Friday, June 22, 2012

In the News

So, here is an update on my week. Of course there was my  guest post on Feminist Mormon Housewives last Saturday, which only generated very kind responses, but not a lot of responses. Has everyone been busy, or are the readers losing interest in the series? Or maybe the readers are learning from the ongoing, weekly stories and have fewer questions to ask and fewer dead horses to beat.

Monday morning, as the kids and I were getting ready to go paint some ceramics, I received a phone call from Peggy Fletcher Stack of the Salt Lake Tribune. She asked me to tell her my story, and specifically about starting the straight spouses Facebook group a little over a year ago, and also the recent website and effort to reach out to more spouses that might need support.

I shared as much as I could and the tears flowed. I don't often cry over everything anymore, but as I recalled the difficult times, especially with church leaders and with my last pregnancy, I became very emotional. Hmmm. It occurs to me now that the most emotional parts of my story are the ones that she included in her article.

Anyway, off the kids and I went for an afternoon of fun. So excited to get my ceramic small-appetizer-plate back--it is going to be EPIC. I promise to post photos. Scott entertained two of the uninterested children at his place, so the rest of us enjoyed letting our creativity flow, not worrying too much about the clock and time that passed.

That evening, it occurred to me that if the article ran the next day in the paper as Peggy said she hoped it would, that people would be directed to our new straight spouse blog/website. I quickly contacted a couple of the ladies that have really encouraged the outreach that we've done lately, and asked them to look over the website and help me figure out any quick edits that would make it better for the moment. Just as I was texting back and forth with one of them, Peggy called and said the article was online. She wanted me to look at it and correct any blatant errors if needed.


The article is online.

It would be in the morning paper.

Weird emotions of fear, anxiety, excitement, and so on fell over me as I went online, found the article and began to read.

It was good. It presented different issues of mixed orientation marriages, from Josh and Lolly Weed and Ty and Danielle Mansfield to myself and my uber spiritual friend Jessica. Titled  "Group offers Help to Mormons whose Spouses are Gay" , the article starts and ends with promoting our Facebook group. It also, of course, speaks to the hype surrounding the Weed blog post earlier this month, which I blogged about  last week.

A couple of comments from me: At the end of the article, it says I am now divorced. This is a slight error since Scott and I have not yet done that last technical step. And I'm pretty sure I mentioned that to Peggy. But she also understood that divorce is inevitable, and we are divorced emotionally and physically, and mostly financially, down to our separate accounts and Scott's self-imposed generous child-support payments. It's just not legally divorce yet. We don't have the paper with the signature that says it's so--kind of like gay couples in Utah that have committed their lives to each other and consider themselves married, which they aren't really, unless they've taken the time to go to some other state to get that little piece of paper that says they are. Yes, Scott has dated other men for over two years now with my permission and blessing. I personally do not yet feel ready to start dating again yet, but I also don't want to date until we are divorced, so I think I'm ready to start working on those papers this summer so that when I'm ready to check out the other fish in the sea, I will also be legally and morally ready to do so. It is my own personal decision, and I really have no problem with those in my situation that have begun dating before their divorces have been final.

That was more than I planned to share. Oh well. :)

Moving on--my main concern with the article was this paragraph, and I sort of mentioned my discomfort with it on the phone that night, but it was obvious that Peggy felt it somewhat central to the piece and did not want to try to edit it:
Nicholson’s husband of 13 years, whom she had loved since they were madrigal partners in high school, told her he was gay. Latter-day Saints in her West Valley City ward kept saying gay-rights advocacy was Satan’s work, she says. Though the couple remained together at first and honored their marriage vows, several local Mormon leaders were not only unsympathetic, they also were openly hostile to the news.

So, being all about clarifications and honesty, here goes: there was one lady in my ward during one lesson (before Scott was out to anyone but me really ) that said something to the effect that the whole thing with gays wanting to get married was the work of Satan. No one else said that, nor did this lady keep saying it. But I guess the fact that the bishop asked me to repent of sending letters to these woman about my changed view of gay rights might also infer that he feels the same way about gay rights activism being Satan's work. And the fact that temple recommend worthiness was questioned because of our public views on gay rights and our associations with other gay Mormons also indicates that same mentality, I suppose. So I understand Peggy's interpretation. However, I have such good friends in my ward that have been nothing but supportive, and I didn't want any of them to read the article and feel like I was speaking against all of them in general.

The fact is, over the past four years, I have had several traumatic events at church relating to this new phase of my life and my views on LGBT rights, and even though the trauma has come from very few people, and I even believe that those people had only the best of intentions to help me and our family, Peggy heard the pain in my words and my emotions as I spoke of the experiences. And this paragraph of her article speaks to that pain that she shared with me for a few moments as I unloaded it on her. I just hope that those who have reached out to me, or even those in my ward that have quietly prayed for me, will know that I love them and recognize their efforts to just love and accept our family regardless of what we believe and how often we go (or don't go, rather) to church.

The tribune article received a lot of comments, both positive and negative. One thing that came up as a discussion in the comments was the thought that the men in mixed orientation marriages must be bisexual. To this idea, Scott wrote a response that some of us told him he should send in as a letter to the editor.

