Driving into the Sunset

Trigger Warning: Suicide

Last night I drove from Riverside, California to the Pacific Ocean directly to the pier at Seal Beach. I left my home at 5:00 PM. I left late. I needed to get to Seal Beach at 6. It takes an hour and twenty minutes. The timing, however, was perfect. The sun was setting – the sunsets in Southern California the past few days have been truly spectacular – at exactly the time I left and the first moment of darkness came as I parked my car on the beach at the pier.

I literally drove into the sunset.

And I just cried. A bunch.

I had been thinking of a strange social media interaction I had a couple days ago. One of my middle-school friends posted a gorgeous picture of the mountains of the Wasatch Front in Salt Lake City. She has not lived there for many years, and she said beautiful things about wanting to go back to that city I love so much. Instead of celebrating someone loving my hometown which I love too, I commented on the air, and how bad it is there. That is not my normal reaction. My normal reaction is absolute excitement that someone would reminisce about living there.

The more I contemplated this, the more I got upset.

That’s not me. I am not an angry person anymore. I am not a pessimist. I am proud of my endless optimism. Suddenly, that optimism ran out.

“Why?” I thought to myself. And then I realized. I am sad. I am in tremendous pain. That endless optimism kind of covered up how bad it got. In that moment, driving into the sunset, as I cried, I made a decision: I cannot keep doing this church thing.

I was driving to a movie night with people I met through Affirmation – an organization that coordinates major events and conferences around the world for LGBTQ+ Latter-day saints. We watched “Imagine Me and You,” a movie about a married woman falling for the woman who did her flowers at her wedding. I had seen this movie before. The first time it was validating. This second time it was devastating. My life was playing out before me and a group of like-minded people. They cheered when the women kissed for the first time, they awed at all the right moments, they booed the moments of homophobia and the man trying to “convert” a lesbian to heterosexuality. Normally I would love this. I would love just hanging out with this group. I would love the movie pick (I have been looking forward to it for weeks). But I still cried. Because that is not the way this plays out. This is not a romcom life. This is definitely a drama/thriller/tragedy before it is a romcom.

After the movie, I appreciated the discussion about how this was unrealistic, that it doesn’t end this way. In my mind I was screaming, “Thank you! It doesn’t!”

Here I was with a group of Latter-day saints who meet because they either cannot do the active Latter-day saint thing any longer and choose to find or have partners, or others that need a community that understands their sexual orientation, yet I couldn’t enjoy that time with people I have often felt overwhelming connection with. I felt so sad that in that hour and a half drive just before I decided I couldn’t do the Church thing any longer that I could participate in a way that made things feel good.

I had to leave the party as soon as the movie was over. I walked to my car and stared at the ocean.

“I could just walk in,” I thought, “I’m not a good swimmer. It is nighttime. I could just disappear into that last sunset.” “What would happen to my car?” I thought. “Would it ever be confirmed what had happened?” I worried.

I didn’t walk into the ocean. I started to drive.

This feeling didn’t leave me. I cried and prayed: “Heavenly Father, just let me die. Let a car hit me. That LA earthquake is on its way. You can move it up to now. Something.”

I knew that wishing death on thousands of people in an earthquake was not a good solution. I needed to call someone.

I did so, but I couldn’t articulate my feelings. I didn’t know what made it so bad yesterday. There were other days that qualitatively were way worse. Maybe the day I decided I’d no longer pay tithing. Maybe the day that the person I asked to promise not leave me, not let me fall, said she needed a break from me. Maybe the days when my best friends wrote me to tell me they could not be my friend. Maybe the day I knew I would probably never have a temple recommend again. Maybe the day I stopped taking the sacrament. All bad days. But it wasn’t any of those days, it was yesterday.

Because I had a strong conversion. I believe I came back for a reason, to find love, to find love of the Savior, and I did that. But now I was leaving again. It feels like quitting. It feels weak. I hate that I no longer feel strong enough to sit through the pain every week. I was a boxer. I know pain. I can handle pain. So why cannot I not stand this? I don’t know. I am not a quitter. It is not something I am very well acquainted with, and I don’t want to be either, and I don’t want to admit how much it hurts every week to sit there. It hurts to quit and it hurts to stay, but if I leave and walk away I can manage the hurt for a finite amount of time. I’m not expected to endure it to the end. I cannot endure it to the end.

There were many people I could have called last night that would be incredible supports. And I called one of those people. My friend Margaret has done this twice in the past four months. She listened as I tried to articulate and figure out for myself where these overwhelming emotions were coming from. She talked with me until I got home. We laughed through sobs, and by the end I felt better. But we were going to hang up, and it was going to just be me and my thoughts again.

Luckily, when people are going to sleep in the US, other people are waking up in Romania. I received continued support from Romania, and during those moments last night as I realized what had happened.

Though I have not been taking the sacrament, though I do not have a temple recommend, I have been attending church every week.

As I drove into the sunset and wondered whether I would attend Sunday meetings, I had three options: 1. Keep going to church and keep pulling that heavy emotional burden, knowing that I am in love with a woman. 2. Stop going to church, even though I believe, even though it separates me from my family and friends in a way that I don’t want to be separated, because I do believe. 3. Don’t choose. Don’t kill either part of me, kill all of me.

Unfortunately, those are the three choices that many struggle between or try to rectify.

Jeffrey R. Holland said: “I invite us to remember that perhaps the most repeated line in all of scripture is ‘It came to pass.’ Painful days do pass. It might seem that they won’t, but they do. No regret is forever. No disappointment is fatal or final. No mistake is beyond remedy (Tweet on Oct. 29, 2019).”

This tweet hits in so many ways here. But in that moment I was last night, I could think about how it would pass. I could only think about how these moments are going to continue to come. I could only think how there is no solution, one part of me has to be cut out of me, either way. Painful days in the church do not just go away for me or for my LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters. Being hopeful about the future comes with knowing that some part of me won’t survive, and that I will endure through that process still. It has come [in order] to pass. It was so hard to see that last night, but eventually this morning rationality was able to set in and those overwhelming emotions settled in the sidelines.

That was less than 24 hours ago.

