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An Open Letter to Queer Mormon Youth

An Open Letter to Queer Mormon Youth

Don't despair -- just take a deep breath and read this.

Years ago, as a teen, I was stationed on a military ship. Because of church teachings, I struggled fiercely against being two-spirited (my queer identity adopted from Native American cultures).

The shipmate I crushed on had crystal blue eyes and a thick Smoky Mountain accent. He surprised me after trading massages by intimately rubbing his nose against mine. I'd never kissed a boy but had written a poem about him days earlier. Now he was willing to kiss, but I turned my face away out of a belief that to love him was sinful. He got the message; we parted in shame.

I fasted, prayed, and trusted that help would arrive. Help did come, but differently than expected.

As is the case with many, your whole life may revolve around Mormonism. Yet the church's tradition of excluding us from full spiritual equality has left some feeling heartbroken -- a deep pain renewed with each pronouncement that disrespects who we are. We have felt like victims.

There comes a time to cast off the victim role and remember your strength. There comes a time to reclaim your power from those who do not understand and have harmed sexual minorities.

Claiming your power may be a process. You can find your way forward, often a step at a time. Here are five practices that may help:

1.Take charge of your spiritual wellness. You deserve an empowering community that does not alienate based on who you are. Perhaps you will pioneer beyond Mormonism. If so, keep everything good from Mormonism while dismissing "all that offends your soul." Whatever you decide, look for the people, places, ideas, and communities that uplift and inspire you.

2.Treat yourself with gentleness. Mormons sometimes forget the full promise of grace. Find ways to treat yourself with love, kindness, gratitude, and patience for being human. Life's a journey that is propelled by basics including healthy habits like quality sleep, nourishment, exercise, and frequently ungluing from your phone for what truly helps you de-stress and recharge.

3.Practice and receive love. Let yourself love and be loved. This is a basic human need! Romantic love with a special person may not come until later. I was 25 when I finally kissed a guy. Seek out ways to love and serve others now. You don't need a calling for that. Give generously. Develop your talents and share them with others. Queer Latter-Day Saints complement and bless our families and communities in countless ways.

4.Be your own kind of LGBTQI person. Explore and imagine your options. Maybe for now that is limited to your imagination, but your life really is yours to live. When the time arrives, decide what healthy sexuality is for you. There is no single way to be LGBTQI. You're in the driver's seat. Once you think you know what you want, look for role models of how you hope to live.

5.Get help when you need it. If you're ever at risk of harming yourself, please get help such as via call/text/chat to a helpline like the Trevor Project (1-866-488-7386). There are many resources and skilled people who are ready to help and listen. You may find that talking with an LGBTQI-affirming counselor or joining a gay-straight alliance or other support groups can help you work through tough moments and decisions.

Now that I'm older, I see clearly that being a two-spirited person has enriched my life. I embrace who I am while thankful for all I learned as a Mormon. My emotional wellness, however, is no longer tied to what church leaders say or do. I've moved well beyond that to take my own journey, and so can you.

Sam_wolfex100_0SAM WOLFE is a writer and attorney living in Washington, D.C. He serves on the board of Affirmation--LGBT Mormons, Families & Friends. Photo of Wolfe: Alberto Chimal.

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