The other thing that I want to address with people is that to the world, the words "gay" and "homosexual" and even "same-sex attraction" all mean about the same thing these days. But to some old-school religious people, using the word "gay" automatically means living the gay lifestyle, or sin. To me, I don't differentiate. I never have. Scott blogged about this once long ago. (I will have to look up the link later). When he thought the words to himself "I am gay", he had one of the most spiritual and self-affirming experiences of his life, and yet he not done anything that would pertain to "the lifestyle". I don't look at my gay friends and say "he's gay because he sleeps around" or "He's gay because he has a boyfriend" or "he struggles with same-sex attraction but has been faithful to his wife" or "he is homosexual but is celibate." Why use different words to indicate if someone is a sinner or not? Why, in the words of Elder Uchtdorf and someone's bumper sticker, judge someone because they sin differently than we do? It's silly. It is so "The Scarlet Letter" era of thinking, in my opinion.

So get with the times. Use whatever terminology you personally want to use, but don't get all self-righteous with me because of what you consider my (or others) inappropriate use of the word "gay."

Next, (I'm almost done), some other noteworthy links and responses to these same topics.

I would love for people to comment and post links to other blogs or articles that they have recently read on these topics. Thanks!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Mormons Building Bridges

A short time before the Salt Lake Gay Pride celebration, I was added to a Facebook group titled "Mormons Building Bridges". Within this group the plans for marching in the parade were organized and finalized. But now that the parade is over, the conversations continue, and people are posting about their wonderful experiences from pride, but also about other experiences and interactions within their LDS church buildings and/or with their friends and ward members.

This week, one man named Nic posted this beautiful experience that must be shared:

"Today at church in a Father's Day talk, a member went off about how society is going down on the backs of the iniquity of homosexuals everywhere, gays are no better than animals and gay marriage will destroy families and gay parents destroy children, how evil homosexuality is and how ashamed they should be for corrupting things God intended otherwise.

Given my internal compass I am not offended by this but I looked around at everyone and wondered who else could be gay and hearing this. I tried to be cured and was in a hetero marriage that ended in divorce but I am a Dad as well. After sacrament I took this brother--he is a good man btw--in the hall and talked with him. I just told him I was gay and started testifying of the deep struggles I had for years trying to be cured. How much I love my kids and try to be the best Dad to them. How I did not choose this and I have an undeniable testimony of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ including a strong relationship with them. And an even deeper testimony that they have always known I was gay, have never treated me differently and loved me even though I am gay.

His face turned more and more pale white as I talked. I looked up at him to notice at the end tears streaming down his face. This is a brother I have befriended, helped through struggles, helped with his house and moving, helped him anytime he needed it and always smiled and asked how he was doing. He said, "I just can't stop crying I feel the spirit so strong right now. I am so, so sorry. I, I, I didn't know I mean you have kids, I mean I need to repent so bad. You're gay? That entirely changes everything I have ever felt or been taught about gay people." He hugged me and kept crying. And apologized several more times. I told him even more than me I worried about others who heard it and their thoughts and feelings. He said "I will go to the Bishop and ask him how I can correct this, so I can share what I have learned and my apology." So he did.

Contention comes from one place, not God. We too easily politicize everything but souls are not political pawns to be played with. They are beautiful, intrinsically worth it children of God! Miracles happen as we reach out in love and understanding ONE soul at a time! I know this works as we have the courage to be ourselves and testify of true principles!"

In the group, we asked Nic if the branch president had addressed the issue at all. Nic shared the following details:

"The branch president stood up and interrupted the talk to end the meeting. His son had come up and grabbed his hand (a toddler). I got up and approached the brother asking him if I could have a word with him in the hallway.

The branch president asked everyone if they could stay in the chapel. I don't know what he said exactly but my piano teacher in the ward said he bore his testimony about growing up an anti-gay bully and bigot. He told them how he counseled a person who had struggled so much and been through so much as a gay person. He prayed and fasted for them. He was filled with the love Heavenly Father and the Savior had for this gay child of God. He told them how he had a complete change of heart, shed tears over how much he loved this person and they are still best friends to this day.

That's the short version but apparently there was not a dry eye in the place. He didn't name me but that gay person is me. He has had a complete and miraculous change of heart. He is so loving. I love him dearly. He has taken heat from those who know I am gay who have called him a "faggot sympathizer." He is truly one of my best friends. He has given a 5th Sunday lesson on loving and embracing gay members of the church that I wrote for him called, "The Worth of a Soul."

Unfortunately, the brother giving the talk was gone. But all things in their time and this turned out to be a great lesson for everyone involved. When Elder Holland visited my mission in North Carolina he told me something when I spoke to him I will never ever forget. He said, "Most people do not experience miracles because they do not live out where miracles happen." I determined I would be a person who lives "out where miracles happen." Anyone else can choose to do the same. Nothing special about me!
I always operate on love. I can't hate people; I love them too much! I see them as Heavenly Father and the Savior see them and feel their love for them too strongly. I have even been beaten and harmed for being gay. I don't feel sorry for myself. I just feel sorrow for those who did it and how much they must struggle inside to be able to do that to someone. I forgive and hope Heavenly Father and the Savior love them, heal them and give them peace."

Someday I hope to be as calmly vocal and as forgiving as Nic is, so that I can feel comfortable going back to church regularly and build bridges like he has. I told him that I would love to chat with him sometime about how to begin forgiving leaders and family members. In response, he shared a link to this talk by President Faust, which I plan to read soon.