It is hard to write about today, because of the fear of the response. But I think it is crucial to write about it today, because it wouldn’t matter if I wrote this 24 hours later, 24 days later, 24 years later, it doesn’t mean the same thing as being able to talk about and think about it like I was 24 hours ago, in the moment. If I had wrote about it then, the reception would have been so different. There is not the same room to talk about it in the moment as there is to talk about it even just a few hours after the feeling has passed. That is terrifying. If we continue feeling the shame of asking for help, of telling someone you are feeling suicidal, then it will continue. Men are more likely than women to die by suicide. Woman, I think, have a better chance to talk through those feelings with other people without the same sense of shame, and that can no longer be acceptable.

You might find it shameful to talk about. You might feel like that person is seeking attention. But you will also have to deal with the consequences of more deaths by suicide.

I am a 34-year-old woman. I worked for three years in the mental health field learning copious amounts of coping skills; I have been in therapy off and on for decades; I live outside of my parent’s house and can make my own decisions about my life and church status. What does a 16-year-old, transgender Latter-day saint living in a Latter-day saint household without any of the skills or life experience do? Where do they go? If they are not out to their family or friends, where do they turn? It isn’t the rational part, though 16 year olds have limited parts of themselves that are that, which will decide what happens to them, it is the horrifying emotional moments when they imagine these three choices are their only ones. There are some people who will say that the sacrifice of a whole person is better than the sacrifice of the Latter-day saint part of a person. I don’t think those people will be persuaded by any of this. I am speaking to the people who have the empathy to see the potential for disaster constantly nipping at the heels of LGBTQ+ Latter-day saints. What space has the Church created to save us when we are looking straight at these choices? The answer really is that the brethren have not. On the ground, there are people working to create those spaces, but the head leadership has not created a space to protect us. Affirmation has created that space, and I’m so grateful that I have found people in my area who understand this issue and choice through that organization. I hope others have that opportunity in their – or close to their – community.

In attempts for reprieve, I have been doing work. As a PhD student, I have comprehensive exams to take in ten weeks, so I spend a lot of time reading. I’m also taking a Yugoslavia class. So my reprieve is filled with mostly Stalin’s executions, WWII Holocaust in Romania, and Bosnian genocide and rape. You know, chipper things. It is a challenge to get away from sadness right now. I’m thinking through thoughts about religious minority persecution. Let me be frank, the Latter-day saint experience is not comparable to genocide, and I am not trying to compare this situation to these others. What I want to say is that religious labels apply to people through heredity and conversion, not because of belief. It has to do with culture, not whether I am a card-carrying Mormon. If I label myself a Latter-day saint its because I am one. The distinction in Latter-day saint culture between ‘active member’ and ‘inactive member’ is arbitrary. It’s made up. I get to claim my Latter-day saint identity whether I participate weekly or not. It doesn’t go away because I choose to love whom I love. We need to get rid of this status listing.

I am not going to go to church; I am not going to go to the temple; I will not have a calling; I am choosing mental health; and I am also a Latter-day saint.

I bought myself these lilies (pictured above) the other morning. There are many moments in the movie “Imagine Me and You” that hit very close to home. The women, as they fall in love, speak many things that I have spoken, that have been spoken to me by another woman. But one powerful moment happens when the two women in love talk about reasons why people buy each kind of flower. The protagonist says her favorite flowers are lilies and asks what they mean. The flower shop owner says, “Ask me about a different flower.” But the protagonist won’t let it go, “What does the lily mean?”

“The lily means ‘I dare you to love me.’”

Come hell or high water, I am daring love someone.

Is there no solace for a heart this broken?

I write this with a heavy heart and terrified mind. I often think about writing one of these posts but wait weeks to even open a Word document. It is not an easy task, putting oneself out on display like this, though it is sometimes treated as though it is. Over the past three years, I have offered up parts of my soul that I thought would stay hidden in that dark spot somewhere in my belly where it groans every once in a while. It comes out when I feel those groans become too painful to keep locked in. The pain it takes to unleash sometimes is smothered by the knowledge that keeping it in was too dangerous, like a burst appendix. But there are certain things that I have kept bottled, kept from unleashing, kept out of the eyes of those who read these. Today those things will be contained no longer. They are bursting out.

A year ago yesterday, I was driving from Salt Lake, Utah to Riverside, California. This was after a cathartic 45-hour drive from Alaska to Washington and a flight from Washington to Utah. A year ago yesterday, I wrote a Facebook post about it being more bearable to deal with two dogs in the backseat than the unbearable silence coming from the wedding dress back there on that drive to California. Loading up the wedding dress in the car was a reality check. This was my life. It had all transpired as I had thought it did and no amount of running from it was going to make it better. And I guess I feel that again a year on. No amount of running from it would make it better.

Throughout the course of this year I made an important realization. I walked into situations with men that I did not want to, because the alternative was much worse. I have loved several women. I have loved them deeply, and I knew that they did not love me back. And each time, I sought the comfort of a man to deal with the fact that I loved these women and did not want to. I wanted to act in a way that could cure me of my gay. The first time led to a man taking complete advantage of that vulnerability and of me. It was painful and traumatic. And it left deep psychological scars. I had flashbacks and nightmares about the incident. In the middle of the day I could be thrown back there in an instant.

So when I was 19, it is hard to distinguish whether it was the closeted lesbian thing – especially since I had tried to come out to my family and it did not go well so I retreated to the closet again despite having a deep crush on one of my best friends – or the sexual assault/PTSD thing, or the last (hardest) option to contend, which I have yet to discuss in a post, that led to a suicide attempt in my childhood bedroom. When I type them out, it seems obvious that the combination of all of them led to the outcome.

Imagine how immensely pleased with myself I was, then, to manage my PTSD through therapeutic help, eliminate the final contributor (or so I thought), and leave the lesbian thing buried deep enough that I did not have to deal with it, in order to appear to be a functioning human adult with, like, a career and car and stuff. If I had to describe myself at any moment during my twenties, it certainly would be as a grade A badass. I had conquered things. Hard things. Imagine, then, the legitimate terror of driving back to California with the wedding dress in the back of my car knowing that PTSD was on its way and those things that I spooled up so nicely were unraveling, and doing so quickly.

