Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Episode 24: "Sacred all the way through" — Owning Her Lesbian Self Part I

Right click here to download the mp3.

Art by Marcia Snedecor
After her mother converted to Mormonism, Stacey was baptized a member of the church at age eight. The church offered her a place of safety and stability in the midst of difficult family life. She went on to attend BYU, serve a mission, marry a returned missionary in the temple, and have four children. But all the while, she knew she was different. No matter how much she threw herself into being the best possible Mormon, there was always something hiding below the surface ... that she was a lesbian.

Stacey will be watching the comments so she can respond to questions and discuss issues brought up in her story. 

As you leave comments, remember that Daughters of Mormonism seeks to provide a safe place for women to share their stories. This is a real story from a real person. Please see the Comment Policy for further details.

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  1. that was beautiful. i loved every minute. thank you for this story. it gives me hope, even though i'm not lesbian. somehow you spoke to a greater hope beyond all labels and differences.

  2. I wasn't sure what to expect with this one, but I really enjoyed it. Stacey, I almost feel like I know you after hearing this, and I think it will affect how I interact with people with different sexual orientations. So, thank you.

    One thing that I wondered about. You said that you were molested by a babysitter when you were a kid. Did this affect how you saw your sexuality? Did you ever blame the abuse for your lesbian feelings?

  3. This was a wonderful podcast. Every particle rang with authenticity.

  4. What an amazing story. I don't know that I have any questions, I'm just in awe of Stacey's courage and her ex-husband's kindness. It's so nice to hear that after years of avoiding thinking about her attraction to women that Stacey was able to be open about it and was helped by many loving people around her.

  5. beautiful story, stacey. We hear so much from gay mormon men and relatively little from lesbian mormon women it seems. it was really interesting to hear your story. i'm so happy that you seem to have found your happiness and true self. thanks for sharing with all of us.

  6. I always hesitate to insert my male voice into this uniquely feminine pod cast. I beg your indulgence I wish to share significantly more then I have ever before. I am Stacey's ex, Gail. I am grateful that she has shared her story. I learn form her all the time and it is and honor to be her partner. Though we both have other romantic partners we are as much partners as parents as we ever have been. We are as much of a family as ever.

    There are two things that Stacey brought out in her story that I would like to comment on, the triple threat, and the terrifying step away from relying on the brethren in making moral decisions.

    I believe the reason that feminists, intellectuals, and gays are the biggest threats to the church is only because they all bring into question the patriarchy. I believe that this was shown in sharp clarity during the fight over prop 8. I felt my church the church I loved was in my mind attacking families like mine. I struggled to understand why after tolerating even participating in many other variations from "traditional marriage" why was gay marriage was so frightening when some of these variations seemed an actual threat to the family and an affront to our theology. Even when I read the proclamation carefully who's express intent never says anything against homosexuality. Also when I read what the church wrote and what the brethren sad about their reasoning to fight prop 8 it all seemed spurious at best. The only reason I can see to fight to make it more difficult for these families was that to accept or even to let these unions live would illustrate there was no need for the unequal partnership the patriarchy provides for.

    I like Stacey found a group on the internet to support my coming out process, family fellowship. Through this e-mail group I not only got to know many family members of gay Mormons, but many gay Mormons themselves. I soon saw very clearly through Stacey's experience and those of my friends that the church is a very harmful place for anyone that is gay, and that the church does not and can not teach my children to honor their mother. As soon as I so that something so core to the brethren's message was so harmful to our family I knew I could no longer rely on them for a rubric to rate moral fitness. This was terrifying and aggravating. I soon realized that because of the church's efforts to make gay marriage illegal they were making it impossible for me to teach what I had always intended to teach my children about sex, "wait until marriage." I felt the brethren had taken this away. Fortunately I soon realized that there ways to deal with this in what I had felt most dear in my Mormon theology. The Book of Mormon is full beautiful and wise sermons about making prayerful decisions and distinguishing right from wrong. I don't remember any of these sermons ever simply saying "follow the prophet." Often making our own moral choices have brought little or no behavioral difference in our life, but it has brought a far greater peace into my life. This now is where were my "testimony" rests, in the peace that comes from prayerful moral decisions making. This is what I can not give back to my bishop, stake president, the brethren in Salt Lake, or anyone else.