God bless our leaders and other members to open their hearts and truly feel the spirit of love in the message that many of us have to share. Bless us to calmly stand on the side of love and avoid contention and be non-judgmental and forgiving as we do!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Recent Hype over Mixed Orientation Marriage

Over the last two months there has been an influx of discussion on the topic of mixed orientation marriages, primarily within Mormonism. In fact, the discussion has been so big that it's very possible that little if any of what I post here will be new to my readers. I think the conversation is far from over, which makes me tired just thinking about it. But I feel like it is finally time for me to compile some of my favorite quotes from the discussion along with a bit of my own feelings.

It all seemed to start with the cover and associated article of the May/June 2012 issue of LDS Living magazine, which is published by LDS church owned Deseret Book. The cover photo is a happy close-up shot of gay LDS author of In Quiet Desperation and Voices of Hope Ty Mansfield along with his wife Danielle and their young son. A large title adorns the page: "Our Story: Living with Same-Sex Attraction."

My first impression of the cover without reading the story was rage. How dare Deseret Book set up and encourage families like mine that will easily end in disaster for everyone involved, including children?

On May 3, I posted a link to the cover of the magazine on Facebook with this comment:

I'm really concerned about the cover of LDS Living Magazine. I haven't read the article yet, but even just the cover might give people the wrong idea about mixed orientation marriages (MOM). So here is my disclaimer--while being married to a gay spouse may work for some, please don't expect that everyone can make it work. In fact, in my experience with the many many Mormon MOM couples I have met, most can't. So please don't use this as ammunition against anyone in my situation, and don't judge them for making the decision that is best for them.
An active discussion ensued on my post, and became somewhat lively. I appreciated learning from the contrasting views, and I really did appreciate all sides. Following are some of my favorite comments.

First, a furious gut reaction from another straight ex-wife friend of mine that remembered Ty possibly having spoken on a panel at BYU that she attended.
"Well, if he's the same guy who spoke at BYU, I worry about it too. The other speakers said they couldn't imagine themselves in a MOM. He seemed to embrace it and say it was working great. Even made a joke about how he and his wife both think Ryan Reynolds is hot. It made my blood run cold! Not funny and not a healthy marriage!!! They are so young and foolish and perpetuating a course of action that is doomed to failure. We all know it's a bad idea! I hate that they are being set up as a model solution for an unsolvable problem. I see only destruction in their future and it makes me sick to think of other young couples who will think they can make it because of articles/ examples like this. :("
My lesbian blog friend is amazing. So much faith and tolerance and love for everyone. She shared her view.

"They say that it won't work for all. They are merely sharing their story, much like we'd like to share ours. They freely and readily admit that what they have is a rarity and they do not recommend it for all. The fact that they share their story is being questioned here as if it was some bad move against all gay people, which simply is not the case. They have an experience, they find joy and happiness in it, they have the right to share that. And I applaud them for it.
Sure, many will indeed use this story as a means of htting the rest of us over the head with comments like, "If they can do it, so can you." Or "Why can't you be that righteous?" Etc. You can all think of the comments we've all heard before. But those will come, and we get to determine how we'll respond to them. Are we seriously pissed off because Ty and Danielle are "causing" more negative comments directed toward those of us who don't/can't choose that path? Seriously ... we're all smarter than that. They're sharing their story, and what people come up with after reading it is really the readers' thing, not Ty's or Danielle's.

It feels like you'd all rather silence them rather than allow them the same equality and publicity that you'd like same-sex couples to have. They have an experience to tell about and they have every right to tell it. It doesn't match my experience, it doesn't match the experience of many MoMs I know, but it does match the experience of some I do know. Because it's rare, it shouldn't be told? Maybe that's exactly why it should be ....

You don't have to agree with someone's choice for it to be a worthwhile story."
And then of course Scott has such a way with words and saying exactly what needs to be said.

"I haven't read the article, but on another thread Ty said that he and Danielle tried to make it clear that their path isn't for everyone (and they wrote the article themselves, it wasn't written about them by someone else). Assuming that's true, it would be inaccurate to say that the article espouses MOMs as the only way to go. 
BUT, the fact is that this pseudo-official church magazine IS highlighting a "successful" MOM without (from all I've heard—again, I haven't actually read the article) providing a counter-example. 
I'm realistic. I don't expect an LDS-positive magazine to trumpet the dismal statistics of MOMs. But I do think that it's irresponsible of them to run a story like this.
I'm less concerned about people judging ME for MY choices (though I don't doubt that some of my family might use this article as support for their judgment). I've actually gotten really good at not caring about that sort of thing.
What I AM concerned about is the young Mormon man who is "struggling with same-gender attraction". He hears in church every week how important marriage is. How it's the only way to be happy. How central it is to the plan of salvation. He believes those things, and he wants desperately to be married. Perhaps he even believes that marriage will "cure" him, and it's even possible that he's been told by his priesthood leaders that this is the case (yes, I've heard of people being told this even though the church itself explicitly discourages marriage as a "cure").
If this young man doesn't know of any successful MOMs, he might second-guess his desire to be married, and he would be wise to do so.
But if he sees in a semi-official church magazine that the Mansfields have DONE IT! his hope is kindled, and he makes marriage his goal.
I know this is what will happen, because when my blog was active and Sarah and I were together and trying to find a way to make things work, WE were the ones who were seen as having cracked the cipher and made a MOM work. I had at least a dozen young men email me, hoping to learn the secret so that they, too, could find a woman and marry her and have a family and make it to the celestial kingdom.
I always tried to dissuade them from their dream of marriage. But had I allowed myself to be seen as an example, I believe I could rightly be blamed (to an extent, at least) if these young men married and, a dozen years and four kids later, decided that they couldn't take it any more.
I think that LDS Living can similarly be held accountable to some extent for tomorrow's failed MOMs.
Can a MOM succeed? I believe it can, if the right people are willing to sacrifice enough (every single day for the rest of their lives) to make it happen.
Is a MOM *likely* to succeed, even with the best of intentions? No. The burden of the aforementioned sacrifice is impossible to estimate, especially for a young man so desperate to do the "right" thing, and no matter how fervently he believes he's up to the challenge, statistics prove that most ultimately can't sustain the effort forever (or even "til death do us part").
That's why I believe it's irresponsible to hold any "successful" MOM up for public adulation.

