by Melissa Malcolm King
In the Beginning
In 1st and 2nd grade, I had a best friend named Tuesday. Whenever we would play “house” I was always her wife (Lol!). One day, we married each other on the playground and I kissed her on the cheek to seal the deal. I remember one of the children saying “Ewwwwww you can’t marry a girl!” I remember being talked to by the teacher and told that I could no longer play that game. She also told me that I needed to act like a girl and stop playing tag games with boys at lunch. It would be one of the many times in my life where I was told in word and in action that who I was, was wrong.
Coming from a Jewish/Catholic background, I have always loved religions and learning about what other people believe. I have attended worship services for over 40 different Christian-based organizations and read countless religious books from the Quran to the Tripitaka. I have always had faith in a higher power and I believed that it was important to do good, be good and find good in others. My mother came across Mormon missionaries (tracting in the street) in the mid 90’s and I felt the spirit that the messages shared were based in truth and beauty. It is these feelings that led my mother and me to get baptized a year later. It is these feelings that led me to be an active member of the church and to eventually serve a full time mission in Rosario, Argentina.
It’s seemed that the more I found what I deemed to be the path of happiness, the more depressed I became. To add to this burden, I was sexually assaulted during a church dance. I felt that this was my punishment for having “impure” thoughts about women and questioning my sexual and gender identity. I felt abandoned by my God and I felt that if somehow I could bury these feelings, God would take them from me and I would be free and happy to continue on the plan of happiness. I felt like those toys on the Island of the Misfit Toys . I was broken, left alone and deserted. I could see no way out.
On the outside, I was the ideal Latter-day Saint. I paid tithing even on gifts. I kept a gratitude journal. I saved my own money so that I could travel down to the D.C. Temple whenever there was a youth trip. I did service, attended seminary, and maintained a 4.0 GPA. I worked hard, studied hard and did everything possible to let my light shine. The more my light shone, the more I seemed to find darkness. The darkness came because I had a dirty little secret ….one filled with horror and shame and disgust. A dirty little secret that I wish and prayed everyday would go away.
Eventually the darkness overtook me and I met its best friend, despair. I didn’t want to feel the hurt, pain and shame any longer. So I adopted a new emotion: RAGE. I became angry at everyone and shut out all the positive people in my life. I did what I can only describe as destructive behaviors as a way of coping. No matter what I did, despair would not go away. Despair hung on my back and on my shoulders like tire irons dragging me down. I consulted with my bishop who told me that I need to serve my fellow man to get rid of despair. So I continued to serve with all my heart, mind and might and in 2002 I departed on my mission.
I truly loved my missionary experience and I learned what it is to love as the Savior does. I believe his ministry was to love EVERYONE and to be a healer of souls. I was blessed with opportunity to be blessed, be healed and to bless and to heal others spiritually and physically. It was also during this time that my body re-awakened and I began to have feelings for some of my companions. I was always taught to combat “impure” feelings by singing hymns. Boyyyy did I sing a lot of hymns :).
After my mission, I returned home to “the young single adult ” life. I even became a nanny for a year while I was looking for “Mr. Right”. I became even more determined that I was going to marry a man because it was part of the plan and I had to do my part. I got involved in a mixed orientation relationship with the bishop’s guidance . He told us that even though we both “suffered from SSA” that we could have a meaningful relationship. This guy was a wonderful person but I was skeptical how a marriage would work with our “SSA affliction”. I was discussing this situation with a friend and she asked if I had prayed about it. I decided to pray and fast if this was right for me.
Days later this young man invited me to his endowment ceremony (he was convert ). During the the endowment ceremony, I had heard the words, “This is not the path for you,” and I was in tears. Before I could tell this young man that I would not marry him, he announced (following the ceremony) that he had been “dating” me and 3 other sisters. He further explained that he would need time to pray in the celestial room with each of us. In this way, he would decide whom to marry. Needless to say, I had my answer confirmed (lol). Several months later, I fell in love with a sister from the YSA and she moved into my house as my “roommate”. We loved each other deeply and got secretly engaged. We planned a happy future together but we could not agree or align ourselves when it came to faith. She wanted a more “worldly” life and I wanted to have Christ-centered one. In the end, we broke off our engagement. Once again despair became my friend but this time, my best friend.
By 2013, I had planned my suicide out to a “T”. I had my letter written out, I closed my bank account and mailed the funds in a money order to my sister. I decided life was no longer worth living and I didn’t care if suicide equaled going to hell because I had been living in hell on earth. My ex (we had remained friends until she got engaged to someone else) had mentioned something about Affirmation. But the only support group I had heard of was ************ and I thought that all “Mormon gay” groups were secretly church leaders trying to brainwash (urrrr straight-wash) folks (lol). I was more than skeptical.
A church friend asked how I was doing the day I was supposed to kill myself. I told her about everything and about my ex and I mentioned Affirmation. She sends me a link to the main page and I tell her I am scared the first presidency will be notified. (ha ha!). So we talk a little longer and she sends me a link to something that Randall Thacker and Tina Richerson had written. I read their stories and cried and cried and cried some more. I wrote Tina and asked how I could join. I watched videos (from the International Conference I think) and listened to Anna Empey read a poem, “We are all here”. I cried and cried and cried and cried and prayed and gave thanks that there were other souls out there in pain and struggling.
Two weeks later, I got an email from Tina Richerson saying, “Welcome! You are loved”. I believe this is the message Affirmation is saying to the LGBTQIA+ members, non-members, the faithful, the non-believer and everyone else under the rainbow: “Welcome! You are loved!”. Affirmation may not fit everyone’s needs or wants, but I know that this organization gives hope, provides support and saves lives. I know because it saved mine. If there is anyone out there who is struggling or suffering, in pain or sorrow, please know you are beautiful! And YOU ARE LOVED!
I cannot promise it will get better because better to me is something that happens when there is a cure or a situation has a clear resolution. Our lives are much more complex than this, so better doesn’t really apply. I can promise you that you can find hope, strength and courage to fight and help others fight. You can find a voice in a world that says we don’t deserve to have one. You can find yourself as you serve others in our community. It’s like the song says, “Love can build a bridge from your heart to mine”. We have much to do in Affirmation to build bigger and stronger bridges, but each bridge built will bring us closer together and more united. Hold on! I will help to build your bridge! Won’t you help to build mine? To quote Anna Empey “We are all here!!”