LGBTQIA Voices – Bethany Roth

LGBTQIA Voices – Bethany Roth

 “I met my Father, the mender of all cups, while sitting in the dusty, dark, ruins of my own home. I have since learned that they are the same place.”

My Mended Cup

My cup broke a while ago. A thousand pieces of heart and soul left bleeding on the ground. I originally thought I had to enter a physical place, a holy place, to see if it was mendable.  But, I found the way blocked and the price of entry too steep for my slim wallet. I read the “ No Apostate’s Allowed” sign on the door a thousand times before my eyes finally widened with understanding.  There would be no mending of my cup in this place. I would have to meet my Father elsewhere.   

It has been over a year now since I sadly turned and walked away from the Temple’s doorstep.  I had wiggled the door handle and knocked loudly despite the nasty signage.  The new church policy that labeled LGBT Mormons “Apostates” if they married and barred their children from membership changed everything. More specifically, the pile of dead LGBTQ LDS children that came after the policy change, changed everything. I was initially so busy obsessing about my own crisis of spiritual welfare and obligation that I didn’t notice the bodies piling up around me. When the Mama Dragons shared posts on social media about the true cost of the “policy,” I finally woke up.  I woke up and screamed.

I’ve had over a year now to reflect on the Church’s policy change that labeled me and many of my brothers and sisters unfit for Temporal or Celestial duty, caused a drastic increase in LGBTQ LDS suicides, and doctrinally severed our eternal connection to our beloved families.  My conclusions are as follows:

  1. The policy is not of God.
  2. The policy causes harm.
  3. I cannot change it.
  4. I must act according to my conscience.
  5. I cannot support policies that harm the innocent and the vulnerable.
  6. I have a duty to protect my family and myself from harm.
  7. The church does not have the authority to judge my worth, my worthiness, or my relationship with God.
  8. God is my friend and He will not betray me, even if His church does.

My wife and I recently watched the first few episodes of “The Handmaid’s Tale,”  a television series based off of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel of the same name. In addition to a multitude of other horrifying offenses, the totalitarian theocracy in power classifies homosexuals as “abominations.”  Identification as such by the authorities is punishable by death or, for the less lucky, genital mutilation.  I was shocked by how familiar the story line was.  I, too, stood accused, my once-trusted friends and leaders as the accusers. The jury substituted  “apostate” for “abomination,”  “celibacy” for genital mutilation, and “spiritual death” for physical death as they passed judgement and read the sentencing.  

The fact that the church had been on a trajectory to being more inclusive before slamming the door shut was incredibly disorienting to those of us in the LGBTQ LDS community.   On reflection, I realize that while atrocities towards LGBTQ individuals are hardly rare today, my lifetime has seen the rise of a newly minted “golden age” for gays in various parts of the world.  Up until recent years public support for, and apathy towards, abusive treatment of LGBTQ people had been the status quo.  I recognize that I currently live in the most tolerant environment for LGBTQ people the world has ever seen.  I am legally married to my wife, I have the love and support of friends, neighbors, and relatives.  I can walk down the street holding my wife’s hand and show her physical affection in public without fearing for my life or liberty.  Yet, in the many centuries the world and it’s queer population have been spinning, this golden age is a mere 1-ish decade old.  It is a single heartbeat in time compared to the millenia sprawling backwards into the horizon of our sad heritage.

My life, however stable and secure it may seem, is at the cresting wave of a society whose attitudes wax and wane like the moon.  Humanity rarely marches directly upwards to higher evolved expressions of inclusion.  My stable, happy life sits on a rocking boat on a wide and unpredictable ocean.  Assuming things can only get better is naive.  Human empathy and acceptance is as fragile as an empty glass in my hand.

After the devastating policy change, enacted by my spiritual government, the fickle nature of human sympathy was reinforced by my temporal government.  I remember the night of Donald Trump’s election.  My then fiance, Krista, and I clung to each other in our bed, wide eyed with a sickly chill that shook our insides and outsides.  I said to her “ I’ve never been scared before.  With all the previous elections, I’ve been frustrated, angry, disgusted, disappointed…but never scared.  I’m actually scared now of what they might do to us.” I felt like I had lost both church and state.  We acted quickly to secure our legal marriage in the event Trump followed through with his threats to overturn the supreme court ruling granting us this precious right.

