Sunday, July 22, 2012

Excommunication - We Knew it Was Inevitable

It's been a week and a half since my disciplinary council, but I haven't been able to sit and write about it properly. It's been hard to face the emotions again, but I don't want another day to go by without writing of my experiences.

I was excommunicated (again) on July 11, 2012. It was heartbreaking to me, and I'd like you all to know that. Never believe that my happiness, peace and hope overrides the pain that I've experienced in mourning the loss of my Church. That being said, I want to share some words that I jotted down the next day, as I was going about my day of work. These are descriptive of what I felt just 12 hours before, while meeting with my bishopric, with Kim and Kendall.

Christlike Love

Those are just a few. Imagine my confusion after expecting the disciplinary council to be nothing more than a continued attempt at getting rid of me, the predator! I felt light and uplifted and hopeful for a beautiful future.

At the beginning of the meeting, my bishop started to go over the rules of who could be in attendance. Kendall was on my left and Kim was on my right... I was holding both of their hands. I was defensive and ready to pounce, but my bishop said that it was up to him and he felt that it was just fine if I had both of them in there with me. I told him I'd have it no other way.

My bishop then read the letter he had delivered to me and asked me to either confirm or deny the accusations:

"The bishopric is considering formal disciplinary action in your behalf, including the possibility of disfellowshipment or excommunication, because you are reported to have: (1) committed a serious transgression, which is defined as a deliberate and major offense against morality, (2) been in apostasy, which is defined as repeatedly act in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the church leaders, (3) been a predator with tendencies that present a kind of serious threat to other persons, (4) a pattern of serious transgressions especially since they have resulted in past Church discipline and (5) a serious transgression that is widely known (i.e. on a social network)."

I confirmed 1 and 4, but denied the remainder of the items. When he started to read "been a predator..." I cut him off immediately and said, "absolutely NOT!" through a steady stream of tears. When he finished, I said, "Bishop... you know me! I've been best friends with your wife for more than 9 years. Has she ever felt threatened by me?" He shook his head no. I then asked the other bishopric members if their wives had ever felt threatened, because I'm close with both of them as well. They both shook their heads. It was obvious that they all three knew my heart and that I'm not a predator at all. The thing I went there to fight for didn't end up being a fight at all.

One of the counselors asked Kendall how he felt about the accusation that I am a predator. He expressed himself beautifully and said that he's never once felt that, in fact he said it's "ridiculous." I wish I could remember his words better, but it was genuine love and support and honesty about what he's been feeling in regards to our situation.

My bishop allowed me to read a letter that I had prepared. It's long, but here you go...

