Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Love and Change


It was early Sunday morning when Drew gently called from the bathroom, “Good morning, beautiful. It’s time to get up. We can’t be late for church.” He was already awake, showered, and dressed before I even opened my eyes.

Still lying in bed, I opened my eyes and replied, “Or you could come back to bed and we could have our own spiritual experience.”

He paused ever so briefly, weighing his options before abruptly blurting out, “With God as my witness, we are going to be on time to church! Get your beautiful ass out of bed and get dressed.”

We exchanged smiles as I begrudgingly got out of bed. Drew walked over to the closet and pulled out a necktie, “I think I’ll wear my purple tie with my rainbow button to church today. That way I can support the ordination of women and the LGBTQ+ community.”

Sometimes I have to pinch myself after he says things like that. If you would have told me ten years ago my husband would be supporting the ordination of women and the queer community, I wouldn’t have believed you. Not my husband.

As I watched him pin his button onto his jacket, my mind recalled an unpleasant memory.

It was 2008. Prop 8 was all over the news. Drew and I had been arguing for years about homosexuality, we didn’t need to be reminded of our blatant disagreement every time the news came on, but there it was. Again.

Drew commented while staring at the screen, “They want to get married now. Soon they’ll want to be teaching it in schools.”

I routinely said, “There’s nothing wrong with being gay.”

He countered, “Did you read Elder Oaks’ conference talk on homosexuality I sent you?”

I flatly replied, “Yes.”

He continued, “Blaire, the prophet has spoken about this. You need to get a testimony for yourself. Being gay is wrong.”

I replied, “The prophet is wrong. They aren’t much different from me.”

Drew scoffed, “You’re nothing like them. You may be attracted to women, but you’re not one of them.”

I interjected, “I’m everything like them! How can you separate them from me? How can you accept me and not them?”

He responded, “Jeez, why are you so upset? You’re overreacting.”

I couldn’t continue. We had fought too many fights. I couldn’t handle another, “Drew, I don’t want to fight anymore. I have read all the books and conference talks you have asked me to read. We’ve said all that can be said, and neither one of us has changed.”

He continued, “But Blaire—”

I cut him off, “Drop it! I can’t even look at your face!” I exhaled, trying to regain my composure. I continued softly and brokenly, “I really don’t want to fight anymore. I hurts too much.”

Seeing my frustration, he gently put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Okay. I’ll drop it.”

Not another word was spoken. We both knew our marriage wouldn’t survive it.

Years went by with little conversation about homosexuality. It came up here and there. We casually discussed it from time to time, but we stopped aggressively trying to convert each other. Forcibly trying to change the other person only led to more heartache. Instead, we focused on loving each other.

Somewhere along the way, something changed. I don’t know exactly why or how it happened. You’d have to ask Drew for the details, which I’m sure are many. But slowly over the years, something gradually changed.

More time passed. It was an average day of housework until my phone rang. I picked up, “Hey, honey. How’s work going? I was just thinking about you.”

Drew spoke slowly and quietly, “Blaire, do you realize you’re bisexual?”

I awkwardly agreed, “Yes. I know I’m bisexual.”

He continued, “Yes, but YOU are bisexual.”

I laughed. It was as if every conversation we had over the last decade merged into a single moment of clarity for him. I didn’t know how to respond. I had been bisexual our entire marriage, but hearing him accept the label somehow made it real.

Smiling, I said the only thing I could say, “I know I’m bisexual. What took you so long?”

Drew answered with such sincerity, “I couldn’t . . . I didn’t . . . I’m sorry. You’re a beautiful, wonderful, bisexual woman, and there’s nothing wrong with you. I love you.”

I smiled and replied, “I’ve waited a long time to hear you say that.”

He continued with remorse in his tone, “Why did you stay married to me? All the things I’ve said to you. After all these years, why?”

I paused, holding back the tears, “Loving you seemed more important than agreeing with you.”

The memories faded as I stood next to Drew watching him put on his purple tie for church. I didn’t need to pinch myself. The moment was real. I commented, “ It’s still weird to hear you say things like that.”

He replied, “Say things like what?”

I continued, “Your support for the queer community. I didn’t think I would ever hear these things from you, but here you are with your purple tie and rainbow button.”

