Thoughts the day after national coming out dayLaurie
I came out very quietly, if I remember correctly. It's been a little over five years since I came out as gay to my friends and family so it's hard to remember. I don't think I had an inaugural Facebook post? But I might've. Now that I'm writing it out, five years isn't that long. I'm not sure why I don't really remember specifics. Maybe because I did it slowly, individually with people I cared about at the time, over the summer of 2013. The first person I ever told I was gay was Alex, an aspiring video game writer like myself who I became pen pals with.
(Hi Alex, I still really value seeing your Instagram and Facebook posts. I know that email exchange was very, very awkward in hindsight, because of me. If I recall correctly (I don't want to face the shame of actually looking up the thread that I know is fermenting in my gmail somewhere), I said I was nervous about admitting I was gay to you because I wasn't sure if our email exchanges were because you were romantically interested in me. The arrogance is astounding. Also very rooted in religious garbage logic, that single men and single women are only friends in the pursuit of a marriage. Sorry, for all of that mess. Our emails were instrumental to my self-acceptance, to be able to tell someone my truth, even if just by email. Thank you for being there then. I'm sorry I didn't show up for you in a bigger way, to meet the depth that you showed up for me.)
The second person I ever told I was gay was Bekah, my boss at the first full-time job I worked after my undergrad experience. It was after I stopped working there. I knew Bekah was "alternative" (whatever my mind classified that as at the time) and somewhere on her journey of post-mormon, so it was safe to open up to her. Also it was over instant messaging, but I don't remember what client. Probably gmail. It was a significant step for me because it was telling someone that I knew outside of the internet (even though I was still telling via the internet). Thanks, Bekah. I will always appreciate your open and accepting approach to life, re-framing scenarios so as to not be sucked into what society deems is the way we have to do things.
After that, my memory becomes less clear. I know I told my roommate at the time, Julia. She was also somewhere on her post-mormon journey as well, so I knew our apartment (really anywhere Julia was or is) would be judgment-free as I discovered myself in full, for the first time. My admission to Julia was in an email thread we were exchanging while we were both at work. It was around the time of the Salt Lake City annual Pride Festival. I only remember the timing because shortly after telling Julia, I told an old roommate who came out to me in the same conversation. That was via text.
There was a lull in coming out for a couple weeks. My resolution was I wouldn't come out to my family until I was dating someone. I felt certain my mom would die of heartbreak, if not for me being gay then for me not getting married in the mormon temple any time in the future (because of the gay). Of course, I started dating someone I was infatuated with a few weeks later and knew my ultimatum to myself needed to be resolved.
I didn't know how to say the words out loud. It seemed too insurmountable a task to have to look someone in the eye, release the words from my mouth, and be quick enough on my feet to disprove whatever points they made that showcased instances in my past 23 years that conclusively proved I wasn't gay. I had no good answers. I had no definite proof. All I had was how I felt, and that didn't feel like enough for the mormons. So I should just put it in writing, I thought. I can think of every angle if I get to write it out first, was my logic. I don't have to address every question if I get to reply with written words, was my self-reassurance.
It felt cheap, writing individual emails to family members and friends. As if I owed something to them and not telling them all over the phone or in person made me less. I had two people ask to meet in person after my emails. An old boss who I considered a second mother, and one of my sisters. The biggest point I remember from getting dinner with my old boss were the tears in her eyes while she said "I don't understand but if you're happy that's what is most important" or something with that sentiment. It really touched me; I felt her love fighting through her confusion. All I remember from my sister's dinner date was me, admitting that when I said I was going to church with the other young, single mormons, I was really just leaving her house so I wouldn't have to go to her church either. She replied "So you lied to me" with the same heft as a stone dropping into a creek.
I had one sister-in-law reply to my email with nothing but love and acceptance. It was a reply I hadn't even considered could come from someone in my family and I thought of it daily for at least the year afterwards. Everyone else in my family either stayed silent, or told me they loved me right before they testified to me how they knew god was real and the mormon church was right, via a reply email. It was hard to imagine beforehand what the responses would be, but in hindsight I guess I had hoped some may have had a revelation that a church that forces you to choose between your blood relative and it's doctrine isn't what it espouses to be. No one made that connection in any of their replies. To be fair, a few have since.
I don't know that I've ever posted something for national coming out day. If I have, I don't remember. I haven't felt like my addition to the narrative is particularly important. In light of all the garbage fires raging across the United States and the rest of the world, it dawns on me today, the day after national coming out day, that maybe in some small way, it does matter to add to the collective. I'm queer, for the record. Gay. Lesbian. I'm okay with all of those labels. I'm very proud to live my truth. At my core, I am more at peace than I have ever been. I've never felt compelled to declare those things because if you know me, you know that's true, and if you told me about god in response to my vulnerability, then I don't really believe you'll ever accept that I'm truly happy and living my best life.
Now that I've written all of this out, I'm not sure there are many who need to read this, who will read it. That is to say, most of my social media connections are people who truly embrace diversity. The biggest contributing factor to leaving the mormon church was not only being gay but recognizing the compartmentalization that gets celebrated within the organization. Many in the mormon church says you can love your gay family, while also maintaining they shouldn't be allowed to participate in the most important ceremonies the mormon church offers. Many in the mormon church say you can celebrate diversity while also aptly hanging on every word of a church leader who says there is no gender outside of "man" and "woman." These things are not congruous. If you think you can live with these extremes in harmony then you're either not truly an ally or not a very good mormon (in which case, you should just leave and be free - it's a very damaging religion, internally and externally).
I do not trust people who try to hold these ends of the extreme at the same time and I feel no pressure to try and be close to them. Depending on the person, I may be sad we're not close but by refusing to come to terms with different ideologies at war in your own life (or even recognizing they're at odds), I'm not going to make an effort when you have some things to sort out. I suppose this was what I was really thinking about today - not coming out as queer five years ago, but coming out in admitting that I don't have a relationship with friends or family who haven't done the work to realize and resolve their cognitive dissonance.
Coming out was incredibly liberating. I wish I could share my freedom of thought and expression with the people I thought were just like me.
As a bit of a post script, I recognize this is all written very mormon-specific because it's about my life. Having said all of this, the kind of mental gymnastics that mormons use to be "accepting" applies to many other people who say they support oppressed groups while also supporting oppressive groups - trans folks and republicans. Black folks and the police. Women and Trump supporters. The list goes on and on. People cannot be divided into fractions.