I guess I always knew that my fiancé was a cover. He is an attractive man. I know that still. He seemed to be a good cover. But I was in love with someone else. When I first told him, he acted like it wasn’t anything to worry about. He acted like it was just not the case. When I rolled in in the middle of the night saying we needed to elope to the St. George temple, without reiterating that I was in love with someone else, he said we could do that now, despite the time of 9 PM.

When he asked for certain physical things, I said no, but I stayed. When he asked again I said no. When he asked again I evaluated the consequences of being gay vs committing to this situation and this man on this night. He held my uncooperative body in order to do it. How could I be gay and do that? This was the best way to rid myself, was it not? The tears and hysterics that followed for the following 24 hours suggest gay was better.

I sought two therapists in Utah before I left to California. I found another in California. She suggested a psychiatrist to sort out the physical distress. That psychiatrist confirmed my fears.

“It seems the PTSD of this experience has triggered the bipolar disorder that has been dormant for these years since you were twenty.”

A PTSD-suffering lesbian with a reinvigorated bipolar II disorder should be very welcomed into the various circles she hopes to inhabit. I mean, right? No. And tack on a stubborn Mormon identity to boot. Needless to say, that’s a mess.

But, you know what, I stuck with therapy despite wanting to quit my therapist several times. I have kept to a rigorous medication schedule. I asked for help from every avenue I could in my life, including the history department at UCR. I met with the bishop every single month since arriving in California, and many times more than that. I wrote about the experience. And I cried. I cried so many tears. I laid on the bedroom floor unable to get up. I laid on the bathroom floor unable to get up. I called my mom several hundred times and cried to her. My roommate came into my room and coaxed me out of bed and got me to the gym. My PhD cohort took on extra tasks for me. And I freaking battled.

By January I was able to come out via social media. By April 4 the Latter-day Saint President announced the 2015 anti-LGBTQ policy was abolished. And though unable to go to Romania due to other circumstances, I made it through a really challenging trip to LA every day for six weeks in order to complete a Romanian language course. I did well in every single class for a year. I showed up to every class I TAed for. I did every day things that were so excruciatingly hard. And I took a month to hang out with my family in Utah while finishing projects, books, and Romanian self-assigned lessons.

I survived.


I let my caution lapse a little. I got excited. I felt the feelings of hypomania coming. This is the difference between bipolar I and bipolar II. With bipolar I the manic episodes are bad enough that they are considered psychosis and require hospitalization often. In bipolar II, those episodes are not to that same extreme, but the highs are high. The medication regulates these mood swings, but this week I felt the hypomania coming on. Why? Because school is starting this week. I am so ready for school to start. I have not had a successful beginning to the school year since moving to California two years ago, and I have been excited for this year to be it. I haven’t really slept much, so I take a medication to help regulate that as well.

This week was going to be my week.

Instead do you know what happened? I spent every day of the week talking with various people, Mormons and non-Mormons alike, about whether the constant fear and pain of going to Church every week was worth it. I talked every day about whether to just stop going. I talked about whether I should be disfellowshipped – because talks of that had been in the works over the past six months. I talked with my mom about excommunication. I talked with my brother about the role of the Atonement and whether I could access it if I removed myself from the Church. On Tuesday, President Nelson went to BYU for a devotional. During that devotional he mentioned the 2015 policy concerning LGBTQ members and the children of those parents. He restated the April 2019 reversal of that policy. And he talked about love. He talked about how they were about love. He talked about the necessity of love for all God’s children.


Love without works is dead.

I know the scripture says “faith” rather than “love” but the same is true of love. You cannot proclaim love and still actively try to remove members for that thing you claim to love them for.


I have been asking for so long for love. For the love I hoped to find, but have been so scared of that no one would find me worth it. I went to those men craving love when they were never the ones to be able to give it, only take it all away.

I’ve just really wanted love.

And now, when I feel on the cusp of it – when I feel ready that that day will come – I hear a BYU devotional which mocks such a special, sacred thing, that love. That thing I yearn for.

I look down at the literal scars across my body, and I think about my bishop. My bishop had heart surgery a few months ago. He was a bit devastated that it came at the beginning of summer, because it meant that he would not be able to swim the entire summer. His surgeon cracked his chest open and fiddled with his heart before starting it again. Something President Nelson knows more than nearly anyone about. He has fiddled with many hearts, literally. Having done so, you think he would not be so careless when dealing with them metaphorically. Those wounds have all yet to heal completely for my bishop, months later. Similarly, this policy change was only discussed in April, and those wounds are still fresh. They are not to be messed so carelessly with. To suggest that the decisions were made out of love is not to think very thoroughly about the wounds that still exist, life-threatening wounds! Do not open those just to fiddle around with hearts!

The hypomania I’ve been experiencing has not left. I tried to sleep today, but couldn’t even after taking the additional medication to keep the building sleeplessness at bay. I couldn’t sleep. Church today consisted of a sacrament meeting talk mentioning significantly the BYU devotional, and a relief society meeting wherein we watched the entirety of it without any discussion afterwards. The Prophet asked us, during that devotional, to pray to know whether these apostles and prophets were speaking on behalf of the Lord. I already knew that answer. It has been confirmed to me many times this year. Yet, I asked again. These men do not speak to the fullness of the Lord’s plan on this matter, and I think that President Nelson left a lot of room for that interpretation. He asked us to seek our answers about it, and be open for personal revelation, and I believe he, himself, is sees that he is being prepared for a long-term plan on this issue. We were not asked to pray in order to stop there. We were not asked to pray to let that be the end of revelation on this issue. We believe in continuing revelation! That is a huge part of our theology! And the Prophet asked us to continue to ask, not just leave it to be.

These are the thoughts that have been rolling around since I dissected that talk. I listened to it once, read it twice, and spent hours on the parts of the talk that concerned LGBTQ (the Prophet refused to use the letter Q and term queer. I will not follow suit) issues. I, a believer, want answers. I have prayed for them. Begged for them really. I have devoured all materials and blogs and podcasts and scriptures. I have feasted only to be left hungry. Only to hear this message on Tuesday and think, “Is this it? Is this all we are left with?” Whereas my fellow Saints have filled their hearts with hope from a hopeless message and wiped their hands of thorough, earnest yearning for knowledge. And that excited energy I had for starting school has turned into an endless energy of heartache.