I support my friends who have chosen to marry and to work to make that marriage successful. I would never counsel a MOM couple to divorce (at least on the basis of orientation). I'm happy to do all I can to honor and respect their decision and their relationship. I don't actually know Ty and Danielle personally, but I'm completely willing to believe that they are happy with the choices they've made, and I think that's beautiful—as long as they don't position themselves (or use the position they are already in, due to Ty's semi-celebrity status among gay Mormons) as an example that anyone could emulate.
And I will also vehemently discourage a single gay man from marrying a woman (or a single gay woman to marry a man), and I will continue to discourage them until they change their minds or until the "I do"s have been said. Because I know (from my own experience and from that of literally hundreds of formerly married gay men I know personally) that they are setting themselves up for, AT BEST, a life of challenge that far outweighs what a typical married couple faces."

From the mother of a gay son:
"When I was first "investigating" this topic and was told by my bishop that many gay LDS men were in traditional marriages successsfully I said, "If that's true, then why aren't they standing at the pulpit, trumpeting their success?". I guess here is my first couple doing just that. Had I seen this article at the time, I would have waved it in front of the face of my son and told him that he too, could "change". So, I fear this is what will happen to many young people in the weeks to come. Yes, I believe it's possible to have a successful MOM marriage, but not probable. The general public does not understand how the Kinsey scale would come into play here."

My view? I am concerned by their motives. I think it is definitely their right to share their story just as it is my right to share mine. I am unhappy with Deseret Book for putting it on the cover, unless they also plan to give equal time to a divorced couple too (maybe one where they are still both active in the church but decided it best for them not to stay together). And as expected, many of my single gay friends have been bombarded by family sharing the magazine as evidence and hope that they can fully live the gospel plan in a heterosexual relationship. I hope Ty and Danielle are not doing this for their own publicity or for the praise of church leaders, but rather just to give voice to an otherwise taboo subject among many LDS members.

The next phase of the discussion came from a popular blog called Feminist Mormon Housewives. On May 4 they started a weekly series called "A look inside your neighbor's window." Although I don't yet know everyone who has submitted their stories, several of them are close friends in my straight spouse group. I believe that my own story will be published there tomorrow. I'm excited to share my story, but I'm also nervous for the potential comments and discussion on the post.

The most momentous event in this MOM hype came with the publication from a blog called "The Weed". This post from Josh Weed and his wife Lolly titled "Club Unicorn: In which I come out of the closet on our ten year anniversary" went viral on the Internet within a few days.

When I finally found time to read the whole thing, I was actually pretty impressed. One of the first things I liked a lot was his use of the word "gay" and clarifying that for him, he used the word interchangeably with "homosexual" or "same-sex attraction." So many members of the church are stuck on thinking that the word gay means living the gay lifestyle, which to them also means sin. It is frustrating to have a conversation with a bishop or brother-in-law that refuses to use anything but "same sex attraction", as though the individual is suffering from a chronic disease.

The next thing that I remembered that I really liked was his personal story of the bullying he endured in junior high. I hated that he went through it, but I liked that he shared this with thousands of people who might not understand just how difficult it is to be an obviously gay kid in junior high and high school.

I also enjoyed hearing about how he was accepted and loved by his parents regardless of his sexuality and coming out to them.

And I really appreciated his thorough disclaimer of mentioning that living a heterosexual married life is not for most people in his situation.

These were my thoughts as I remember them (since I haven't re-read the post), but I mostly kept them to myself as I watched Facebook explode with posting, sharing and commenting about this blog post. Some of my Facebook friends that never post anything gay-related, nor comment on my gay-related posts were sharing this link and singing its praises. I began to hear stories of friends and family posting it on the Facebook walls or timelines of gay loved ones, as an example of how to be gay and continue to live the gospel plan. One of my straight spouse friends was angry because a friend posted it on her wall. She had this to say in our private Facebook group:

"I had a "friend" post it to my wall in my regular facebook! I keep asking myself why she would want to hurt me so much!!! I have told my ex that he is the one that should share with people when and if he wants. I will not out him unless he gives me permission. NOW all my regular facebook friends that saw the post to my wall knows the reason he and I divorced. He keeps saying, "It is what it is." I guess it is but that doesn't make it any easier when you are not ready to address everyone's questions!"

