Tuesday, November 10, 2015

In Response to Sarah and Janet (thank you for asking)

janet said...
Where is a place where we can discuss what can be done to make a difference? I think the place is with our brothers and sisters who are hurting. I'd suggest making a list of ten people who are affected most by this change and check in with them. In my heart I believe listening is first, discussing is second. Stories change us for the better.
Sarah said...
CJane, I would love to hear some personal stories of the people who are affected by this decision. Could you gather some and post? I think it would be very effective in promoting understanding.
 Sarah, thanks for asking. My friend Jerilyn Hassel Pool has been curating stories of the people who are affected by this decision. I asked if I could repost here. And I'm closing comments on this post, but if you want to discuss you can find me on my facebook page C. Jane Kendrick.

Today I finally sat down with my two active, Mormon children to explain the new policy to them. My son is 12 and is supposed to be ordained next week. My daughter is 14 and last week I received a call to give my permission for her to receive a calling. She was previously a Beehive President. I am gay and inactive but still have a strong testimony of many of the Church's teachings. I fully support all five of my children's faith choices--those who joined the Church and those who chose not to. My son's first question was "will I still be ordained?" My daughter's first question was "do I have to move out?" Neither feels like they can sit in the Bishop's office and agree that homosexuality is a sin. My daughter just cried and cried. I feel lost and unequipped to help them. Both shook their heads and said, "it's not fair. We didn't do anything wrong". I feel like the policy is aimed at making me feel like so horrible of a mother that I will leave my partner and live a straight life just so my kids won't suffer.
Growing up Mormon and gay is a death sentence. I knew from a very young age that I had two options: kill myself knowing that at least I'd never break the law of chastity; or leave the church and have my blessings and priesthood stripped from me (spiritual death). The first time I tried to commit suicide I was 14 years old. The second time I was 15. The third I was 20 and on my mission.
I’m 30 now and came out at 26 and officially resigned from the church at 27.
My mother and sister haven't spoken to me since then. My dad and youngest sister text me every month or two. Now that I'm officially an apostate, I can't help but wonder if that communication will now stop, too.
The silence I get from my family was expected. I knew I would face rejection from my faith and my family when I came out. It's what the prophets and apostles taught for decades.
But it's not the silence that hurts the most. It's the haunting memories of what was said that stay with you.
One of the last things my mother told me was that she prayed that God would let her die on an operating table during an upcoming procedure if it would fix me.
Three years ago my mother told me she would rather die than have a gay son. I can only imagine how she feels now, with another church-sanctioned reason to hate me.
My heart hurts for the loving gay couples whose children are now placed in the unimaginable situation of choosing between the church and their parents. But it goes deeper than that, too. My heart breaks for those of us who are now pushed even further from our families because of a policy that can only be seen as retaliatory and mean-spirited. There is no love here.
I love my family and I long to know their love again. I don't know if that will ever happen. I'm hopeful, though, that I can one day be my Momma's Boy again.

I started noticing how I didn’t fit ‘the mold’ when I turned 12yrs old. I was constantly asked by my leaders to be more excited about the activities, to bear my testimony more, to make more of an effort to fit in. I knew back then that I was less than. That somehow, who I was, who I was born, was less than because I didn’t fit ‘the mold.’
When I was 17yrs old, it hit me, I was gay and just so happened to be in a leadership position for the youth my age. The shame and guilt that came from finally realizing what was ‘wrong’ with me overtook me. I withdrew from church, no one could know this secret, no one could really know how much I didn’t fit ‘the mold.’ But again, I was asked to fit in, to be a better example to the younger girls, to fit ‘the mold’.
My 20s were full of substance abuse and self-hatred for what I was. Countless hours on my knees, praying, pleading, begging to be fixed, begging to finally fit ‘the mold’ and be ‘normal’ and to just be accepted the way I was. During that time I was asked to leave BYU because of my sexuality, regardless of the fact that I was not acting on any feelings. Again, I was made to feel less than, to feel unwanted.
I’m now 32yrs old and I still struggle, I still cry, I still feel shame and guilt for not fitting ‘the mold’ of a church that supposedly speaks of love and acceptance. Unless you’ve gone through it, you’ll never fully understand how deep those cuts go.
Though, I finally accept who I am, who I was born to be and I love that person, this new policy has ripped back open so many years of heartache and sadness. This policy is now allowing children that do fit ‘the mold’ to take on the heavy load of what their parent(s) have been dealing with their whole lives. This policy is adding to the number of LDS youth that are already struggling with a variety of issues. This policy doesn’t protect those youth. This policy adds to the complications of an already difficult time in a person’s life. This policy have officially taken away any hope I had that ‘the mold’ may change and that I could one day fit that mold.

