Kendra Hamblin’s coming out story is quite unique. During the general conference in fall 2017, a semi-annual broadcasted meeting for LDS members, President Dallin H. Oaks spoke on a topic that was hurtful to her. In his talk, Oaks said that Latter-day Saints needed to reject anything that doesn’t fit their standards, listing same-sex marriage as an example.
In response, she went to her stake center and ran a rainbow flag up the flagpole. Over time, she attracted a small group of people to the area, including her stake president. The next morning, he told her family. Kendra became nervous and left her home, originally not intending to go back. She wanted to avoid returning to the main room where she would have to speak with her family and stake president. After she left, Kendra’s parents called and texted her to ask where she was. She was worried that if she told them where she was, one of them would pick her up and drive home in silence, to never speak of the experience again. Kendra said in her experience being raised in the LDS culture, this was often how uncomfortable situations were treated.
Instead, both her parents picked her up Kendra was subjected to questioning and accusations during the ride. She said that she was met with severity and anger.
Before the experience, Kendra had separated herself as much as possible from the LDS church, while still living with her deeply LDS family. Afterwards, she began to avoid the church more actively.
Kendra, a sophomore in flute performance, has lived in Utah her whole life. She was born into a family who were strong in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She became inactive around 16 and at 18, said that she gave herself the birthday gift of resigning from the church.
She described leaving as difficult because being LDS had been a major part of her life up to that point. All of her friends were LDS and most of her extended family were as well. Leaving made her afraid to lose that social support network. Since she has left church, Kendra has found other communities, such as Encircle and UVU’s Spectrum: Queer Student Alliance.
“After I left, I did notice loss of community and support networks. Since then, I’ve found them. They do exist outside of the church. Obviously, it’s just a little bit less at the forefront,” she said.
Kendra stated that the LDS influence in her life made it more difficult for her to express herself, not just in sexuality, but also in terms of passion and emotion. At a young age, she knew she wasn’t attracted to men. In her late teens, she realized she was attracted to women. She says part of the reason she didn’t realize until later is because she didn’t know that was a possibility until she learned about it through the internet and things she heard at school.
Kendra said that she left the church before she realized that she was a lesbian. Leaving it before made it easier to accept that part of herself. For her, the LGBTQ+ stances solidified her decision to leave the church instead of instigating it. Leaving the church wasn’t spurred by one moment, but an accumulation of different reasons. Over time, Kendra studied the history of the church, read how facts differed from things she was taught and came to the realization that homosexuality wasn’t evil like she had been taught. All of these were factors in her decision to leave the church and find what would be best for her.
She said that she has some LGBTQ+ friends who have tried to stay and the experience is different for everyone.
“They tried to stay in the church and be happy with that. But you could tell that it was a struggle for them. Almost every single one of them. Many of them have since left the church. Some of them are still active and involved. For me personally, I don’t believe it’s a good idea to remain in the church,” Kendra said.
She said that when the 2015 policy came out, she defended it due to internalized homophobia from her upbringing. But midway through 2016, her perspective shifted.
“I started realizing that this is actually really harmful. Like people had killed themselves over it. People had lots of pain over it,” she said.
Kendra began opposing it and when it was repealed, felt it was a step in the right direction. She felt it didn’t do enough to remedy the harm that was caused, and although it was a positive thing, felt the policy should’ve never existed in the first place.
When it comes to the future, she hopes that more people take time to get to know someone who is LGBTQ+, because that’s the best way to learn. She said that she hopes more people will take the time to understand LGBTQ+ individuals and make them feel more comfortable within the church.
“I’ve met members who are very open-minded and very kind and understanding. I’ve also met members who are not. I feel like the main thing is for everybody to know somebody who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Usually more who are members of the LGBTQ+ community and lots of them are still members of the church. So it’s not a different group of people, Just they’re your friends. Really, stop viewing them as a different community,” Kendra said.
“I think honestly it’d be really nice to not have to listen to and see in general conference every six months revered members of our society say negative things about LGBTQ+ people. Since that attitude comes from the very top of the leadership of the church, I think that will not change until they stop saying things at least every six months, usually more, that are against LGBT people in general. We need to work on harm reduction or stopping harm in the first place. I do anticipate that things will change, and things already are, with the November policy being repealed. Overall, I do anticipate seeing a little bit more progress in the future.”
Illustration by Basil Baggerly
Read more Latter-day LGBTQ+ stories here: https://www.uvureview.com/front-page/recent/artsculture/latter-day-lgbtq/