     I never knew who I was. I hated myself my entire childhood and it carried on into my adolescence, my young adulthood, my later years. There was never a good explanation as to why I would hate myself. To hear everyone around me, I was a “good girl” and I had a “big heart” and I would “do anything for anybody.” I never broke the rules, especially the commandments. I had a relatively happy childhood and there was no real explanation as to why I would rather die than face even one more day. I was a faithful member of the Church all my life. There wasn't anything I wanted more than to be a good girl and to make my parents proud. The young women leaders praised me constantly and said, “if only our daughters were like you.” I can honestly say that there wasn't anything I did wrong, with the exception of saying bad words on occasion, right up through graduation from high school.
     My best friend and I fell in love. We were together for 2 ½ years, on and off, and we dreamed of one day being married. I had no idea at the time that I was gay... in fact I would have sworn against it. It was just something that had happened. We just happened to be two girls. I was completely confused because of this thing that was happening to me. I was such a good person and never broke the rules. I only wanted to do what was right in the eyes of my church leaders, my parents, and the Lord. Yet here I was, loving another woman. As much as I told myself that what I was doing was “wrong,” I didn't believe it in my heart. I repented and tried to move forward but my heart and soul had opened up and there was no turning back... not really.
     I moved away and tried to begin a life in Salt Lake. I never dated but finally I was set up on a blind date with Kendall. I enjoyed our courtship and I loved him with all of my heart, but the feelings never compared to what I had felt just a couple of years prior. I knew that I was supposed to get married and I knew this was my only chance. Even on the morning of my wedding I sobbed to my mother that I didn't want to get married. I told her that if I ever had to get married that I would want it to be to Kendall... and then she chalked it up to the jitters. I never connected with him the way a wife and husband should connect. I loved him and appreciated him so much and our friendship rivaled the very best... but my very soul was not affected. My thoughts didn't turn to him in those quiet moments. What spoke to my heart and my spirit was something different... yet I continued to try. We continued to play the roles that we're expected to play in the Church and in society, but we were both void of connection and we both continued to be lonely throughout the years. We never experienced the oneness, connection, love and pure joy that most couples seem to achieve. Not even close.
     I reached out to a friend when I first moved to [our little town] and I crossed some lines. I didn't know at the time what it was or why I was doing it. I craved the connection that I felt with her and I enjoyed our time together. I had no explanation as to why I felt this deep attraction, but it was undeniable. She kissed me on the cheek one evening which began our odd relationship for a couple of months. During that time we kissed closed-mouthed, hugged and held hands. I fell into a deep depression because my feelings and actions were not matching what I was told my entire life would be my happiness. This wasn't what I was supposed to feel.
     I met with my bishop for 4 hours one night and poured my heart out to him. I told him of my experiences and my thoughts and feelings and how I wanted more than anything to be a good girl. I was confused to say the least. He recommended a counselor and that began my 5 years of weekly counseling. In July of 2006, just six years ago, I finally recognized my truth. I am a gay woman. Finally everything made sense. Surprisingly, after 34 years of self-loathing, suicide attempts, cutting, medication, counseling, hospitalizations, confusion and heartache... it all came together. I had an answer for what I had been experiencing all those years in the very depths of my soul. In a very difficult moment, I both understood myself and let go of the depression yet also became disheartened by what the Church had taught me my entire life. I finally realized that the reason for my self-hatred was because of the negative messages I had received each week in church, from the pulpit, in my classes, during general conference. The message that my spirit received and internalized each time was that I'm not as good as my neighbor, that I am evil, sick, an abomination. Although I hadn't yet recognized the fact that I was gay, my very soul took it all in and I truly believed the words that I was taught daily. I chose to believe those words because that's what I was supposed to do. I wanted to be a good girl so I accepted those teachings as truth, which led to a belief that God must not love me as much as He loves everyone else. I'm not good enough. There's something wrong with me. The very core of my soul was continually judged and damaged and I wasn't even aware of it until six years ago.
     My eyes had been opened and I began my daily struggle to do what is right, to live the way I was expected to by family, friends, society and the Church. I worked overtime on trying to rid myself of my homosexuality, believing that if I prayed enough, studied enough, served enough, did anything "enough," that I would be blessed and this would be taken from me.
     Our family became close with the __________  family. Knowing that I had trust in them and that they were accepting of me, I told them my truth. I had hoped that it would possibly be a protection against a possible relationship beginning with [the wife]. I had a desire to do what was expected of me and I just knew this would be what I needed to succeed. After seven months of the families spending practically every minute together, [the wife] told me one evening that she wanted to kiss me. We ended up having a conversation about it for an hour... going over the pros and cons and basically telling her that it was as bad idea and we probably should avoid it. We ended up kissing. That began our three month affair that ended in a six month probation for her and an excommunication for me. But that wasn't all.