I decided, for this week, that I will stay with the Church, continue on. Is it easier? No. Certainly not. But is it really easier for anyone? Arguably, no. Would I be happier if I left? Yes. I would.

I do not stay because I am happier here. I do, however, feel peace when the only Church interactions I have are with my family, bishop, or Christ Himself. But, ultimately, I am not happier choosing a life without a committed, loving partner. I do not believe this will be “fixed” in the afterlife, because I don’t think there is anything to fix. I don’t stay because it will help me get to where I need to get to in the afterlife. I think Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father understand that the Church has not provided us LGBTQ folks with a safe place to be, and I think They expect us to choose safety. I stay because, as hard as it is, I want to you to know the tears that stream down my face at Church and during these moments when “love” feels so painful. I want you to see those of us who are otherwise invisible, because it is easier, it is happier to leave. But who knows how much longer that can last.

So when we listened to the talk again today, I left the room in tears. “Is there no solace for a heart this heavy?” was my thought.

Is there?

The Change in Church Policy

I have been overwhelmed with the responses I am getting to these posts. I have heard many kind words of encouragement, and I thank those people. I have also received messages from people that are outright mean, nasty, and uncalled for. Finding healing through social media was a gamble, but one I have found mostly rewarding, and even better, cathartic, but I don’t pretend that this particular post will not bring many harsh comments and messages.

For well over two months now I have started and promptly erased post after post about the issue this post addresses. I have thought longer and harder about how to address this more than any other thing I’ve written, which I believe is saying something.  I know that I will say things here that offend people. I know that I will say things that trigger people. But I’m scared most of saying things that hurt people, people who are like me, or know someone like me. People who have deep trauma about this subject, and I want to do right by those people, but I have to give my perspective as well.

I woke up April 4, 2019 for my first day of teaching to the start the new quarter here in Riverside. I wake up early on my first teaching days because I get nervous. I woke up and began the day reading news on social media to calm those nerves. Immediately upon opening the first app I found that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, my Church, was making a change in policy. And I was transported back in time.

The policy was spread to throughout the press in November 2015 that children of gay parents could not be blessed in the Church nor could they be baptized. This has been the focus of the media reports, sidelining the fact that the policy also stated that LGBTQIA+ members of the Church would be considered apostates and excommunicated.

With my dad the philosopher I have learned to argue. I grew up in a Platonic dialogue. That was my house. It has been fun. It has been challenging. It has also been weird. If I was going to take a position on something, I better have the evidence and logical skill to back it up. There have been many debates to take place in the household, some between my grandma and dad about immigration issues, some between my mom and dad about education and pedagogy, some between my brothers about the best ska band, using our limited musical knowledge to make – probably – very unsound arguments. My dad has taught me the skill of arguing, and I am grateful for that. He taught me that I needed to learn how to articulate an argument. Our household has had many of the same arguments over and over to try to hone them. When I say that we argue, I mean that we hold debates. We rarely lose our tempers. Except I did with this.

I have engaged in an argument many times over the past decade+ with several people about whether the Church would ever accept same-sex marriage. I first had this argument thirteen years ago before my brother served an LDS mission in California in 2008 while Prop 8 was taking place there. I had this argument well before we ever thought gay marriage would be legal across the US. I was developing my points and rounding up my evidence before I even knew the potential and possibilities.

But I lost every debate I entered on the subject, even with non-Mormons, people who didn’t see a need for same-sex marriage not based on religious reasons, just accepted that it was unneeded at the time. And I cried leaving every single one of those debates.

My brother served his LDS mission as Prop 8 won in California. He continued to serve there when it was overturned in 2009. Something was happening in the country that none of us really, actually saw coming. Same-sex marriage legislation was spreading state by state.

Within a few years, I had the legalization of same-sex marriage in the US on my side. My argument hinged on precedent. If the US government would do it when we never though they would, why would we question whether the Church would reconsider.

I was told often that “It won’t happen, at least not in your lifetime, Kate. There are people that would LEAVE THE CHURCH if the Church changed its position. Everyday Mormons [we were called that back then] would have to see your side, and I just don’t see that happening.”

Nevertheless, I lost round two of the debate too. And I cried again.

Every time after that, these debates circled around this same issue: members of the Church would leave the Church if same-sex marriage was considered by the Church. It would disrupt the Plan of Salvation. It would disrupt the eternal family structure. It would disrupt the foundations of the Church. But for over a decade now, I have refused to believe that. And I have argued it with many people, and usually it ended the same way: with tears.

It ends the same way because we haven’t thought enough about it.

I remember the exact moment I read about the Church policy in the press in November 2015. I remember sitting in a hotel room in Dekalb, Illinois just before I had to attend a conference in which I was presenting. I was sitting looking at Facebook while my friends Mikee and Jessica got ready for the conference. Neither of these friends are members of the Church, so my shock and horror in relating the news to them met with slight confusion, especially since these friends thought this was already policy in the Church. I was distracted during the conference. I was upset. I could not focus. I repeated to my non-member friends over and over, “But why would the Church do this?” I thought about it while I was supposed to be listening to history papers, beginning to realize that I was sitting in a historical moment myself. In the middle of one of these paper presentations, I turned to Jessica and whispered, “I think I understand. I think I get it.” She leaned back to me and said, “Get what?” and mentioned something about the paper that was being presented.

“No. About this policy,” I said.

“Oh. What?”

“This will be the definitive moment we look back on and realize that same-sex marriage was only allowed in the Church because of.”

She just nodded and continued to listen to the presentation. But this was a breakthrough moment for me.

I remembered the words in those rounds of arguments, “People will leave the Church if the Church changed its position on same-sex marriage.”

And I whispered to Jessica who had stopped listening to me, “If members of the Church are going to reconsider their position on same-sex marriage, the best way to do it is by denying children eternal blessings. Church members will not stand by for that.” I began that day completely disheartened, and I ended the day with a sense of hope about LGBTQIA+ issues in the Church that I was also sure I would not live to see come to fruition.

And Church members have not. Church members have left the Church because of this issue.