  7. Gail, thank you for adding your voice to this post. I appreciate your observations about the triple threat being such simply because they call patriarchy into question. Thank you so much for sharing this part of your side of the experience.

  8. Anon X 2, Di and Katrina - thank you for listening and your kind words. Gail - thanks again for bringing me here and giving me this chance to share through Sybil. Tara - I was waiting for someone to bring this up - abuse leading to sexual orientation issues. I am so glad you did.
    The rate of sexual abuse of women is so high (25 to 40% of all females below 18 depending on your culture) and the rate of lesbianism so low (2% of females) that with simple comparison you can see for yourself how ridiculous a theory that would be, although emotionally, it feels plausible because we all have been traumatized about sexuality by the church and by the greater society. Abuse of any kind is what should be counteracted and the spectrum of sexuality can be morally addressed by counteracting the tendency of 97% (tell me if I am getting the number wrong by one or two percent) of all pedophiles who are HETEROsexual males and putting sanctions on men rather than putting the burden on women to protect themselves from men or use other men to protect themselves from predatory men which are only 10%of the male population and again 97%+or- of that 10% of predatory males are heterosexual males.

    Thanks again for giving me a chance to address that issue. I blamed the abuse not for my sexual feelings for women, but for my difficulty in trusting men in leadership positions in the church because they had so little compassion for me. I did not realize fully that my absence of feeling for men was different from other women until experiencing strong sexual feelings for women which came much later in my life. I see my mother has playing a far greater role in my sexual repression and the church helped me suppress it for a very long time. That is why I found the best guy I could when I tried to be the best Mormon I could. I did a really good job of choosing after all and I am so grateful for this life journey that has helped me to learn how incredibly important it is to listen to my heart. It is foundational to my work professionally and my whole happiness personally.

  9. In addition, the church is addressing the potential for abuse with double teaming men in primary, but it isn't very open about it. Even in the church, that 10% potential is there and sometimes the patriarchy has perpetuated it rather than addressing it. I am glad to see the changes that are happening. It is not an easy thing at all, so I am grateful for their efforts.

    What I will be most happy about is if the Mormon and other fundamental churches ever do make the shift from condemnation to acceptance of homosexuality, it will affect the rate of suicide among the gay population in their churches.

  10. Really good thoughts, and thanks for the percentages. You're right that it's ridiculous, but when there is sexual trauma, it can turn into the "reason" for just about anything. I really get you not being able to trust the male leaders. I have some issues there, too. When I stop to think about how many women and girls are abused every moment, it just makes me wonder how many actually make it through without being abused.

  11. What I find most rewarding is working with men and women who have been abused and helping them see their resilience that is inherent in the human soul. What is most important is that we listen to our inner voices and find success responding courageously to that voice. The church teaches us not to listen to our voice but to the voice of the prophet, the spirit, or some male voice of authority. Women's voices are subsumed into mens. That is the most important thing that is happening her in these interviews: women finding their own voices. I keep being grateful for Sybil and women who honor women's voices. I know it is not always easy but we can learn so much when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to see our own truth, sometimes not until we speak it to another receptive soul. Tara, what do you think?

  12. Sybil thank you for bringing Stacey on and Stacey, thank you for sharing your story. My heart was touched and I cried many times throughout this podcast. When you spoke of the pain from hiding your sexual identity, of the love Gail obviously had--has--for you, and when you finally came out. I shared many specific points with my husband because it meant so much to me.

    I think one thing I find most harmful about the Church's teachings is through their policies they encourage gay members to be "immoral" by not allowing them to actively seek intimacy with those they are attracted to and by okaying cohabitation but discouraging, and actively campaigning against, gay marriage. I can never understand how a church that proclaims to value love over other things does not allow its sexual minority members to experience and live this idea. They also cannot explain the feelings you, Stacey, had when you went to the temple and felt prompted to be who you truly are, that God made you that way.

    Thank you, Gail, for commenting as I think your voice is an important one to recognize in this podcast. I believe that you proved your love by supporting and encouraging Stacey to love as God made her to love.

    I will be sharing this with many of my friends and, especially, with my husband's aunt who is also a lesbian.

