As I enter my late twenties, I’m reflecting on time and place—specifically my own time and my own place. When you’re raised in a hegemonic religion that articulates there is only a “strait and narrow” way to joy and happiness, you hold within you a lot of anxiety about where you are in mortal time (following the commandments? living the gospel? being a good disciple of Jesus Christ?) and earthly place (going to the temple? standing in holy places? attending church weekly?). Just yesterday on my bus ride home, I spoke with some sister missionaries who testified of the comfort the plan of salvation and commandments bring them. There is a lot of comfort in having a plan and rules laid out for how to do things. For many years of my life, I felt that comfort that comes from absolute surety of knowing the trail up the mountain is right before you and being able to step firmly in order to summit the peak.
That surety does not exist in my life any more. When a part of who you are fundamentally creates tension with the doctrine of the religion you were raised in, you have to make a few decisions. I’ve made some of those decisions. But in making those decisions, I find I have lost my time and my place.
No longer do I hold a surety of where I’m going, why I am here, or where I came from. No longer can I rely on a god or a plan or a spirit to guide me. And, to be frank, it’s difficult to deal with.
I’ve been told God loves me. I’ve been told I should and can always pray to him. I’ve been told he’ll always be there for me, even if I don’t believe in him or trust him. Think about how those words feel, though, to someone who feels that the god who is meant to love them actually abused them through their childhood and youth. Your abuser (God) loves you. You can always talk to (pray to) your abuser (God). Your abuser (God) will always be there for you, even you don’t trust (believe in) him.
Perhaps I’m being dramatic by comparing God to an abuser; maybe I’m hurting some of my readers by stating that a part of me believes the god they believe in is an abuser. Perhaps. Maybe. However, when you’re told growing up that God will never allow the prophet to lead the Church astray, and then that God does absolutely nothing as prophets and apostles declare that your sexual orientation will bring about the downfall of society and queer individuals still consider suicide daily because of what is preached over pulpits, taught in classrooms, and discussed behind closed doors, and that God does absolutely nothing to step in and end that—I consider that at the very least heavenly parental neglect, even abuse of spiritual children.
So, I find myself in my own queer time and place, one that lacks heavenly direction or divine guidance. I’m at one of the greatest scholarly institutions in the world, but I can’t seem to find a purpose to what I’m doing here. Eventually we all die, and none of us can be sure about what will be or what we might leave behind for future generations of our species. As I sift through archives, handle texts that have survived the test of time, and consider what people of old wrote and thought, I can’t help but wonder about all the human history we don’t have and the stories we will never have. And that leads me to wonder—will my own contribution to humanity be lost in the annals of time? Or will I be able to make my mark—take my shot, if you will—and have it last longer than a viral video before it is swept away in the 1s and 0s that make up our digitally integrated world?
Twenty-seven is honestly not that old. There’s a lot for me still to do and say, and like my girl Liz, I have plans for this year and the next and the next and the next, and so on. It is difficult to fully express the unified anxiety and hope I have about my life, my and place—the two emotions commingle in me to create an amalgamated storm of optimism and pessimism . . . pragmatism.
I am in my own queer time and place because I no longer have that powerful deity I can humbly go to. I no longer have that strict plan that shows me a trail in life to walk. I no longer have commandments that can lead me and guide me, show me the way. All because I can’t be humble and bow my head to celibacy for my entire earthly life; or, in other words, all because I have used my agency and made a choice that strips me of those parameters so I can live my life in a way that is true to who I am. The loss of direction is frightening; the loss of guideposts is terrifying; but, honestly, is a hike better when you’re on a neatly laid out trail or when you have the chance to trail-blaze your own path?