Monday, November 12, 2018

This Mormon American Life

Hi everyone it's me CJane here. I mean, who else would it be? And yet, you never know these days with all the hacking and fake newsing and straight-up video altering going on these days in the world! Wow what a time to be alive.

You know it's me because of my own special grammar rules--which includes a ton of dashes because I don't know when to use , or ; and I am too old to learn new tricks so enjoy a ton of these...too.

This morning This American Life published a podcast which I alluded to earlier here. It's about Mormon bishop worthiness interviews. And it's good. I was able to sneak in one little quote about wine, weed and sex. Which is surely going to give me some more social points here in Provo, but what can you do? Hahahahahaha, cry, sob, sob.

I do recommend it though, if not just to hear my girlfriend Reagan Baker tell her story, (this blog is a testament to my love of RB) and to hear the incomparable Elna Baker (not related) push church spokesman Eric Hawkins to awkward fumbling and graceless pockets of silence. I've never heard a woman in my church let a man be as uncomfortable as Elna allows Eric to be. Masterful.

One thing I feel is particularly important to say is that I don't discount that Mormons have had lovely experiences in the church. I did too. Bishops have been very helpful to me at times. The critiques I have about the church are not local issues.My problem is with the system. Perhaps there are many women who had many bishop interviews and never once was there an exchange of inappropriate questions, tones or touching. But it is the power dynamics that I refuse. I refuse men in power and authority over women. I don't care where it comes from. I refuse it. I refuse it for my daughters, for my sisters, for my friends, for my family--even if they don't refuse it themselves. And this is also important because those dynamics don't change no matter how old you are. It's as terrifying to sit in a bishop's interview at 13 as it is at 33. And yes, adult women are still expected to go into these offices alone and talk to their male church leaders who will ask them--among many things-- about their underwear habits and their chastity (no matter their marital status).

There is no justification in my mind that makes this power dynamic of men over women--which is found locally as it is found in the upper echelons of the church--acceptable. It has deep, violent consequences whether you are consenting to the dynamic or not. At worst it can be deadly, at best it allows for women to carry out the patriarchal system in ignorance (which I suppose comes with bouts of bliss...enjoy!). But as this podcast suggests, there is nothing more damaging about this destructive dynamic than when it comes to sexuality (in all its forms).

I believe you could put in a thousand checks to this system, you could go and sit with your child through every interview, you could teach your daughters to be the most feminist, but this system--designed to cultivate absolute obedience--will always seep in. And one day you'll be trying to figure out how you got so messed up about the most simplest things in life. How did you once believe that all these things were normal? Totally fine? How were you so willing to forgo your own instincts? Those instincts that screamed at you for so long desperately trying to keep you safe?

Anyway, growing up in patriarchy sure does a number on you!

Well, thanks for the chat...

For incredible insight on this subject, please read April Carlson's Why Does She Stay?

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Taylor Swifting This Blog Up RN

Here's what I am going to do on this post: I am going to tell you how I am voting on my ballot before I mail it in.

Here's what I am not going to do: pretend you care. But if you do care, congratulations you just made my best friend list.

Here's why I am doing it: I have seen several people I respect be transparent about their votes for this INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT election and I figure it doesn't hurt to add my opinions to the pile. I like reading voting considerations from a variety of people because it strengthens my own, or it makes me revisit my persuasions.

Here's what I will not be persuaded on: human dignity. Humans beings have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of (their own, not yours) happiness. People of Color, LGBTQIA, Immigrants, Refugees, Folks Who Have Disabilities (physical and intellectual), Individuals Who Have Mental Illness, AND IN GENERAL ALL WOMEN AND CHILDREN are HUMAN BEINGS. And furthermore, I do not define a country's success on its economic health, but the health and safety of their most vulnerable populations. This is the underlying ethic I take to the polls.

Here's what there will be A LOT of:  CAPITAL LETTERS to show PASSION! (And "humor" but like the nerdy political kind.)

And away we go...