“The wise man built his house upon the rocks”

Before the policy change I thought I had built a strong house, on the rocks, with a hand-me-down blue print said to be drawn by the Lord. I built a house using pillars reinforced by years of sacrament meeting attendance, scripture study, prayer, and obedience to the tenets of the church. Despite my best efforts, after the policy change,  one by one those pillars came crashing down.  The weight of the betrayal was too much for my foundation.  With the mortar crumbling away from the brick, I watched my pillars of Trust and Obedience bend and break.  I watched the church leadership and membership betray its own, tossing their religious integrity into the same waste bin as the children it diagnosed as “temporally burdened” with homosexual appetites… An affliction to be endured with unwavering celibacy all the days of our lives and ultimately cured after death. The quiet acceptance of this injustice and cruelty by the majority of the membership terrified me far more than any of Trump’s threats.  I stopped going to church.

Only one pillar remains now.  My pillar of friendship and connection to God. My love of prayer remains.  My desire to turn to Him when I am sad and scared remains.  And from the ruins of my old house, among the pillars that are bent and broken around me, I have found that “I now own a better view of the rising moon” (Mizuta Masahide). With the help of compassionate friends, and my patient wife, I have come to realize that I am now free.  I am free to claim my full endowment of self worth, to redefine my “worthiness,” and to embrace my power to choose what manner of woman I wish to be.  I am now free of the obligation to follow the “Lord’s will” as it is dictated by others.  I follow the will of the Lord by exercising my right to create my own happiness.  At 36 years old, I am finally shouldering full accountability for my life.

The Lord’s will for me is:

  1. To trust my heart.
  2. To practice kindness always.
  3. To do as my Christ-like father told me, “to stop crying and go be happy.”

The many Sunday School lessons I heard on listening for the Spirit have served me well during this time of upheaval.  Because I listened, I was able to hear the still small voice in my heart saying:

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering.

There is a crack, a crack in everything,

That’s where the light gets in.

(Leonard Cohen)

I spent much of my life letting others decide whether or not I was “OK.”  I gave tremendous power to my church leaders to judge if I was “worthy” and therefore “worth anything”.   The loss of my church identity and subsequent destruction of my sense of purpose in the world has removed this problem.  My search for the perfect act of religious prostration has ended. I have discovered that it is me standing tall, with my broad shoulders squared.  I never would have guessed that my God wants me to stand before Him, not kneel.

My broken cup was mended, but not in the beautiful, gleaming Temple of the Lord, whose heavy door was shut to me.  I met my Father, the mender of all cups, while sitting in the dusty, dark, ruins of my own home. I have since learned that they are the same place.

 

May all gentle things find you,

Bethany

 

 

Posted by A Celeste Carolin in Mama Dragon Blog
LGBTQIA Voices – The Conflict Within My Heart

LGBTQIA Voices – The Conflict Within My Heart

Posted with permission from Wendall T. Hair-

“People who are fearful may say and do the right things, but they do not feel the right things,” he said. “They often feel helpless and resentful, even angry. Over time these feelings lead to mistrust, defiance and rebellion.” President Uchtdorf said this in conference and he’s right.

I’m going to take the time and admit that this is probably my greatest motivator right now, though I feel that I genuinely try to do the right thing no matter what. Still there is a lot of fear in my heart. I fear I will never be with my family for all eternity; I lost several family members last year, never to see them again in this life, never to say goodbye to them or hug them again.

I fear that I will never ever live up to His expectations that I will never be good enough. I fear that He will never accept my own future family. I hate the Proclamation of the Family because it’s a constant reminder of what I didn’t come from and what I can’t truly have, or in the eyes of His church I’m invalid and not acceptable. I’m angry at my church leaders because they constantly remind me that I didn’t come from that. And the family I want to have will never be acceptable before God. I’m angry because I gave so much and yet I get so little in return. I just want to fit into His plan and have the assurance that I am more than this. I am living in a period of utter helplessness and I can’t win and I always disappoint. No, I’m not here to stir up contention between my friends; this is the conflict that has continually stirred within my own heart. When I learned that I couldn’t be sealed to just my mom five years ago and when I found out why my dad wasn’t in my life and the circumstances of my birth – when my testimony was shaken to almost nonexistence when the Nov 5th, 2015 policy came out – when I needed them the most, my leaders pretty much swatted me away or brushed me aside. Yea, President Uchtdorf you truly nailed it in the coffin.

