3/26/13

Hope is never silent.

“Hope is never silent.” 
― Harvey Milk

I remember in 2008 when I was too afraid to write a blog post supporting Gay Marriage. I listened to the angry lessons in church. I listened to the comments made by friends, who didn't know my views, casually dismissing those too stupid to "follow the prophet." I sat in Relief Society meetings where the same woman who signed up to bring sick people dinner and babysit neighborhood kids for free railed against "those people." I was afraid of my own church, afraid of what I would find if I thought too hard about what I knew in my head to be right, and what I heard in my church. I was so afraid.

I remember my heart exploding when I read the letter from the First Presidency, read to Californians over the pulpit, urging them to fight against same-sex marriage.

It was the moment I knew I could never go home again. I would never be the same.

I could never be just a Mormon again.

Now, I was "a Mormon, but I support Gay Marriage!" A Mormon Feminist and LGBT ally. A Mormon advocate and friend, but never just a Mormon. Mormon stopped being enough.

It was sad, and it was hard, and it still hurts. I don't know if the pain of a lost religion ever goes away. I think I will mourn for the rest of my life. The huge, aching wound in my soul, that opened the moment I realized I could be a "good Mormon" or a "good person," but not both.* Not when others are hurting. Not when I had been commanded to love one another, and mourn with those that mourn. Not when I had been promised: "blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

But my pain is so small, and so insignificant in view of the greater picture.

Comparatively, it is easy to be a straight ally. It isn't me being denied the right to marry the person I love. I don't face dismissal without question from my job. No one can evict me from my house for being straight. The way I love, and the terms I use to identify myself, aren't  hurled as insults on playgrounds. No one protests my existence. No one denies the reality of my soul, and who my soul seeks to love.

I've never had to wonder if it would be easier to just stop living than live in a society that often rejects me and threatens me based on the way I was born.

So it was hard at first, but then it became easy to be a straight ally.  After the initial heart explosion, when there was nothing left in my chest except a small piece of the pain felt by millions of people all over the world, it became easy to do the right thing. That small piece of pain motivated me, and every day that wound heals as I consistently live my conscience. Now, I don't listen to old men at pulpits when they tell me how to live.

 I listen to what my heart and my head and my entire being tells me is right. I lost something in 2008, but I've gained so much as I've learned to trust myself, and to risk doing the right thing, despite the hurt, despite the loss, despite the pain.

I can do the right thing, even when it is hard.

It is hard, and then it is easy. It is surprisingly easy, being yourself.

And that means so much more to me than being just a "good" Mormon.

It is cruel, and awful to think that I've gained anything from standing up, even in the smallest ways, against the much larger pain my LGBT brothers and sisters face. That's a terrible world to live in, but it is also a true world. We can change that.

Today I look over my Facebook friend page, the one-stop shop for easy "Profile Picture Activism." Most of the pictures are a red equal sign. Sometimes all you need is a small sign to remind yourself of something important:

I'm not afraid anymore, and from the looks of it, neither are you.



“Politics is theater. It doesn't matter if you win. You make a statement. You say, "I'm here, pay attention to me” 
― Harvey Milk







* I know many "good Mormons" who are also "Good people," I speak only to my own experience.

15 comments:

amber_mtmc said...

Well said, Stephanie. When I finally became a straight ally (it took a few years, sadly), I felt like I was finally following my heart. And love.

Liv said...

This is something that is still really hard for me to reconcile. I was recently invited to a reception to celebrate the union of my friend and his partner, and I am so happy for his happiness, but I feel guilty about it.

Does that make sense? Like I feel that by supporting him, I'm going against the teachings of the church. But in comparison, by not supporting him, by "judging" him, I'd also be going against the teachings of the church.

Between a rock and a hard place, I tell ya.

All I know is I won't stop loving and supporting him, regardless of my inner debate.

KUATO said...

Amen, Sister

Lisa Louise said...

You always are able to put into words so eloquently what is in my head and heart! Thanks for being you!!

Jennifer Kunz said...

Beautiful post. It's weird for me- I still have a public post on my blog about how I supported the prophet and was anti-prop8, then listed all the reasons I WOULD be against it if it weren't for me being such a good believing member. It's still out there, on the internet, showing me how far I've come.

Rick said...

Well written and from the heart. Unfortunately, there will always be knuckleheads that will say things such as "those people". The Church's stand on Prop 8 on the other hand is crystal clear as can be read here. The church WAS for Prop 8 because it redefined marriage which has ALWAYS been between A man and A women. The church didn't come up with this definition. Next marriage will be between a guy and two lady's, we don't want to discriminate after all...it's a slippery slope. You also can't be dismissed from a job or evicted because of your sexual orientation....

Hillary said...

I get so very tired of slippery slope arguments. I guess it all depends on which way you're sliding? Those who make this argument in defense of Prop 8 would likely support the overturning of Roe v. Wade. But that, as well, could be a slippery slope back to the days of birth control pills being illegal (not even making this up--one of the foundational cases for Roe v. Wade was a Connecticut case in which a married woman was denied birth control pills as they violated state law).

Anyhow, I too was inspired. I rarely put my blog out there, and even rarer that I take a public stand.

http://www.hrmccormack.blogspot.com/2013/03/today-is-important-day.html

Melody said...