United States Senate: Jenny Wilson (D). I like her ideas on health care, public lands and will stand up against Trumpism. You know who won't stand up against Trumpism? Mitt Romney. However, I did appreciate the Salt Lake Tribune's endorsement of him because they posed the idea that this could be just a one-term thing for Mitty and I could probably handle that knowing that in six years there's a sliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiim chance we could send a moderate Democrat senator to Washington if Utah continues to lose support for the worst administration that a comic book writer could not even conceive. Ok? Let me dream.

United States House of Rep District: James Singer (D). In working for an election for this very seat last year it became apparent to me that the biggest three problems this district faces are: economic diversity in rural communities, public land protections, and quality of life issues for tribes in San Juan County. And among all three of those the one MOST pressing is the latter. There are roads in SJC that are so bad in the winter that kids from the reservations cannot get to school. There are troubling trends with racism, including voter suppression. There are third-world issues in these communities that cross all sorts of bureaucratic wires. We need a rep with federal accessibility to bring commodities to this corner of our state--someone who has the patience and time to unravel the crossed wires. We need someone who deeply cares. As a Native American with family in this district, James Singer brings a passion to this issue along with a vested interest in protecting the highly precious and vulnerable public lands in this district. I wish those of us along the stable and highly functioning Wasatch Front could put our votes towards those who need the most protection and help in our district.

Utah County Commission Seat A: Teri McCabe (UUP). Teri has been out doing strong civic work for years now. I appreciated her citizen support in my former capacity at the Provo mayor's office. She is informed and invested, and most of all, not a candidate pinning for a career in politics. She's not running to go up any ladders, she's running because she cares. And that is some tea for all you who have read this far.

Utah County Commission Seat B: Jeanne Bowen (D). I am going to be honest, a piece of white bread could be running against Bill Lee and I would still vote for the bread. (Hey, now there's some bread to go with the tea I poured in the paragraph above.)

Ok...skipping a few here...

Excited to vote for Mckay Jensen for School Board because he's an incredibly kind civic leader who has done a phenomenal job. I am really impressed by the job he's done getting new, safe schools for our kids. Plus he's running unopposed so I have no choice really, and speaking of running he wears fantastic shoes.

Judges  seem to be good to go, except did you read Holly's post about Christine Johnson? I need to revisit that vote before I make it permanent.

Constitution Amendment A: FOR
Constitution Amendment B: FOR
Constitution Amendment C: AGAINST. Our state leg DOES NOT need more power and I cannot believe that as a DEM voter I am having to vote against "small government" GOP on this one.

Opinion Question #1: FOR FOR FOR FOR FOR FOR FOR FOR. Creating a pathway to get more funding INTO our classrooms has been sorely needed for my entire life as a Utahn. This pathway is the most substantial thing I have seen proposed. Please vote for our kids, our teachers, our classrooms. Please Utah, do NOT leave this up to the legislature to figure out, they have failed us for years on this MOST IMPORTANT, VITAL issue. For more info, see here (oh my goodness I just linked to Doug Wright-strange bedfellows!).

Prop 2: FOR FOR FOR FOR FOR. I have watched friends fight for medical cannabis for years now. They are fighting for their children. The latest antics between the LDS Church and the legislature disgusts me. This initiative has been hard fought BY PATIENTS and PARENTS and should not be the result of church and state backdoor negotiations. We are not a theocracy Utah, please support the people. Again, I cannot believe I am a DEM fighting "small government" GOP on this one. For more info, see here.

Prop 3: FOR FOR FOR FOR expansion of Medicaid. Why? Please see "human dignity" paragraph at beginning of this post. Children in our state need more coverage, as do our most at-risk populations. Utah, vote like Jesus on this one. Heal the people.

Prop 4: FOR FOR FOR FOR ending gerrymandering in our state. It's ridiculous. Everyone should welcome an independent counsel--including the "small gov" GOP who I don't even know anymore. Who are ye GOP? I hardly knew ye. But seriously, this is a decent Prop and fair-minded, moderate people should have no problem voting FOR.