  13. You know, you're right, Stacey. I've often received the message that I shouldn't trust my own impressions, especially if they didn't match up with what the "brethren" were saying. Like we believe in personal revelation, but not really. The more I learn to listen to my own inner voice, the more I can see how I want to live my life.

    You say you help people "see their resilience that is inherent in the human soul." How do you do this?

  14. Another compelling story. Thanks to Stacey for sharing and for Sybil who continues to give these precious discussions to us all.

  15. Stacey:

    Thank you for sharing your story with the world. I have listened to it a few times and it has certainly resonated within. It's good to hear another lesbian's journey. I, too, used to panic inside when "it" was back. Those were my exact words, too. I would lament over it in my journal, but then rip out those pages and burn or shred them. I thought this was my burden, my "buffetings of Satan" or some other challenge in life to overcome. I even imagined that I had chosen homosexuality in the pre-existence to prove my strength and worthiness by taking on an extra burden; and to show I was never a “fence sitter” while there. That sounds so crazy now, but it made sense a few decades ago.

    I especially liked your Matrix reference and unplugging from it (the Church) and the instant obedience.

    I had to laugh a little, too, picturing the out loud and proud family of 11! Wow!

    Thank you for your courage in sharing with all of us. I really appreciate your post podcast comments regarding abuse leading to sexuality. Most women have been sexually abused in one manner or another; but only a few of us identify as lesbians. Thanks for addressing that one!

    And thanks to Sybil for giving us a voice.

  16. Thanks for this great interview. I had a lot of epiphany moments while I listened. God bless you, Stacey.

  17. Thank you Amber for your comments and finding this story of worth to you and your family. At first this was just so I could finally tell my story, but then I realized it is only a moment in time and where I was a month ago. I feel like I have grown in understanding and appreciating myself and what I gained from the "safety" of the church as a child. Honoring the most fundamental part of ourselves is very important, but I also gained a lot from my marriage - a compassion and trust for men that I never would have had without the marriage to such a good hearted man and for having my own amazing male children to show me how much I really could love the male spirit and open me up to finally loving another woman. I still love how allowing myself to finally face my "weakness" allowed God to show me that it was a strength after all.

    Thanks Tara for sharing your affirmation of inner voice and peaceful living. I help people see their resilience by reframing an experience to show how they utilized their external or internal resources or invite them with a question to consider that possibility. For example: When have you seen your questioning of the bretheren help you to make a better choice for your situation? I try to embrace the dichotomies of life rather than push one away and adhere to the other. I find that observing myself and others and reminding myself to withhold judgment or reactivity helps me find balance and wisdom from both my emotional and rational knowledge bases. This concept is called the wise mind from DBT.

    Thanks Lotus and anonymous for listening and sharing!

    Thanks Janice for sharing your process of coming to acceptance. My heart breaks at how long it takes us to let go of those messages of sinfulness and appreciate our most fundamental selves. I also appreciate that our road is more conscious in its choices because of our veering from the norm and having to come to terms with "truth as we know it." Hope you continue to unplug and tune in and keep sharing your story. Feel free to contact me through Sybil, which goes for anyone else who might want to as well.

    Amber, I was thinking about your "moral" issue with the church and I think that we are more moral when we are in tune with our truest self than when we are trying to follow someone who claims authority over us. I am trying to figure out how to do this with my children and still give them that security that they need when young of having a parent that is strong enough to say no when they need me to. Sweet times!

  18. Stacey, this was so beautiful, thank you for your courage and willingness to share and give us all a glimpse of something that I know I personally find often difficult to imagine, but I desperately want to understand. I was so compelled to hear your story (and I've been trying to find the time for days now to finish it!)

    I'm so glad to hear more women feel comfortable sharing their stories and experiences in this area - it really isn't focused enough on in feminist discussions, so I'm really grateful that you are helping to change that.

    Before I listen to part 2, I also just want to say that I thought you showed the complexity of your journey so well. Just the fact that your last child was conceived in that "moment of acceptance" (beautiful) shows that it isn't always as simple as we imagine to navigate these choices and realities. I remember a family from my ward growing up that had the mother leave as a lesbian when I was in high school, and at the time, I remember just wondering how on earth someone could live that lie for so long, and I just felt sad for all parties involved. But even then I didn't have any way to understand the complexities of the situation. So thank you for showing the real struggles along with the beauty that came from your path.

