My name is Steph Burt. I’m passionate about my family, knitting, music, and the environment. I am a chemical engineer. I am a musician — I play organ, piano, accordion, and trombone.
I’m in a mixed-orientation marriage, in other words: I’m lesbian and married to a man, Together, my husband and I have three children.
The thought that I was lesbian first occurred to me when I was 19 or 20. I had a really close friend whom I cared about a lot. The thought frightened me and my immediate response was “absolutely not!” and I put the thought in a box and stashed it away. Fast forward thirteen years; the group USGA was starting at BYU and they put together some really fabulous videos. These videos resonated very strongly with me and, the more I thought about my past experiences, everything made sense when put into the frame of “same-gender attraction”. At that point, I emailed my husband and came out to him. The email was full of many other things I’d been thinking about, and he missed the paragraph at the end stating that I experience same-gender attraction. I will say in his defense that I kind of beat around the bush and he was supportive when I brought it up in person — he told me that he wasn’t very surprised at this revelation, saying, “honestly, I’ve always been surprised that you agreed to marry me.”
Despite this support, it wasn’t until seven years later that I felt comfortable stating that I’m lesbian. While I had acknowledged my orientation, I still viewed it through a perspective of shame. For the few people I confided in over those years, I requested absolute confidence and silence. This was a part of me that I hated and that I wanted to have fixed. I felt that I was broken, deeply deeply broken, and that there was nothing I could do, except wait until I died and be fixed in the next life.
I grew up LDS. I went on a mission to Denmark. I was the picture of a good Mormon girl.
After deciding to come out publicly this past year, I spent a lot of time deconstructing my faith. I took everything apart and sorted through the rubble and rebuilt a faith that I not only could live with, but one I could relish. I have kept the New Testament Christ, who loves everyone unconditionally. I have kept the example of Joseph Smith constantly asking difficult questions. I have kept my personal experiences with God — who repeatedly tells me that I am not only perfect and loved as I am, but that he has always loved me; this intense personal relationship with a Greater Power keeps on giving — when I am feeling crushed under the weight of homophobic comments, cruel policies, and habits from living with hating myself for so many years, I can almost feel the arms of God around me, lifting me up, keeping me here, and finding some calm in the storm.
I struggle with leaders repeating the so-called doctrine of homosexuality being a burden for this life, that it will no longer exist in the eternities (i.e., that I’m broken in this life, but I’ll be “fixed” in the next life), that homosexuality is caused by sins/actions in my youth, that homosexuality is contagious, that homosexuality is only about lust. My orientation is a significant part of who I am; it colors how I perceive the world and how I build relationships with others. I can’t imagine how I can still be myself if this part of me is removed.
I struggle with fellow “Christians” saying “stay” when they hear of my struggles, but this after decades of my value being dependent upon me coming to church every week and appearing perfect and acting straight.
I struggle with returning to church buildings and rooms where years of homophobic comments come flooding back, crushing me again and again, week after week. I long to serve in a church where the only doctrines are “love one another” and “I am a child of God” and “Jesus loves everyone” – and I do this as best I can by making music in Sacrament Meetings and Primary.
I struggle with being asked over and over again my views on homosexuality and gender after this life. I don’t know these answers. I do know that my prayers asking “Is it okay that I’m lesbian?” were answered swiftly and powerfully with “You are OK! You are loved! You don’t need to change anything!” These powerful, personal experiences keep me moving forward in my journey here through life. This makes it deeply painful when I’m told that my personal revelation is merely an excuse and not actual revelation.
I struggle with being told that I am broken because of my sexual orientation — how am I broken when the intents of my heart have always been to love and serve and protect the people around me?
I AM NOT BROKEN!!!
I would also like people to understood why I remain in a mixed-orientation marriage. Scott and I have been married for almost 16 years and these years have been filled with tears and struggle. Scott has borne the weight of several lifetimes while carrying me through 13 years of paralyzing depression brought on by repeated rounds of post-partum depression compounded by guilt and shame from hiding who I truly am. He has taken care of me when physical health problems robbed me of the ability to do more than sleep 20 hours a day. He has loved and nurtured and fed three beautiful children. He has done all of this while finishing a PhD at UC Berkeley, and then working full-time and getting tenure as a professor, etc.
When people ask me “When are you getting divorced?”, I can only wonder if they even know us. Our favorite thing to do is to be together. We love even simple things like grocery shopping together or walking the kids home from school. We love to camp together. We have always loved to talk — that is what brought us together. Over the past 16 years, we’ve had many difficult and painful times when it would have been easier to throw in the towel and walk away. However, neither Scott nor I have that personality. We’re simply too pragmatic. We can see that we’re much better together than apart; we’ve also struggled through these crises together and we’re closer for it. If anything has happened to our marriage since I decided to come out publicly, it is that we’re closer. We’re more open and authentic than ever before. It does help that we chose to marry each other because we were good friends, in spite of not being physically attracted to each other. We’ve become best friends.
What would I love to see from members of the church and my community? More listening, less fixing. More real friendship and unconditional love.
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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.