READER POST: I stand at the bathroom counter brushing my teeth. Three of my four children are in bed and the oldest, a 15-year-old girl, is on her way home. Our house is locked, the windows drawn. I feel at peace, knowing that this day, I have successfully checked off all the religious to-dos; prayers have been said, scriptures read. My temple recommend is valid, my faith strong. While we are not perfect as a family, I feel God is cognizant of our efforts and pleased with our work.
I hear the front door unlock, footsteps on the stairs, and the bathroom door opens. My eldest daughter, the one we prayed to have, the one we were blessed with after a miscarriage and years of trying, stands, not looking at me, defiant and, I see now, scared.
“I’m bisexual and I don’t want to talk about it.”
My toothbrush stops moving. My child runs to her room. I hear the door close. I don’t drop to my knees. I don’t burst into tears or rail against God or wonder what I did wrong in my parenting to make her this way (all of that will come later, over agonizing years).
I don’t blame her for not wanting to talk about it. She’s been to every standards night, every chastity talk. She sat in class while teachers praised marriage between a man and a woman and she knows that I’m a full-self Mormon—I work with an eye single to God’s glory.
I rinse my mouth, wipe out the sink and search for my husband. We talk. Did we see this coming? Were there signs? Is this a phase, like the year she spent playing Pompeii with the neighbor kids? And, most telling about my lack of education: will she outgrow it? Does she just need to find a nice LDS boy who will appreciate her precocious and feisty nature?
Fast forward four years, and a Policy announcement, and thousands of tears later, and I can say with certainty that no, she will not outgrow it. It is not a phase, and all the nice LDS boys in the world will not make her less attracted to girls. Her understanding of her own sexual identity continues to change and we’re both beginning to suspect that being with a boy, for her, is the shadow of love, not the brightest expression of it. If she seeks to find oneness with her spouse, that fulfillment may not be possible in a heterosexual relationship.
She will also never graduate from Seminary because the test questions asked her to explain why homosexuality is a sin and so she quit going in order to protect her emotional health. She’ll never go on a mission because how can she preach about a God of love when she feels no love in His church? She will not attend meetings, where she has felt less-than, been told that her sexuality is disgusting, that God ranks sins and He puts hers at the top, right next to murder.
My beautiful daughter, who doesn’t kill spiders because everything deserves a life, is told that if she wants Life Eternal, she has to voluntarily endure this life without the companionship that she’s been taught are most central to our existence—that of spouse and children.
She believes in something, but she no longer believes in the god of the LDS faith. The lessons about the Proclamation outshouted those about love and sent her scurrying to find safety outside of orthodoxy. She’s been convinced by well-meaning but wrong leaders that if she can’t get in line with this one item in the Handbook, she isn’t welcome to participate in any of the others. A spouse and children are beyond her reach if she wants to take the Sacrament on Sunday.
So, she has to choose: a personal God who loves her fully, or the hollow appearance of godliness? A family in this life, or a life without this church? She did not ask for this dichotomy. It was forced on her, and at 15, when she innocently believed Priesthood leaders would have her back if she would just be honest with them, she was told she had to choose.
I am currently living tenuously within a religious structure that says we are all gods in embryo but rejects the nature God gave my child. And I feel that separation deeply. I feel violently hewn from the god of my youth because I no longer believe the Sunday School answers: pray, read your scriptures, go to church. We say that God loves you because you are His child but the message sent by the organization is different. The institution of our religion says that He loves you sometimes. He will make you perfect unless.
But I reject the qualifiers. God loves you. God loves you. God loves you. Full stop.
When people stand in Sacrament meeting and talk about how God has blessed them with children who were married in the temple, I repeat to myself that God’s blessings for my child are different but equally powerful. When a child is praised for going on a mission, I remind myself that my daughter is on a mission, no less divine, because she lives every day as an ambassador for love first and leaves the rest to Him.
I have learned to say to every child, and especially my own, “Yes, your nature is Divine, exactly as it is, because God made you and He is perfect. You are beautiful and you are beloved and you are enough because God looked at all that He made and said ‘it is good.’ You, my precious child, are exactly as He meant you to be and He will make this pain and this anger and this heartache right some day. And we will all, together, sit at His feet in joy.”
Bio: Bryn spends her time teaching, hiking, advocating and self-medicating with chocolate. Her four children and one husband remind her daily that she doesn’t have all the answers (the teenagers would argue she doesn’t have any). She has an ongoing mental list of all the things she’ll do when she gets a chance to create her own worlds. Spoiler alert: mosquitoes will not be a thing.
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