Another dear single gay friend posted this comment to his wall:

"I have a question, I am playing devil's advocate and I hope not to offend anyone, but I have been thinking about this post all day and so I had to respond after many of my straight Mormon friends have posted this article. I read the article and all I can think is good for them, but what makes a same sex couples story of commitment and love any less amazing. Just this weekend I met my friend Benny's boyfriend for the first time and heard the story of how they met. It was incredibly romantic and uplifting. I could see the love that they had for each other. It was so beautiful. 
But that is just one journey. There are those who decide to marry a woman and those who don't, but I think all choices are right for the individual. I just feel like this article and the comments on many postings (while it is working for them) makes it seem like this is the path that all should strive for, and I do not believe that this is the case. I am happy where I am and know I could never have married a woman. I am not married to a man either (yet) but I hope my Mormon friends and family would support that union of love and devotion as much as they have been towards this couple or any heterosexual couple."

I read the discussion and added my thoughts from doing so:

"Scott and I made it 14 years with what I considered to be a really good relationship, and one of those years past his "coming out." Scott and I really publicized our success that first year on our blogs. I really hoped it would last forever. But things change. Maybe they will change for Josh, maybe not."

Then a comment from the mother of a gay son that I quoted previously in this post:

"When [my son] first came out and I was talking to my bishop, he commented that there were many men in mixed orientation marriages and that it was possible for [my son]. I got very frustrated and asked him if that was true, why weren't those men up at the pulpit proclaiming their accomplishment? So, I guess this is one guy who is answering my prayer, but about 6 yrs too late! Thank goodness for that, as I might have missed being mom-in-law to [a] terrific [son-in-law]!"

Scott decided to write up his own response because he was so frustrated with these same issues with straight Mormon families and friends:

"This post has been going the rounds the last few days, and I’ve seen a wide gamut of reactions. Here’s mine:
I’m gay, and I was married to a woman for fifteen years. I was happy. I loved her. I STILL love her. But ultimately we (mostly I, but with her support) decided that it wasn’t enough for me to be with someone I loved—I wanted to be with someone I am actually IN LOVE with, on every level. That simply isn’t possible with a woman.
Since we separated I’ve been happier, more fulfilled, more complete, and more ME than I ever was with her. And she will acknowledge that since we separated she has gained a great deal of strength and independence that has been good for her.
She struggles with the separation more than I do, because she WAS (is?) in love with me, in a way that I could never return. We are both hopeful that one day she will heal enough to find someone who is IN LOVE with her (something I could never give her), because she is amazing and she deserves it.
There is a temptation among active Latter-day Saints to point to stories like this one and say “See? It’s possible” (with the implied—but hopefully unspoken—”…and if you can’t do this, you just aren’t trying hard enough, aren’t faithful enough, etc.”)
Please don’t.
For one thing, for every story like this there are ten stories like mine. And for every story like mine (in which my ex and I have been able to remain friends, remain supportive, continue to co-parent the kids, etc.) there are a hundred stories that ended in bitterness, venom, drawn out custody battles, and a great deal of misery.
The fact that this couple has managed to stay together happily for ten years means NOTHING to anyone else. They are individuals. They are unique. Even their RELATIONSHIP is unique, since they have known each other since they were toddlers and been best friends for decades. If they happen to have hit on the right combination of friendship and self-denial and faith and conviction and bisexuality and sacrifice, that’s *fabulous* for them. But nobody else is them, and nobody else should be expected to follow the exact pattern of their lives.
Mr. Weed even says this himself in the post. Of everything he writes this, I believe, is the MOST important bit:
“I want to make it very clear that while I have found a path that brings me profound joy and that is the right path for me, I don’t endorse this as the only path for somebody who is gay and religious. I will never, ever judge somebody else’s path as being “incorrect” and I know many people who have chosen different paths than myself.
… If you know and love somebody who is gay and LDS (or Christian), your job is to love and nothing more. Let go of your impulse to correct them or control them or propel them down the path you think is right for them. Do what you need to do to move past that impulse. Do not condemn the choices your loved one makes. Love. Only love. Show your love in word and deed. Embrace them, both literally and figuratively. I promise they need it—and they need to feel like they can figure out this part of themselves in a safe way without ridicule and judgment. It’s what Christ would do. It’s what your loved one needs. Accept them. Love them. Genuinely and totally.”
Even posting this article on a gay friend’s wall is a step beyond love into correction or coercion or control. Please don’t go any further than that.
You may have beliefs about homosexuality that you feel strongly about. That’s wonderful, and if you derive value from the belief system that you subscribe to then please continue to believe and have faith.
But nobody else is you, and despite how ABSOLUTELY right YOU feel your beliefs are, at the end of the day they are ONLY beliefs. They have been “proven” to you by a very personal, subjective, and intimate experience, and they are yours alone. Please allow others the privilege of their own personal, subjective, and intimate beliefs, so long as their beliefs do not attempt to infringe on yours."

