Saturday, May 12, 2012


I've been weeding this morning. Weeding is kind of a dangerous activity for me. Besides the hazards of rose thorns and ant colonies pouring out from nowhere and big brown spiders with scary white bubbles on them (which today caused me to squeal in horror and ultimately abandon my mission to clear out the flowerbed by the mailbox), it gives me time to think. It's one of those activities that, because it keeps my hands busy, frees my mind to meditate and explore. Usually I end up psychoanalyzing myself, using lots of gardening metaphors, 'cause I'm narcissistic like that. Today wasn't much different, but rather than looking entirely within myself, my mind turned to an issue that regards other people, and how my opinions have evolved.

You may have heard that Barak Obama recently professed his support of gay marriage. It wouldn't surprise me if he really believes it's the right thing to do, but I tend to think it was more of a political move than anything else. Then again, I assume pretty much anything politicians say is a political move. Yeah, I'm a cynic, but really, they haven't given me any reason not to be suspicious of everything they say.

This was, of course, right as North Carolina passed an amendment to ban gay marriage (which was already illegal there). Both of these events caused a disturbance in my little Facebook world, where several people cheered Obama, cheered North Carolina, or just posted their own opinion on gay marriage. And, as I am extremely suggestible (thank goodness for DVR or I'd be making several fast food runs every time I watched TV), I feel like I need to make my stance on the matter clear.

I'm for gay marriage. I don't support it even though I think it's wrong, I don't support it because there's not really a good reason not to. I support it because I think it's right, because people need it. 

It has taken me a long time to be so sure about how I feel. I don't know a lot of gay people, and I myself am very straight. I've lived in Utah my entire life, and until very recently was a devoted member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. None of these circumstances really foster understanding, or even much consideration, of homosexuality.

Two things happened.

First, I had a child. My son was born during the big Proposition 8 brouhaha in California, which, mostly because of the LDS church, everyone in Utah seemed to be involved in or have an opinion on. This was the first time that I had really thought much about gays beyond "huh, weird." The whole idea of making it illegal for gays to marry made me very uncomfortable. I really struggled with it, because on the one hand, why shouldn't they be able to? What's it to me? And on the other hand, the leaders of the church I believed in were telling me homosexual marriage was wrong, and were requesting members in California to give specific monetary donations to help pass the amendment. Not to mention the fact that the idea of calling a union between two people of the same sex "marriage" felt a little strange to me. I wasn't sure where that left me. I wanted to support people's right to marry, but I couldn't really do that as a good mormon.

Then one night I was rocking my son to sleep, thinking about the whole thing. I thought, what if my son is gay? What then? As he peacefully slept on my shoulder, sighing that lovely little sleeping baby sigh, I knew exactly "what then." I wanted him to be happy, that's all. I loved that warm, tiny little person more than I knew what to do with, and I just wanted his life to be full of love and happiness and joy. It didn't matter who he loved as long as that person loved and cherished him the way I did. That was the moment it became clear to me that denying human beings--sons and daughters--the opportunity to have the kind of happiness that I had via my marriage, was inexcusable and wrong.

Second, I learned to stand up for myself. I had struggled with the misogyny and sexism in the church since I was a child. I had assumed it was just a cultural thing, an artifact of church leaders' upbringing and personal imperfections, but it was hard for me. I tried desperately to understand why a perfectly just and understanding God would allow this in His church. I knew that I was just as good as the boys, just as valuable, just as worthwhile, just as human. Yet it was constantly, strongly implied that I wasn't. The last straw for me was the endowment ceremony in the temple, where, among other things, women are made subject to their husbands in the same way that men are subject to God. I wrestled with that for years, first ignoring it, then rationalizing it, until all I could do was hurt from it. This was supposed to be the pinnacle of worship, the House of the Lord, and people were setting themselves as gods over other people. Over me. I left the temple in hysterical tears more than once. It took a long time for me to say enough was enough, that the God I had known and worshipped was not behind this, to stand up for myself and say I wasn't going to take the abuse anymore. 

Once I was finally able to see the injustice of what was happening to me, and to stand up for myself, it became infinitely easier to see the same thing happening to others. I could finally stop saying "this doesn't feel right, I don't understand, I hope someday someone gets a revelation about it." I could just say "This is wrong." It does sadden me that it took an affront to my own well-being and peace of mind to realize the suffering of others. If I had been born into the same circumstances except with a Y chromosome instead of an X, I don't know that I ever would've seen it. I probably would've been uncomfortable and confused about the sexism and racism and homophobia in the church, but I don't know that I would've been able to really see and accept how wrong and hurtful it is. Or if I would have, it may have taken much longer.

These two things brought me to the conclusion that people are human beings. Shocking, I know. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but if homosexuals are anything like me, they're just people. Seriously. If they're like me, they don't want "love and support even though they are sinful." If they're like me, they don't want to be treated like children. If they're like me, they don't want to wait until they die then maybe they'll find the kind of happiness Joe Shmoe has because they'll finally be like Joe Shmoe or be how Joe Shmoe thinks they should be. If they're like me, they just want to have power over their own lives and a chance at happiness. 

I know to some degree how degrading and impossibly frustrating it is to have to ask to be recognized as a human being, then being denied that. I know what it's like to have your own family and friends feel hurt and betrayed because of who you are. I know that "I'm trying to put on a good face but your decisions pain me" look all too well. I have chosen not to be a part of that, and to do what little I can to make the world a friendlier, more tolerant, more compassionate place.

(And maybe someday I will write a blog post that's not all earnest/reflective/self-righteous.)


  1. Hi Johanna,

    I just wanted to say commend you on being brave enough to say how you really feel and what you've experienced. I've gone through a similar journey and arrived at the same conclusions. It's hard to stand up in this culture, though, and you did. Just know that you're not alone and that SO many other people are feeling the same way you are. At least I get to escape Utah to move to Colorado. :)

    Best wishes in the future,
    Christy Smith (Loosli)

  2. Johanna, first of all, those spiders with white balls on their butts are just pregnant spiders. How would it make you feel if people ran screaming when they saw you pregnant? Show some respect. ;)

    Second of all, I loved this post! Please don't stop being earnest/reflective/self-righteous, because this was good stuff.

    My stance on gay marriage evolved in a similar fashion. I had a couple of gay friends, and they are smart, funny, talented, sweet, and completely wonderful. Some of the best people I know. I just could not look them in the face and be all "I love you, but I hate your sin". That's really condescending and insulting. They aren't drug addicts or alcoholics, but I think they are too often treated as such. They want the same things I want; to be loved, to not be alone, to have a family, to be happy. I see nothing sinful about that.

    But seriously, don't be so judgmental of spiders.

  3. Christy, thank you so much for your comment! One of the best parts about this whole journey has been finding love and support in unexpected places. And I'm not going to lie, I'm a little jealous of your escape, ha ha.

    Hillary, WHY DID YOU TELL ME THAT?? I was afraid it was a pregnant spider. NOW THERE ARE GOING TO BE MORE?? Now I'm really freaking out. I'm never weeding again. Thanks a lot. Don't get me wrong, I love and respect spiders. Some of my best friends are spiders. I just would love to never, ever see them anywhere. Separate but equal, or something like that.