You Can’t Go Home Again

A week ago, I went home. Well, to one of the many homes I’ve had… I went home to my alma mater, my college. Or what used to be my college. When I attended, it was a woman’s college with a proud history, and now? Now it’s co-educational. Now its name has been changed. Now I walk through familiar buildings and everything feels foreign. My home changed while I was away, and we don’t recognize each other anymore.

I love the term alma mater, which means “bounteous or nourishing mother.” I love the image it brings to mind, of the place we go to for nourishment. This is what my school was to me. This is what church was to me.

Visiting my school reminded me of going to church. I’ll mention now that I’m not currently active because church doesn’t feel safe for me right now. I mentioned in my article last month that I am a queer mormon. I’ve been out for 16 years and I moved to Utah a few months before the Proposition 8 drama went down. Being a closeted queer member had been easier outside of Utah. My new stake organized weekly events, requesting that members partake in calls to California residents urging them to vote to eliminate the right of gay people, queer people like me, to marry.

I was so uncomfortable. I didn’t want to be out because I was a student at BYU, and I wasn’t prepared to be thrown out of my graduate program for being queer (because even though I was completely living the gospel standards, which for me means being absolutely and utterly alone, I could still get tossed). I didn’t want to seem too liberal, either, because that would make life uncomfortable. Because in Utah, the members of your ward are everywhere. They are your neighbors. You see them on walks. On trips to the grocery store. In your classes at school. At your job. If you take a stand anywhere, you will pay for it everywhere. (Maybe I just didn’t have great luck with wards…). And every week, an email went out announcing our assigned date and time to “man the call center.” Each time, I emailed back my Relief Society president and asked to be removed from the list because I wasn’t comfortable mixing religion and politics.

Kennington Chapel By Matthew Bembridge

Kennington Chapel By Matthew Bembridge

Partly true, but also I was breaking inside. Because they, everyone at church, at school, at the grocery store, they were all talking about me. And when people don’t know there’s an “other” near them, they say the worst things. They said terrible things, anyway, because I wouldn’t do as the leadership commanded. They told me to my face, over the phone, through messenger apps, that if I didn’t follow the prophet, that there was no place for me in the church.

All these years later… maybe they’re right. I stayed active, kept my head down, and kept my broken heart to myself for the years I was enrolled at BYU. But for my mental health, I tuned out. Yes, I attended, but I wrote in my journal or read books so that I wouldn’t get triggered and so my panic and broken heart wouldn’t spill out of me and make a scene. A scene sure to prompt questions.

I didn’t tune back in until I was safely graduated. And when I did… oh, the hurt! I tried. I tried every week. I got up, I got dressed. I put on makeup. I did my hair. I went to church. And each week I stayed as long as I could. And each week I found myself on the verge of breakdown. I cried in the parking lot so many times – nasty, ugly, heaving tears.

moon goddess, -Alice Popkorn

And I can’t hear it anymore. I can’t sit in a house of worship, however much it used to be my home, and hear how I am unwanted. Somehow, at some point, we both changed and we don’t fit together anymore. I still want the home I remember. But like my alma mater, it doesn’t look or feel quite like it used to. When I go, I don’t see or feel my nourishing mother. But Lord in Heaven, I want her back. These halls are empty of her. But She is home. Not the walls, nor the chairs, nor the organ. And while I don’t fit in the place anymore, She will always be my home.

Kalliope

Kalliope is the youngest of four sisters. She loves baking, travelling, coding, reading, and learning new languages.

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14 Responses

  1. Melissa says:

    This is so heartbreaking. I had a dream a few years ago where I could see a woman standing in front of a statue of Christ, holding hands with a gay man on one side, and a lesbian on the other. She had been sent there to tell the people walking past on the sidewalks that Jesus loved the people whose hands she was holding. Most people didn’t pay attention to what she was saying, but one woman made a snarky comment in passing. The woman who was testifying walked over and embraced her, and told her that Jesus loves her too. The woman was utterly bewildered, but felt the spirit and hurried on. I related that dream in Sunday School yesterday when the teacher was speaking about how Jesus blessed the children one by one, and how we need to be willing to bless the lives of those around us one by one, because we are all God’s children. There should be no “others” category in church — we all should feel safe and wanted! We cannot consider ourselves Christians if we consider “those people” our enemies.

    Not that it is enough to heal anything, but I wear a rainbow bracelet to church on Sundays.

    • Kalliope says:

      Thank you so much for sharing your dream, Melissa! It is beautiful and heartening, as is the sight of symbols of allyship. I still try daily to love those who hate and despise me, and always try to be mindful that we are all here on this earth because we all chose Christ’s plan.

      • Melissa says:

        Oh, I hope you didn’t take that by way of censure. I wasn’t telling you that you that you need to love those people who have hurt you. While I truly feel that is a true principle, it’s not something you tell someone in mourning. I was referring to the church at large feeling LGBTQIA people and those who support their rights as enemy. But, as a true principle, I need to find love in my heart for that Pharisaical woman in my neighborhood…

      • Kalliope says:

        Oh, not at all! I was meaning to say that, though I don’t attend services currently, I still try to be Christ-like in my feelings towards others. That is all I meant. I promise, I didn’t take your words as censure of any kind! Everything you said was lovely, and I thank you for sharing!

  2. Carolyn Nielsen says:

    You are never alone. I think you know that. Never forget. I admire your courage.

  3. Crystal Adams says:

    This is beautiful and heartbreaking all at once. We attend Christmas eve mass and another Christmas service at two local churches, one where a woman pastor who wears a rainbow stole presides over one of the most glorious musical programs I’ve ever heard, and another where they set out 7 doors painted in the colors of the rainbow, with the text, “God’s door are open to all”. I love the spirit that I feel at these places, and I intend to attend a fe more of their services this coming year. I hope you can find a place where you can be spiritually fed and nourished, loved and uplifted.

    • Kalliope says:

      I love Midnight mass! I so love the Christmas day services that other Christian religions hold, and I wish our traditions included something similar. I hope to enjoy a midnight mass with you again soon!

  4. Patty says:

    I am so sorry. I am a native Californian and current resident. Prop 8 was a horrible experience. All my church friends saw this as proving your faith, but I have had gay friends since I was 20 (so more than 40 years). The opposition (which we were told was intense and well-funded) seemed to be non-existent. One television ad ( “We are your neighbors..”) and people with home-made signs. I served as a navigator for one leafleting round and then gave up. I just couldn’t do it. I am still active, but distressed, worried, and frustrated. Hugs, although I am sure that’s insufficient.

    • Kalliope says:

      I think Prop 8 was hard on our entire community, no matter which side of it a person was on. For me, there was the immediate pain and social pressure, but I wonder what it was like for the other side. For those who truly believed they were doing God’s will and following the prophet, spending their time and money to advance this righteous goal, to then have it comprehensively defeated by the laws of the land, which we are bound to uphold by our articles of faith?? Thank you for your thoughts and hugs!

  5. Suzette says:

    What a story. Thanks for the beautiful images. And for being so vulnerable.

  6. Liz says:

    I also have a sense of longing for things and places as they were. I think there’s something beautiful about finding and/or creating new homes, but I share in your sense of loss for how things were. Much love to you, Kalliope.

    • Kalliope says:

      Thank you, Liz! Finding a new home or tribe is wonderful – like being a puzzle piece that was in the wrong box, finally finding its way to its proper place. There is definitely a sense of loss – loss of community, loss of ritual. But it’s an ongoing process!

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