My name is Alma. I am a single mother of two boys who are my everything. My life journey has been a perplexing one. I almost don’t feel prepared to offer it up to people because I feel like I should understand it more than I do, but that is also why I feel like I should. I don’t know any people who have been on a journey like mine that have all the answers, and I am no exception to the rule.
I knew I was different when I was very young. I was about six or seven watching television at my grandmas surrounded by relatives. I think it was a Ray Charles commercial with him playing the piano and surrounded by women that made me feel uncomfortable and I didn’t know why. I just kept staring at the ground and hoping that no one would notice that I must have been visibly flushed.
I continued through life not understanding that feeling of being embarrassed around certain women until I was 12 and attending my first girls camp. On the first night we sat in a circle and we were asked to compliment the girl next to us. When the girl next to me said I was beautiful I remember that I felt nauseous and my face was on fire. It was the first time I recognized that this wasn’t just me being embarrassed, but that I felt a way that I obviously shouldn’t be feeling about other girls. It was terrifying to me, but I really believed that it could be dissolved or improved with piety.
I never knew what to call this thing that I was until my freshman year of high school. I was talking to my brothers friend about my favorite teacher who had really taught me to love the written word. When I was done talking about how amazing her class was this friend just blurted out, “well you know she’s a lesbian, right?” The way she said it and my naïve understanding of this teacher instantly connected that this was the name for what I was too. It planted the first internal homophobia seed in me. I knew what a lesbian was, and I somehow thought that I could stop this from happening to me.
Throughout high school I played the super religious card. I did all the “right” things. Except, I’ll be honest, early morning seminary was NOT in my vocabulary. Aside from that I was the girl people called “Sister Mary Alma.” I grew up in South Texas so that was more relatable than “Molly Mormon.” I never mentioned my feelings to anyone. I would suffer through crushes (on teachers, of course) all alone not letting myself believe they were crushes. I would choose the safe boys to have open crushes on.
My best friend/boy friend in high school came out when we were seniors. I remember feeling like my cover would soon be blown, and it was just months later when I finally came out in January of 1997. Accepting that I was gay felt like me accepting that I was no longer worthy of God’s blessings that had been taught to me every Sunday at church. In my mind I felt it invalidated everything that I grew up believing, and it filled me with hurt and anger. I moved out of my moms home and left the church for 12 years the summer after I graduated high school.
My journey outside the gospel as a scared young gay girl was a hard one. Looking back I see that the Lord put many people in my path that blessed me with their goodness. However, leaving the gospel behind me felt like I had lost an arm and a leg. I felt like vital parts of who I was were always missing. Like the phantom pains that come with losing limbs I felt the pain of not having the gospel in my life. I felt disconnected and tried attending many different denominations over the years, but none of them ever felt right to me.
Like many, I fell prey to addiction. I drank until I couldn’t feel the phantom pains, or any pain for that matter until even the intoxication couldn’t mask what I knew I needed in my life. I returned to church in July of 2009, and wrote off my gayness to being abused as a girl. I thought that was the only way the Lord would love and accept me back into His fold. It allowed me to dissociate from my attractions to women. It also kept me from connecting at a level that was natural to me because I was always afraid of people getting close enough to see who I really was.
I half-lived my life this way. Sliding down in my chair in church on Sundays when the hot topic of homosexuality was mentioned. I even fueled my own internal homophobic tendencies by occasionally making a comment that expressed how wrong I thought it was to live “that way.” All the while I had a deep desire to be seen for who I was, but in reality I hated what I couldn’t change about me so it was something I just assumed I would have to spend my life dealing with.
In January of 2018 I found myself on my knees because my family and I had moved away from all my family in Texas to Utah. I knew it was for a reason before we ever packed a box, but I was in a dark place where I felt like I wasn’t connecting and serving in the church. I felt so alone and wanted to feel like I belonged somewhere. I knew that something needed to change, and I pled to the Lord to help me see what His purpose was for bringing us to the mountains and snow.
