Guest Post: I Love You, So I Say This, parts 1-4

Guest post by Anonymous. This Mama got a gay kid for Christmas in 2019. In March 2020 BYU signaled LGBTQ acceptance in an update to the Honor Code, and hastily retracted it. Feeling protective, this Mama wrote what she wished she could say to her Mormon family members. A week later, the first major COVID lockdowns started, and the BYU incident was pushed to the background. A year later, this personal appeal to the better angels is a plea in remembrance of that horrible week. There are 19 short pieces. This post is parts 1-4 of 19. The others will be linked here when they are published.

Parts 5-8
Parts 9-11
Parts 12-13
Parts 14-16
Parts 17-19

I love you. So I say this. In 19 Parts.

I love you. So I say this. Part 1

“So how are you guys feeling about the Church?”

Your son and I met in middle school. We did homework in high school, practicing our dialogues in Russian and surviving Calculus 2. We debated together, did theater, wrote papers. He went on a mission, came back, and we got married in the temple, attended BYU, had lots of kids, had it all.

When we left the Church, you sat us down for a one-off conversation, after which you did not want to discuss Church issues again. You believed we were deceived, led astray, that you were most bothered that we disrespected Church leaders and that our boys wouldn’t be able to practice their priesthood. We had one day of open conversation in October 2014 where we took turns sharing our realities, and then buttoned that up. Okay, on with life.

You broke your rule. You sent us Church articles, Church talks, and Church books every holiday. I took these as overtures of love. Though these gifts were invasive and lacked respect for our boundaries, I understood them to be expressions of you keeping your hope alive that we would return to the fold. I did not break your rule. I did not respond with my feelings or my perspectives. Do not imagine for one second that I didn’t have them.

Our boys continued in Scouts voluntarily, and our oldest girl remained friends with her church buddies, attending Young Women’s sometimes.

She came out as gay. She wanted to tell you, a desire she expressed in our first conversations.

She told you. You expressed your love to her. Thank You.

I love you. So I say this. Part 2

“So how are you guys feeling about the Church?”

You called and asked how I was handling the news that my daughter is gay. You asked if I thought she was “really” gay. Yes, she is. I celebrate her.

“Could that change?” Yes – but not in the way you probably hope. She’s figuring it out. She may be pan, bi, or trans, and doesn’t know it yet.

I signaled that she wanted you to know, that she knew it was a risk to tell you, that she was prepared for heartbreak, that she had made the choice to tell you anyway. Can you imagine the courage?!? I handed you a lot to live up to.

A week later, you sent her a talk you gave in Church.

A month later, you called your son:

“So how are you guys feeling about the Church? Are you attending? Will you go back? What about the kids?”

You asked this on a bruising day. March 6, 2020. BYU just abused the trust and spirits of LGBTQ students and their families. Again. The bad timing wasn’t your fault.

But let’s talk.

I love you. So I say this. Part 3

“So how are you guys feeling about the Church?”

I always wondered if you wondered why, after leaving the Church, we always knew what was going on in Church news before you did? We knew about handbook changes, the gospel topic essays, policy updates, current events, quotes and teachings from leaders, etc. before you did most of the time.

There’s a reason for that.

The reason is NOT “People who leave the Church can’t leave it alone.”

You are comfortable in the chapel, the genealogy library, the temple. You are on a cruise ship to paradise. You obviously think about Church a lot, you inhabit it, and it inhabits you. You see the good the Church does and how your life is better because of it.

I will tell you a thing you won’t hear the first time, or the second, or maybe the 20th time you read this. But it’s true. I bear my testimony:

The Church leaves in its wake a flotsam of broken lives. It does unspeakable damage. Those of use who have been crushed by it only survive because we find ways, and often that involves helping each other survive it.

So, in short, your son and I know what’s happening in the Church, even though we haven’t walked through chapel doors for years, because we still, daily, inhabit the space of trying to be healed from it. We still, daily, inhabit the space of trying to help others heal from it. We witness, daily, the trauma it continues to cause. We know the people whose children have committed suicide, those who write books and make podcasts and hold events, those who have been excommunicated, those who still are helping polygamous wives escape abuse, those who run for office, those who provide counseling. We are in the thick of those brave, duct-taped souls picking up the ongoing mess made whenever a leader speaks of things he does not understand.

