I had two distinct Mormon identities. I was born “in the covenant” so from birth until about age fifteen, my identity was just whatever my parents said it was. I was their daughter, I thought like they thought, and I did what they said. I was Mormon because they were. I was relatively happy in this stage because I never really had to think through anything. I could just ask my parents, and whatever they said was the correct answer. Some cracks started to show as I got to age 12 and started Young Womens, but overall, I was still mostly content to let my parents dictate what I thought and believed. The other really important part of my identity was femininity: I was a future mother. I was meant to have children and not much else and for a while, I was ok with that.
When I turned fifteen, a lot of things changed. My parents had divorced just before my fifteenth birthday, I started high school, and I was starting to realize I was queer. At this point my identity was suffering. I believed that God had made me the way I was, and it was my job was just to suffer until my life ended. I felt like the game was rigged. God made me gay, he made me incapable of accepting sexism in his church, but he expected me to stay in it anyway. I felt like that was a ridiculous expectation and I was really angry at God for it. In my mind god existed, but he was an incurable asshole. He made me gay and then refused to accept me as he made me. He made it so my best friend wouldn’t be able to attend my wedding because she wasn’t Mormon. He said I was supposed to bear children, and then made me infertile. I started researching issues with the church at this point but I want to emphasize that I was NOT looking to leave. I was just looking to see if there was anyone else who felt like I did. I felt trapped.
I was also mad at my parents. I’d been proud to be one of the few kids I knew whose parents were still together. I didn’t want stepparents, I didn’t want step siblings, and I felt betrayed. The divorce also meant my mom was spending more time working (which is fair, she did have three kids to keep fed and clothed,) but I felt abandoned. Looking back all this seems a little silly and a lot over dramatic but it’s how I felt at the time.
I can’t say I miss much about being an all – in Mormon. The one thing I can say I liked was the certainty. The world and all the evil in it are a lot easier to deal with when you “know” why they’re there and what the point is. But that stage of my life was untenable. I couldn’t just let my parents dictate my whole life and self to me forever, and if I was still letting them tell me what to think now, I’d be pretty disgusted with myself. I’ve begun to value my independence.
I do miss a lot about the “Mormon and pissed about it” stage. I miss having such a strong identity – I was very specifically angry, and I wanted not to be Mormon, but I didn’t know how I could make that happen while I still somewhat believed the church to be true. My rage was righteous and incandescent. Toward the end of this stage, I did acquire the goal of resigning, and then I liked having that clear goal. I don’t miss being angry all the time. I don’t miss fighting with my mom all the time, we butted heads a lot at this stage, and it made being at home really difficult because I felt like I couldn’t just exist without a fight starting. My brother and I really bonded as I got ready to leave and we’re still really close, for which I am immensely grateful.
I don’t think I’d be who I am now without having been part of and then leaving the church. I don’t know that that’s necessarily a good thing.
I’m still finding out who I am now. Parts of that are easy – I’m a wife, I am queer, I am close now with both my siblings. But parts of it are hard. I’m still finding what I think the best moral code is for me. I’m trying to find a balance between “the world sucks” and “it’s ok to set that aside and be happy sometimes.” I’m still figuring out what my moral framework looks like, and who and what belong in my life. There’s a lot of recovery involved in being an exmormon – 7 years and counting.
I’m really proud of a lot of the things I’ve done since leaving. I graduated college, I took a shot at LA, I married my wife, who makes me the happiest I’ve ever been. My mom and brother and sister and I have all repaired our relationship, and now we’re much closer than when we were Mormon. I’ve gotten tattoos which I love, and I’ve learned a lot about the actual history of the church – far more than I or anyone I knew understood when I was in. I can discuss my issues with the church competently now. I’m also proud that when I was leaving, I wasn’t leaving because of facts and figures – I was leaving because of morals. It’s totally valid to look at the facts and leave because they don’t match up, for sure. For me personally, I was more interested in the church’s reason to exist in the first place: morality.
I’m hopeful that someday I will reach the point where I can stop talking about the church. Where it stops affecting my life. I look forward to my 41st birthday, because then I will have been exmormon for longer than I was Mormon.