     The beauty that I experienced deep in my soul, the kind of joy that can only come from genuine connection and love, is indescribable. I found myself thinking, “this is what it's supposed to feel like with my husband! Now I know what the big deal is!” We enjoyed our relationship until we could no more. Once it was over and we had gone different directions, I once again rededicated my life to the Church. I assumed it's where I would find my happiness and I believed that I had another chance to do everything I could in order to rid myself of homosexuality. I had very specific goals in mind daily, weekly, monthly and yearly. I would be a certain type of person. I could do it! I would not falter. I was re baptized and moving toward my goal of having my temple blessings restored, yet the closer I got the more unsettled I felt. Something wasn't right. There was opposition and confusion and pain. There was an indescribable loneliness and a darkness, yet I couldn't explain it because I was supposedly moving in the right direction. How could I feel such a deep hole if I was doing what I was supposed to do in God's eyes? It was then I made a choice to reconsider.
     If I had lived my entire life as a faithful LDS member and had never felt pure joy, if I had listened to my leaders and leaned on their words yet still felt despair, if I had continued to give my all with no real reward... then maybe I was doing it wrong. Maybe it was time to try another way.
     Kendall and I have worked through every single decision together, with tears and sweat and heartache. We've explored all the options. We've considered our children every single step of the way. We've worked as hard as any couple ever has, trying to fight for the marriage we thought we should be able to enjoy. Kendall has been my biggest supporter and friend for 19 years. 2 ½ years ago we decided that divorce was inevitable and we started making preparations, albeit slowly. We knew that if we were to divorce that we at least needed to make it as easy, painless and as perfect as we could, especially considering our children. We planned daily, we struggled, we hoped, we prayed, we continued to love and cherish each other. Because of this we are the people we are today, and we're good people with a lot to offer.
     When I became closer with Kim last year, and I noticed the familiar feelings start to stir, I had a candid conversation with Kendall. I told him I believed it was time for us to make our major changes. I didn't want to have an affair and take advantage of him. I wanted to do it the right way and be respectful to our marriage, our friendship and our love. After careful consideration, Kendall told me to go ahead with my relationship with Kim. We were going to divorce soon anyway and there was no real sense in putting off the inevitable. With his permission and blessing, I began dating Kim. The three of us often went out together and enjoyed the relationships we share. Kendall and I moved toward our goal of divorce and again, carefully planned each tiny movement.
     What you need to understand is what has happened since I gave myself to Kim. My heart no longer feels alone and unloved. My spirit is connecting with another on a level deeper than I have ever imagined. My body reacts in a way that it never could with a man. My mind feels clear and active, not foggy and confused. My emotions are greater and I have a major desire to be a better person. My soul is alive and has connected profoundly with Kim. Our hearts and our purpose are one. We experience pure joy. We live good lives, with great morals and a desire to please our Heavenly Father.
     I would like you to know that my relationship with my Savior is greater than it ever has been. I understand His love for me better than I have in my almost 40 years. I feel the spirit continually. I have a deep respect for all people and their struggles. I have an understanding that surpasses many about the very real acceptance that needs to be granted to all individuals regardless of their lot in life. My goal is to continue to become a better person. I have a best friend who will always stand by me and I have a partner that will bless me daily. My children will continue to thrive and I will always protect their sweet hearts. We will all learn and grow and evolve into the amazing people that we're destined to be. My relationship with my Heavenly Father is vital to me. As soon as I stopped believing in the God I grew up knowing, I realized that He has created me this way for a purpose. That purpose isn't to try me, to be my handcart or to cause me heartache... that purpose is to come together with Kim in a way that most people desire. To find completeness, and purpose and to fill that empty, black hole that was my core for so many years.
     I am not here to argue about the rules of the Church. I know that adultery is against the rules. I know that homosexual behavior is against the rules. I know that the Church as an organization has every right to kick me out as is planned this evening. I will not fight that. What I will fight is the concept that I am a “predator with tendencies that present a kind of serious threat to other persons.” I have had 1 ¼ homosexual experiences in the 12 years that I've lived in Eagle Mountain. I have many female friends that I've had lunch with, gone to the movies with, had parties with, played games with, had one on one emotional conversations with, bonded with in a special female friendship way, yet there isn't one woman out here that could tell you that I've threatened them in any way. Even the 1 ¼ I had relations with. Until recent rumors, none of the women even knew I was gay all these years. I have kept good boundaries and have not flirted with, or put the moves on, any woman out here with the exception of the two women I mentioned tonight... and keep in mind that both of those women approached me first, yet I'M the predator?
     I am in a meaningful, committed relationship with Kim and we plan to be for the rest of our lives. You may think I'm unable to remain loyal because of the experiences I had while married to Kendall, but that was because of the unique situation we were in. My heart belongs to her. I will continue to go to church each week even though I may not be welcome. I will experience the goodness that God would want me to. I will hold tight to my relationship with my Savior and my Father in Heaven, because that's where I have found my happiness. My happiness wasn't found in following blindly, it was found in focusing on my very real relationship with each of Them, believing that They love me and that They're proud of me and that They don't want me to go without the very real connection and beauty that only comes from loving a woman, loving Kim.
     You can take away my membership. You can even mar my name with horrendous words such as “predator,” but you can never take away my knowledge of what is true and my personal relationship with my Savior. What I believe is vital is how I deal with my fellow man, how I live and how I love. I am a good person with a good heart and a desire to remain close to my Father in Heaven. That is something that is mine alone and will never be taken by you or anyone else in authority in this Church.

