By Meagan M. Colwell (also posted at her blog ruthandmeagan.blogspot.com)
“This [LDS] Church has felt the bitter sting of persecution and marginalization early in our history … Our parents, young adults, teens and children should therefore, of all people, be especially sensitive to the vulnerable in society and be willing to speak out against bullying or intimidation whenever it occurs, including unkindness toward those who are attracted to others of the same sex. This is particularly so in our own Latter-day Saint congregations. Each Latter-day Saint family and individual should carefully consider whether their attitudes and actions toward others properly reflect Jesus Christ’s second great commandment — to love one another.” (LDS Newsroom)
|Mel and Me (on the right) with Mrs. Ford
My twin sister and I entered Kindergarten when we were 6 years old. Our family had stopped going to church when I was 4 and we didn’t do Pre-school, so the classroom setting and accompanying social situations were very new to me. That year I learned so much and had such wonderful teachers in Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Mensen. We were already friends with one girl, Mandy, who lived diagonal to us and who was also put in the afternoon class. There was even a pair of twin boys who we became fast friends with. Trevor and Travis were funny, understood the indignity of being told they were exactly the same, and had a pony. That year and the following summer before they moved away, the four of us often spent time at each other’s houses. It was at their house that I first remember realizing that I was different.
Trevor and Travis shared a bedroom and on their wall was a framed photo of Tara, one of the girls in our class. Travis noticed me looking at it and explained that she had given it to them. I was jealous and just stood there as he went back to play with the others. It then hit me that I wasn’t jealous of Tara. I was jealous of Trevor and Travis. That they got to have a picture of her and I didn’t. At that moment it became very clear to me that that was not the way things were supposed to be. I didn’t know at the time what that meant. All I knew was that I liked that girl the way that those boys liked her and that I needed to keep that a secret.
That same year, kissing-tag was a popular game during outside playtime. The classic “girls chase the boys and try to kiss them and give them cooties” kind of game. While everyone ran around insane with giggles, Mandy and I sat on the balance beam.
“Why aren’t you playing?” I ask her, curious, thinking I might not be the only different one after all.
“I don’t want to chase boys,” she answers, obviously appalled by the idea, “Why aren’t you playing?”
The truth-that I’d play if I could chase the girls-speaks out in my mind, and I think about saying it before catching myself.
“I don’t want to chase boys either,” I repeat back to her, looking at the ground.
She shrugs and goes to play in the sandbox. I eventually follow, but wonder what she would have said if I had told her what I really thought.
As the years went by from Kindergarten to Fifth Grade, I listened, watched, and learned.
I listened as my friends shared their crushes on boys in hushed, excited voices. I watched their faces change from glee to anger when my turn came and I would say I didn’t like anyone. They knew I was lying. So I learned to copy their crushes, to pick a popular boy and gush about his smile.
I listened as classmates were called fags or gay. I saw the anger behind those words and then I learned what they meant. They meant me. These ugly words that shocked teachers and made kids cry were the words that defined the difference I had discovered in Kindergarten. I was filled with fear. I had been right to lie-to hide. If anyone found out they would hate me just like they hated those words. I knew that God knew my thoughts and came to the conclusion that He must hate me, too, or at least not love me. I was too scared to ask Him.
It wasn’t until I was 20 that I was finally able to pray and ask Him if He loved me, and when I did I had no doubt that He loved me perfectly. It took another 4 years and going on an LDS mission to realize that there were those who would love me just the way I am. A large part of my spiritual and emotional healing was being honest with others and deciding I didn’t have to hide anymore, that my attraction didn’t taint me or make me unlovable.
As I’ve opened up to my LDS wards, family, and friends, I have been asked by some parents to not do or say anything that might inform their children that I am attracted to women instead of men.
“They don’t need to be exposed to that.”
“They’re too young to have any need to be involved in that subject.”
These comments, and others like them, hurt my heart so badly. I feel like I’m that little girl again, tainted, having to hide.
These comments are saying that innocent children don’t know anything about this subject, inferring that I was not an innocent child. I had to grow up a lot faster than other kids, but that wasn’t because I knew that some girls like girls, or some boys like boys, it was because society told me that because I liked girls instead of boys I was something hated and despised.
The innocence of a crush at that age should be undisputed by anyone who remembers their first crush, it was no different for me. We tend to forget what being a child is like. It is a time of learning, and not all of that happens in the classroom or under the supervision of adults. If you don’t talk to your children and help them become Christ-like examples in how they treat those kids who have crushes on their same gender, then society will teach them. Society is not a kind teacher and often teaches cruelty.
I understand the desire to protect the innocence of children, but, please, don’t confuse innocence with ignorance.
After years of society teaching the little girl in me that she was tainted, dirty, and evil, I am finally standing up. Not just for me, but for all the current little girls and boys who are so scared that their friends won’t stay their friends. Who are scared that their parents can’t love them. Who fear that God doesn’t love them because they have a crush on the wrong person. The little girl who lies about a crush in order to avoid being hated. She has committed no sin and is not guilty of the taint that society, and society’s children, give her.
I am reclaiming her innocence.
About me: Grew up in a large family in Sandy, UT. Came out to my twin and parents when I was 16, served a mission in “Tejas.” Active LDS lesbian.
|Mel and Me (r)