which self to share. I wonder how many bisexual Mormons are out there, purposefully or not, passing as straight. How we wonder if people will find out. How we want to scream “you are taking about me!” When members share homophobic jokes. How we decide who to tell. How our spouses don’t understand we are still not straight after years of being married, that we will always be queer and it doesn’t go away. How sometimes we feel “lucky” that we happened to fall in love with someone of the opposite gender. How we still have enough fear of anymore knowing the whole you, that we feel the need to use anonymous instead of our name.

  13. Jenny says:

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful and painful stories with us. I loved your conclusion too. I can feel the power in your words because you are choosing to write your own narrative and shake off the narratives that others have tried to pin on you. Beautiful!

  14. Lindsay Killian says:

    Yes, you will draw waves and ships and birds on your parchment skin and write poems on your stomach and stain your feet red, because your body and your self it is is only parchment until you call your Self for the Creationary Daughter you Are. And then your self will grow to meet your Self and you will have permission to love and create and liven and lighten everything you touch, male or female, bird or bug, flower or fairytale. ALL will be lifted and made whole and alive by You!!!

    Beautiful You!
    Well Going! Thanks Beautiful One! 🙂

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