The hardest things about being gay and Mormon are hearing talks on life and acceptance and then having the exact opposite occur; trying to be a part of a community that honestly doesn’t want to try to understand you; and having to be continually told that the best option for me is to live a life of celibacy even though you see your friends with their significant others. The list goes on…

Wendall Hair grew up in Fayetteville, North Carolina and joined the Mormon church a decade ago at age seventeen. He came out as gay four years ago.

Posted by A Celeste Carolin in Blog Posts, Mama Dragon Blog
For Parents: Discussing HIV And Safe Sex With Your Gay and Bisexual Sons

For Parents: Discussing HIV And Safe Sex With Your Gay and Bisexual Sons

By Daniel Parkinson

Speaking as an MD, I want all of your gay sons to be extremely cautious and reluctant about sex, because of the health consequences. Your concerns are legitimate, because the risk is real. As loving parents I hope that you will all let your children know how important it is to you, as parents, that they inform themselves and protect themselves.

For the rest of this article I am going to try to be clinical and direct. HIV is a serious risk, and although it is not as deadly as it used to be, it is still a very difficult chronic disease to live with. For this reason I don’t want to see anybody get infected with it. I am not going to discuss what kind of relationships are the most moral or bring the most happiness. I am only going to discuss approaches to avoiding HIV, and hopefully do so without judgment.

As parents you have to decide what is appropriate for you to discuss with your sons. Encourage them to inform themselves. Extract promises that they will protect themselves. There are a few points that I think a lot of young people miss, so I am going to mention them here, in case some of you are going to discuss these things with your sons (which I encourage). You don’t have to get into the nitty gritty with them, because that information is available on the internet, but you may want to have a talk with them about risk, and how to lower it.

If you do not feel that you need this information feel free to skip this. This may be more information than some of you need at this time. I hope this does not seem overwhelming, but I want to provide this to those of you who may need it.

The truth of the matter is this–the easiest way to be infected with HIV is through unprotected anal sex. There are currently 4 choices for avoiding infection: 1) avoid anal sex, 2) only have anal sex with an uninfected partner (monogamy) 3) condoms 4) prophylaxis (PrEP). I will speak to each of these. Then I will discuss drugs and alcohol, which mix poorly with sex, because they make it much harder to be vigilant and careful.

Option #1: Avoid anal sex. I think this is excellent choice, especially for teens. If they decide to be sexually active, there are still other safer activities.

Option #2: Monogamy is a great strategy for avoiding HIV. However, I really want young adult couples to be very reluctant to have unprotected sex, even when they are in a newer monogamous relationship. I think any relationship or marriage needs a good, long period of protected sex before throwing out the condoms. It turns out that most people who are infected, are infected by a person they are in a relationship with. Marriage equality has provided a helpful institution for gay people to navigate their relationships, but since the consequences are high, I encourage young couples to agree from the outset that they will still use protected sex for 1-5 years, even within a marriage. (Most gay men would find my viewpoint overly cautious…but it is still my advice). What gay couples need to learn is that honesty is actually even more important than fidelity. Lots of people make mistakes, but lying about these mistakes can have terrible consequences.

Option #3: Condoms. Every study has proven that sex education lowers sexual activity among teens. Informing your teen about safe sex will not cause him to be sexually active! In fact, good information will help him choose to wait, but if he does decide to have sex, he is much more likely to avoid infection if he knows about condom use.

Option #4: PrEP. This is prophylaxis against HIV which is a daily anti-viral pill. It would be essential to anybody who is in a relationship with an HIV+ person, although personally I would also use a condom. Obviously, some people use this pill so they can feel better about having unprotected sex. I encourage people to use condoms, but I can’t make their decisions for them, and I would rather have them taking the PrEP if they are choosing not to use condoms. Moreover, if your son has any kind of impulse disorder that could include sexual acting out, such as some types of bipolar disease or drug abuse, then I would encourage them to use PrEP.