Lastly, Provo Police, Fire & City Facilities Bond: FOR. I worked inside this building for the last 3 years and despite the fact that NOT ONE PERSON in my life has asked me my opinion on this (BUT I AM TOTALLY NOT HURT ABOUT IT OK?!) I can tell you that every single day I worked in that office I worried about my safety. I worried about an earthquake toppling the structure like Jenga yes, but also just a general very strong wind. I worried about an active shooter and the choices I had to get out of the building. I worried about the ancient elevator getting stuck because it was known to happen (I confirmed several times that PROVO RESCUE could save me in that clunky machine.) I worried about my co-worker who had to pump in a small bathroom stall shortly after she returned from maternity leave because the building was not built for working mothers in mind. We worked at options for a day care inside the building but nothing would pass code. And that was in the mayor's office which was supposed to be the C-suite, the luxury offices, you know? I can't imagine what it's like for those in the other parts of the building. Please Provo, care about those who care for you, vote for a city building that makes us all safer.

Ok, this has been a marathon. If you read this entire post please let me know on facebook or twitter or instagram or text me, or email me or call me (JK DO NOT DO THAT I AM AN INTROVERT) or just wave to me when I see you out and about and I will enter your name into my drawing to win something I don't know yet should we vote about it?

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Divinity in the Deli Section

Yesterday I gave a pretty vulnerable interview to a national platform about sexual abuse in patriarchal religions. (I don't know if it will ever air, and I will link to it if it does.) The act of allowing the interviewer to pull some deep roots inside of me was brutal. Just when I think I've conquered my religious-centrist shame, there is always more waiting to be discovered. Even so, I gave my depth willingly (also in a literal sweat as I sat inside our homemade recording booth closet) because it's pretty much all I have to give anymore.

After the interview ended, I slipped over the garden wall to Janna's house next door where she was hanging out with Iris. We went in the backyard and sat in the new October sun while Iris pulled weeds. My dearest friend in the world is also a therapist and lives right next door. Our kids are like siblings and our husbands are also kindred friends. I have always said I know there is a God, because how could this just be luck?

I was reverberating with anxious energy and she allowed me to sit there and talk about what I had experienced. She validated me. She told me her own stories. She thanked me. I asked if I could reciprocate the babysitting by buying her lunch. She turned me down because she wasn't hungry. "I've been eating M&Ms," she told me. I need friends who just sometimes eat M&Ms.

Iris and I went to Costco. It's been weeks since I actually shopped for groceries. We've been doing the eat-quesadillas-and-toast method for awhile. I thought maybe it would ease my nerves to do something mundane.

It was while I was shopping I looked over the aisle to see Janice Allred. Sister Allred was excommunicated from the Mormon church for apostasy--for writing a book about a mother goddess  (Mother in Heaven) who is missing from the church's modern dogma. Because she dared to write about a woman of divinity, and subsequently child abuse in the church, she was rejected from her own beloved religious tradition. When I saw her and I thought about her work, her legacy, the years that she has lived in the same shared pain as mine, I felt flooded with love for her and her courage. I don't know her personally, or I would've probably knelt down there in Costco, in the deli section and wept at her feet.

Shortly after that,  I ran into a childhood friend and neighbor who I have admired all my life. Given my public pronouncements of lately, I am not sure exactly how people will receive me. But she was quick to hug me. "I want you to know I follow you, I support you, I am grateful for you." This was an incredibly validating gift she freely gave to me. We could have done the pleasantries, but she gave me more.

This just at Costco. All in the deli section!

This is when my former Mormon self would testify that God lives! And I don't feel much different from that statement, but this time I would like to say that the Goddess Lives! There is a woman up there, and she sees me, and Janna, Janice and my childhood friend and made it possible for us all to have this moment of sublime feminine solidarity out of our banal lives. And I know I just wrote about breaking up with Everything Being A Sign From A Higher Power school of thought, but I choose to believe all this because it makes my heart hurt just a little less.

Before we left Costco, Iris and I shared an acai bowl (I had to order under my breath because still do this day I mess up the pronunciation). It was pretty good. I liked the blueberries and the granola, and Iris liked the yogurt and the strawberries so between us both we licked the cup clean.

