Tuesday, March 26, 2013


It's a strange thing to wake up and realize that you are a part of a minority group. That's what hit me during my loooong coming out to myself process. I'd never thought to apply the labels of SSA, gay, lesbian, homosexual, etc. to myself. But once I really accepted and owned that I was a lesbian, it hit me that I was now a part of a group who could legally be discriminated against. I couldn't marry my love- in many places I could be fired from a job or denied housing based on my orientation- I would have to jump through legal hoops to share parental rights to future children with my partner. That whole concept took some getting used to. So what did I do? I started to learn everything I could about the history of this group. I learned about Stonewall and devoured every person's story I could. Then, it was election season and time for the Democratic National Convention. I watched as the Democratic party added marriage equality to their platform... to their *freaking* platform. I watched this speech, where Zach Wahls talks about growing up in a family with two moms:

What was most amazing to me was hearing the roar of the crowd, supporting marriage equality. I got goosebumps. Then I heard Michelle Obama, in the middle of her speech laying out the case for the re-election of her husband, offer her support of marriage equality saying:

“If farmers and blacksmiths could win independence from an empire, if immigrants could leave behind everything they knew for a better life on our shores, if women could be dragged to jail for seeking to vote, if a generation could defeat a depression and define greatness for all time, if a young preacher could lift us to the mountaintop with his righteous dream, and if proud Americans can be who they are and boldly stand at the altar with who they love, then surely, surely we can give everyone in this country a fair chance at that great American dream.”

I got goosebumps.

They're talking about me! I thought. I'm a part of that group! I declared. They're supporting me! I humbly realized. And the tears came instantly.

And today, when I logged into Facebook and saw my newsfeed bright red with friends posting their profile picture as this:

and this:

and even this:

I get goosebumps. I feel humbled. I feel like this is a really momentous moment that I'm grateful to be a witness to.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Feliz Dia de San Valentin

For so much of my adult life, Valentine's Day has been supremely awkward. I was "single", but maybe not really. I was in love, but in denial about that love. I joked about "Single Awareness Day", while not really being interested in dating. I did, however, relish the opportunity to down a Ben and Jerry's because I think that's pretty expected when one is not on a hot Valentine's Day date. This year I just want to tell my sweetheart how much I love her and how grateful I am to have her by my side. As I sat next to her in the Urgent Care yesterday watching her cough miserably, I thought about all the times that she's held me, comforted me, tucked me into bed, and made me a bowl of ice cream. I thought about the tears she's dried, the reassurance she's given, and the jokes she's told. I thought about the books she's read aloud to me because she's so excited by the ideas on the page and she just wants to share. All of those everyday gestures are the sweetest and best gift of love I could ever imagine. So Rachel, I just want to say thanks for giving me such wonderful gifts of love, and happy Valentine's Day.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Emotions & Life Changing Moments

Yesterday was the day. After all the tests and planning and discussion, the stars were lined up and our journey toward parenthood took another step.

The process is remarkably technical, with everything timed out carefully. Ovulation was calculated, then at precisely 10:45 Sunday night I took an HGC shot to "trigger" ovulation precisely 36 hours before d-day. Tuesday morning was our first try to get pregnant. Rachel and I made sure that we left our house to get there with plenty of time. And that's how we ended up in front of the doctor's office a full 45 minutes before our appointment.

Rachel and I got out of the car and decided to take a walk to pass the time. As we walked, the worries set in. What were we getting ourselves into? Were we really ready for this? Would that little, annoying voice in the back of our head that taunted "What you're doing is against the church and immoral!" go away. It's that voice that keeps popping up, but every time it does, I've looked closer at it and have seen only a ghostly remnant of a lifetime of teaching. When I engage that voice I ask it the follow up questions, like "are you really saying that the 2 of us shouldn't have a child? Do you really think that two loving parents raising a child they desperately want is immoral?" The funny thing is, the voice doesn't respond and in fact withers away. So, as Rachel and I walked among the medical offices, we nervously went through all of our fears and concerns. And we ended in the same place we always have, knowing that despite everything, this is what feels right and this is what we want to do. But heck, we were both pretty nervous.