I need to take a timeout for a second before continuing.

There is a shepherd that has ninety-nine sheep and loses one. He will leave the ninety-nine in order to find the one, and he “rejoiceth more that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray,” (Matthew 18:13).

We, as a Church, teach that the one is important, perhaps more important than the whole congregation. This is because the one is important to Christ.

This policy took the lives of many youth and young adults. It was three years of torment and struggle and suicide. I have listened to the torment, the trauma, the heartbreak of those that have lost loved ones or those who have family members that have needed considerable mental health help because of this policy. The one is not worth losing, and is searched for and loved above the ninety and nine. That loss of life was not worth the sacrifice.

But I argue that the policy was two things: 1. It was already a part of the Church, and 2. The title of policy matters.

To address the first, the Church had a stance before this official policy. The Church excommunicated members for being gay. It kicked students out of BYU for being gay. It had a zero tolerance for gay members. This policy reflected that bias.

But it now added children of gay parents, and this was crucial.

Much like US law, the Church has a precedent. If the law allows a particular kind of evidence or makes a particular ruling once, that sets the precedent, and other courts follow the precedent. Likewise, the Church had an existing precedent on gay members, now it added children to that precedent.

So, the second matter at hand, that the term “policy,” is very relevant.

It wasn’t revelation. The policy was never revelation.

It was a new precedent to be followed in the Church. For now.

But like legislation in the US, something got slipped into the whole thing that mattered very much. The children of gay parents not being baptized was a strange hill to die on. Strange enough that it was completely unacceptable to many people. But buried in that legislation, that policy, was a crucial clause.

I spent the better part of eight months discussing with friends, family, my bishop, therapists and the like the decision to go through the entire excommunication process. I knew I would be formally kicked out of the Church. I had made that decision knowing that I would eventually fall in love with another woman and want to get married. I thought of that policy nearly every day of my life up to August 2018, and I thought about it multiple times a day, every single day from August 2018 to April 2019. I was consumed by that policy. I knew that I was choosing to be considered an apostate in the Church, but I did not make that decision lightly, and I was hurt and frustrated by it.

But in the back of my mind I kept reminding myself of the solace, that Church members had to change their minds. Heavenly Father did not have to change his mind. This was not a revelation. This was a policy. This was a legal precedent. Church members had to change their minds.

And you know what? Church members changed their minds.

Church members knew that withholding baptism and blessings from children was wrong, and strange, and not a good policy. It was confusing, and no one really understood it.

On January 2, 2019 I went to the temple at 10 AM. I walked into a session I thought would be familiar. It was not. The Endowment session of the temple had changed. I cried.

I came home to my parents’ house afterwards and I told my mom, “The Endowment session has changed. The Church is going to change its policy.” I wrote it in my journal that day. And I went back to the temple the next day. I could not contain my excitement.

I believed the Church would change the policy, but I thought it would take a long time. I thought it would take several more years. So, over the next few months I paid attention to the places around the world that were dealing with LGBTQIA+ rights issues and where same-sex marriage was under discussion. I figured a worldwide church, one with more members outside the US than inside, would have to rely on the rest of the world to catch up on these issues before they could think about changing the policy. There are (about) 195 countries in the world (I tell my students on day one that this is not as cut and dry as one might think, but this is a close number). The Church operates in 128 of those countries. 31 of those countries have legalized same-sex marriage in some way. That means that there are 164 countries in the world that do not recognize same-sex marriage and the Church operates in 97 of those countries.

97 countries.

I figured a wave of those countries would have to legalize same-sex marriage before the Church would change its position, before Heavenly Father would reveal this to be a bad policy. I figured the world was not ready yet for this change.

I did not have enough faith, I suppose.

I have read so many stories of members of the LGBTQIA+ community that have left the Church after a long battle thinking the Church would eventually allow same-sex marriage. I understand those people. I know that I am in a long line of people who believe this, and it just so happens that my timing lined up. I think those people have found their happiness, or I hope so, and I feel lucky and grateful that my timing matched the Church’s.

On April 4, 2019, as I woke to teach that morning, I read that the policy had been changed. I read that revelation had revealed the policy to be wrong.

And I cried. I cried harder than I had any of the times I lost rounds of debates over this issue. I cried and then I stopped crying and then I just started crying again. I called my mom in near hysterics. She had not heard the news and thought I was in major danger, “No,” I said, “The Church changed its policy!”

She told me two things:

“I have never heard you cry out of happiness before.”


“You knew, Kate. You knew months ago.”

Our stake presidency had given us bookmarks late last year with a quote from President Nelson that I have kept pristine in my journal. It says:

“My beloved brothers and sisters, I plead with you to increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation,” (General Conference, April 2018).

That is personal revelation. This is an era in the Church relying on personal revelation. That talk was given a year before, and I knew that I had accessed that in January.

Before I headed out the door on April 4, I sent a message to my friends in my PhD cohort that we needed to have a celebration for the policy change. Not a single one of them is a member of the Church, and yet nearly all of them responded with kindness and excitement to celebrate with me. This (terrible) picture (my bad) is from the dinner celebration. My amazing friends here celebrated something that they want to understand, but can’t quite, with me, because they knew how much it meant to me. I have incredible people in my life. I live in an incredible place, with beautiful people who celebrate these sorts of things.

By the end of April 4, however, I realized that this was a hot button issue in Utah. I realized that this was something that people had opinions about even if they hadn’t thought about it literally every day for a year. I realized it meant something to a lot of people for a variety of reasons. And I was sad to end the day on April 4. It started with elation and ended with sadness. I suddenly felt very lucky to have such an amazing cohort. I was receiving and reading messages of anger and frustration from every angle of the debate. People were writing me to tell me that I was wrong for being gay, and people were writing me telling me I was wrong for belonging to this Church. I was stuck in the middle of this debate with no way out. A day that started out so beautifully ended so painfully. My mom called me again. She asked how I was. My mood was much different than it had been in the morning.

A month later I met with my bishop. Those upset by the policy change had settled back into their lives, and I was meeting with the bishop to talk about it, since it had mostly blown over for everyone else.