I think that's all I want to say today.
In the name of the Goddess Herself.

p.s. for further insight I greatly recommend Joanna Brook's podcast AMERICAN BEAUTY. Parts 3.1 and 3.2 have especially nudged at me, and healed me all the same.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Just An Average Celebration

I have been inundated with kindness and support for my last post. I am so grateful. Sure there have been mean comments here and there, but I understand I wrote a bra burner (ha! perfect!) and some feelings were going to get hurt. That's the chance you take I suppose.

But I don't ever want to come across as NBD about writing your truth. I really want to be honest about it. It sucks. And I think you only do it when the poison inside of you is making you so sick that there is absolutely no other way but to regurgitate. As Maya Angelou says, "There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you."

And so those supportive comments mean the world to you.

Somewhere in the middle of all that has gone on the last few weeks I got a message from an extended family member who told me I need to stop talking because I was embarrassing her. Again, I don't know exactly what it was (there are so many possibilities!) but she told me that I was disappointing our family patriarch in heaven and she warned me (through the quotes of church male leaders) that if I didn't stop there would be consequences for me in these last days. For those of you who don't speak Mormon that means "I have displeased our dead grandfather and in consequence I will not be resurrected with the Saints at the end of this world."

I mean, I replied with a thumbs up emoji--cause what are you going to do? I did sort of want to point out that she didn't even bother to mention the disappointment of our grandmother (also in heaven) and that women's disappearance in this life--and in the next--is sort of the ENTIRE PROBLEM. But CK convinced me to move on because I don't see this family member hardly ever and that's probably a good thing too.

(I have critical brain. And that means I can be a critic really easily, but I also think it means I can say critical things that need to be said. So it can be sort of overwhelming to want to respond to everything. EVERYTHING. And I am learning through this process that I don't, some comments and emails and tweets are better left unopened.)

But back to my cousin's letter--it really did open my eyes to see that I've lived my life thinking of a spectrum which has EXTREME MORMONS on the right side and APOSTATE MORMONS/THE WORLDLY PEOPLE on the left side, and in the middle is MODERATE MORMONS. And that's your life. You hope to stay in the moderate spot, because it's...normal.

Then you start to move to the left and it feels so scary. It feels like you're about to jump off a gigantic cliff. You are about to be inundated with sin and frenzy. You are about to live a truly EXTREME lifestyle. Then you jump...

...and it turns out: now you're normal. You're just average. You're just doing your normal average life. You're waking up with your kids, making waffles, packing lunches, doing homework, taking walks, texting with friends. I mean, I don't mean to discount the major emotions you still experience, but you're not elect, or chosen or special anymore. You're just like everyone else in America for the most part. Wearing the same underwear as most people, drinking a delicious cup of WHATEVER THE HELL YOU WANT like most people, using all the free time you now have on Sundays (and other days) to going kayaking. Or just sit and do a puzzle with your kids. Not everything has to be special anymore.

And you look back at what used to be normal--average Mormonism, and it feels pretty extreme. And then you look forward to dying without some SUPER LEGACY that you always felt you had to leave and it turns out that you'll probably be forgotten in a few generations (if that) and what a grace that is. I feel exhausted at the thought of being a character that continues to grow bigger and bigger in embellished family stories up until the point where I meet my posterity in heaven and they're like--YOU? WOW THAT'S A DISAPPOINTMENT.

The weight I have felt for so long to keep up the whole charade of specialness is slowly dripping from my life. Sure I've got some skills and talents, but they no longer have to go to the express interest of building the Mormon Kingdom of God on Earth. And while I am sure this is the very reason why so many Mormons love being Mormon (peculiar! unique!) I cannot tell you what a GD relief it is. I say GD because I am still pretty Mormon, all things considered.

I don't have to worry about a patriarch in heaven looking down on me for any reason at all. I mean, maybe he is, but I don't care. I DON'T CARE! BECAUSE I'M AVERAGE! AND HE CAN DEAL WITH IT!

(My Grandfather and I had a very transparent relationship. That's not a ghost joke. I told him how I felt about everything and he was very good at spoiling us and that's also my relationship with CK.)