Finally, it was 10:45 Tuesday morning and time to meet with the doctor for our 1 in 3 chance to get pregnant. We went back to the room and settled in. I'll spare the gory details, but the doctor walked me through it step by step until everything was done. Finally, the doctor and the two other medical assistants left the room and told me to lie there with my hips raised for 10 minutes. Everything got quiet and Rachel came over and held my hand. We looked at each other and just started crying. We were overcome with emotion, just pure emotion, and it surprised both of us. Everything in that moment felt right and good and pure and I wanted to stay in that moment forever... my feelings were just so... big. I know this whole process is an emotional roller coaster, and I know that we're just at the beginning. But, lying there in the doctor's office holding Rachel's hand I felt like everything in my life had led up to that exact moment.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Going Shopping

Over the past 7 months after coming out to our family and friends, Rachel and I have started moving forward with our lives in some big ways. I feel like I was stuck in a holding pattern for so many years, not really able or willing to think too far in the future about what I wanted my life to look like because of the irreconcilable nature of our relationship and the church. I couldn't imagine a future without Rachel, but I couldn't imagine a life without the church, and so I just stopped my brain from thinking too much about it. Now, that's all changed, and it's been one of the biggest changes and blessings of the past year. I don't feel like I'm waiting at all for my life to begin. I can find joy in the present, but I can also look forward to a future full of those things that I want. What all of that leads us to, is that Rachel and I are starting a family together. Not only are we now truly, and in every sense of the word that matters to me, each other's family, we're also working to expand our family. And that is why we spent the other night shopping... for sperm.

It's an interesting experience trying to find the genetic material that you want to be in your offspring via a website, profile pictures, and information reminiscent of online dating profiles... plus some extensive medical histories, and a high level of anonymity. It's like sorting through products on Amazon, except this time it's deciding preferences on how tall should the donor be? How about hair color? Eye color? Educational background? Ethnic background? Profession? Want to hear an interview with the donor? Okay. Want to see the medical history of his entire family, including cousins? No problem. Want to see what he looked like as a child? Click here. Now decide- whose genes do you want to make a baby with? Kindof a surreal experience that I didn't anticipate having a year ago.

I've finished an extensive round of tests and was informed that aside from a lack of sperm, there's no reason why I'm not already pregnant- so that's great news! And, I've also learned that at age 35 women experience a steep decline in fertility rates, so at least we're getting started a whole month before my 35th b-day. It's already been an emotionally up and down experience, and I know that will only increase, but I'm just so thankful that I feel like the captain of my own destiny and that together Rachel and I can truly build a life together, deciding just what that means to us. Choosing a sperm donor was an unexpectedly empowering moment.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Gene Robinson Gives Me The Words I Need

I had every intention of blogging regularly, of documenting and sharing this part of our journey out of the closet and into the next phase of life. But, like I'm sure so many others have experienced, I just didn't find my way back here. I've had so many posts drafted in my head, but they never found their way to the keyboard. Oh well... nothing to do but move forward. The past few months have been in many ways far easier and more liberating than I ever dared hope that coming out of the closet would be. I'm still not as open about my life as I'd like to be, but I can see myself getting closer. 

When I heard about the new LDS church website, I really wanted to be optimistic. But, as I actually watched the videos and read the text, I just felt angry. I couldn't stop feeling like the tone was condescending and actually dehumanizing. I couldn't find the words to explain why I felt that way, and I started to wonder if I was just being a grinch. I've read others' perspectives, like the Crazy Mormon, which expressed the thoughts I couldn't and helped me find the words for the frustration this website evoked. But I think the best summary of the inherent discrimination repeated throughout this website is explained by Gene Robinson in his book God Believes in Love (which everyone needs to read!):

