I started with some General Conference talks referencing “faith” & “love.” I recalled from a month prior, a talk titled, “Am I A Child of God,” by Brian K. Taylor. As I re-read the message, it occurred to me that to answer that question, I first had to ask myself: well, who is God?
Uncrossing my numb ankle, I got up to go grab Elder Holland’s “However Long and Hard the Road.” It’s greenish sea salt color calmed me. I read through some of my favorite passages and began exploring the question further. I typed effortlessly, remembering the truths I'd always known deep deep in my core. Somewhere beneath the ribs and gore but above the mess and shame; in my gut.
As I rounded out the ending, I concluded that being a child of God meant that no matter what, you are divine. You were made in the image of God. Completely unfettered, my fingers graced the keyboard of my Surface Pro instinctively. When finished, I felt the classic sting of tears wet my face and cut down the line of my jaw. They fell from my chin, and I suddenly was overwhelmed with a sense of ethereal confusion; was I meant to actually read this to my ward, over the pulpit?
That day, I stood in the Rose Crest YSA ward, and I did read my talk. My left leg shook as I approached the end of my talk, the part where I mentioned my sexuality. The question re-entered my mind: do I read this? Is this okay?
At that moment an anvil of determination fell upon me. Anchored with the confidence of the Lord, I inhaled.
When it was finished, the girl who spoke with me, named Emily, told me I did great. And I believed her. After I came out that day, I left for Texas during summer break, but people reached out to me, thanking me for my candor. Once I returned home, there were allies in my corner interested in my friendship. I’ll never forget the freedom I felt once I was out.
As I look back on that day though, as I reread my church talk, I am reminded of the internal homophobia I saturated myself in—the way I viewed my sexuality as disability while trying to convey the divinity of it; not totally convinced or certain with the limited language I had.
What are the problematic concepts we use to talk about being queer as Latter-Day-Saints which are damaging to our community?
I’m not gay, I am a child of God.
I’ll be fixed if I pray hard enough—if I have enough faith.
I’m not gay, I just struggle with same-sex attraction.
In the next life I’ll be fixed.
If I can just endure to the end...
We all have trials, this is mine.
Acting on my gay feelings is the sin.
I don’t need to like all men; I just need to find one.
All of these and many other similar concepts are part of the narrative surrounding queerness & the LDS faith. While nobody was directly or repeatedly telling me these things, I knew what the church taught about “same-sex attraction.” Queer people in the church are constantly socialized to believe their queerness will inhibit them from the blessings of exaltation until they reach the day of resurrection where their mortal bodies & minds are perfected. Another layer of complexity is the doctrine that when we die our same spirit will possess our bodies; “same-sex attraction” is a disability or an ailment in this life that will be healed later in the journey through the plan of salvation. It isn’t until members get resurrected that their bodies will be made perfect, subjecting queer members to the same toxic conclusion they all inevitably face; It would better if I were dead.
How many of us are like Jen? Feeling unloved because of our mistakes or transgressions or things that we have no control over? At a very young age I was aware of two powerful truths about myself and my identity. I knew there was a God, and I therefore was his child. I also knew I was not the same as other girls. While others were attracted to barbies, dresses, and makeup, I was interested in soccer, cars, and wrestling. I dressed in boy clothes. And eventually I knew I was not attracted to boys. Of course, I felt ashamed. Confused. And like I had to choose between two identities. Was I gay? Or was I a child of God? Throughout my life, like Jen in our story, I have been able to know that Christ’s pure love surpasses my inadequacies and my flaws. That we are to label and identify ourselves by the content of our character and the divine nature we possess as children of God. Before anything else, you are a child of God. You have a divine mission to accomplish on this earth. You are loved. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our savior and redeemer, Amen.
Certainly, the main message of my talk was intended to remind the audience of their divinity; however, the way it is written reads as though my identity as a queer person is an inadequacy or flaw. It reads as though I thought labels such as queer, lesbian, bisexual, trans, or ace are distractors to our divine identities as children of God. It reads as though I had accepted one identity. The gilded shame firmly set in my frame did not allow me to illustrate the truth—my queerness is divine. It is not flaw or failed design. It is not a biological defect or a selected preset trial for mortality. It is not the result or failure of parental figures. It just is.
The time has come for us as queer members and allies to strip ourselves from these damaging narratives surrounding queerness & faith. What could sacrament look like with inclusivity and a celebration of diversity? I see a meeting where testimonies come from queer members who don’t come out, discussing their queerness as a trial, but who come in and stand with a firmness of faith in their divine creation. I see a Sabbath centered on love & service. I see little children who know that all kinds of families can exist and live together in the eternities.
I see a future where suicide is not an option for queer kids of faith. I see a future where leaving the church is not the only option. A future where the church saves more lives than it damages. Where the gospel’s pureness shines brighter than cultural superiority or tradition we have been socialized to accept.
We have come to a time in history where silently disagreeing with the covert and overt homophobia in church meetings is not enough. It is not enough. It is not enough to quietly like a pride post or buy a rainbow onesie for your toddler.
For queer members, while it is only from my limited experience, I truly believe that it is not enough to walk away from a gospel we love. If we do not stay, who will? Will we also go away? Will more queer kids grow up believing the damaging things that hurt us? If it isn’t us who take a stand, nobody will.
If I could go back in time and re-write my coming out talk, I’d focus on the celebratory aspects of being queer. I’d rejoice that my Heavenly Parents trusted me enough with my sacred role as a queer person, that they understood the tribulation I would face and compassion I would spread. I would write that while I felt unworthy of love, I found it in my divinity as queer child of God. I’d proclaim with a tear streamed face, “my queerness is divine.”
Time stands at 1:37 PM. Where do you?
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