Sometimes I get comments that stick with me for a long time, and today I am thinking of one in particular--it came from a woman in Rhode Island after the 2008 election where I finally confessed to the world that I voted for...OBAMA. To paraphrase she said something like: I can see how much bravery it takes for you to admit to these things that get you a lot of flak in your community and comment section. But I want you to know that here where I sit in my town--you're not even close to sounding controversial. You sound like you're...almost normal.

It sounds all so funny now, but it was a huge relief to me then. At that point, I was inundated in all the intensity of Mitt Romney And The White Horsed Mormons Will Save America. Which was huge around here. And really, I got probably the meanest comments of my life on that Obama post. Mormon Mothers really hate Obama. I was told at church that I was ushering in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. To which I was like...and so what? I could use break about now.

I don't think I am making very much sense right now. I'm finding it hard to adequately describe what a relief it is to finally feel like you have the freedom to be ordinary. You don't know how much you've suffocated with specialness--how many years you've gasped for oxygen without really understanding it. How nice it is to go on a plane, meet strangers, interact with the world without the pressing responsibility of making sure everyone knows that YOU ARE SPECIAL because YOU ARE MORMON, and if they'd just listen to you they could be special too.

I am resisting the urge to somehow perfect this post...but I have to go pick up my kid from preschool.

You know, just what average people do!

Friday, September 21, 2018

From Beyond the Veil

This post is heavy. It collides with the Kavanaugh hearings, the bravery of Christine Blasey Ford and some recent public struggles of my own. There is talk of rape, assault and religious neglect. It is thick with themes of Mormonism, and the generational abuse in that particular system as sustained by women. Though I post it willingly, I realize many readers might feel that it is a fairly raw account of my life. It's not for the faint of heart, except that I wrote it for the faint of heart--so they can grow stronger. Yoni blessings.

I don't know what it is about September exactly but I always seem to feel feverish. This is the second September in a row that I have had a public battle with a relatively powerful man and problematic behavior (I don't know what words to use anymore to describe such things, I am too overwhelmed). The most recent incident happened in July, and shortly afterward I sent written documentation to proper channels, and felt it was good enough. But it became clear to me that it wasn't actually good enough, and I decided to make it public last week--this time on Facebook. In response, the perpetrator laughed at me, then sent his supporters to mock me on my post, then issued a half-baked apology (clearly in attempt to save his job). Press were involved. Public comment was recorded. Emotions exploded. And then he was suspended for three months from his job, no pay, and required to go to training/coaching/therapy...whatever I don't even care, because it was never the goal. I am so grateful for the mountains of support I received both times this has happened to me. I am overwhelmed at my luck to feel embraced by friends and strangers all over the globe--some from surprising sources.

But Dear Goddess in Heaven, if by next September I do this again please take my soul. I don't think my family could take another one of these whirlwinds. I would happily avoid them, but if not for my concern that if I don't tell my story--or in other words-- send a signal, more women will get hurt. Not even five minutes went by after I posted before I started getting messages from women who had similar experiences with this man. You're so brave, they told me, I couldn't do it myself.

But I didn't feel brave, I cringed writing the post. I cried for days knowing I had to write it. I lined up all the support I could get just to write the first word. Christopher had to sit by my side until it was finished. And then I sat in a near-constant vibration of adrenaline, sweating buckets of pure cortisol for days after I posted. It didn't help that I was in Las Vegas--talking to press and doing live interviews--which isn't what you'd call an especially soothing locale. But we were able to stop by the desert on our way home to sit in the warm belly of the Goddess herself.

The weirdest thing about writing is that I am so conditioned to not believe women, that even I don't believe myself when I write my own stories. Last September I was utterly degraded and destroyed in a job I deeply loved after I raised concerns about sexual harassment and homophobic remarks happening to staffers. Even now as I am writing what happened my brain shouts OVER REACTION! OVER REACTION! OVER REACTION! Following advice from lawyers, I've been meticulous about collecting evidence--writing down records, taking screen shots of texts sent to me, organizing emails that are pertinent. All these things tell me that I am not over reacting, that I am telling the absolute truth, and yet...

