By Hannah Stewart (also published at her personal blog and at feministmormonhousewives.org)
A lingering question that takes up a lot of thought and pondering in my mind is how much of my real life to filter.
Sometimes I want to only share a pretty memory “book” that focuses only on the positive. Sometimes I want to stop writing anything personal at all, and just ramble, maybe even under a pseudo name so I can say whatever the heck I want and no one will know that that is how Hannah really feels.
It’s so easy to only write and say the things that I think others will accept and not reject me for.
But the truth is, there is so much of my “real” life that I don’t talk about. Real struggles that I’m facing, real pain that I’m feeling, because the truth is that this is a difficult time in my life. The happy moments I share aren’t lies, because I do try my very best to find the goodness in this life, but they’re just not the entire story.
My dad is gay. My parents are divorced (not solely because of that fact), and now my parents have two separate households, one of which my dad shares with his partner, Mark.
Though it’s been an adjustment and a huge learning process, accepting the reality of my life and my family, I’ve grown to be comfortable with my dad and Mark. I obviously love my dad very much, and I also love Mark.
I watch my dad and Mark interact with each other, I see love, respect, kindness, loyalty, and dedication. I watch my dad and Mark interact with my siblings, and I see the same things. I see my little brother come over and sit on Mark’s lap and Mark intently listen to what he has to say, whether it’s about his lego set or his little sister that is bothering him. I hear him tell my six-year-old sister that she looks so beautiful in her new outfit. I see the joy in his eyes when he sees the my siblings laugh and play.
Mark and Dad are good parents. Obviously my dad has always been my dad, and I’ve always loved him for it, but it’s been amazing to me to see Mark come into our lives and be another loving parent to me and my siblings.
There is a peaceful spirit I feel when I am at dad and Mark’s house. It is calm, simple, and beautiful. I don’t feel like there is anything amiss, or missing, though of course I always miss both my parents and all of my family members whenever we are not all together.
I guess I am saying all of this as a back drop to my feelings I want to express in this post.
I’ve been taught at church to think that what I experience at my dad’s house is “wrong.” That it isn’t natural, right, healthy, or good.
Well I’ve come to the point when I just KNOW that is not true. I believe it, I feel it, I know it.
I feel peace in that recognition, but then I turn to the beliefs of my childhood and feel confusion, despair, hurt, anger, and more hurt.
Because it doesn’t make sense.
It terrifies me to admit that. It scares me that I could potentially lose my temple recommend as I think back to the interview I had with my Stake President before I got married, him telling me that I could love my dad but not support him in who he “is” or what he’s “doing”. Him telling me that there is a fine line I couldn’t cross. Ultimately, I could only “love” him as much as the church allowed.
It terrifies me that I feel betrayed by an organization that seems so good and beautiful and that I wish more than anything in the world, I could’ve never learned to doubt.
It terrifies me that I find myself filled with anger all the time when I have NEVER been an angry person. I’m angry whenever I hear someone from my faith say something horrible about gay people or gay marriage, I’m angry when the sexism in the church is glaringly obvious, and I’m angry that I feel so much negativity in my life that is affecting my relationship with myself and those around me.
I’m terrified that I will be rejected by those of my faith because I have “doubts” and because I vocally state my opinion about issues in the church.
I’m terrified that I will lose my friends if I am not silent.
I’m terrified that people think or will think that I am not a good person, that they will think it necessary to stay away from me because I’m an “apostate”.
I’m desperate to share with others a message of love and acceptance, so maybe, just maybe I could make a difference and someone I know will think or act differently towards gay people in their life. But I’m also desperate to not “cross that line” because I really do want to do what’s right.
That’s the thing I keep finding myself sobbing to my DH “I really do feel like I’m a good person…but I just can’t do what the church is telling me “God” says is right…I don’t want to be a bad person…I just want to love others and teach others to love…I don’t want to be a bad person…”
I find myself feeling jealous of other Christian sects who don’t claim to have a latter-day prophet (aka all of them) because they still have the freedom to think and act for themselves, to believe that maybe homosexuality isn’t a sin. It isn’t a sin for a woman to teach or to not veil her face, after all…The Bible was also just a secular history… Jesus came to end false traditions and beliefs, to teach love… They can still believe in God and feel justified in their feelings, because God isn’t telling a group of old men in their church that homosexuality is a sin and gay marriage is wrong.
In a moment of frustration, DH said to me “You need to stop looking for then negative things about the church!” But I know, and he realizes now, I never looked for any of them. They all found me.
The Mormon world is a beautiful, happy, wonderful one. I never wanted anyone or anything to ruin that for me. I WANT to be a part of that world. But my integrity won’t allow ignorance anymore.
I’m never going to stop trying my very hardest to be the very best person I can be, I’m not going to stop going to church, because that doesn’t feel natural or what’s best for me. I’m never going to stop seeking truth and light, but I just CAN’T live ignoring the truth I’ve already discovered.
I also realize that a lot of the reason controversial and confusing things in the church are so incredibly painful for me to deal with right now, is because they are all tied to what has happened in my family and personal life. When I feel the sting of the cold, insensitive statement the church released this past Wednesday about the recent court rulings, it also triggers the staggering pain of every time I’ve seen one of my loved ones cry because, as someone said to me just two days ago, my family is no longer an eternal family.