Queer Mormon Women*: Caught Between Two Worlds
This is a post that is a part of the Queer Mormon Women* series. Click HERE to see all the posts to date.
“We love you. We support you. We want you to come as you are. We want you to learn how to love yourself. We want to help you learn more about who you are meant to be.”
Growing up, you never think these are going to be the words you hear from the Great and Spacious Building. That Building is filled with the snooty girls from your high school, the guys who made fun of you for not swearing or drinking. You stand firm in your belief that no matter what your friends do, no lurid thing could ever tempt you away from a church where you have friends and feel happy and safe.
You never imagined that feeling could shake. But the Iron Rod seems to whack you at the back of your knees when you realize not everyone in the Great and Spacious Building is the same. There is certainly that seedy underbelly you imagined, but that makes up only a floor or two. You realize there aren’t just jeers or taunts or curses; there are affirming words of love, invitation, encouragement. That is when you realize how much you wish you could cast away the Rod which is burning words into your skin like “suffering,” “struggling,” “tolerance,” “deviant.”
At BYU, the only reason you care about the fact that you’re not dating much is because everyone makes you feel like you should be dating more. Every so often, you see a beautiful girl. You try to make her notice you. Meanwhile you’ve got some great guy friends; they are sweet and handsome and funny and smart, but dating them doesn’t seem right. “We were better off as friends,” you tell yourself, and your thoughts go back to that beautiful girl who lives in the apartment below yours and you strategize about how to strike up a long conversation if your paths ever cross in the laundry room again.
Your “girl crushes” subside eventually. Graduation is soon and you’re worried about how few guys have asked you out, but you’re not proactive about it because you don’t really care enough. But then, how will you meet the right guy to effectively make you forget about those feelings you have for girls if you never try?
You’re about to give up and figure a life alone won’t be so bad, but then you meet Her. It was an accident; you were friends, but then you fell (like a safe!) in love. Every cliché fell into place: her hand in yours led to butterflies. The songs all made sense. If you could just sit with your arm around her forever, you would be so happy. Your feelings are so strong you know they cannot be temporary, restricted to mortality. If you die and are separated in death, you would rather have the memory of her love and a life together than die and be confronted with the possibility that you’d learned false doctrine and spent a whole life alone for nothing.
(Strangely, it is a Disney princess who finally gives you the courage to tell this girl how you feel about her. Watching her Let It Go showed you the power in self-acceptance, and you can never look back. But ultimately your feelings are not reciprocated, and even if they were, you are far from a fairy tale ending.)
You can’t help but feel frustrated when your roommates’ little sisters gush about getting married and how long their three-month-engagements feel. You are a quiet, reserved person. It’s not in your nature to get angry. But you want to yell at these girls. You want to shake into them a consciousness of how truly lucky they are that they have only to wait a matter of weeks before being free to be intimate in every way with the love of their lives. Their anticipation has a pay-off. And yet they don’t imagine how impossible it must then feel to be you, when you must wait an entire lifetime for the chance to be made what your church deems morally acceptable.
Because at this time, it is still your church. It is a part of your heritage, your life. It taught you how to communicate with God. You have seen its members come together to selflessly serve those in need. Your Young Women’s leaders and Relief Society presidents and Visiting Teachers have lent you their ears, their embraces, their hearts. It is filled with your dearest friends. It is filled with so many beautiful memories. You cannot turn your back on that.
You wait for your chance to be Esther. To be vocal to your (ward) family about the persecution of your people. To stand as a witness among them, brave and unashamed of who you are and wanting to stay that way. For now you can say only to others and barely to yourself: “I am a queer Mormon woman.”
But for now you are in limbo. You are stuck between two worlds and do not know which limb you would rather lose. You are praying for the day to come where you will not have to make that choice.