Sometimes I drive around my city and think about all the women living in the homes and apartments and I think about the secrets they keep about men in their lives. About their dad who abused their mom emotionally--withholding money from her or manipulating her into their fantasies she wasn't nearly close to being comfortable with. About their uncles who sexually abused them but scared them into secrecy. About their families who hushed them when they came forward with allegations. About their bishops who ritually asked them sexually explicit questions behind closed doors. I think about the women who married so young they never even had a chance to know themselves. I wonder how many women know how many choices are robbed from them, and if they will ever find out. I wonder how many women in my community don't think they have the power of consent after they marry. I would bet you it is a lot.

I suppose that today is as good as any other to mention the multiple times I was raped. All by the same despicable boyfriend. The first time I had no idea what had happened after it happened. I was shocked and totally separated from my body. We were kissing and things were getting definitely passionate, but I didn't want to have sex. At all. And I was so uneducated on any of it, I didn't understand what was even going on. He didn't ask me if I wanted it. I was silent. I just sort of laid there in utter confusion. When I think about that day I see it all from third person, like my soul is against the ceiling, hovering over the bed looking down where my frozen body is, and I am crying.

The second time I was asleep and sodomized. I woke up and screamed and protested. He became incredibly angry at me. And my conditioning told me immediately to not make him any more angry. Don't make waves, don't tell anyone, just go along with it.

You see, like many women, I have tried standing up to abuse, and contrary to whatever the masses think you "should have done" the truth is: there is no way to win. You could fight back and die. You could bring up repulsive behavior and lose your job. You could resist and end up socially scarred. You can do nothing and live broken for years and years. Having left a toxic marriage, I can spot an abusive husband from housetops away, and yet I still freeze in the face of mistreatment. Despite it's overwhelming pervasiveness (you would almost consider it "normal" if you didn't know better) sexism continues to shock me at times--particularly when I expect better. How about that?

The only thing women can do is this: resist the absolute systemic power of men (also known as patriarchy) in their respective communities. And my Mormon Mothers, they will not do that. THEY WILL NOT.

There is only one way to dismantle this power, and that is to rob what fuels it; the secrets we keep for men. From the blatant to the subtle  Sadly, I've found that in "outing" men in our religion I've incurred the wrath of defiant Mormon Mothers. They don't like women who upset their perceived right to a pedestal--and they can only be there as long as the men who built the pedestal stay safe. They called me evil and vile, and they like to use the phrase "little girl" as in, "sad little girl", "selfish little girl". They tried to gaslight me. They called me an narcissist. They showed up for the man, even after he admitted that my account of his mistreatment was accurate. They religion-shamed me, "if you would trust in the Lord these things wouldn't happen to you." They judged me for the way I didn't stand up for myself,  "you make me ashamed to be a woman" they say to you. "Why didn't you put up a fight?"

Yeah? Why didn't YOU put up a fight?

Do you want to know what it's like to have to publicly call out men who are decades older than me? Oh lord, it's awful. These men have lived lives knowing they can say or do anything without protest. They think women who protest are jokes; the Mormon Mother thinks they are sinners. Remember after the election of 2016 women took to the streets in the biggest protest in history, and men laughed at us and Mormon Mothers turned to social media to pass pious judgement? One female church leader used her pulpit to disparage the very women who were protesting FOR HER. Anytime you try to stand up to the white male supremacy, there's an army of stay-sweet, age-advancing women ready to obliterate you with their shame. And a lot of them have shared Facebook accounts with their husbands. I am just saying.

If you're so enlightened, why didn't you take these guys down before they got to me? I want to ask them. One time while working as a youth leader in my ward, a man in my bishopric repeatedly told me about his sexual fantasies, and used explicit terms to talk about the young women's bodies. One time, during a youth activity he came way too close in my personal space, "I am into girl-on-girl" he whispered in my ear, and then winked. When I took all this to my bishop I had to explain to him what "girl-on-girl" was because he didn't know. Then he said, can you just forgive? So I took it to a councilor in my Stake Presidency where again, I had to explain what "girl-on-girl" was because apparently this church is full of infant children void of sexuality. He called me back and said, Christopher as my witness, "I am too embarrassed to take this to the President, so I am hoping that you will forgive and we can move on." When I refused again, the bishop showed up at my house with a guitar and sang Love One Another. I was irate. But when I took it to my Mormon Mothers they shrugged, "Looks like you should just forgive," they said. Ho hum.