The really miraculous thing, in my eyes, was the legislation built into the policy. The policy that for three years caused such disruption because of the damage it would have on children, involved a clause about same-sex marriage. That clause was that those married to same-sex partners were apostates. With the policy overturned, the revelation made it clear that children of gay parents were taken care of, but also that same-sex marriage suddenly was not sin that one would be excommunicated for.

What I had spent months preparing for was no longer an issue. I would not be excommunicated for being in a gay relationship.

When I met with my bishop I came in with a list of questions. He said he had been thinking a lot about the policy change, yet when I asked him specifics: “Would I be able to take the sacrament if I were married to a woman?” “Can I kiss another woman and still keep my temple recommend?” “Would I be able to have a calling if I were married?” he could not answer them definitively, because those questions were yet to be addressed. The part of the policy that involved children had so completely overshadowed the part of the policy that dealt with same-sex marriage, that those questions were not being covered even a month later. Even, now, three months later.

The Church had changed their policy on same-sex marriage, and it hadn’t even caused a stir enough to settle basic worthiness questions. That, to me, is undoubtedly the miracle of this policy change. I will be condemned for saying that. I will be told I did not consider the one out of the ninety and nine, but I am considering them. I cry endlessly for the sacrifice of their lives for this. I, like their parents, siblings, families, am heartbroken that it took such sacrifice for change to take place. I truly am heartbroken, but I am grateful that this policy – a policy, not a revelation – has been changed.

There are questions still. There are Church members left who still need to change their hearts. There are discussions to be had still. We are not at the pinnacle. There are changes still to come. I hope we are all preparing for them, because future changes should not be ones that members leave the Church for. We should be seeking out answers on how to get those changes to take place.

Unfortunately, this policy change affects only LGB members of the LGBTQIA+ community. There is still work to do to include these other letters and people. But this is a start, and I believe that it was done in such a way as to show the omniscience of a Heavenly Father dealing with us mortals. Change is working its way through the Church faster than I imagined, and I hope that it continues to do so. The most important part of that change only happens with the change of hearts of members themselves.

Fitting in and coming out

In the midst of a few video chat exchanges, my friend reminded me of a moment in Brene Brown’s new Netflix talk “Call to Courage.” My friend said she knew I had seen it, but wanted to reiterate Brown’s point that “the opposite of belonging is fitting in.”

As soon as she said it, I flew back to a moment last August. I had just arrived in Salt Lake from Lake Powell the day after leaving an engagement ring on the bureau in a hotel room, leaving an in-the-process-of-becoming-ex fiancée asleep in the bed. I literally ran to my car and drove away. The next day I sat with another of my friends in a Café Rio crying as she said to me, “I know this is hard to hear, and maybe not the right time, but you don’t know yourself.”

What sparked these friends to say such things? The problem has been that: 1. Yes, I have spent my whole life trying to fit in and 2. No, I DID know myself, but was terrified beyond belief of letting anyone else see that person.

That person was bad, wrong, unlovable, a source of shame, and I wanted to make damn sure she wasn’t coming back out again.

I was sixteen the first time I came out. In the rural town of Fountain Green in the middle of Utah, I sat down with my cousin Lacey after spending the afternoon laughing and picking apples in her family’s orchard. On two coolers we discussed our deepest thoughts about our lives. And we talked about feeling things for our female friends that we did not understand. Legitimately, we did not understand.

She expressed feelings for a girl on the soccer team.

I expressed the same feelings for girls at school.

This was not only the first time I was able to admit out loud that there was something different about the way I felt for girls than what I did for boys, it was a remarkable bonding experience for the two of us. By this point I had already begun to self-harm; I had already spent two years considering suicide. I had dedicated plenty of time to trying to make myself fit where I did not fit, but I was going to spend my life trying anyway. Hearing my cousin, my best friend, express the same thoughts about girls probably saved me. Knowing that I was not the only one feeling this probably saved me. Without that talk, I don’t know that I would have known that someone else felt what I felt in my Latter-Day Saint community. But neither of us said another word to one another about it beyond that day, and I didn’t talk with anyone about it again for three more years.

I don’t think either of us have really ever even talked about this experience except for a couple times in the past year. It was five years after Ellen had come out on her TV show. It was four years after Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered in the neighboring state of Wyoming simply for being gay. I remember both those times. I remember my mom wanting to watch the Ellen episode, and the subsequent cancellation of the show. I remember the horror and terror I felt about Matthew Shepard. The United States was not at the place it is today, and certainly rural Utah, much like rural Wyoming, was even further behind.

I left the Church the next year at seventeen, not because of this, because I definitely was not out to myself. I was fitting in.

In high school, at that point, I had mostly non-Mormon friends, and I had crushes I had no idea what to do with, so I mostly ignored them and tried to find crushes on boys. I did many stupid things to try to prove to myself I was not gay. I put myself in a lot of stupid positions in order with older boys to try to “fit in,” and that cost me a lot, it still costs me a lot. All the while I found out that my friends were calling me a dyke when I was not around. These friends have since been to many Pride events, they have expressed support for the LGBTQ+ community. This was the first time that I internalized the belief that it was okay for people to be gay, as long as those people were not me. Support could abound for those that were LGBTQ, but that support did not extend to me.

That belief was solidified two years later, when I came out to my brother as bisexual and he stopped talking to me for months. My mom did not appreciate two of her children not speaking to one another in the house and she approached my brother. “Ask Kate,” he said.

My mom came to my room to ask me.

For background, my mom has been a strong advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, especially within the Church. Her closest friend in graduate school really educated her on these issues. Kim and her wife are pillars in the Utah LGBTQ+ community, and my mom loved/loves Kim dearly. When Lacey came out to me seven years after our initial talk among the apple trees, my mom told her she loved her, and that she was welcome to stay with us if she needed to at any point. My mom is a strong ally, and I admire her so much for that.

But when I came to my room, and I told her what I had told my brother, she told me I was going through something, and that I should not tell my dad. She left my room promptly. My mom had not yet had enough life-altering experiences with the LGBTQ+ community, so when she did, it was clear it was okay for other people to be okay, as long as those people were not me.

