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.