And I don't ever consider myself a "victim"....whatever that weaponized term means. I have no problem taking responsibility for my own actions and that is why I am a writer--I write my wrongs. My vulnerability is my sacrifice, it is my apology, and no one gets to tell me if it is sufficient. My heart can do that alone.

My ancestry is littered with women who were manipulated, cheated on, assaulted and raped. There are family secrets so deep and so sharp they've actually cut relationships. We don't like to talk about those things. Nobody does--even though every single family has them. I absolutely do not blame the women of my blood for their trauma, but I do bitterly denounce them for letting white male supremacy pass on--like a genetic trait, blue eyes or impossible hair--to their children, as if it was their destiny. Religiously manipulative, non-consensual polygamy is ripe in the history (and present) of my family (and church), and yet, here we are.

Here we are--with an American president who oozes repulsiveness and drips with absolute stupidity. And what do our Mormon mothers do? They support him. They voted for him. They will vote for him again. They do not care about the people of color who will be harmed, or the threats to basic women's health. They will cheer only when their husband's wallets get thicker and their influence grown.  Because, tenuous and indirect as it is, it's as close as they'll ever get to power.

And I am angry. That doesn't mean I live out my days as a contemptuous crab. I have a lovely life. I laugh heartily and easily. My kids seem to think I am a fun mom, though sometimes arduous about things I care about (academics, passions, CONSENT). My husband and I have a malleable marriage where we trust each other enough to change as needed by the soul. We also have a non-negotiable date night weekly we absolutely live for. I enjoy the company and insight  of the best of friends, who I esteem as sisters. I say all this because I am incredibly tired of all the stupid ways women get policed for having any emotion other than "pleased." You can be angry and have a lovely life. Anger is just ignored instincts getting louder. I am learning to listen to perhaps the wisest voice at my disposal--my own anger. And as I do, I feel profoundly more peaceful (which is just another way of saying confident).

And yet, when I go for early morning walks around my neighborhood where I was raised and live now, I see those Mormon Mothers who shamed me or my friends as youth in their pastoral care, who stood by their sons as they destroyed the confidence of the girls who loved them, who continue to have abject and utter putrid obsessions with men in religious power--to the point that they would gladly hand over their fourteen year old daughters or granddaughters to become secret wives to "prophets" if it were asked of them today like it was asked of mothers in the past, who celebrate when their female posterity naively go to the temple and are made to ritualistically bow their heads and promise to listen and obey their husbands, I walk the other way. I do. They disgust me. And I am not so zen that I trust myself in their presence. See also: why I won't go to church.

You come to expect men to be villains, but you cannot fathom the betrayal of your communal mothers. The pain is searing, but it takes awhile to recognize. Every time a Mormon woman says to me, I've never experienced any sort of sexism in the church, it translates into my head to, I experience deep religious manipulation to the point where I do not even understand the very heart that beats in my chest.

And who calls these women out if not for their daughters? I can forgive the past, I know they did their best in the political and religious environment they were in. But even now, when their daughters start to rise up, the Mormon Mother comes to crush them, get them back in line, shut them up. I need them to know that I see what they're doing, I am not immune to the blatant inequality they sustain. And I am willing to help in the healing, but I will not stand for the continued battering of their own spirited daughters.

I didn't even know I had experienced rape until a friend told me about hers which happened before she was Mormon. Her story was mine almost word-for-word. When it happened to her she went to the police and the man was held accountable--charged under the law. When it happened to me I went to my bishop, confessed to sexual sin, received punishment (some of which was publicly humiliating) lived in shame, soaked in a ripe anger I didn't even understand.