In the midst of all of this, one of my straight spouse friends has another friend that started a blog just to respond to the viral response to "The Weed". She shared it with our private group right after it was posted and I immediately shared it on my Facebook wall. This was late one night this week, and by morning, gay friends were posting links to this new blog all over the place. I'm pretty sure it is not going to get the same attention that the other post did, but it is still getting a lot of hits and comments and keeping the conversation going among many.

She wrote the response that needed to be written, the response that was in my heart and that of my straight spouse friends. I related completely to her story, other than the fact that she knew her ex husband was gay before they married. She has come to about the same place I have as she and her ex are good friends and she is not really active in the church any more.

Some are taking her story (and those of us that are sharing it) as criticism of Josh Weed and his post. That is not my intent. I still really recognize the value of Josh's story and am glad he shared it. But the other side of the story must be told and listened to.

And that is why I interviewed with Kendall Wilcox last week for his "Far Between" documentary.

And that is why I am sharing my story on Feminist Mormon Housewives.

And that is why I am talking to Salt Lake Tribune reporter Peggy Fletcher Stack this coming week.

Our stories must be heard and some of us are going to keep telling them and telling them and telling them so that we can make a difference for one family or one gay child or one potential straight spouse. One at a time.

We can make a difference. And we will.

Monday, June 11, 2012


Is revelation a call to obedience, or a gift of God's love?

With the onset of summer break came the courage for me to attend some LDS church meetings yesterday. During the school year, a bad Sunday carries over to a miserable Monday--I call it an emotional hangover. But any resulting stress from Sunday is easier to handle on Monday if I don't have to face classrooms full of teenagers while still distraught.

I actually intended to attend my entire three hour block of church--something I haven't done for nearly a year. But then I found out that one of my dear straight spouse friends was teaching a lesson on revelation in her relief society meeting at the same time as my sacrament meeting, so I decided to go there instead.

My friend focused on personal revelation, and had mentioned that while preparing the lesson that she felt she should focus on God's love.

A few days earlier some of us on an online straight spouse support group were discussing the challenge of reconciling our personal revelation and views on homosexuality with church "doctrine". One incredibly wise and spiritual woman among us shared her beautiful thoughts:

I felt really caught in the middle for a long time: President Packer and others so sure their revelation was correct, my gay husband having such immense spiritual experiences when he FINALLY got the courage to ask God if he were even loved, and then if it is okay to be gay. Both men asking opposite questions and coming away positive they are correct. When I finally pleaded with my Heavenly Father, telling him I didn't know...I had absolutely no idea which idea was correct, I felt an outpouring of love. My answer was simply "I love you, it will be okay". And I knew that was true. I really think that maybe some pray, so convinced of what the answer will be before they even ask the question, that God simply says "I love you" and that amazing feeling is interpreted as a definitive answer that "I am right". This is my favorite quote from Elder Uctdorf, and I think it hits the nail on the head:

"Brothers and sisters, as good as our previous experience may be, if we stop asking questions, stop thinking, stop pondering, we can thwart the revelations of the Spirit. Remember, it was the questions young Joseph asked that opened the door for the restoration of all things. We can block the growth and knowledge our Heavenly Father intends for us. How often has the Holy Spirit tried to tell us something we needed to know but couldn’t get past the massive iron gate of what we thought we already knew?" DIETER F. UCHTDORF

I think that it is important that we move forward, based on the dictates of our conscience. As we move, as we continue to search and pray, we come to slowly understand more and more the mind of God. It is a journey. We may not have the complete answers in our lifetime, but if we act on what we truly feel is right and good, we will be okay. It is as I move forward that I become more convinced that I am doing what is best for me and my family. When I first start on any given path, I'm not sure. As I move forward, I either go....ummm....yea, this isn't feeling right. So I move in a different direction, until what I'm doing feels right. Then I move full speed ahead! I am sure my understanding of homosexuality will change over time and my ideas will become more fully developed and closer to the truth. And that is okay. It is part of life. Do I have very strong convictions and beliefs on homosexuality YES. Do they differ from those of respected church leaders? In some instances yes, in others, who knows? I do think that we are on the brink of further revelation. All the wonderful strides that are being made in the world to accept and love each other are setting the foundation. I hope to help others start to think and to question so that we may be ready as the changes come.

Back to my friend's lesson. Toward the beginning there were some comments made regarding leaders receiving revelation for us and our role to be obedient to them. I felt myself becoming obstinate and angry. This is my most common inner reaction any time I attend church meetings, and that is why I go so seldom. I frequently feel angry and tense. But as the lesson went on, my attitude softened, and by the end I was feeling a need for my own love and patience with church leaders and members.

For most of the lesson my friend was the facilitator, asking for a few quotes or scriptures to be read and then asking the reader what they thought. Personal experiences were shared and I gained some insight. She mentioned to me later that it had been a really hard lesson for her to prepare, so she really needed the comments from the class to teach the lesson. And they did.

One sister spoke of praying regarding doubts to marrying her fiancé, and she asked for a black and white answer. She felt God's love for her when she happened to see some texts on her fiance's phone in black and white, and she knew that was her answer to breaking the engagement. I couldn't help but remember my own doubts when I was engaged to Scott. I've blogged about this long ago, but I don't think it was a strong black-and-white prompting. Rather, I think of it more as God's sadness in knowing the difficult yet important journey of which I was about to embark.

