Feelings about the new church policy

mary-poppinsOkay, so I’m writing my resignation letter soon, and I just need to get some thoughts out so I can organize them into a more coherent narrative when I get around to writing the actual letter. So this blogpost is a scratchpad for that letter. This is really Part 1, about some feelings; Part 2 will examine some reasons why I think this policy doesn’t make good logical sense. This is a living document and subject to editing. Here goes:

I thought I was done being hurt and angry about how the church affects me as a gay man.

That hurt and anger started early. When I was sixteen, I was attending the University of Utah. I remember one particular fall morning when I was sitting on the bench at the bus stop at the local grocery store, waiting for the bus to the university to come. I remember praying earnestly for God to tell me that I wasn’t gay. I remember the desperation, the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, the fear that I was really broken in this particular way that I had been told so many times was terrible. I remember the many lessons where I was taught that sexual sin was the most abominable above all other sins. I remember feeling vile, the lowest of the low. I don’t remember feeling like God answered that prayer.

I fought it for a while. I didn’t want to be gay. I didn’t want to be broken. I didn’t want to be vile. Who would? I talked to the bishop about it and went to some counseling through LDS Family Services. I remember thinking on my mission that I wasn’t gay anymore. When I got back, I eventually realized that wasn’t the case. I then thought I could go the Josh Weed route. It became clear that that wasn’t going to work either.

During graduate school, I went to therapy for about a year. It wasn’t just about the gay-and-Mormon thing (there was also some dissertation stress bound up in there), but that was a large part. I was very, very lucky to have as my counselor an excellent man named Martin Doucett, who was also gay and who was also raised religious and who also walked away. He helped me work through some of the most painful and frightening experiences in my life.

I chose to walk away from the church at around that time, because in the end, that was the less painful of the two options available to me. I haven’t been to church now in basically two years. And I felt much, much better after leaving. It’s hard to breathe through a mask; it’s hard to be constantly on edge, constantly guarded, constantly waiting for someone to say something unintentionally unfeeling; it’s hard to hate yourself every Sunday night. When I left, those things went away.

However, I don’t want to make it sound like it was all rainbows and sunshine for me after I left. I mourned, because I lost a community. I lost a connection to a tribe that I’d been part of my entire life. I lost part of my identity. It was like cutting part of my body off, and the fact that it needed to go, and the fact that was the one in control, the one wielding the knife, didn’t make it hurt any less. My relationships with my family, and especially my mother, became all fraught and complicated and emotional and angry.

Things eventually got better. It took time. Healing takes time. I met a very good man named Matt. That helped. We dated for a while and eventually broke up because of distance and situation. That hurt, but it was a refreshingly normal kind of hurt. I met another very good man named Eric. That helped more. We live together now in a house that we bought together. We wear each others’ rings; even though we’re not officially married yet, we’re planning on tying the knot soon. My family and I have reconciled. My mom likes Eric. I was at peace; even though I occasionally missed my friends and my community at church, I was happy; I thought I had moved on and exorcised my demons and gotten rid of the hurt and the anger.

But then this happened. Last Wednesday, news broke that the church had instituted a policy that the children of gay parents aren’t eligible for baptism until they are 18 and formally disavow their parents’ relationship; even then, they can’t be baptized without permission from the First Presidency. This policy is exclusionary and terrible and it has reopened old wounds. I’m hurt and angry all over again. And it’s the kind of hurt and angry that’s like eating really spicy food: at first you’re like, hmm, piquant, but then it escalates, and then you’re like, my goodness, this is in fact quite painful.

I don’t know what to do about this. I don’t know how to move on. I thought I had, but I guess not. However, one thing has become clear to me: I can no longer allow my name to stay on the membership rolls of an organization that doesn’t want me there. I can no longer even tacitly support policies that discriminate against people like me.

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