Monday, September 30, 2013

And in the End, You Begin Again

(I’ve had this saved in my computer for over a month. The time has come, though, to finally publish it).

A little over a year ago, a scared young man experienced the straw that broke the camel’s back. Feeling lost, alone, and struggling to find what he was looking for in romantic partners and his newly acquired queer community, he hopelessly began his quest for resolution with a Google search: “gay mormon.” This simple phrase returned a plethora of results, including the blog for a figure prominent within the gay Mormon movement. After exchanging a few emails, the young man became connected to numerous Facebook groups and individuals all gathered for the same purpose: to support each other under the common alias of “gay and Mormon.”

One year later, I’m wondering where the support went.

Initially, that curiosity wasn’t present. I took part in some wonderful discussions and critical dialogue. I witnessed some incredible stories and saw individuals triumph and achieve huge successes. I even attended a conference to explore these ideas and discussions even further, and connected with an amazing group of people that I still keep in touch with to this day.

But the winds have swiftly changed. No longer is my voice given merit in these spaces. In fact, it’s often silenced by allies claiming to know what’s best for me. Often times, this is done by speaking over those of us who do identify this way and attempt to speak out. My desire to address issues on a systemic, Church policy level has been ignored by individuals seeking to assimilate into those Mormons who have oppressed them and others like them. Instead of recognizing our differences and variation in experiences as LGBTQ Mormons, we are now prescribed the way to enact both aspects of our shared identity. The stories of individuals in mixed orientation marriages are deployed by many in the Church as the way to be LGBTQ and Mormon. Sadly, this is not the only prescription LGBTQ Mormons are given. Many other similarly harmful prescriptions are in circulation, ones issued even by allies and our own movements.

And the more I speak out, the more I struggle finding resonance.

When the straw broke the camel’s back this time, I asked myself to reflect upon why I’m involved in these spaces and movements, and if that’s being fulfilled. I was searching for people like me that I could relate to. And on the surface, I found that. Beneath it, I only found out how different I am.

But while my pursuit requires me to step back these spaces, I will still very much be there. My background in feminist studies and activist work within the queer community only enriches my understanding of societal issues at play within Mormon spaces. I, along with other Mormon feminists, as well as other religious feminists and non-religious ones, will be there to address these issues and work at dismantling them in an institution which thrives on their presence. 

I’ve had a wonderful time writing for “Breaking the Silence;” I’ve grown so much since I first started writing. I’ve learned that to critique something does not mean to get rid of it or disavow of it completely, but to take a critical and honest look at something. In the words of Debbie Ford: “If we deny our ugliness, we lessen our beauty.” And I’ve learned that I make the rules for myself, that I should never feel like I must abide by stereotypes and rules set forth for me, even in queer spaces. This blog was one of the first I ran into in my quest for gay Mormons, and I look forward to returning to my spectator role and keeping up with the brilliant posts these authors continue to come up with. Because I feel like I have shifted from a gay Mormon to a queer…secular.  But for now, perhaps another young individual could utilize this space to grow and develop some. I know I did. And my silence has been broken. More accurately put, it can’t be contained.

“Did you find what you were looking for?”
 “No... no. But I found something I thought I'd lost: Faith to keep looking.”
                                                                        - The X Files “The End Game”

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