The bishopric seemed to respond lovingly and emotionally as I read this to them. Kim had a letter that she had written as well. I will add that hopefully tomorrow, as a separate post, because her love for me is so evident and I'm so grateful to have her a part of my life. I want everyone to get to know her heart and the person she is to me.

Even though we knew excommunication was the inevitable outcome, the response we were given was better than anything we could have expected. Although it was apparent that my bishopric believed that my choices were not in accordance with the commandments, their support and love for each of us was first and foremost in their approach. At one point my bishop said something like, "I don't have a desire to damage the relationship that you and Kim share." They each shared their positive feelings for Kim and support for the love that she and I enjoy. When I say support, please know that they are not endorsing my "behavior" but simply loving me and accepting that this is my journey, and showing me that their love is unconditional.

Bishop said, "Kendall... in all the years that I've known you, one word keeps coming to my mind that describes you perfectly... 'Saint'." The rest of the brethren in the room agreed, as did Kim and I. Of course Kendall tried to humbly deny it, because he believes that it's natural to give as much as he has given, but none of us allowed it. He truly is an exceptional man and I was so grateful that they took the time to share their feelings with him.

The bishopric wanted to know how the kids are doing. As I explained their obvious hurt and confusion, but shared their strength and happiness, everyone agreed that the kids seem to be doing well. The second counselor said, "_______(my 14 year old) is doing better than I've ever seen him!" Everyone else agreed, as I broke down sobbing (again). I've noticed the same thing about that particular son, but most people seem to hold the belief that my kids couldn't possibly be handling everything so well - they have to be suffering greatly - they must be hiding their true feelings. What I always tell people is that my kids are doing great on most days. Of course they struggle and have a hard time with the situation, and at times there are melt-downs from one or all of them, but for the most part they are handling it pretty darned well. My bishopric seemed to agree and that validation meant the world to me. They didn't automatically place themselves in the group of people who believe the stereotypical response to such a situation. I am so grateful for that.

At one point my bishop said, "Kim... I think it was on your blog where you said that your bishop was surprised that you could still have spiritual experiences. I want you to know that I know you can still feel the spirit, all of you, because Heavenly Father loves you!" I said, "I know he does!!" That tiny bit of validation was incredibly important to all of us. It's amazing what a little bit of belief from our leaders can really do. Just because we're gay, just because we're "acting on it," and just because we were "living in sin," does NOT mean that we're not able to experience spiritual moments. In fact, I believe I'm more in tune with it these days than I have been in a while. I had to open my mind and heart to my Savior and get to know Him in a different way - a real way. Since then, I've been led in many ways. This is hard for a lot of people to understand, but at least my bishopric seems to. That's a start. A very important start. I felt that they were three men, as well as three leaders, trying to understand my heart and my spirit... and not willing to simply believe what is generally taught about this situation.

I was continually told that I will always be welcome in my ward. I said, "but Pres. _____________ said that I wouldn't be." Bishop said, "Well, I've talked with him and he said that it wasn't exactly what he said." I said, "What he told me is that if I ever did something like that again that I would no longer be welcome." Bishop said, "Well, you've already told me that you and Kim are going to be together forever, so I guess it doesn't matter!" That put a smile on my heart.

After the first five minutes of worry, being defensive, and expecting the worst, I felt nothing but love and support and encouragement. I was allowed to express my deepest emotions and each of them joined me multiple times in tears. The 1st counselor shared a personal experience that touched each of us and said that he's trying to understand this situation more fully. Each of them expressed, beginning with Bishop, that they have no idea how they could ever face the decision to choose their family or the Church. I fully expected them to say, "even though it would be hard, I would definitely choose the church," but each of them just left it as "I can't imagine having to choose." My bishop said, "I can't find the right words, but excruciatingly painful keeps coming to mind." I nodded in agreement.

We were asked to wait in the hall, where my mother in law was waiting for us, so that they could decide on my outcome. It seemed quite a long time, maybe 30 minutes, and then we were invited back in. My bishop said, "I wanted you to know that the reason it took so long is because we were all three crying." I was told that I had been excommunicated and he explained what that will look like. He continued to tell me how welcome I am and that I always will be. And in a moment of grace, my bishop explained that the letter he has to send to the First Presidency will include only numbers 1 and 4 from the letter because they didn't believe the other three items applied. Tender mercy.