"It is interesting to see conservative religious leaders and followers... attempt to take "higher" ground and to sound both sympathetic and reasonable in asserting, 'Well, there's nothing wrong with being gay, as long as you never indulge yourself in this horrific and God-condemned drug of choice.' Initially, this sounds so much kinder and gentler than outright condemnation of being gay. But when analyzed more closely it is hardly a step forward. Such 'compassionate conservatism' has only been the reluctantly offered attitude when outright rejection of a beloved son or daughter or fellow church member has seemed too cruel. For countless centuries, outright rejection has been the order of the day." (pp. 38-39) 

There is one statement made on the website that has been running through my head for weeks. In an effort to show how members of the church can still love gays and lesbians in their life, Greg argues that ones sexuality is actually such a small sliver of what it means to be human that it's hardly worth talking about. I'm exaggerating, of course. What he actually says is, "I think it is always useful to the process of creating dialogue to understand that homosexuality, that may be such a huge part of how we perceive that person, in reality is just a minor part... it seems to me like if this represents a person's entire personality, all of who and what they are, that their sexuality, whether it's homosexuality or heterosexuality, is just a small little slice of that bigger pie. We've got to keep that in perspective and say look, I can love this person, I can relate with this person..." Hearing this statement upset me on such a deep level that I was frankly shocked by my own response. Every time I saw a status update on Facebook celebrating an anniversary, every time someone mentioned the cute thing their child just did, or the sweet present that their husband gave them I wanted to shout at them "HOW DARE YOU FLAUNT YOUR HETEROSEXUALITY!" It just doesn't seem like a "small slice" of people's lives.

So, when I kept reading in Robinson's book and heard him discuss the same phenomenon, I felt like a bobble head nodding my agreement. He expresses it so much better than I can: "Some 'tolerant' people might even say, in exasperation, 'I know you are gay, but do you have to keep rubbing it in my face? Stop flaunting it!' Such sentiments mark only a slight improvement over outright intolerance. Now, to be sure, tolerance is preferable to intolerance, and a 'let it be' attitude is certainly much better than violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. But it's not much of an improvement. To someone like me, on the receiving end of this kind of 'tolerance,' it still feels abusive and life denying and not a lot different from outright disdain. Perhaps that seems unfair and small-minded to those who say these things, but most gay and lesbian people I know are not willing to live happily with that more subtle form of heterosexism."

Preach on, brother!  THAT is what bothers me most about the new LDS website, and THAT is what I can't stomach any more of.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Baby Steps Out of the Closet

My goal for this post: get our "story" up to date. I've written about it here and here  Rachel and I spent the next several months just being okay with being us. We didn't come out to anyone for a while, I think because we just really wanted to be 100% sure that we were both okay with us being together. And we were. We knew eventually we'd need to figure out what we were going to do about the church, and how we were going to tell folks, but we just enjoyed our time together for a while.

Finally, we knew that it was time to get the ball rolling and move on, whatever that meant. Rachel had a Family Reunion, and I stayed behind. That was torture for both of us. She was tired of pretending like we weren't a family. One night she took the plunge and came out to one of her brothers, "Bobby". He couldn't have been more supportive. He started to share that he'd enjoyed listening to different perspectives on sites like Mormon Stories. When Rachel came back, we decided to check it out. We found this interview with Benji Schwimmer and were captivated by his story and experience. We forgot all about whatever it was we were going to do that afternoon and watched the 3rd part of his interview from start to finish, completely mesmerized. While his story was clearly his own, some of the similarities between our experiences and his were plain uncanny. As affirming as it was to actually hear someone else's story, there was a moment that jolted me deeply. Benji explained how after being disfellowshipped and working his way back to being fully in "good standing" his stake president informed him that he would always have an asterisk on his records. This asterisk would prevent him from ever holding a church calling around children or youth. Ever. I was a Sunbeam teacher at the time, so as I heard him describe his shock and hurt learning about this new policy, I couldn't believe it. I started Googling like crazy, and then read this great post on the Moho Directory. I've worked with children throughout my career, and in my entire time in "family wards". To think that if anyone *found out* who I loved they would decide that I was too much of a risk was just beyond insulting and infuriating.

