Katie Brown* was sitting in sacrament meeting when the controversial 2015 policy was read. It hurt to hear, and she was immediately horrified and frustrated. Even though she had emotionally checked out of the church years before, she still continued attending for her family.
“I had just seen the country tell me that my future marriage wasn’t something that was different than the rest of the world and here the church was saying otherwise. The apostasy doctrine was especially harmful because of the idea that what I was feeling and who I am was worse than what sins child molesters and abusers do. The policy on that is serious transgression, not even apostasy. The children policy was hard for me because the Mormons who debated it with me didn’t get why that was harmful. Their thoughts on religion is that they are Mormon so their children will be too.
My thoughts on religion is that I am not religious but my children have the right to choose what is right for them. It is harmful to think that my future children don’t deserve the right to fully choose and support me as well. My wife was in college at the time and was in church with her roommates. She heard the letter being read over the pulpit and ran out crying. Then, while she had only chosen to come out to one roommate, and asked it to remain secret, said roommate told the bishop and therefore her other friends without permission why it felt so personal. When I got married this had not been reversed, so I was forced with a decision to either go through the process of resigning from a church I never consented to joining, or have them come after me and excommunicate me. I’m glad I made the decision I did, but it was frustrating having not been capable at eight, of the cognitive decision and consequences there in,” she said.
Katie Brown, a UVU alumni, was raised LDS, and decided to leave the church herself later on in life. When her mother divorced at a young age, Katie found it difficult to see how her mother’s family and the ward treated her in response.
Katie said that as a child, it was pushed that her household was incomplete without a priesthood holder and father. Despite this, Katie didn’t mourn the loss and felt that her family was better off without him and that her mother did well raising her and her siblings without him.
Her mother remarried when Katie was around nine years old. She said she never felt that her stepfather was simply a stepfather, but that she just saw him as her dad. Her new father was adopted as a child, and helped her gain the perspective that family isn’t always blood. Her family was raised different from the typical LDS gender roles. Her mother was the breadwinner and her father kept up the house.
Katie was struggling finding a desire to go to church. When she was young, one of her male friends was bullied. He wanted to join in activity days, a group typically meant for the young girls in the church, instead of boy scouts. Katie felt it was unfair that he couldn’t choose where he wanted to go.
In Sunday school, Katie felt troubled by how the church regarded households without fathers. Along with feeling unincluded at church, she was not allowed to have non-religious friends in elementary school. In middle school, she found her way around that by not being honest with her parents about the friends she had. At the same time, Katie came to realize she was developing crushes on other girls.
In school, she had “girlfriends”, who she liked and they liked her back. She didn’t tell her parents about them, but she did have a few “boyfriends”, who she did tell her parents about. In her freshman year of school, her parents pushed her to go to seminary, a church class offered in high school. She started skipping out of it, and would often meet up or go on dates with her high school girlfriend.
“It was kind of humorous when I would walk back in for the last five minutes of class with a coffee and lipstick kiss on my cheek,” she said.
In high school, Katie came out to her siblings and friends, but not yet her parents. One of her friends found out she was attracted to girls and outed her to the whole school. Afterwards, people she didn’t even know would come to her to tell her it was disgusting and disappointing. It also led to harmful experience in her young women’s group and caused ward members to talk about her.
Katie’s mom found out before she was ready to tell her through a Twitter direct message Katie accidentally left open. She denied it, but knew that her mom knew. For some time, she knew that her parents knew more than she told them, but it wasn’t something they discussed with each other.
Since then, Katie says her parents have come a long way in their understanding. When she was dating her now wife, she came out publicly, and her parents responded with support. At first, responses were mixed from other family members, but over time, everyone became more accepting.
“My grandmother sent me a really hurtful letter but I could tell it came from a really good place. She loved me, and that meant she had to do a last minute warning telling me that I needed to stop. I wrote so many responses but decided to throw them all away. The best response was to in-person thank her for thinking of me and tell her I wanted things to stay the same. My grandparents took a while to understand, but are so supportive now. They even came to the wedding and got a gift, and my grandmother knit my wife a stocking to go with the rest of the married-in grandkids. I know it sounds trivial, but it felt really good after all we had gone through.”
Katie stayed in the church for a while to please her family. She said that if it was up to her, she would have been out much sooner.
“While some people are able to do the mental gymnastics to stay in an organization that is not making a place for them, I don’t have to. Also, me leaving the church was not exclusively based on the way they treated me; it was not the only or even main reason I left. A lot of people who left the church because of these policies say if they just gave us temple marriages they would return. I absolutely get so frustrated with people who assume that’s me, as if I don’t get my own reasons for leaving. I left unconditionally, for my own beliefs about doctrine not just policy,” she said.
While staying, a hard challenge for her was feeling that she had to risk losing her family to be able to find her soulmate. She is grateful she was met with acceptance from her family in her decision, but recognizes that not everyone receives the same response.
“I hate the concept of ‘hate the sin not the sinner’ and of ‘your identity has nothing do with your sexuality’, and even ‘you’re a son or daughter of god and nothing else can be your identity’. I think the mantra of the forever family of one man, one woman can also be harmful not just for us LGBTQ+ people, but also for children of mixed or split families. My family was whole before my mother remarried, and is now too,” Katie said.
If she were to see changes in the church, she would love to see members become more accepting of people who don’t fit the mold, as well as policies.
“I think there isn’t enough that could be done that could fix what has been already broken. I do hope for those still in the church for whatever reason that things change, and quick,” she said.
*This source wishes to remain anonymous and the name has been changed to protect their identity.
Illustration by: Basil Baggerly
Read more Latter-day LGBTQ+ stories here: https://www.uvureview.com/front-page/recent/artsculture/latter-day-lgbtq/