You cannot, in any way, convince me that these issues and these people do not exist. I also do not think that I can convince you that they do exist, or that the extent of the problem is huge.

But let me say this.

These people exist. Perhaps I have done my Mormon wounded a disservice for not witnessing of them to you sooner. But I say it now: there are thousands of us in pain, and the cause of this pain is the Church and the policies created by its leaders, especially toward marginalized groups.

If you are ready to peek a little into the wake of that steamship to Heaven, I am here to hold your hand. You’ll want to look away.

I love you. So I say this. Part 4

“So how are you guys feeling about the Church?”

Why would I break the silence we’ve had in place for almost 6 years? Why speak to you of this now?

I am a mama. My bebe is gay, and she has told you. You must live up to a high standard. You must be Safe for my bebe. If you are not Safe, I will shield her from you.

When we left the Church, you indicated your distress that we spoke of Church leaders disrespectfully. This seemed to be one of the most difficult aspects of our apostasy for you. I will tell you now what I did not tell you then.

I experience distress when you speak of the leaders, quote them, defend them, defer to them, mirror them, buy their books and send them to me for Christmas. I left these Church leaders long ago and dusted them off my feet. They have tarnished their mantle through abusive practices and betrayed the gospel they should represent. I cannot worship their portrayal of God or support their institution. I unburdened myself of the hypnotic hold they had on my life. They are no longer my responsibility.

But if you choose to follow them, quote them, defend them, defer to them, mirror them, buy their books and send them to me for Christmas – if this is how you use your agency, be aware that these men become your responsibility. You represent their words and actions in the relationship you have with your gay granddaughter. What comes out of their mouths, to me, comes out of yours.

This makes you Less Safe.

This puts me on vigilance. This is not about disrespecting you, the church, the leaders. This is not about everyone having their agency or about religious freedom.

This is about my bebe.

So now you know. Please choose to be Safe.

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13 Responses

  1. Bryan says:

    This is amazing and so well-written. Thank you to the author for putting into words so beautifully what I, and I’m sure many others, feel about our devout family members whom we are still trying to keep in our lives by teaching them, and pleading with them, to be safe.

  2. Elisa says:

    Love this, especially what it feels like to see loved ones defend leaders.

  3. Trudy says:

    Thank you for sharing. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of your story.

  4. Nancy Ross says:

    Thank you for this post! I think that it summarizes several conversations I need to have with some people in my life.

  5. April says:

    My heart hurt reading the part about following the rules of engagement and staying silent while the believing member continues testifying without consent. That is hardest for me lately. I can’t spend time with people I love when they won’t control their impulse to harm me with non-consensual testifying at me of people and practices that go against my values.

  6. Kathy Mitchell says:

    I love this. Thank you!

  7. Ziff says:

    Wow. This is heartbreaking and so well told!

  8. Lizzie says:

    “You must be Safe for my bebe. If you are not Safe, I will shield her from you.” Oh yes. My sister is gay, and I already know the havoc church teachings wreak when you don’t fit. My ideal Zion world would be one where everyone fits, and I don’t see the church leading us there as it now operates. Right now, for many complicated (and simple) reasons, church activity nets more positive than negative, but I often feel like I’m crouched on a precipice, ready to jump away from it. I can’t say for sure everything that would make me jump, but I know danger to my kids is one. The church preaches some great things about God’s love, but I won’t stay in a place where my child can’t feel that love because it also preaches that what they are is wrong. The minute it isn’t Safe for my child is the minute the negative outweighs the positive.

  1. February 23, 2021

    […] Parts 1-4 Parts 5-8 […]

  2. February 27, 2021

    […] Parts 1-4 Parts 5-8 Parts 9-11 Parts 12-13 […]

  3. February 28, 2021

    […] Parts 1-4 Parts 5-8 Parts 9-11 Parts 14-16 […]

  4. March 1, 2021

    […] Parts 1-4 Parts 5-8 Parts 9-11 Parts 12-13 Parts 14-16 […]

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