On December 1, 1990 I was baptized in the Mormon church. I was young but determined to be a good Mormon. I went to BYU and found a wife. Before marrying her I spoke to my bishop and told him my dilemma. He assured me that if I married, God would make everything right. 20 years later and divorce proceeding and broken hearts. Twenty-five years after becoming a member of the church and the very church that was the center of life, penned new policies, and I find that I am an enemy of God and Church. I cannot tell you the sense of sadness I feel for the loss of my church. I cannot tell you the hurt I feel for my kids. Today my son was telling me things that he wanted for his baptism. I didn't have the heart to tell him he could not be baptized.

I was 14 years old and the oldest of 4 children when my married-in-the-temple mother came out of the closet and 15 when she divorced my father. When she came out, every member of the ward stopped talking to her immediately. She instantly lost a lifetime of friends and her support structure. People were very nice to me, though. They kept telling me how brave I was and what I great example I was to my younger siblings. As months passed, and I started to express that I didn't feel like I'd lost a mother at all, but gained a new one (my mom's new partner), sentiments changed. I realized the niceties weren't based in kindness but in pity. They could stomach having me around as long as I knew I was Other. As long as I knew I was Less Than. I told myself that short-sighted members would eventually come around and see that my mom is the same she ever was, no matter who she is married to.
When I was 17, my little brother came home from the second grade with bruises on his face and a black eye. When I asked him what happened, he told me that some kids at the school camp out had started calling our mom names no second grader even understands, and then proceeded to corner him and hit him. Over and Over. I asked if he called for help. He said that there was a grown up who saw the whole thing, someone who was in our ward; he did nothing to help my brother. Because he knew my 7-year-old baby brother was Other. He was Less Than and he deserved it.
At 18, I went to BYU. I quickly made friends and took on some leadership roles in my dorm builiding. But several months later when the girls on my floor found out I had gay moms, they all stopped talking to me as if I had some infectious disease. I left after 2 semesters and never looked back. They made it clear: I was Other. I was Less Than. I told myself that it was just too much Mormon culture and that I needed more diversity.
When I was 20, I was hired as a counselor for Especially For Youth. I successfully worked two sessions, but when I mentioned to a counselor (not even one of the attendees) that I had gay moms at the end of the second week, I was told my services would not be needed for the remainder of the summer. I was fired by the Church because I was Other. I was Less Than. I told myself that I was being crazily underpaid anyway, and now I could earn more money on my mission by working somewhere else.
When I was 21, I put in my mission papers. I went to the MTC to learn to speak Spanish. I told my companion about my family, as one does when one is to be separated from them for years. A couple of weeks later, our MTC teacher was making all the sisters in our district practice "besitos", small pecks on the cheek frequently exchanged in many Latino communities; one sister said she felt like I somehow kissed her differently and she felt uncomfortable. I was immediately called into the branch president's office, who interrogated me to make sure I wasn't gay. He finally conceded that I wasn't, but proceeded to tell me if I told anyone else about my family on my mission, I'd be sent home. Because my family was Other. Less than. I spent the next 18 months deflecting questions, ducking conversations, changing topics and engaging in unheard-of linguistic gymnastics trying to speak very loosely about "my relatives" back home in a gendered language that would easily have revealed my moms to the listening ear. I told myself that it was only 18 months, and speaking about my moms wouldn't make them any closer and that I should forget myself and get to work.
Now I'm 37. I'm married (in the temple to a man I served with on my mission) with 3 kids. I've spent decades assessing which LDS friends might be safe to share my "secret" with. I've seen the sideways glances during countless Sunday School lessons. I've found out which ones weren't safe when they stopped making eye contact or answering invitations for play dates. I sat through Proposition 8 talks, lessons and meetings; people knew better than to even ask me to participate, but that didn't stop them from looking me in the eye from the pulpit when they talked about the sacrifice required of disciples. I celebrated as the rest of my ward mourned the recent Supreme Court decision that finally defended my family and then listened as they went on to weep about how The Family is being destroyed. But I told myself that they represent a vocal minority and views are shifting. They are shifting partly because I've stayed there in the Church kindly and lovingly reminding them that I have a place among them, albeit with the Others and the Less Thans. Because I thought it was just the members. I thought that in the gospel there are no Less Thans or Others.
I’m still as convinced as ever that the Jesus doesn't see us as first-class and then second-class disciples. But now I feel more than ever that the Church of Jesus Christ is more than happy to relegate me to second-class. I would have missed out on so much that strengthened me, challenged me, lifted me if these policies had been in place 25 years ago. And I feel the sting of all those earlier barbs all the sharper when I consider that maybe I was wrong; maybe it wasn't the people acting on their own. They were perfectly exemplifying the policies of the Church. How can I reconcile my own self image as a struggling but sincere disciple with the notion that I can never be what others are? I will not denounce the woman who gave me life, who raised me in the Church until the Church spit her out, who makes me proud to be her daughter. I will not disavow her place in my life or the lives of my children. It would appear we're at an impasse, the Church and I.