LAURA: For three and a half years, queer Mormons in same-sex relationships have been classed as apostates “for purpose of church discipline” and their children excluded from full activity in the church. Yesterday, that policy was reversed during the General Conference Leadership Session.
As a queer woman, I’ve watched the reactions from across the spectrum of Mormondom and I’ve very slowly and carefully made space for my own feelings. What I’ve seen is that most straight Mormons, whether they’re more nuanced and on the fringes or they’re more traditionally believing, are happy. They are celebrating even. Meanwhile most queer Mormons are hesitant, hurting again, fearful of what comes next, and mourning the minimization of three and a half years of brutal pain.
Personally, I’m angry. Furious. The longer I sit with this change, the angrier I am becoming. I was less angry when the policy was leaked than I am today.
Maybe it’s because in the intervening years I have become more connected to the queer community and have embraced my sexual orientation more. Maybe it’s because my relationship with the church and with members of my extended family has been forever altered and no policy reversal can change that. Maybe it’s because I saw so many Mormons justify the policy. They made peace with it, leaving me wondering what gave them that right when they weren’t the ones who had to live with the cost of it. Maybe it’s because even though the policy’s been rolled back, queer Mormons will continue to be marginalized and excommunicated. The church was very clear about that. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent three and a half years living with the pain of it. Maybe it’s because I can count the costs and despite the damage, today’s announcement carried no apology and not even an acknowledgement of pain and harm done.
Most likely it’s some combination of all of these things.
As I sit with this anger, I’m trying to listen to what it might tell me about my boundaries, my pain, and the value and cost of my relationship with an organization that continues, even with this reversal, to minimize my worth. Several of my friends have resigned their memberships today. More than a few have expressed concern that if we (queer Mormons) are anything other than thrilled about this policy, we will be condemned and criticized for it. We will be labeled apostates not by policy but by culture.
I wonder how our faith community drifted so far from the principles of the baptismal charge – to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, to bear one another’s burdens. I wonder how in our zeal for obedience we have lost sight of our compassion and in our commitment to follow the prophet we’ve forgotten that following Jesus means loving one another.
Lest anyone suggests that it’s not loving to queer Mormons to “allow us to sin,” I’d remind you that we’ve yet to have any actual revelation on topics like same sex marriage and transgender-related medical care.
I don’t know a single queer Mormon who felt loved by the church policy any time in the last 3.5 years. Nor do I know any queer Mormons who feel loved in the handling of this reversal. The church leadership has failed in that most basic commandment. As they will sometimes because the church is lead by humans, mostly straight, white men whose bias sometimes prevents them from hearing God. Until the church as a whole can acknowledge that, though, we’re apt to perpetuate pain and giving God the credit (I think that could safely be considered taking God’s name in vain).
However, acknowledging that is going to require a culture shift and that takes time. Since I know that, I tend to want to be compassionate about the mistakes that are made.
On this, though, my anger won’t let me do that easily. First, it asks me to consider all the things this policy reversal is not: it is not acceptance of same-sex couples or queer non-monogamy. It is not acceptance of trans individuals. It is not a promise that queer Mormons won’t be disciplined and even excommunicated. It is not a welcome embrace of LGBTQIA youth or adults into our church. It is not inclusion.
Then my anger asks me to count the costs: the pain of thousands of queer Mormons, the damage to thousands of children of queer Mormons (many of whom are likely straight), the familial relationships permanently damaged or destroyed, the friendships ended, missionary opportunities missed, the loss of diversity in our wards and stakes, and finally, most soberingly, the actual death toll which we may never know for certain.
Only once I acknowledge my privilege to even be alive to feel these feelings will my anger let me consider if extending compassion to church leaders on the handling of this. When I do, I wonder if choosing to do so is actually compassionate or if it is simply enabling abuse.
During General Conference this weekend, I will be watching for signs that it is the former. I’m expecting an apology. I’m also expecting disappointment and with that disappointment, more anger that reminds me to keep my boundaries strong and make space for my grief. And I will likely spend this weekend doing the same thing I did 3.5 years ago: connecting with my queer community and making sure they’re ok. I wish our church leaders would do that. I pray straight Mormons will do that.
My prayers will be prayers of action as hopefully yours will be too.
If you are struggling and you need to talk to someone, please reach out.
Crisis text line: 741741
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255
Trevor Project: 866-488-7386
Trans Lifeline: 877-565-8860
LGBT National Hotline: 888-843-4564
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