By Taliatha Palmer Holmes
I’m a lesbian and newly married to my lovely friend, Mariah. Together we have nine children and are figuring out how to strengthen our family through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Though there are many aspects of our story I could share, I’ll focus on the two areas that might be most helpful: the journey I took in figuring out my sexuality, and my current relationship with God and the Church.
Figuring things out
I’ll start from where I became consciously aware there was something amiss (or extraordinarily wonderful, however you want to look at it) about my life. Around age thirty, I noticed I felt very lonely. I’m a naturally social person, and try to fill my life with as many parties, outings, and get-togethers as I can, and am therefore often surrounded by friends. But somehow none of my friendships seemed to feel as deep or committed as I wanted. I love Anne of Green Gables and wished I had a bosom friend like Diana whom I could love with all my heart. None of my friends at the time felt like appropriate candidates for this kind of friendship. But the need occupied a lot of my thoughts. When my then-husband Rob, or other family members would ask how I was doing, I’d simply answer, “I need a bosom friend!” None of this seemed gay to me.
When Mariah moved into our ward, I was instantly interested in her, and hoped she could be the friend I was looking for. At the time, Mariah didn’t quite realize she was gay, but unconsciously sent off a vibe I was drawn to. She felt different from my other friends in a way I really liked, but I could soon tell I was thinking about her more than seemed normal. Initially I thought I must be going crazy and talked to Rob about it. After months of counseling and confusion, I figured out I was gay and Mariah was too.
Once I figured it out, it felt like I’d put on new glasses in which many things in my life that had been blurry and confusing before now made sense clearly. I enjoy and am drawn to men, but the actual kissing-and-being-physical part always felt unnatural. From watching movies and reading books, I sort of knew what to do in that arena, but never felt a passionate drive towards men that compelled me to be physical. For this reason, I only had one boyfriend I ended up marrying. Rob is a wonderful person on every front, but the process of choosing him was somewhat of an intellectual exercise. I didn’t understand the “chemistry” component–that it was supposed to be there and was missing. I feel sorry for messing up his life, but had no idea I wasn’t straight. We both feel grateful God kept us in the dark long enough to have five lovely kids.
Besides my lack of attraction towards men, there were other indications that should have given me a clue as to my sexuality:
I hung posters of women up in my room, celebrities I was crazy about and felt deeply connected to–but no men.
I had a few female school teachers I felt attracted to. In those days, however, I explained to myself that I just really REALLY loved history! (Or whatever other subject.)
If I had a sexual thought, I’d consciously throw a man in the scenario so it didn’t feel gay–but the men didn’t appear in my thoughts without effort.
My life and the Church
Even with my new family being quite untraditional, church is a place I continue to enjoy. In my darkest, craziest moments–the times when it would’ve made sense to feel uncomfortable and unwanted at church–I nonetheless felt the same peace I always had. God is my friend. I have felt His love more than ever these last few years, and have felt like church is the right place for me and my family.
Because I’m in a same-sex marriage, there are aspects of worship I can no longer participate in. One thing I love about our church is ritualized covenant making in which God, angels and members of the church community watch an individual make an eternal promise. Technically it’s a covenant between God and one person, but the ritual aspect makes the whole community a part. Those who witness feel invested in helping the individual succeed. It’s a beautiful thing. The authority of the priesthood to bind the promise in heaven makes the covenant especially powerful. With my current church standing, I can still make promises to God, but not with the force of authority or community that makes Church ordinances so special. I miss being able to do this. Likewise I miss being part of certain communal rituals: being able to raise my hand with the rush of other sustaining votes–to say with the group, “I believe you can do it!” or “I appreciate your loving service”; or being able to share with others the tokens of the sacrament.
I’m grateful I can pray. This is my lifeblood. I can cherish the Book of Mormon as I always have and share it with my family. I can be friendly and show love to those around me. I can help people who are sad or suffering. I can’t teach the gospel in an official capacity at church, but I can teach my children (the best calling!) and can genuinely share my light with my friends.
For awhile I thought part of my purpose for staying in the Church was to influence my ward members’ opinion about gay marriage. But I don’t think about that much anymore. My goal now is to purify my own heart and show love to others. I want to bring my family to Christ and make of my life the best offering I can.