This was a flaw in my logic, though. It was easy enough to fall into, because it seemed very apparent at the time. I was coming out at a time of transition. I cut my hair in high school when allies in farm country Utah were few and far between, yet only a few years after, even that community recognized they needed to change, and my friends realized that being an ally was the right thing to do. It was admirable for them to change and that my mom could change her mind, to befriend a woman who could help her see the mistreatment of the gay community in Utah several years before any Mormons I knew even thought about it. It was just bad timing that those allowances were made for others, when they had just been shut down for me.

Two years ago, I decided I needed to deal with this again. I had not dated anyone in a long time. The last relationship I had ended awkwardly, since it came down to me not physically wanting to be with him in an awkward romantic getaway. I was having feelings again that I did not know what to do with, but there was also a man in Romania that I thought I could potentially be with. We flirted. Our eyes caught from across the room when we met at Church, but I knew then that I was burying feelings deep, and covering them with as much dirt as I could find. So despite this initial attraction to this man, I met my mom in Denmark and I told her that what I had said eleven years previous was true. I was bisexual.

She asked me if that meant she would not have grandchildren.

That was my answer. I would pursue this man in Romania.

Let me interject here to say that my choices are my choices. I did not have to make that choice. I could have chosen differently. But again, it seemed that it was okay for everyone else to be gay, but there was little permission for me to be. My mom did not have to be my ally. I had others that could have fulfilled that. I called my friend Kat from Denmark. She was extremely supportive. I could have trusted her. I could have let her be my ally. Instead, I placed too much emphasis on what my mom thought. For the record, despite this terrible, horrific year, I would not have made a different choice if I had it to do again.

I pursued Shedrack and a little over a year later we were engaged. I thought the problems we were having could be fixed. I thought we could make ourselves fit one another. I thought that was what marriage was. I thought he was an attractive man. Outwardly I still think that. Inwardly he has a lot of work to do to get there. He was astute. He told me he didn’t think I was sexually attracted to him, and I was terrified that he could see that. I thought I would do anything in my power to get him to think otherwise. And I did. It was better to do something I didn’t want to do rather than be exposed as not sexually attracted to men. It was better. We were a bomb waiting to explode. And when it did, I left before the sun came up the next morning, fearful for my life in more ways than one.

Society’s ideas of sex and sexuality did neither of us any favors, and neither did the Church. While my own fear of not fitting in, my own fear of my sexuality and knowing I was in love with someone else, guided me, it should not have. I made those choices, I chose to be and stay afraid, to believe that everyone else could be gay and I could not. I did not challenge those thoughts. But my Church, my education, my experiences did not help me to challenge them either, and I put myself in a situation I should not have, and was treated in a way I should not have. I would hope that we can change enough that we can talk about these things, that we can “let” people be gay, and not be afraid to talk about it. Because our fear of sexuality makes it impossible to talk about. It makes it terrifying. It makes us think it’s literally better to die.

In December, I met up with Lacey and my friend Kat in St. George. I listened to Kat cry, “Why, Kate? Why is it you can support all these people, support Lacey, and it’s not okay for you to be gay?” I cried too. How do I explain a lifetime of being stuck in the constant process of change, constantly on the cusp of it being okay, only for it to really be okay a few years later? I refuse to believe that that process of change cannot come to this Church. I refuse to believe that change can’t come in the way that it has for so many others throughout this process of my life. I believe it is on its way. I believe it’s okay for all those that are gay to just be, and I finally believe that it can be okay for me to be too.

When I finally grappled with all this, when I finally felt ready, I wrote a Medium post in which I came out as a gay Latter-Day Saint. I felt proud of the writing. I felt proud about the firm stance I took. I felt proud. I sent it out to my closest friends first and my mom. My friends had mixed reactions to it. I did not send it to anyone that had overwhelming emotions about it other than those of fear and anxiety.

My mom read it, and then sat. She waited for me to call her. So I did.

When she picked up she told me, “Hi Kate!” as she always does, “I read your post.”

Silence. I thought there would be more.

She said, “It’s beautiful.”

Silence again.

“I don’t think you are ready to post this.”

I cried, “Mom, it feels like you’re asking me not to say it. It feels like you want me to stay in the closet.”

“No. No, I am not. I’m scared for your mental health. You are so close, Kate, but you’re not there yet.”

The cosmic irony is that to not say it would mean that I would never be ready. I could not heal this part of me without coming out to everyone. I would never be ready, but I needed to know it was okay to come out, that I would have the support no matter what happened.

And it felt like once again I did not have that support. That the closest was safest – which it is not for me – and that my coming out again felt shameful.

I hung up the phone and cried into the night. I completely understood my mom’s worries. It was not about the social acceptance, she cared about the mental health of her daughter. What I heard also, though, was that I needed to keep “fitting in” and to continue to hide that person I had been hiding all along, that I was safer not exposing to the world who I am. It’s okay for everyone else to be gay, but it’s not okay for you.

My mom called the next morning. She said, “I was wrong, Kate,” I was shocked to hear her say it.

“I realize that I was asking you last night to not be who you are because I am scared.”

I breathed finally.

“I want you to post it,” she said.

I had waited literally years, literally the majority of my life for my mom to give me permission to be gay. That is not on my mom, that is on me. Many, many people in this world never get the permission of their parents. My dear and amazing cousin had to lead her family by example. She had to teach them that they loved her unconditionally, and if they never learned that lesson, well then, that was on them. They were never going to give her permission.

My story is different.

I needed permission for whatever reason, and I was tremendously lucky to receive it. We, as a society, do not value a change of mind. We think that if someone thinks differently from us, that they should change their mind swiftly and are condemned if they do not. We do not value the process of change, despite the fact that we know it is a process. I am not saying that anyone should wait on the world to change or wait for permission to be who you are. If you know who you are, you do not need permission to be that person. Let me repeat: you do not need permission to be who you are. You do not need permission to be gay, you already are. And you do not need to have the presence of someone in your life that does not allow you to be that person. Give yourself permission to let the people go in your life that are not healthy, that are not supportive, because your life and quality of life are more important. You only get one. (I have a significant amount of friends who would gasp that I have said this. I have been bad at this. I am learning.)

