There's a far side comic, where a man after 20 years of cleaning the snake room in the zoo has "a collective case of the willies." It shows him shivering and freaking out, like it all just hit him at once how creepy it was.
If I find it online, I'll post it later. The point is, that's what happened to me with the church. I read about the experiences of others like Invictus Pilgrim who heard Boyd K. Packer's talk, how something finally snapped, something finally gave.
For me, it was when I watched the video of Steve Lee talking about his experience in the church. And finally I couldn't take it anymore. Something clicked.
I had a collective case of the willies, like it all just dawned on me what I'd been putting myself through. Finally it all hit me, all the insults, all the preaching at the pulpit or conversations about Prop 22 or Prop 8, all the conference talks I've read about same-gender attraction, the evergreen conference, the materials I read, reading the miracle of forgiveness.
And finally I realized, this is homophobia. This is heterosexism. This is predjudice and bigotry.
And I can't unsee it. I go to church and hear it preached every week in lessons, in talks. It isn't any one person's fault. I don't hate either the church or the people. This is my people, my family, my loved ones, my friends, the people I've given my life to serving and helping, my time, my talents, my money to.
And it saddens me in a way that I can't describe that I'm not welcome. Or that I'm only welcome conditionally. Is there room for me, is there a place in the kingdom for someone like me? There's supposed to be. For sinners, saints, for everyone. But I just don't see that. I see the way that even in the highest offices in the church homophobia is expressed and taught.
Does this mean the church isn't true? I don't know. It's similar to blacks and the priesthood. Racism was institutionalized by church practice and defended by church "Doctrine". Statements from Brigham Young onward excluded blacks from not just receiving the priesthood but exaltation. They were not allowed to marry in the temple, or receive their endowments. Inter-racial marriage was strongly discouraged and in fact, you couldn't be sealed if you were in an inter-racial marriage.
So if racism was part of the church, does it surprise you that homophobia is as well? By homophobia, I mean discrimination against lesbian, gays, bisexual, transgendered, questioning, asexual..anything outside of the norm.
I've tried for so long to just reconcile Mormonism and my sexual orientation. I've tried therapy, I've tried Evergreen, I've talked to countless bishops, I've tried prayer and fasting, I've tried blessings, I've tried strict obedience, I've tried marriage (which to be fair, was not taken as a therapeutic step). In one way or another, I've tried to fit myself in the heteronormative doctrine and culture of the church.
But I can't. It's wrong. It's just not true. If I could do it, I would have done it by now! And so would so many other people. So many people suffering, depressed, suicidal, all in the name of trying to be part of the kingdom of God.
It's wrong. It's just wrong. And for some reason, people are blind to it.
I don't know what I believe about the church anymore. I've been through so much with priesthood leaders, LDS therapists, and others in the church. And the argument could be made, yes, those were individuals, not the church. But individuals with the blessing, and the backing of church doctrine and practice. And individuals who misused their position of authority to tell me what I should do, to steer me down a path which has ultimately lead to depression, heartache, pain, sadness and loneliness.
In the end, I realize that I am responsible for choosing to listen to them. But I can see why I did. I was raised and to trust that bishops and other leaders spoke for God.
And while I think that leaders of the church have much to offer in guidance and counsel, perpetuating falsehoods and negative stereotypes is not something that they should be doing. If the church is true, then this is still wrong. This still has to be changed. This has to stop.
Homophobia is not unique to the LDS church. This is a much bigger issue cultural issue. But given the dynamics of change in the church, and the ingrained cultural biases that are so heteronormative, (how many young men's and women's lessons are on temple marriage, or talks in general conference, or single's ward talks/ lessons for that matter?), I suspect it will take decades for change to happen. It's rooted in the institution, the doctrine, the practices, the culture, and the people.
In the meantime, hopefully more members will be like my brother and his wife who do reach out with compassion and love and understanding and tell me they know it isn't right, they have a hard time with the churches stance and political activity as well. There is hope. It might just take the church wandering in the wilderness of intolerance for 40 years before we see the change.
I can't say what I should do in the meantime. Do I come out to my ward? Do I limit my participation? Do I stop attending all together? Do I write a letter in protest resigning from the church? Do I look for a new community of faith? I can't get away from the fact that my family and many friends are Mormon, and there's no running from prejudice and homophobia that exists outside the church as well. But when it's at my church, my sanctuary, my place of refuge, why would I continue to go? Because I do feel some connection with God when I go? Because even though so much doesn't ring true there are other things that do?
Gah. I don't know.