Yesterday, my husband quoted my post on fb about same sex marriage. One comment that he received was this:
"How do you reconcile that with the teachings of the prophets? They have specifically spoken out against gay marriage. This is not equated with hate, but by commandment. I'm not trying to be ornery, I'd really like to know."

I responded.

"I can only speak for myself. I listened to the statement read in Sacrament Meeting a few years ago encouraging members to vote against same-sex marriage. I voted against it, even though I didn't agree. I figured I would follow and the testimony would come. It didn't. I felt such guilt and shame for voting that way.

I have had many personal experiences with family members who are homosexuals. I put myself in their place in my thoughts, thinking of what I would do personally and what I would want my children to do if any were homosexual - basically, I tried to think about walking a mile in their shoes.

What I discovered was that it would be such a deeply challenging situation to be in. If you loved the church and wanted to stay in good standing, the option would be to remain alone throughout life. You could never fall in love. You could never date. You could never have that intimate relationship with a spouse, knowing that they have your back.

For me thinking about it for my children, my heart was sad. I couldn't imagine having them live alone throughout this life.

Some say that it is the same as if a heterosexual stayed single, but I disagree. They have the option to marry - at least most do. They have the option to date, to fall in love...

If it was my child, they would really have to do what they feel right about. I couldn't encourage them one way or another, because both would come with pain and suffering.

That is how I reconcile it as far as the church "stuff" is concerned.

I really think/feel that as more is discovered about homosexuality, it will be proven that people really are born that way. So many stories I've heard are about people who try so desperately to change their sexuality. They pray, they search the scriptures, they fast, they ask God to take it away from them.... It doesn't go away. One young man said that as he prayed and embarrassingly admitted to the Lord that he was gay was overwhelmed with the Spirit and felt a very distinct, "I know". It was peace that he felt when he realized that God already knew.

So many gay members of the church love the church, love the Gospel, love the Lord and want that to be part of their life. Then they feel pushed away by church members. They can't reconcile their gayness and the gospel. That breaks my heart.

But we aren't talking about gays in the church, we are talking about a law to allow gays to marry. We aren't talking about the morality but the legality. In this particular area, I feel that there has got to be a separation between church and state."

It was freeing. It was letting go of the shame of going against my feelings in the first place, and interestingly enough, it felt very much like bearing my testimony. I felt peace about it like I never had before.

It made me thankful she asked.

Stephanie said...

@ Rick,

Great comment, unfortunately, untrue.

Marriage has not always been between one man and one woman, as evidenced in the Bible. (Sometimes it was one Man, and many women, or his slave, or his concubine...)

And, in Utah, those rights are at risk:

http://www.abc4.com/content/news/top_stories/story/Death-of-anti-discrimination-bill-sparks-protest/ryVnnz6tjEq1Lr2ysF-XWg.cspx


Gretta Whalen said...

Like

Jennie said...

I was a seventeen year old senior in high school living in Sacramento when Prop 8 took place. I had to think hard about where I stood with gay marriage and where I stood with the church.

It was so hard for me, coming from a TBM family that donated $1,000 to the Yes on 8 campaign, to not be able to reconcile where my religion stood and where I stood on this issue, because they could not have been further apart. I was not old enough to vote at the time, but had I been, I would have voted yes on 8, because I decided that God understands more than myself, and it was obvious that He wanted yes on 8 to pass.

Now as a 21 year old, that reasoning makes me a little sad. It is apparent that I listened to my parents when they said, "The church is perfect. The people are not." I just assumed that Yes on 8 was the right thing because the church told me it was. I think a more accurate statement would be "The church is not perfect and the people are not perfect. The Gospel is perfect. Our understanding of it is not."

Yesterday, my friend liked a status about the Proclamation. I read some of the comments. One particular person said "There will be an inner cleansing in the last days. In the church, it has already begun." What ugly words. What ugly, immoral, savage, damaging words. That CANNOT be the Gospel of Christ.

I am comforted by the Primary hymn, I'm Trying to be Like Jesus. That simple song sums up the very best of the gospel. It describes childlike and Christlike love. It is beautiful and sacred to me.

I desire to love and accept and cherish these wonderful people, therefore supporting and fighting for marriage equality alongside them because I am am trying to "worship Almighty God according to the dictates of my own conscience", as the eleventh article of faith reads.

Suze said...

This is wonderful. I converted and never was comfortable calling myself a Mormon. We always said I was a Mormon But. Then a member told me that God would not consider me a good Mormon (or a good Christian at all, for that matter) because I used the word "shit" in a casual conversation with her.

And on that note.... I'm out. It wasn't just that experience, but the hypocrisy of the messages I heard and the actions I saw. I think you should be proud of yourself. I've read your blog for a long, long time and I rarely if ever comment, but I had to say thank you for your courage and I'm sorry for your loss.

kate said...
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kate said...
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Mark Jones said...

Thank you, Stephanie. I have been through some of these "Christian" lessons myself. I can love Jesus in my heart and not be a "good Christian" in the church. When we're with "Good Christians" we may be better off to keep our comments to ourselves to avoid a fight...