  19. Courtney,

    Your desperate need to understand is to understand homosexuality?

    I am glad you are recognizing and acknowledging the complexities and nuances of our lives that really evidence the sacredness of all life. I can see looking back how my life has played out for the best and given me so many opportunities to become even more human and more full of grace. That perspective allows me to approach my children and clients with more compassion than I had as a young person adrift from myself and holding desperately to a church that cut me off from myself and really had no better answers than what was in me all along.

    I am most grateful that you and others could begin to understand from the inside out the life and choices of someone "different" from yourself that you thought was the same for so long. Thank you for being willing to be open to learning.

    Just to let you know, I wasn't living a lie in my own head because I thought I was living the church's "truth." If we were all supported by kind and loving and mature parents who were true to themselves, we probably wouldn't be so prone to "living lies" for so long. I don't think those parents are to blame. I think the environment is very difficult and the lack of trust in ourselves is so great, that the generations have a hard time developing any other way. I am hoping that my children will be that much more in tune and able, creating more room in the world to live in peace.

    Peace isn't something won by the sword, it is something lived in every moment, in every interaction.

  20. Hi Stacey. I'm embarrassed to admit that it took me well into the second half to realize that you were the lady I was conversing with so much on the last episode's comments. I'm so glad to hear your story. I understand much more about your comments now and I'm glad for the clarity. :)

    I'm also glad to hear your story. You sound so happy and confident in yourself and where you've been, and I'm so glad you have that space in your life. I'm sorry it couldn't be in the Church. More and more these days, I wish that no one would ever feel like they weren't welcome to come unto Christ and partake of the ordinances because of who they're attracted to or who they love, or have to choose between faith/religion and love/happiness.

    I'm still not 100% sure where I'm going to land with these thoughts--I'm still in my personal transition and evolution--but I remember having a very hard time with everything involved in Prop 8. It was a difficult time, and continues to be as it's referenced over and over again. It left such a massive impression in so many people's lives on both sides of the issue. But I am 100% certain that I have rarely seen two people more in love than the lesbian couple who are my business neighbors and friends, and they just got married--by love, not law--a few weeks ago.

    Anyway, I loved the podcast and I'm so happy to have heard your story. Thank you for sharing! :)

  21. Stacey, I really enjoyed your podcast--and I thank you so much for having the courage to tell your story and live your life authentically. It saddens me beyond belief that so many of the World's religions reject their gay and lesbian members. I've known quite a few people who have felt that they need to choose between God or their God-given sexuality--which makes no sense to me.

    I have to say that since stumbling across this blog, it's opened up in me a desire to worship Heavenly Mother--and one I can't deny. Somehow, I can't see a loving Goddess disowning her daughters who were gay, but then again, if Jesus were alive today, my guess is he'd hang out in gay bars. ;)

    Thanks for your courage. Much peace and blessings.

  22. Anon - Jesus in gar bars (LOL) - yeah and he wouldn't tell them not to be gay but he might encourage them to get more in tune with their hearts and know that their worth is infinite.

    I love how Jesus understood and defied the heirarchal structure all in one breath and did not denounce women but respected them (unlike some of his followers later). He really showed us how to live and how to love each other and his standing up to the social norms of authority is right and followers are wrong when they disagree with the leadership is completely heartening. He showed us that our relationships were far more important than any church authority.

    Living our lives close to our hearts is scary because it means being fully accountable for ourselves. I love what my co-worker said this week. "Taking accountablity is really the easier way out (of difficulties) and it takes a long time to realize it because we are taught to avoid "blame" at all costs". We don't want to grow up and find the way to be "at one" with God and those we love and really the whole human race and all creation is to accept ourselves completely.

    I see glimpses of this reality every day in my life and it gives me hope to keep accepting and allowing myself to be with others in the most authentic way I can. Thank you for your comments.