I am grateful for: a bishopric who knows me personally - the spirit, that was incredibly present that evening - the opportunity I had to share my experiences and emotions with them - that they allowed me to speak of Kim, my partner, in a natural and loving way - that Kendall and Kim sat on either side of me, supporting me in their own unconditional way - that my burden felt lifted and I became light in spirit, no longer feeling weighed down emotionally - the feeling that I am okay and that I will continue to be.

The second counselor offered a prayer at the end. Imagine our surprise when he shared his gratitude for Kim with our Heavenly Father. He prayed for each of us, including her, and it was heartfelt and genuine. As we were leaving, and everyone was hugging, my bishop gave Kim a hug and whispered, "Thanks for loving Kelly," to which she replied, "It's easy to do!" Then Bishop hugged me tightly and as we both shook with tears, he kept saying, "I'm so sorry," and I repeated the same to him.

In the days following, I have wondered why I feel so light and why I haven't been depressed about being excommunicated. Don't get me wrong, it has brought sadness and I wish it hadn't happened, but I have spent the majority of time focusing on the joy that I feel. I realized that it's because I've spent the past 2 years mourning the loss of the Church and what it used to be for me. I've gone through those motions consistently for a very long time, and I believe that's why I'm not feeling the heavy burden today. I will continue to wish that the Church believed differently in regards to homosexuality, but I will always recognize that they have a right to teach what they'd like. If I'm trying to be a part of it, I will accept that there will be consequences.

Stay tuned for Kim's beautiful letter, hopefully soon.


Trev said...

This is so beautiful. I am extremely happy for all of you and that this went so well (I mean, better if it hadn't, but if it has to...)!

And I'm glad you wrote this down! Reading this made me feel happy and hopeful.

Lauren Limón said...

So so so very beautiful. Thank you for sharing your story. I'm in tears reading, and I'm not even Mormon or gay. It's people like you, sharing real loving experiences, that will change the world for the better.

Kelly slash FindingMyWay said...

Thank you both, so much! The reason I share my experiences is to hopefully change at least one heart.

Thanks for your support, both of you.

Neal said...

I am so touched - and filled with gratitude that it was a faith-affirming experience. Keep on being YOU!

Love ya!

Kelly slash FindingMyWay said...

Will do, RN! I'm grateful for your support and I love ya dearly.

InItsGrip said...

Some of the responses from your Bishopric were lovely and touched me deeply. Perhaps if more men like these were in higher positions of power in the Church, excommunication wouldn't have happened. But thank you for sharing what transpired, as I know it's tough. A little validation and support from our peers makes all the difference!

Kelly slash FindingMyWay said...

Thanks, InItsGrip! I agree that many leaders could take a few notes from these brethren. Unfortunately there were negative experiences with my bishop and stake president prior to this, but the great news is that it seems as though their understanding is growing. I'm so impressed by their response and love. It gives me such hope for the future.

Anonymous said...

I love to read your story. It gives me hope.
Today was hard for me at church for other reasons.
I am not gay. I like to joke about the fact that I am "furiously straight". but I have found out recently that everything that I thought was wrong with me was just and only perfect and that I just had to learn to accept it.
Well to accept it is not that hard but to love it, claim it and eventually be kind to this part of me that I have mistreated for so long is something that I am just learning to do.
I am very defensive now when people try (unintentionally most of the time) to put me back in the state of feelings I have been all my life and that I am barely learning to leave. This sometimes set me off the normal "mormon" pattern and I have no wish to compromise with who I am for the sake of other's comfort when they just don't know what it feels like to be me and to live in this body.
Today was hard at church. Very hard. I came late and left early hoping to find back this state I have experience for a few hours that was NOT compatible with my attendance to church meetings. Not that I have done anything wrong or had any feelings that were not in accordance with the sacrament. It is just that I knew I would have been better at home than at church.
I went because I had a talk and I did not want to ditch on the bishopric.
I went back home before the end of the meetings and I slept forever not having gotten any spirituality out of this time that is supposed to be consecrated for it.
Then tonight I read your post and it reminds me how much loved I feel I am because of my difference and I am so happy that you know you are too.
I don't know you and I wish someday we will get a chance to meet so I can explain to you how much this post and your blog (and specially Kim's) mean to me.