They Are the Ones That Put You In This Situation. Not Me.
Early in November 2015, the Mormon church released a statement about a policy change. Then they released a clarification on that policy change, which left the policy essentially unchanged. All these statements came after a leak was posted online, showing that the Mormon church was changing it’s stance on same-sex marriage, and the ramifications for children with queer parents. As LGBTQ Mormons struggled to react, absorb, and make sense of what had just happened, the media storm began to rage, and thoughts and feelings I had put away for years started to resurface.
This is one of those times where the apostate stereotype of “being offended” makes me giggle. Because this is truly offensive. I should be offended. If I value who I am, as a queer person, a person who was abused by a pedophile as a child, a person who grew up Mormon, a person who grew up a woman…I am wholeheartedly offended.
There is another stereotype for people who leave the church. It is that they can “leave the church, but they can’t leave it alone”. This one is harder for me to laugh at, for two reasons.
- Growing up Mormon is a part of who I am. It is perfectly normal for me to process how Mormon culture shaped and continues to affect my life.
- I have left the church, but they seem unwilling to leave me alone.
For days, I read, pondered, and started to notice a knot of righteous anger building in my chest. That knot of anger did not turn inward to destroy me, but moved me to action. I spoke loudly and clearly about how I saw the policy change. I put the post on Facebook, and later, here on The Exponent. Many people responded with support, and shared their own stories. Many people stood with me in solidarity. A handful of people expressed discomfort with my words. And a smaller handful tried to call me to repentance, or shamed me for making the post public.
Later that day, I started to hear rumblings from my mother’s side of the family. They didn’t like that I had named my grandfather, Ray Dutson, as a pedophile. At his funeral, he was revered as an exemplary father, grandfather, husband, and community member. People literally told stories about how he helped the widows in his ward and stake. But here’s the uncomfortable truth about pedophiles: they can be kind, generous, friendly, and charismatic as they are targeting the children in your family, your neighborhood, or your ward. They can also be family members that you would never suspect. In fact, most of the time a pedophile harms a child they know, rather than a random child unknown to them.
As you can see from my original post, which was a commentary about the Mormon church’s Church Handbook of Instructions, this revelation of my grandfather being a pedophile merely served as context for my readers. The meat of my post, and meaning of writing it at all, was to show that the Mormon church has a clear value system in place. They value the temple marriage between a man and woman more than they value a child who has been abused by her father. They value a same-sex policy more than they value the life of a queer person.
I did grow up with a father and a grandfather who are pedophiles. This is a fact. It is a fact for many, many people. Too often we want to speak as if this is not the reality of our society. But it is. Pedophilia happens, and it is the responsibility of those who commit the violent sexual acts to take heat for their victims talking through their own stories, processes, and healing. Too often we blame victims, even with a well-meaning “I just want to help keep them safe” assumption. A few weeks after my Facebook post, I wrote an addendum:
When I shared this two weeks ago, there was some discomfort among my family members that I spoke openly about my father and grandfather being pedophiles. Let me be clear: The discomfort does not come from me speaking about it. The discomfort comes from my father and grandfather harming, molesting, and assaulting the children in their lives.
So if you feel mad at me, or like you don’t understand me, or you wouldn’t do it like I did it, or you feel I could have said it differently, consider channeling those feelings where they belong: to my dad Mike and my papa Ray.
They are the ones that put you in this situation. Not me.
Clarity always sets me free. I knew in my gut that I didn’t create this problem, but it took me a few weeks to sort through all my reactions to come to the nugget of truth at the center. My father is the one that created this mess with the abuse. I get to do whatever I need to to manage that fallout and heal those wounds.
Similarly, the Mormon church is the one that put queer people, their children, and their families, in this situation. I refuse to take responsibility for what is not mine.
It’s 2015. Queer people don’t choose to be queer. Their marriages, children, jobs, careers, beliefs, and lives matter. Someday the Mormon church will see that.