I recently revived my monthly contribution here at The Exponent as part of our Queer Mormon Women* series, and it has me thinking. How did my Mormonism affect my queerness? When did the messages first get mixed together?
(In fact, these questions have been swirling around in my brain for so many weeks now that I have decided to start writing regularly again here.)
Like most things, they are connected. I don’t know that I can separate them, at least not completely. It’s this idea that I have been pondering since my last post; the idea that I thought I was broken for so long. I thought the sexual abuse I had endured was what broke me, and I thought that the way it broke me was with regard to my sexuality.
It’s no wonder this becomes a common misconception with regard to sexual orientation. Society loves to explain it away as a symptom of a broken person. Here’s what I said about it in my last post:
I truly believed that I was broken. I believed that god was testing me, to see if I could endure the trials placed in my family, and even in my very own body. I struggled to understand why god would make me endure abuse. I struggled to understand why he would make me love girls. I thought it was a trick. I believed that it was because I had been abused, and if I could heal from the abuse, I would be healed from my attraction to women. (source)
I was 8 when I was sexually abused by my father. I understand sexual abuse, sexual deviance, and pedophilia much better after being treated specifically for trauma a few years ago. I understand that the level of sophistication my abuser used was consistent with him having abused before. I understand that abuse has several phases, and the assault is only one of them. What this means is that abuse is a process, not a single act. For the majority of my life, I have thought of my abuse experiences in the context of being assaulted at the age of 8. But I now realize that there was abuse before I was 8. I was being groomed, engaged, and taught how be a compliant victim for my abuser’s use.
The process of abuse happened at the same time I was learning how to be a compliant female member of the church. For all the encouragement I got from my immediate and extended family growing up to pursue higher education, be a doctor, reach for the stars…the messages I got from the women in my life as living examples, and from the lessons I was taught in Primary and Young Women’s, taught me very clearly that my highest calling and responsibility was to be a good wife to a good priesthood holder, and a good mother to my children so they would grow up strong in the Church. I made sense of these messages from Church, and these messages from my abuser, by deciding that I couldn’t trust myself.
I didn’t know better. Everyone else did. Just sit with that for a minute.
It may not be the message every girl growing up in the church gets, but it’s the one I got. And if I got that message, there are others. What are we doing to change this for girls in the Church? Whether they stay in the Church or not, how do we empower them to be fully realized humans that know their inner selves?
Because of this message, I made decisions that benefitted my church at the expense of who I am. Because of this message, I made decisions to protect my abuser and bury the pain deep inside myself.
The truth is that I am perfect. I am a beautiful, brilliant, queer, fiery, magical, clear warrior. I am infinitely powerful. I have a declaration: I am unfailingly present, unconditionally loving, and unapologetically brilliant. Yes!
I don’t fear who I am anymore. Because now I know this: I know that I was never broken by the abuse. I might have believed that for a while, because I was a child, and I was tasked with surviving an unthinkable situation.
But now I don’t feel ashamed of who I am. I am perfect the way I am. I love my partner Corinne. She is my soul mate.
I love that I am different from all the straight folks out there. I love that so many of them love me just as I am. Life is good.
How many of you have dealt with abuse? Or dealt with being queer? Or managed to navigate both? How many of you have dealt with these things while being Mormon?
Many times queer individuals will experience a higher amount of abuse from people in their lives, so I know there must be more of you out there. You can comment here safely, or you can be anonymous, or you can just read along with me. You are not alone.