by Cheryl McCoy
Submitted to Affirmation following The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint’s reversal of their November 2015 policy changes that prohibited children of LGBTQ parents from being blessed and baptized and characterized members of the church entering into same-sex marriages as apostates. These changes became known within the LGBTQ Mormon community as the “exclusion policy,” “policy of exclusion,” or “PoX.” The day after the reversal of this policy was announced, Nathan Kitchen, President of Affirmation, invited anyone willing to and share their authentic feelings and all their stories of grief, anger, relief, sadness, happiness, confusion, whatever they may be that surround the rescinding this policy. “As President of Affirmation, I want to be sure Affirmation does not hide you or your stories as we move forward,” wrote Kitchen in his invitation. If you have reactions or a story to share about the reversal of the exclusion policy, please send to email@example.com. You can also read other stories and reactions to the reversal of the exclusion policy.
“Your church hates gays.”
I was working my overnight shift at my airline job when I received that cryptic text message. It was approximately 2:00 AM on November 5th, 2015. I answered back that he was wrong, but then he sent me article after article. I spent my lunch break sitting in my car trying to decipher what was happening. Surely there was some misunderstanding or misinterpretation happening to make him, and others, think that my church hated gay people. But then, there it was. A church handbook policy, clear as day. It was a punch to the gut.
My son had come out the year before. We were still trying to navigate this new reality and were still trying to better educate ourselves. I hadn’t really mentioned him or come out yet at church, but we thought we had reached a pretty level spot with him.
And now this. My first thought was that I needed so somehow fix it. My second thought was concern about how my son and our beautiful lesbian neighbors would react. We had only just been able to convince them that we, as a church, were progressing. I was devastated. I hoped the news hadn’t yet reached my son, but then he posted a meme online that depicted Jesus Christ and made the point that the church was keeping children from Him. The impact of this policy was more cataclysmic to us than when my son came out. My son lost his conviction to try to stay in the church, as we lost all of our faith, knowledge, and understanding that we had obtained in our efforts since he came out. All of that was gone. It just didn’t add up. Christ. Love. Family. What about our eternal family?
That weekend, we flew to Salt Lake City. The news was spreading and there were thousands of people standing in line at a park downtown waiting to resign from the church. It felt like everything was spinning out of control. The devastation was like a slow drip eroding everything we thought we knew and believed.
I sought answers from so many. The following March, Elder Holland wrote to me and encouraged me to hang in there and that our family, specifically my son, would be okay. I’ve clung tightly to that. When I asked my bishop about the policy, it was clear he didn’t know what I was talking about. It wasn’t on his radar. However, for me, it was the big, fat, elephant in the room. For some self-righteous members, the policy gave them the ammo they needed. I was called, “one of those Mormons.” When I asked what they meant, they replied, that I was “one of those trying to change the church,” and then said, “revelation is revelation.” Yes, I am one of those Mormons. The policy of exclusion is not who we were supposed to be.
Going to pride and offering hugs to those celebrating has been therapeutic, but it’s also been hard to answer the inevitable question about how the church treats LGBTQ people.
At first, I was happy after hearing on April 4th, 2019, that the policy of exclusion was being reversed. Then I was really pissed off. So many testimonies and families were sacrificed by this policy, and now it’s just all OK? Was it revelation? No. It was just a stupid handbook policy that truly damaged so many. I have so many thoughts on this, but the one thing I know is that I will never stop fighting to bring everyone to the table. As Spencer Mickelson said, “we are not beggars at the table. We need not celebrate a crust of bread simply because we are starving. We can say “Thank you. Where’s the rest of the meal?” We should not settle or become complacent with anything other than equality.” As I go into the conference weekend and hug at Phoenix Pride, I’m going to hug longer, love louder, and look for Christ because he will be among us. Come and find me.