Another sister spoke of the scripture from the Book of Mormon where Alma says "O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!" but then he realizes that God is in charge. People must be ready to hear the message, and God knows when that is. I've always thought of this scripture in terms of missionary work, but this time I personally took it with my own desire for gay rights activism, and a message from God to me to be patient. I felt the same message again at an LGBTQ church-approved fireside last night when the brother giving the closing prayer specifically asked that we might be blessed with patience for our leaders and family members. It must have been something I needed to hear.

Another comment was made regarding revelation and spirituality that made me think; someone said, "what we put into it is what we get out of it". I am really struggling with the direction the kids and I should go with regards to church attendance, but I have also become lax in the things that will help me be able to receive that revelation, like prayer and scripture study. I guess I need to decide how serious I am about getting an answer. Maybe I don't really want an answer right now. Maybe I just want to enjoy my break a bit longer, and so putting the effort in might mean getting an answer out that I am not yet ready to hear. I'm afraid of it regardless of whether it is to stay in the church or to leave it. Both solutions terrify me.

Needless to say, I left the first meeting uplifted and ready to attend another. I called the kids at home and said that whoever was willing to go to church with me should get ready because I would be home soon.

My daughter and toddler came with me (can you believe he is almost 2!?) and he attended the nursery for the first time ever. :)

As I approached the relief society room, men that were leaving Sunday school extended quick but heartfelt hello's and big smiles. One man asked, "Come back to visit, huh?" I thought he was teasing me, when he in fact was under the impression I had moved because he hadn't seen me for so long. When he found that out, his insistence that I not be inactive gave me that same stubborn, chip-on-my-shoulder feeling again that had dissipated so nicely during the previous hour. I thought about all the times that as a true-believing-Mormon I had done the same, probably over welcoming less active members when they did come, and I felt a little bit bad about it, but also a little bit more patient with the members for their good intentions. I wanted to just sit in the back and blend into the woodwork. A friend reminded me that I would have to come on a regular basis again for that to happen, LOL.

Sit in the back I did, with some very good friends with which I could banter and mutter under my breath to ease my anxiety. The teacher began handing out quotes to be read, and told us she was starting at the back because she usually always starts at the front. I looked at my quote and dread came over me. I seriously considered leaving. The quote was about the prophet receiving revelation and our requirement to sustain and obey and not be judgmental of him and his words. I asked the teacher if it was okay for me to read something I didn't believe, and she said she hoped I believed it, but I muttered something and gave her a look to indicate that I really wasn't sure that I did. Then my friend next to me showed me the quote she was to read, and I was grateful I had the one I did and not hers, which said: We have had misguided souls in the Church who have, in their ignorance, opposed the advice of the [President of the Church], not sensing the fact that they were opposing the Lord and they have fallen into darkness and sorrow, and unless they repent they will not find a place in the celestial kingdom. Ug. Then my friend opened her lesson manual and I was shocked to see the title and know that it was the same lesson I had attended that morning in my friend's ward.

I read my quote and listened to the other quotes be read and I distracted myself by texting my friend and searching for President Uchtdorf's quote on Facebook. The discussion went on in the background: our leaders receive revelation for us from God. We are required to follow them. We do not get to pick and choose what we believe. We can receive revelation for ourselves and our families/children, but not for our ward or for the church.

I was determined that when the topic changed from leaders to personal revelation, that I would raise my hand and share President Uchtdorf's quote. At least I hoped the lesson would go there, and finally it did. And I raised my hand, and I shared and a lovely discussion ensued. The relief society president leaned toward me from a nearby row and asked me to send the quote by Facebook message to her later.

One of the most memorable comments was from a sister regarding her daughter's rocky marriage. She said she prayed for the marriage to be saved and left intact; for the conflicts to go away. But she was always left with a "stupor of thought." Finally she figured out that it was none of her business, and worded her prayers differently. After the lesson I thanked her for her comment and shared my own similar experience, just a feeling I've had with regards to prayers for me.

At the peak of my struggle with attending church a few months ago, I was so conflicted. As you know, going to church made me miserable and panicky, but staying home I felt guilty. One time when my mother-in-law mentioned that they always pray for me and Scott and the kids, something occurred to me. I thanked her graciously but then asked she be sure she was praying for us to find peace and make the right decisions for our family, rather than praying for us to go back to our regular church attendance. She didn't comment, but staying home and finding peace in my journey seemed easier after that. Maybe it's just a coincidence, but I don't think so.

After church I didn't feel the usual burden and I didn't think I was going to have to deal with an "emotional hangover" today. Yay! I posted the following on facebook:

It was interesting to go to the same relief society lesson on revelation twice today, taught by two different people. It was really like two completely different lessons. One was in my ward and focused a lot on following our leaders and the revelation they receive. The other was taught by a straight spouse friend of mine and focused on personal revelation and feeling God's love. I learned from both of them--not necessarily the message of the lesson itself, but more from comments and personal experiences. I do not regret attending either of them. It was so good to see friends that I don't see otherwise in my own ward.

The day ended with a wonderful fireside and conversations with fabulous LGBTQ and Mormon ally friends. Not sure what I will do about church next week, but it was an amazing and peaceful step for me yesterday. I was able to endure what could have been a devastating lesson and instead keep confidence in my own beliefs and in my own personal revelation. I am grateful for the experience, and extremely grateful for good friends, or angels, that God has placed in my path.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


I survived the last week of school, pride weekend, and my daughter's sixteenth birthday today. In another month I will have survived being a single mother of five for an entire year!