Option “Worst case scenario”:  You should also be aware that there is also a prophylaxis for people who think they might have been exposed very recently.  It is a regimen of antivirals that should be implemented immediately after exposure to HIV. It is kind of like the morning after pill, because this treatment is there for times when somebody makes a big mistake by having unprotected passive anal intercourse, or having a condom break, or is exposed through accidental needle exposure (esp healthcare workers) or even rape. This regimen must be started very shortly after exposure, ideally within 24 hours or less (even 6 hours is better), but certainly within a day or two. It is a difficult regimen with lots of side effects. It is worth the side effects to avoid an even more difficult disease, but it is not a good idea to count on it as a replacement for safe sex. Knowing how to access this treatment quickly in case of an emergency would be a good idea for any sexually active person because of accidents such as broken condoms.

What young people need to know is that they need to be prepared. They need to realize that our defenses go down in these situations, and we get totally irrational during sex. We start to think things like “he is worth dying for”, or “if he is infected, then I want to be infected”. The only way to manage this, is to be very aware that these thoughts are going to happen in the heat of the moment, and they must be totally prepared and committed to not letting down their guard. This is one of the big reasons I encourage teens to wait until adulthood before becoming sexually active, because it is really, really difficult for anybody to manage, much less a teen.  But whether they are teens or adults, I want them to be very, very determined and very, very careful.

Drugs and alcohol are a terrible idea if you mix them with sex. It makes it even more likely that you will set aside caution. Bad decisions are made when under the influence. If your son does drink or use drugs, please make him promise that he will never mix it with sex.

I might add that low self-esteem, depression and feeling rejected by family or community also makes it easier to make bad decisions about sexual behavior. The Family Acceptance Project has shown that LGBT people who have rejecting families have an exponentially higher risk of contracting HIV at some point in their life. Familiarize yourself with the suggestions from the Family Acceptance Project. Make sure that if your son has depression or unresolved issues that are impacting his self-esteem that he gets treated with an affirming therapist

I hope this information doesn’t seem overwhelming. I hope your sons will make wise decisions about their relationships for the sake of their happiness but also for the sake of their life and health. I hope all of them have parents who are invested in these discussions with them. I suspect a lot of them will resist these discussions, but in this case they would hopefully see that it is coming out of genuine love rather than judgment.

Footnote: There is a lot to be gained from vaccination against HPV.  Boys aren’t routinely vaccinated, but any gay male teen should have the vaccine as soon as possible. It is best done several years before they are sexually active (but it would also be beneficial to any adult gay male who has had little or no sexual experiences).

Daniel Parkinson was born and raised in Utah to a Mormon family with a thick Mormon Heritage. He comes to this issue as a psychiatrist, with a strong sense of activism, and a desire to help the two communities that he inherited as his birthright: the Mormon community, and the gay community.

Daniel was married to Diego, his partner of 12 years in Canada as soon as it became legal there in 2004. Unfortunately, they were unable to live in the United States due to discrimination. Since their marriage was not recognized in the USA, Daniel couldn’t sponsor Diego for immigration, so they are forced by this to live abroad. For now, they divide their time between two cities they love: San Jose, Costa Rica, and Montreal, Quebec, but with the recent marriage equality and the Supreme Court decision they now have more options.

Posted by Daniel Parkinson in Blog Posts, 0 comments
Mama Dragons Respond to Orlando Massacre

Mama Dragons Respond to Orlando Massacre

By the Mama Dragons’ Board of Directors

As mothers and mother figures who fiercely love our own LGBT children, our collective hearts are broken over this latest act of hatred and violence. We mourn with the families of these brave souls who just wanted to live their truth proudly and openly in a world that has a long way to go toward inclusion and unconditional love.

We condemn the rhetoric that leads to such bigotry and vow to continue to fight it with everything we have. Our churches in particular need to be safe havens for all of God’s children. Until the dogmatic doctrines and policies and cultural shunning end, we will continue to lose our LGBT loved ones who wither with each rejection until violence and hatred become commonplace.

We will not sit quietly by and let this happen. We will continue to join our voices, louder than ever, with all those who champion dignity, respect and equality for all.

Posted by Mama Dragons' Board of Directors in Blog Posts, 0 comments