On the Mormons Building Bridges Facebook group, someone asked, “How long do you leave your Pride flag up?”
I responded, “All year. Cuz we’re gay all year.”
This is a Pride post. I’m posting it in August because I’m proud all year.
Awhile back, when I was hanging onto church attendance with everything I had, Colorado had a bill before the state legislature. First, a bit of background. In Colorado, sex education is a district and school based decision. There is no mandate. If the school chooses to provide sex education, every individual family is allowed to opt out. In other words, no one is forced to learn accurate sex ed. The bill in question clarified a sex education law that had been in existence for years. Thanks to propaganda by right-wing conspiracy groups, the area presidency got the notion that the new bill mandated education on LGBTQ identities for everyone. It didn’t. Sex ed was still completely voluntary, and nothing changed regarding the inclusion of LGBTQ identities in the course material. Any education on LGBTQ identities was limited to definitions, not how-to manuals. But not having done the homework of reading the actual bill, the area presidency sent a message to the stakes telling them to let their ward members know about the “dangerous” nature of the bill. It said they should encourage their members to “get involved.” Some stakes chose not to forward the message. My stake, being extremely rigid on LGBTQ issues (but, interestingly, willing to bend the rules when it comes to money) sent the message right away, urging us to get involved.
I testified before the legislature in favor of the bill.
I posted the video of my statement on social media.
I supported my teenager as she drafted a statement and testified before the legislature in favor of the bill.
Because I believe in transparency and naming oppression, I emailed my stake presidency and told them about my advocacy.
Because we are gay all year long.
Because our friends are LGBTQIA all year long.
Because our family members are LGTBQIA all year long.
Knowing how to have safe sex does not make a person have sex regardless of their orientation.
Knowing that LGB people have sex does not make a straight person gay.
Knowing that trans people exist does not make a person trans.
Accurate sex education reduces sexually transmitted illnesses, pregnancy, sexual abuse, suicide, and early marriage. For trans and nonbinary children, it can help reduce gender dysphoria. Accurate biology, taught in an open and affirming way, also reduces incidents of violence against LGBTQ people. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough Matthew Shepards and Tatiana LaBelles. Standing in the way of accurate sex education hurts everyone, and yet that’s exactly what our church does.
I love Pride. And I’m proud of a lot of things.
I’m proud of my genderqueer and gay children, those born to me and the bonus kids who have come into my life. I’m proud of my extended family who have brought their spouses into our lives and made us all richer. I’m proud of the BYU students who light up the Y and the campus with their beautiful out and proud selves.
But I am not proud of my church. My church consistently and systematically opposes all efforts at safety for LGBTQ people.
Recently in the US, there has been traction among some conservative religions for the Fairness for All Act. Some say that it’s a good compromise because it gives LGBTQ people some protections while allowing religions their freedom. With Obergefell on the chopping block thanks to recent Supreme Court decisions, now more than ever we need to enshrine access to marriage, bodily autonomy, healthcare, and services. Failing to do so strengthens oppression while eroding basic living conditions for LGBTQ people.
But the bill is not a good bill.
If someone told you that they thought you should sacrifice your right to live comfortably in your body because it’s a good “compromise,” what would you say? What would you say if I told you that the “compromise” involves the religious right giving up nothing? They still have the right to deny housing, employment, education, and service to LGBTQ people. They don’t have to provide insurance or medical care. Adoption and foster care organizations can refuse to serve or work with LGBTQ people. Religious organizations can continue to receive federal funding while refusing all of those services. It shields organizations and individuals from lawsuits if they foster a hostile work environment, including hate speech and antagonistic behavior.
Is it a good compromise if it means people who aren’t like you continue to suffer abuse and exclusion?
Is it a good compromise if it means that the people who oppress continue to oppress?
The LDS church has no interest in creating a safe space within its walls for LGBTQ people who live honestly. It has no interest in creating a safe space in the world for LGBTQ people. The LDS church is interested in promoting the well-being of the corporation of the LDS church. While it may no longer mobilize an entire state to vote against marriage equality, it does mobilize an entire state to vote against the physical and mental well-being of LGBTQ children. And in the future, it will likely attempt to mobilize the church body again for similar purposes. Church leadership is persistent. They didn’t give up when they lost the vote in Hawaii and they haven’t given up now. And while the Fairness For All Act and the Supreme Court decisions are specific to the US, the anti-LGBTQ actions of the church affect us on a worldwide level, costing us tithing money, endangering BYU students, and putting missionaries in an impossible situation: tell the truth about our anti-LGBTQ stance or lie. Worse, they give sustenance to hate groups like DezNat, groups which have recently seen a rise in visibility and intensity. Make no mistake: what the LDS church says and does through its rhetoric, policies, and legislative advocacy directly and negatively impacts the life and health of LGBTQIA people.
I won’t support any “compromise” that oppresses people God has given to me to love. I won’t support legislation that oppresses people I have promised to protect. I won’t obey anyone who actively undermines basic human dignity while he claims to speak for a God of love.
To view the summary of the bill: https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/1440?s=1&r=1
The Body is Political: Part 1 (Intimate Partner Physical Abuse)
The Body is Political: Part 2 (Intimate Partner Sexual Abuse)
The Body is Political: Part 3 (Women Denied What Men Control)
When a church leader says I should “get involved”, the first thing I do to get involved is to get informed. Just because the church or its leaders say something is a certain way doesn’t mean it IS that way. There are many examples of social issues being turned into religious issues that turned out to be completely wrong; the terrible priesthood ban is one example. We, church members, were told many horrific things about people of black African descent that turned out not to be true.
In my opinion, two of the most damaging things we have been taught in this church are: “Do whatever your priesthood leader tells you to do. Even if it’s wrong, you’ll be blessed for following your leader.” And “When the Prophet speaks the thinking has been done.” How many times has the Lord said things like “Study it out in your mind.” Or “Seek ye out of the best books [blogs] words of wisdom.”? Getting involved should include getting informed.
The courage of you and your teen is inspiring. Speak up – but for what you actually believe, not what you are told to say.
[…] So here we are, my husband and I, after 27 years of marriage, raising a generation of activists. Each of our children has engaged politically, sometimes by canvassing for votes, sometimes by writing letters or testifying before the state legislature. […]