Pride was amazing this year for several reasons. First, it was incredible to have other straight spouse friends walking beside me at both the festival and in the parade. Second, it was a day that will go down in history for the Salt Lake Gay Pride celebration as a huge group of LDS members dressed in their Sunday clothes, not to attend church as usual, but instead to walk together at the front of the pride parade, sending messages of love for all of God's children. It proved to be an amazing spiritual and emotional experience for those marching as well as those watching, and attracted all sorts of media attention.

For me, it was just happy. I enjoyed reading of the experiences on Facebook, both from the LDS group as well as from my straight spouse friends. I enjoyed being with my family, happy that Scott and I have found peace and friendship in our separation and relationship with each other as well as with the kids. I especially marveled at the gratitude I felt from some of the gay fathers as they saw me and my friends supporting each other and supporting our gay loved ones, even though many of us are or will soon be ex-spouses. We have started an important network of straight spouses that has much work to do as we reach out to others and encourage a positive journey of growth for us and our children. Last night as I spoke with fathers and spouses at a family BBQ that ended our pride celebration, I felt a confirmation that we are truly doing God's work with these organizations.

Just for fun, I decided to go back through my blog to posts that I wrote about my experiences with the Pride celebration over the past three years. I've also included photos from each year, and am amazed at how my children have grown. I am so proud of each of them and the choices they are making in their lives. I continue to be a little bit concerned about our journeys not including the church at this time, and I don't know where we are going with that decision, but there has definitely been peace for all of us in taking a break.

PRIDE 2009

CTL--Choose to Love

Scott came out in July 2008, so June 2009 was our first awareness of the Pride celebration and any desire to observe or participate in it. I wrote in this post of the guilt I felt from deciding to attend the parade as a family with Scott instead of going to church. But then as I chose a hymn to be sung in Relief Society in my absence, aligning it with the topic of "obedience", the words of hymn #237, "Do What is Right" spoke to my heart. I wrote:

My guilty feeling lifted as I felt the words of the song talking to me. Don't worry about the consequence of going in the morning when the day-dawn is breaking (and missing church); instead, fight for freedom, be faithful and fearless, and accept the fact that God is leading us, protecting us, and blessing us in our quest.
After sitting through heavy rain for an hour or more during the parade, and then wandering through endless booths, our feet hurt, we were wet and cold and hungry and tired, and yet our oldest son said, "This was the best Sunday ever!" Oh dear, what am I teaching my children? :) I hope they are learning to love.
PRIDE 2010

Bring it on

For this particular Pride event, I was eight+ months pregnant, and our oldest son had his appendix removed just a week or so before. In addition, the last few months had been emotionally taxing for me as it was evident that Scott was most likely unable to continue our marriage relationship. He had begun clubbing and dating and drinking, and so with all of these changes combined with a physically miserable pregnancy, I often found myself hopelessly wishing I could just be relieved from this mortal hell. Pride was apparently one of my better days:

The Pride festival today was hot, but fun, and it was exciting to see the students in the GSA club at my school, along with the club from a neighboring school (and my own children) march in the parade with Equality Utah. By the time we were done wandering the festival, however, my daughter and I were almost wishing it was rainy and cold like last year. :) Scott and I splurged on rainbow tie-dye shirts for the kids that match the ones he and I bought last year, so our family was just adorable everywhere we went today! (We even got a onesie for the upcoming kid to wear next year. :) Scott and I traded shirts, since I have gained a lot of size out front, and he has lost a bit this past year and is wearing a shirt size smaller. 
For the most part I am happy and well. I appreciate all of my friends. I appreciate that my eyes and heart have been opened to the gay part of the world. I appreciate my blog readers, the prayers, the emails, the realization that we have this amazing thing called the internet to find each other across the world and offer support to each other and know that we are not alone in what we face. To all of you readers out there that have/are/or will face what I am (or worse!), my heart is full and I wish you the best and pray for you. I wish for you to have the support of family and friends, to stay friends with your gay spouse, to feel the arms of your Heavenly Father around you, carrying you through, regardless of whether or not you stay active in the church. So bring it on. With God's help we can make the best out of what life gives us. Happy Pride day, happy Sabbath, and God bless! 
PRIDE 2011


Pride last year came at a time when I was apparently really struggling with church. I was attending, but not enjoying my attendance. I was going through the motions, trying to do what I was supposed to do, but not really feeling anything. A recent article had come out in the LDS magazine called the Ensign, and it seemed that it had been written with the gay marriage battle in mind just in time for the June gay pride celebrations around the country. I wrote this the Sunday following pride:

...but today I really struggled with being at church. I tried to seek the spirit in prayer, specifically during the Sacrament ordinance. But I felt nothing, and my mind wandered to the experience of our third pride celebration last Sunday as we walked in the parade with the Utah Gay Father's Association. The euphoria and chills I experienced as the crowds of people along the parade route cheered on the fathers (some with, some without their children) was much more powerful than the "nothing" I felt at church today, and I desperately wanted to feel something. Where is my testimony going?