I’m Not Going to Pretend I’m Anything Other Than What I Am: Mormon and Queer
September 25, 2018
by Blaire Ostler
Hello. I’m Blaire Ostler. I’m a born and raised Mormon. I come from nine generations of Mormon pioneers. I often joke that if there is a Mormon gene, I have it. I’m also a gender variant, sexually fluid pansexual, but most the time I refer to myself as queer. If there is a queer gene, I’m pretty sure I have it.
I first noticed I was attracted to women during puberty. I honestly didn’t think much of it because I was attracted to men too. In my young mind, I thought everyone was attracted to women. I thought I was normal until I was told otherwise. Growing up I heard family, peers, and friends use the word queer in a derogatory manner. For me, it was easy to pretend those homophobic remarks weren’t meant for me because I liked men too. Surely, I wasn’t “really gay.” In retrospect, it is easier to see how not including myself under the queer umbrella was a way to protect myself from rejection by those I loved most. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I even embraced the label “bisexual” to describe my sexual orientation.
The constant struggle for a bisexual, at least in my case, was never feeling like you belong anywhere. I was never gay enough and I was never straight enough. It was clear I wasn’t like the other straight girls I found myself surrounded by, but at the same time, I felt that I didn’t belong in the LGBTQ+ community either. I was just queer enough to feel the social rejection, isolation, and hopelessness that comes with being gay, but at the same time, my attraction to men excluded me from the queer community. From the perspective of the straight community, I was just seeking attention, confused, or going through a phase. From the perspective of the queer community, I was kidding myself and afraid to confront the fact that I was undeniably and exclusively homosexual.
It has taken me years to feel comfortable in my identity as a queer woman. The truth is I’m gay, I’m straight, and I’m everything in-between. Instead of perceiving myself as not enough of any one identity, I started seeing myself as enough regardless of my identity. I belong with the straight community, and I belong with the queer community. Picking a side would be self-deceptive.
For me, my sexual orientation and my Mormonism are paralleled in my struggles as a bisexual woman. I’ve felt pulled between two communities I love dearly, hearing the same voices chanting, “Pick a side! Pick a side! You can’t be Mormon and queer.” The truth is I can’t deny my Mormon identity, motivation, and beliefs any more than I could deny that I’m attracted to multiple genders. Both identities, Mormon and queer, are a part of me and I have no intention of renouncing either.
Even so, I find myself withdrawing from with the LDS community. As a woman and a feminist, I feel excluded, marginalized, and neglected within the patriarchal organization. Not only do I experience discrimination due to my sexual orientation, but also my gender. It can sometimes feel like there are insurmountable obstacles to overcome to be included as a whole member of the community who is worthy of full-participation and acceptance. My LDS community says, “I love you,” yet their actions, rhetoric, and policies suggest otherwise. Should their so-called love come with civil assaults on my identity? Can politeness excuse their actions and inactions? Should their love for me make me feel like dying? How could that possibly be love? I cannot imagine this is what love should feel like. The words “I love you,” feel false in such context.
While my relationship with the LDS Church is conflicted, I strangely find myself more Mormon than ever. Besides Mormonism remaining as an essential aspect of my identity, I still believe. I still find spiritual fulfillment in my Mormonism. I’m Mormon and queer. I don’t see any reason for me to pretend I’m anything other than what I am—a queer child of God finding her way to become just like Them.