I would not do things differently, because that would mean I did not get to go through this process with my mom. I fell in love, and I would not change that person for a million more tries to do it any other way. Conducting my life the way I have, however, meant that I have spent more hours than I care to calculate thinking it was too hard, and imagining, hoping for, planning, even attempting to execute my own death sentence. My story, like too many others, has revolved around so much pain that it felt much too unbearable.

My friends were right. I have spent my life trying to fit in – trying to be someone else – where I did not. I’ve used the metaphor “to fit” often these past few months. I have tried to fit. But then when you recognize where you fit, who you fit with, suddenly it’s that feeling of piecing a puzzle together and you feel the snap of that blue sky piece fit when you’d been trying to make it part of the water for two hours. The satisfaction of fitting something where it is supposed to go is overwhelming when it is your life. And I am so, so, so lucky to have been able to do that with my mom by my side, finally, completely and totally.

My story is about the process of change. A whole society changed in my lifetime. Now let’s help the world to change as well. Let’s help a church to change.

Loud, not yet Proud

We members of the LGBTQIA+ community and members of the Church are dying. We must all do something.

By our actions we show our love. Expressions of affection are empty if actions don’t match.  – Elder Marvin J. Ashton

Photo: Moroni atop the Redlands, California temple

It is June now. I am exhausted from a long year in a PhD program. I am exhausted by a torn up and unpredictable personal life. I am exhausted. Because of this exhaustion, this will come across as dramatic and petty at times, mostly callous, and probably angry. It’s not meant to be these things, I just haven’t figured out a way to express what I’m feeling yet, and this is a work in progress towards healing.

It is June now, and rainbow flags abound. It is my first Pride month since my biggest, most formal coming out in January.

It is June now, and I am supposed to be headed to Romania this month. I received funding and the blessing from my department, yet instead I will spend the summer fitting broken parts back together again, and I will not go to Romania to complete the PhD research I received funding from my department to do.

A few months ago, I told someone that my heart has been broken so badly – and the pieces so tiny – that I needed to protect it from anyone who might crush those pieces to dust, because you can’t put dust back together again. So I have isolated myself, and built up a wall around that heart and myself.

And I have been angry. So angry.

Today I am beginning to recognize the privilege I operate within. When your life feels chaotic and generally bad – and when it is, in fact, in many instances – it is hard to see the ways you still have certain privileges that you feel entitled to and therefore don’t see them as privileges at all.

I read this morning about the Romanian Olympic gymnastics champion, Nadia Comaneci, and her road to the Olympics. I read about her first perfect score in the 1976 Olympics that was so unheard of the scoreboard read 1.0 instead of 10.0, because the scoreboard was not set to record a perfect 10. I read about her doing that six more times in those Olympics. When I tell people I’m headed to Romania in the summers they ask me about two things: Dracula and gymnastics. Nadia was a superstar for Romania. Her face was on stamps.

One year after the Olympics she was in the hospital after drinking bleach in a suicide attempt.

She was 15 years old.

Sure, she came from a horribly oppressive socialist state of Romania, but stardom and a grueling schedule for an adult – let alone a 14-year-old – had left her exhausted and seemingly without many options in her mind. The rest of her teenage years were marred with disaster, even after she escaped Romania in the middle of the night across frozen lakes to the Hungarian border and fled to the US.

I’ve heard many, many horrific stories out of Romania – things I legitimately did not know were possible – and here I am, angry about Pride.

I’ve heard domestic abuse stories one after another. I have heard stories of children not remembering their parents who had been sent to work camps for political dissidence. I’ve watched a poor man from a village with a broken mind violently beat his horse in a fit of rage. I’ve heard and spent a year reading about a violent and bloody revolution that took place in my lifetime in order to overthrow a government that believed in disappearing and executing their own people.

I have heard about true horror.

And I have heard laughter.

I changed my research field this school year in order to write about these stories, because I find it a worthy endeavor to remember them. In spite of these unbelievable stories, I’ve seen the brightness and smiles so big they show teeth. I’ve asked my friends if they believe they have had a “hard life.” Not one of them has answered yes to that question. They all say no.

In my anger about personal circumstances and inability to come to Romania this year, I reached out to several Romanian friends. I’ve reached out to those who themselves have had traumatic stories that they carry with them with such dignity, and an overwhelming number of those remarkable Romanian friends empathized with me. They have written me kind and thoughtful messages. They have offered support, courage, and alternative plans for the coming year.

They sent me love.

I love Romania. There’s no place in the world I would rather be, and I have certainly felt sorry for myself that I cannot go this year in order to deal with my own mental health and safety.

This first summer month is June. It’s Pride Month. It’s a month of celebration. So why am I so angry? Why do I feel so hurt? Why – when my friends with these difficult lives, who smile when I ask if their lives have been hard – do I feel that my life is so hard right now? I think that is the key, right there: “right now.”

I’ve heard the rhetoric: “it gets better.” I know that’s what I will be told over and over. I also know there will come a point that I disseminate that rhetoric as well. I know that I will have this conversation with someone else at the point I am at right now, but it’s still just “right now” right now. I’m angry at Pride, because I’m angry that there is celebration over something that I still feel I – me – cannot celebrate yet. Even after six months of being out officially to the world, I get comments from those people closest to me that say that it isn’t true.

But it is.

Romania does not legally allow gay marriage. I will spend at least one quarter of my year every year there, and I hope to spend multiple years in a row there. I expect to be in a marriage at some point, and that relationship poses complications in that country if, as a couple, we want to enjoy the benefits of a marriage we would have in the US. Talking about “right now,” right now I expect to join efforts fighting for marriage equality in other parts of the world. I also hope to do the same in my own Church community. I stand with those who are fighting for the same thing, while also sitting in a congregation every week where my religious beliefs are (mostly) shared. I will not shy away from my conversion story, wherein I can testify of a deep belief in the Church of Latter-Day Saints, and to give up that identity would be as difficult and self-sacrificing as giving up a life as an out-of-the-closet gay person.

I am a gay member of the Church of Latter-Day Saints. I am here. And I’m going to tell this story.

*****I have plenty of books to read, and a language to learn, but I now have the time this summer to write a series of posts, starting with my various coming out stories throughout my life. I will then write about my experience as a gay Mormon and the Church policy change. From there, we will see!*****