Listening to Benji's interview just opened the flood gates. We started reading blogposts. I think I read through 2 years of posts from Kiley on We Were Going To Be Queens within 2 days. We began watching every documentary on Netflix about gay rights, gay issues, etc., starting with "8" and going to "Because the Bible Tells Us So", "Fish Out of Water" and "Outrage". And we started considering for the first time that not only was the church not really working out for us, but it may not have been strictly *true*. Stepping back and taking a look at questions about the church's truth claims, it was shocking how quickly our whole belief system was shattered. Between the polygamy and polyandry, Book of Abraham, DNA evidence, changes in central doctrines, teachings about Blacks and the priesthood, our Mormon lenses just started shattering. Rachel got an iPad app with different sound effects and would start using the shattering glass sounds for each new concern or fact that didn't align with the neatly correlated church we'd grown up in. Crack, crack, crack.

At the same time we started Skyping with Bobby and his wife Fiona. The whole world started to shift. It was amazing to be open and honest, not just finally with ourselves, but now with other people. Within a few weeks we decided to come out to the rest of our immediate families. The response from all was initially warm and reassuring. In the time since, there has been some distance from certain family members and for me I'm definitely still finding my footing. I asked to be released from primary teaching and haven't set foot back in a church building. I have no intention of being bitter-- I don't want to be bitter about the church because I know how much it means in the lives of my siblings and parents, and there was a lot that I did enjoy about my experiences in the church. I don't want to be bitter about having spent years of my life in limbo because the truth is I have a great life. And I don't want to be bitter about suddenly realizing that I'm in a minority group and don't have some of the basic rights and protections that my heterosexual friends and family members enjoy because I believe that as a country we eventually get things right. Overall, the process to now of coming out has been far better than I ever could have imagined. I've started coming out to friends at work and will keep working through this process. The best way I've been able to explain my current status to friends and coworkers is that I'm now a little less Mormon and a little more gay.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Next Chapter

I'm finding it hard to write the next part of our story. I've tried several times over the past few days, but I keep hitting a wall. I don't know if it's because of the deep pain that is interwoven over this part of our story. Maybe it's that I don't think I can actually explain it in a way that makes sense. But the truth of the matter is that after Rachel and I put "Same Sex Attraction" on the table (see here and here), the next several years were spent living a life with two competing and antagonistic parts.

During our final months at BYU we spent countless hours talking about how to reconcile SSA and our belief in the gospel. I dated a guy that I genuinely cared for and Rachel played the part of the ever supportive best friend. At the same time, her jealousy and confusion caused deep pain for both of us. Looking back, it's clear that she felt on some level that I was being unfaithful to our relationship, even though we both genuinely believed that we wanted the other to find our Prince Charming and get whisked away to an eternal marriage. But neither of us really realized that at the time. Friends looked at my relationship with Rachel with jealousy which I also didn't understand at the time. Taken altogether, that last year at BYU was the most difficult time of my life in many ways. At the end of the year, Rachel and I decided to move to different states, remaining friends but exploring life in different parts of the country.

After I moved to Arizona, I struggled to start a new life. Things ended with the guy I'd been dating on and off over the previous months. I talked on the phone with Rachel nearly every day. Eventually, we decided that it was madness for us to live apart, and Rachel moved to Arizona. We were committed to supporting each other in overcoming our challenges and living the life we'd always hoped for. Over the next several years we constantly tried to balance these two competing inner agendas. We attended singles wards and would go through a cycle of diligently trying to date, then taking a break from dating. There were moments of expressing physical affection, then deep guilt and self-loathing for "messing up." We both threw ourselves into our work, each of us seeking fulfillment in working for a cause. As our lives became more and more entwined- we bought a condo together, bought furniture together, lost track of who owed what money to who and for what, we would *joke* about the upcoming "divorce" when we would have to separate our stuff in order to move forward with our lives with a new partner. Looking back, there was always an underlying sense of uncertainty and confusion about our relationship and our future together, and this insecurity would burst to the surface in really volatile ways. When we fought, our fights would explode into epic events.