He smiled, “Thanks for waiting for me.”

Hearts change. People change. Beliefs change. Change is sometimes subtle, laborious or slow, but part of enabling change means loving people enough to let it happen on their terms. Sometimes you love them enough to stay. Sometimes you love them enough to let them go. Sometimes you love them enough to listen instead of speak. Sometimes you love them enough you put their desires before your own. Sometimes you love them so much it hurts. Your love doesn’t guarantee the people you love will change in the ways you want them to, but I do believe love is the only way forward.

*Published at Rational Faiths on Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Disappear

(Image Credit: Underwater Portraits by Hana Al-Sayed)

This is not an expression of happiness or hope. This is an expression of the complete sadness and helplessness I felt while sitting in the pews last Sunday.

A lovely woman in the ward sang a musical number, “The Family is of God.” As I listened to the lyrics, I felt my eyes well up with tears before the first verse was over. Surely onlookers would have perceived my emotional state as an expression of the spirit, but it wasn’t.

The woman sang:

Our Father has a family. It’s me!
It’s you, all others too: we are His children.
He sent each one of us to earth, through birth,
To live and learn here in fam’lies.

It’s such a wonderful idea with such a contradictory message. If families include “all others too,” where is my Mother? Does Her existence mean so little? Are Her contributions unworthy of recognition? Are we not part of Her family? Are we not Her children? Is She bound to a soul which is so dominate that He’s oppressive?

If it is my highest degree of glory to become Heavenly Mother, then my gender has eternally damned me to an existence where my children are discouraged from communing with me. I would watch them grow from a distance while my daughters would wonder aimlessly, or project themselves in a male paradigm that thwarts their priesthood participation. My destiny would be to bind myself to a male where my purpose would be to uphold His glory and power, while our children sing praises of His love, grace, and power. I might be mentioned in an occasional footnote or two, but it doesn’t really matter. This song is the gut-wrenching reminder that the purpose of my eternal existence is to disappear—to live a mortal life, create eternal life, and disappear.

If this is an accurate projection of Heavenly Father’s family, becoming Heavenly Mother would be a truly horrifying fate.

This is not an appeal to literalistic interpretations, but rather a call to question what narratives we are teaching our congregations about the worth and value of a woman’s existence.

It hurts to listen to the same excuses over and over: “We don’t speak of Her out of respect,” or “It’s for Her protection.” Neglect is not respect. There is absolutely no doctrinal foundation for such a useless claim. She is a GODDESS. She doesn’t need protection from our meager human existence. Unless we believe She is so weak She can’t handle Her own children. If so, are we really so prideful to believe we could injure Her in Her status of Godhood? That sounds like hubris.

Whether or not we want to admit it, the Gods we worship are made in our image, or rather reflections of ourselves, our religions, and societies. Her absence is my absence. We are symbiotically connected with Her and our Gods. Her absence is just a symptom of the circular patriarchal logic that dictates the majority of world religions. We worship a male God that is written about in male-dominated texts, and those texts are interpreted by the male clergy. No wonder God is male; women weren’t a part of the discussion. We’re set on a winding staircase of circular madness that leads to the same destination every time then question, “Why don’t we know more about Heavenly Mother?” It’s insanity.

This is nothing new. Women have been yearning for a divine role model long before my existence. Mormon Feminists have been crying out for their Mother since the beginning, starting with Eliza R. Snow. Yet here we are—hashing out the same old dialogue over and over and over in digital spaces searching for someone who is willing to listen to the souls crying out for their Mother.

The message I received on Sunday was, “Blaire, your existence doesn’t matter here. If your church is true, fiction, or somewhere in between, it doesn’t really matter. Your place in this world and the next, in reality or fantasy, is unworthy of equitable participation or recognition. You can love with all your heart, study with all your mind, work with all your might, but your place in the Heavenly Eternal Family is not even worth being mentioned in a primary song. Your trajectory is to fade into the background and disappear.”

You’d think after so many years of this nonsense it would stop hurting so much, but it doesn’t. It still hurts. EVERY. SINGLE. SUNDAY. We deserve a better message.

*Published at Feminist Mormon Housewives on Tuesday, November 1, 2016