Monday, October 13, 2014

Just Following the Crowd

Sunday, October 12, 2014, I went for the third time to represent Mormons Building Bridges (MBB) in the Atlanta Pride Parade. The first year was an uplifting, eye-opening experience. Mine and my brother's families had a sign made and showed up to join the unknown person who had registered MBB. That person didn't show, but was at least partly responsible for getting us there. Many people along the way were surprised and grateful to see Mormons marching in support of their gay brothers and sisters. Several people watching and participating in the parade told us how they or someone they knew had felt rejected by the church, or even that they had left because the church wouldn't accept that loved one. One man told us how his partner had left the LDS church years before, but he knew his partner still cared about Mormonism and felt the loss, from time to time. He was so sincerely grateful to have someone publicly reaching out.

The second year, we had a couple additional people join us, but with some of our family members sitting out our numbers weren't much bigger. Still, we felt supported and hopeful.

This third year there were a few more people interested in joining us, but sickness, a death, and unknown reasons meant it was just me and my brother, again. We dragged along our little kids, and a couple of the older ones who understood the importance to me and my brother, and had another good year. But if this is just us following the crowd and jumping on the band-wagon of tolerance and support for gay rights, it's the loneliest band-wagon I've ever been on.

I am happy when gays find love and support in just being themselves. As my church has recognized, ". . . individuals do not choose to have such attractions. . . ." ( And, "With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters." I want to make this true where I live. Right now it's just nice words. So maybe it's time for me to put my shoulder to the wheel on this band-wagon the Church has endorsed, and publicly reach out with love to those three or four or five young people that are growing up in my ward. The ones who are just realizing, or will realize in the next ten years, that they are gay, or lesbian, or transgender, or queer, or some other thing that we only barely recognize exists in our church. Something that they didn't choose, but now have to live with. Somehow those few people need to know that I am their ally.

I don't know how to do it. While I feel Mormon to my core, what people see on the outside borders on barely active. Family and work demands make the kind of activity I used to rely on to let people see my commitment an impossibility. So I not only live on the fringe of my ward intellectually and doctrinally, but now physically, too. I sing with the choir, and I'm intensely sincere (about everything). Plus, there are many loving people in our ward, and we are pretty easy to think of as normal, so we aren't complete outsiders. But I no longer have a regular way to reach out. My calling doesn't involve teaching or speaking. Childcare means I hardly ever participate in classes. I have no natural interactions with the youth, and no intention of forcing issues on people who aren't interested in them. True Mormonism is my crusade, not gay rights, or gender rights, or any other single issue, so I don't want to push something just because I am obsessed with it.

Still, I have to come out of the closet in my home town. I have to let people see me more. How? We will see. I'll give it some time and take more baby steps, but I haven't moved much forward from two years ago. It is time.

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