The Lord answered by connecting me to organizations and people who were just like me. I wasn’t the only one, and it opened up a new world of possibility. I was surrounded by the testimonies of people who had come to see that they weren’t cursed or broken, and I began to find that same testimony for myself. In time I was able to see myself in the Lord’s eyes. It was a blessing, but also made me aware of how much I hurt inside. Even though I have so much love for my husband I could feel the connection to him drifting. The more I felt the tremendous weight of misunderstanding about my innate sexuality lifted I recognized how much we were hurting each other. Although he loved and supported me (and continues to do so, gratefully) I struggled to love him the way I knew he needed to be loved.
There has been a complexity to that process that words cannot describe. Obviously it wasn’t all because of me, but my stuff played a major role. I have many good friends that are in mixed orientation marriages, and I respect those that can live in them joyfully. With the help of the Lord I had to come to realize that I wasn’t one of those people.
Having to learn how I will fit back into the gospel as a single gay woman has weighed heavy on my heart. It’s hard, pure and simple. When I returned back to the church I promised the Lord I would never turn my back on him again. He has given me a beautiful life that I am so grateful for, and has kept His promise of peace in my heart when I am focused on learning to understand His will for me.
I won’t lie and say that going to church through this process has been my source of strength and peace. I know that I am in a ward of so many good people, but I also realize that I am not the easiest person to fellowship because I am still learning how to belong. I know that I do, but the how is a process. I am learning to share my truth and testimony, but it is hard. For example, a few weeks ago I was commenting on our Come Follow Me discussion and the words “I’m gay” somehow came spilling out of my mouth much to my surprise on a Sunday our stake RS president happened to be in class. The next Sunday in sacrament we had a member of our Stake Presidency giving a talk about the Proclamation to the Family referencing a talk at least thirty years old that mentioned that breaking up a celestial family was like throwing a gift from the Lord away. It may have been a coincidence, and I pretended it was. I’m grateful that I was in a place where the Lord’s peace and purpose were strong in my heart that day.
A strong testimony of the gospel doesn’t always guarantee that our lives are going to go exactly according to plan. I know that it applies to everyone. None of us are exempt from trials and tribulation. The temple is the one place I can turn to for strength and peace. It is the one place where the Lord speaks clearly to me. Where I feel His love, and where I can feel connected to heaven. Making temple attendance a priority in my life brings support when I need it most.
When I began really struggling a few months ago I attended the temple to seek forgiveness and help because the feelings that began surfacing brought confusion and despair. I kept praying for help because I believed that the feelings were a test for me to have greater dominion over the natural man. Over time I got closer and closer to the Lord, and felt His love for me. I felt that He didn’t want me to feel the shame I was feeling, and that He wanted me to love who He created me to be. In the process I became more comfortable asking sincere and direct questions that were answered with love and tenderness. I have recently come to know with absolute certainty that I have His love and approval to one day be married to a woman. It took months to get to a point where I felt comfortable asking such a direct question, but the answer that came was one of the most powerful I’ve ever received. It left me no room to doubt His love and desire for me to have joy in this life the way that is most natural to me.
I’d like people to know that even if this road isn’t easy that I know it’s my road. I’ve spent many of the last months learning that loving the Lord and also loving who He created me to be are not contradictory dichotomies. I have struggled with feeling that allegiance had to be paid either to people in the church or to people out of the church. What I’ve come to understand is that the Savior had one allegiance, and that was to the Father. He taught that the most important thing we can do is love. Not understand. Not assume. Not judge. Love. That is all we need to do when we don’t have answers. It is what I’m striving to do for myself, and what I’m learning from so many who the Lord has blessed me with.
I have hope and faith in His plan for me even through the hard times. It has taken twenty two years of a lot of trial and error (and more error) that understanding my personal path has always been between me and the Lord, and not finding it wrapped and packaged for me. It is true for each one of us. I know it will all work out in the end.
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This In My Own Words story is a contribution from Let’s Love Better, a Facebook group dedicated to helping people learn to better share love, while fostering an atmosphere of understanding. When we know better, we do better.