And I think a lot about that bishop I confessed to, he didn't know I was actually raped, because I didn't either. I don't even think he would've believed me if I had known at time. But in his strict admonishment to me, he was eager to mention that oral sex was definitively evil and satanic, and he had the backing of an official declaration stating it was against church law. He said this to me with more enthusiasm I had seen from him in all the years I had known him. There are two things about this: 1.) this scared me for decades, even into my thirties until I went to a couples retreat and I learned from my friends there that most of them could only achieve sexual climax orally--which is the case for 80% of women. So I began to think about all those women, married to devout Mormon men, who likely died without ever knowing sexual pleasure (because masturbation is also not an option--if only because they didn't know it was), and how horrifically misogynistic, narcissistic and perverted those men in power had to be to not care--AT ALL--about women. And 2.) later in life I could easily see that this man was very obviously deep, deep closeted gay and the relief of not having to pleasure his wife in this way was probably why he taught it to me--and others--as if it were the most important of all Mormon doctrine. But even still, he didn't care if I was or wasn't in the 80%, his eagerness to teach me sexist policy bulldozed my own fragile sexuality at that point.

Would it have killed someone to treat young girls decently? As human beings?

The third time was an attempted rape. I screamed and fought and yelled until he became so angry that he punched the walls and tried to smash my bedroom window. After he left, I spent many nights petrified that he would return, kick down my apartment door, or break a window to get in. I told myself that I would be protected by my father's "priesthood power" which I don't really know how to explain the workings of, but it was the only way I could sleep.

I think about devout Mormon women dying. And I do wonder if any of them die peacefully (confident).

I think about Mormon women refusing to read the words of Mormon women unless it comes blessed and edited by The Church. Because women's voices---you can't really trust them, right? ("Is this  woman's biography anti-Mormon?" What serious reader asks such questions?)

I think about how they excommunicated women for wanting to tell the truth about women's history, or because she desires to talk about a mother goddess, or because she desired female ordination.

I think about how we veil Mormon women just before we close their caskets. We kiss them and then veil them and send them to wait for their husbands to call their patriarchal name, unveil them, pull their bodies from the grave, and be resurrected. And many will find that in their sleep their husband accumulated more wives. The marriage they died for has changed, without their consent, but with the blessings of God.

I think about unmarried Mormon women waiting for their Mormon husbands.

Just go live, I want to say. GO LIVE. YOU ARE FREE.

My therapist once told me I could write down things like this and just never push PUBLISH. She said writing your truth doesn't require an audience. I disagree. If I don't (we don't) publish things like this then how am I better than the Mormon Mothers who came before me, who buried their bridled indignation in subtly-compacted lines in secret journals? And what kind of writer would I be if I was willing to write my heart, but lacked the vulnerability to share it? The thought of that seems selfish as much as useless. I believe stories are the only way to heal, and secrets are the only way to destroy, and I will not be a co-conspirator.

I do NOT mock Mormon Mothers and yet, they confuse my intelligence, curiosity and concern as taunts. No matter how I curate my tone for their sake, they will always say I am a bully, I am an enemy, I am a threat. I wish they knew this was all for them.

No matter my personal belief and faith, I will always be Mormon. Joseph Smith said that those who leave the church cannot leave it alone. And he was right. But what he perhaps didn't conceive was that down the line, generations after generations, this church would become a cultural heritage. And one cannot excommunicate themselves from their own history, their own language. It would be like removing the very brain in my head, wiping it clean like white board, and inserting it back into my skull. Even still, how can I leave alone an institution that contains the hearts of so many people I love?

If there is an ounce of mysticism inside me it is that I often hear the voices of the women of my family, long gone, asking for the chance at restitution through their daughters who can speak. If I have a gift to write it's because they made it so. I have always loved the last chapter in Joanna Brooks' book Book of Mormon Girl where she describes all the Mormon women sitting together at a table. Academics, polygamists, feminists, moderates, trans women, women of color, women of all sizes, lesbians, poets, everyone. Her vision, she stunningly writes, has made me weep many times in my hopelessness. But in my own version we aren't sitting at a table. We are standing on a hillside in breastplates and helmets, sharp swords at our waists. In this vision, we fight side-by-side, young and old, against the enemy that binds us together in pain and anger--the secrets of men, carried by mothers for generations, too scared to tell.

Those sharp swords are our voices.