Throughout all of this, we always thought that we were the only ones who felt this way. I know now how egocentric and naive that sounds, but that's really what we thought. We never thought to look on the internet to see others stories. At church, all we saw were our fellow "LDS single adults" who were striving to (and obsessing over) getting married. After getting worn out by several years of hearing "I just can't wait to overcome this struggle and finally be married" over the pulpit, we transitioned to a "family ward". Imagine our surprise when we started to hear, from married people no less, about the constant struggles that these people were facing as well. Surrounded by people *struggling*, I believed that this was just the way life was, and that the struggles Rachel and I were facing just needed to be borne and overcome like anyone else's. As the years passed I knew a few things: that I loved Rachel, that I was committed to my testimony, that to remain Mormon meant remaining celibate, and that dating held little allure for me.

Cracks in these tightly held beliefs started in 2008. The year of Proposition 8 in California was also the year that a similar bill came before the voters of Arizona. I was shocked by the outright hysteria I heard at church and from my family in California about gays and gay rights. Now, to be clear, I had never identified myself as gay, nor even taken that under consideration. Neither had Rachel. That was not a term that we had ever considered for ourselves. And yet, as I heard the rhetoric it seemed overblown, hysterical, and hypocritical. Those months made me start questioning the church's stance in a way I never thought I would. The next crack was the infamous President Packer talk in October, 2010. Rachel had been attending church more and more infrequently as she struggled to feel comfortable in a church centered on families as a single woman (I could go on and on about this, but I won't). So, we settled in together to listen to the living prophets. And then, President Packer said this: "Some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and the unnatural. Not so. Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?" Upon hearing that, Rachel picked up the remote control, turned the TV off, and threw the remote onto the ground. That was the last moment of General Conference that I've seen. My heart broke in that moment as she yelled at the TV and hurled unanswerable questions to a distant "apostle". This was indefensible. I didn't know about those gay rights protesters shown on TV in flamboyant costumes, but I did know about Rachel. I knew how believing and sincere she was. I knew how invested she was in the church. And I knew that she knew she had been attracted to girls since her early teen years. I had to come to terms with the fact that the church just didn't have an answer for her questions.

I kept holding on to both the church and my love for Rachel for the next several months. After nearly 10 years of battling though, I have to admit that my belief that God would answer my prayers and show us a way to lay claim to the life of a faithful Mormon as I understood it (temple marriage, kids, happily ever after into the eternities) was fading to say the least. Then, one day a simple misunderstanding between us blew up into a huge argument, and something in me snapped. I decided I'd had enough. I'd had enough of feeling myself pulled into two. I'd had enough of waiting around for someone to appear in my life. I'd had enough of acting like my relationship with Rachel wasn't a truly significant and defining relationship in my life. I'd had enough of trying to figure something out that wasn't figure-out-able. Most of all, I'd had enough of focusing on what it was that I was lacking. I had a great job which I enjoyed, good health, a nice house, was financially stable, had the luxury of being able to travel. More importantly, I already had someone in my life who loved me unconditionally, and who I loved and adored. What in the world was I waiting for? How selfish and ungrateful was I for feeling like my life was somehow incomplete.

I told Rachel that I was done *struggling*. I just wanted to be with her. I wasn't going to sit around waiting for something else and beating myself up when we just love each other. She said something to the effect of, "um, okay!" We didn't know where that left the church in our lives, but in that moment I just stopped worrying about it. My hand which had been holding onto the church so tightly just let go and I wondered what the future would hold. But the most amazing thing happened: in the moment since making the decision to just love each other, the underlying angst, depressions, anxiety, worry, insecurity, and anger have virtually disappeared. I never expected that. I never thought that would be possible. I never thought that just allowing myself to love and be loved would be such a freeing experience.

By Theresa