    Jena, As I shared with anon above. It is scary for most to think of leaving their religion to embrace themselves and everything. It is easier to live all cosy inside a religion and its structure (or escape the confinement as soon as possible in the case of many I have known). I see most religions as places to try and raise children safely and then give to future generations. I still try to leave things better than I found them. But now I know that it isn't the "truth of the gospel" that allows me to be part of the process of uplifting, it is my willingness to be fully present and alive in myself and the relationships I have. It isn't about having "all the Truth" it is about living honestly and humbly the truth that we know for ourselves.

    I need to learn all the rules and regulations of my agency so that I can use them and break them when needed. I don't think I could have found that ability inside the church in an open and non-manipulative way. Defiance is always bad in the church when it is about the church. But, having my teenage son defy me is part of him becoming independent and able to live on his own before he is 45. His defiance is about growing up, not a threat to my "authority" I want him to repect me as someone who loves him and wants what is best for him, not someone who "knows" what is best for him. I want a relationship that continues to grow and be a source of enrichment for both of us with less pain than having to lose him for years as he struggles to regain himself and his wholeness.

    I do not think the church allows us to grow independent and still connected. You cannot reject the essence of a person and expect them to have a close loving relationship with you. You won't be able to allow that to happen. Slavery could only happen because of thinking about black people as not as human as white people. The church denies the reality of gay people and thus denies our humanity. In turn, slave owners became less humane to justify being unequal to fellow human beings. Prop 8 was the church's opportunity to be less humane to gay people. We are not things or crosses to bear or temptations to be overcome. We are people. We are your sisters and brothers. We are you.

    No one is less than.

  23. weeeird. MY name is Stacey too. I'm also a Lesbian. I went to BYU and on a mission. AND I'm from Washington/Oregon! It was a little surreal listening to this. I can completely relate to this journey. My partner and I just filed for domestic partnership. Although my TBM family is tolerant of our relationship, it is still painful that they can't or won't "celebrate" it with us. My mother says she is committed to following the church leaders no matter what. I have to say it does feel like something has been lost in my relationship with her. But, I guess that is her choice. Anyway, great to know I'm not alone.

  24. Stacey B, Thank you for posting and for letting this Stacey (also B) have a surreal experience as well (I am laughing and smiling!) Congrats on your domestic partnership and I wish you all the best.

    It takes a long time for family to embrace their children and it takes stepping off the merry go round a bit in order to do so. My hope is that you have a large support network so that you have a system that can be there for you in the hard times where your family may not be able to be. That was one lesson I came away with from that first relationship - we need the wider support of family and friends as we make big transitions in our lives.

    May your lives be rich with the love of your tribe and eventually your mom, family and society.

  25. Wonderful! Thank you for sharing your personal and touching story.

  26. I realize I am getting to this very late, but I just wanted to chime in as someone who is in a mixed-orientation marriage (with a bisexual man). We are more or less happy, but sometimes his 'gay side' really struggles, and he struggles with knowing that if he is faithful to one partner (me) he can't have the satisfaction of all his desires. It's hard for me to know that I can't be everything he wants.

    Stacy and Gail, it is encouraging to hear from both of you and about your story of having an awesome relationship, even when your marriage couldn't hold out. Sometimes I seriously wonder whether our marriage will hold out, but I hope and pray that (whatever comes) we will maintain that awesome partnership and friendship that brought us together.

  27. Ruby J thanks for posting and I do hope that your relationship can weather the storm. If you have a relationship of love and mutual respect, it will continue. Thanks for sharing your struggles and for reaching out. Good luck to you.

  28. Stacey, I hope you are still reading posts from this podcast. You told your story with care. Your voice is melodic. I have rarely heard someone able to articulate such a difficult and bruising life account with such grace. Since I knew you and your family during some of your teen years, I was acquainted with some of your struggles and feel you were very kind in your description of your family and all of us.

    You spoke of the rigidity of many of the church members in their understanding of living the gospel. This really hit home with me. I am afraid I taught my children this as well. I am very sad about that. As I have grown older I realize my truth comes from within. For me, I see the programs of the church as guides, but the real purpose of the gospel is to encourage me to internalize a love for God and his love for me so that it opens me up to be able to recognize my own knowing. I am fortunate that I don't have a conflict with this and being an active member. I am sorry I was unable to give this to my children.

    I wish you the best in your life and am excited that you are using such truly helpful tools such as Narrative Therapy in your work with others. You are a terrific example of how effective therapy helps people!


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