Lucas Kieran is an eighteen-year-old grey-romantic/sexual, genderqueer, rather gay trans demiboy. He was born and raised in the Church, although his records are under his birth name, and plans to re-convert after having his legal gender marker changed to Male.
He enjoys psychology, sociology, social justice, and looking at life through queer-tinted lenses. He plans to do undergraduate work in psychology at a local university in central Texas before applying to the University of Utah for a dual graduate degree in Social Work and Public Administration, and obtaining his LCSW. With these credentials, he plans to create programs in the Salt Lake Valley for youth of marginalized orientations and gender identities, especially homeless youth in this demographic.
Losing My (Cisnormative, Heteronormative) Religion…and Finding It Queerer
(Content Warnings for forced outing, homoantagonism, child sexual abuse, transantagonism, psychiatric hospitalization, dissociation, sex mentions, cissexism, alcoholism, transphobia, assault, overdose, smoking addiction, and strong language.)
2012 was a tumultuous year.
I started going back to Church and Seminary after around 2 years of sporadic activity. The week of Easter Sunday, I was outed as queer (“lesbian”) to my Bishop. He called me in after a meeting with my mother on Easter, saying he wanted to get to know me better.
I spent two hours in his office having scripture thrown at me like knives. He accused me of possibly being predatory to the other girls in my ward because of my now-known “same sex attraction”. He told me he had informed the leaders in the ward, and told them to “watch out for [me].” He told me I “couldn’t have been abused” between ages ten and twelve because he personally knew my abuser, and she “would never do such a thing”.
I walked out of the Bishop’s office defeated, angry, and completely disillusioned with the Church. That month, I had been researching Church History and found quite a few disconcerting things—varying accounts of the First Vision as opposed to the one I was taught as a child, a video of the temple endowment ceremony which terrified me, and changes in scripture and doctrine, among other things.
I was done.
I told my parents about the interaction, and the outing (which, we found out, had been done by my Seminary teacher) after a week. To them, this was the final straw—my mother was already ostracized by other women in Relief Society, my father was already disillusioned due to Courts of Love he had sat in on as a High Priest, and they had both never recovered from the spiritual doubt they experienced when my Valiant 11 teacher, who had emotionally, verbally, and sexually abused me, was called over the Beehives the year I turned twelve.
They cut up their garments, we threw out our scriptures, recycled all of our church literature, and threw away our collection of films about the prophets. All that remained was a missionary-edition Book of Mormon on my bookshelf, a handful of Halestorm films we couldn’t bear to part with, and an engraved hymnbook from one of my parents’ first wards when my father was active in the Air Force in the 80s.
I was comfortable with this for a while.
I made new friends online, and realized that I identified as transgender, and always had—but now I had the words to describe it, and holy fuck did it feel amazing. I started presenting as vaguely male, but quickly began overcompensating with excessive femininity in order to gain the attentions of an old high school friend I re-connected with on facebook that summer. I broke up with him the day before Valentine’s Day 2013, and, after a hospitalization following a bad dissociative episode, came out to my parents as trans.
To say the least, it didn’t go well, and I started saving up and collecting donations to move out of the house and in with a friend after my eighteenth birthday that summer. I spent the months of August to October with a friend, before another hospitalization occurred, resulting from an even worse dissociative episode, and they refused to let me stay with them, but offered to pay me a plane ticket to San Francisco.
I spent two weeks homeless, living in shelters and wandering the streets at night a few days. I engaged in vaguely-nonconsensual sex with a youth shelter roommate in dark alleys and secluded areas of public parks in exchange for money to fund my newfound alcohol addiction. Finally, after an argument with the roommate over him touching me under my chest binder without my consent and despite my protests, him claiming “reverse discrimination” when I admitted to being afraid of cisgender men, and being assaulted in the bathroom of an adult shelter for being trans, I overdosed on generic drugstore Ibuprofen.
If God was anywhere, it wasn’t here in San Francisco with me, an eighteen-year-old transgender abuse survivor.
I wound up in the hospital once again, this time landing in a two-week intensive program which was followed by a 90-day group home. My assigned counselor was genderqueer, and very supportive. We had “feelings jams” about queerness, clapped together at Laverne Cox’s response to Katie Couric’s invasive questions, and presented a discussion group on trans identities to the house together. They referred me to a clinic where I obtained hormones to start my transition. Unfortunately, I could not secure housing in San Francisco, and found myself moving back home with my parents in February, but this time armed with coping skills, a newfound sense of confidence, a vaguely deeper voice, and a desire to create change.
I’ve found a lot of time for self-reflection since I’ve been home, and that includes reflection on my views of religion.
My friend Curtis recently finished a seven-part essay titled Finding the Queer Christ in Mormonism. In these posts, they covered many things, but one of their posts really hit me in particular: The Queerness of the Atonement.
In this post, Curtis writes:
I can think of nothing queerer than the idea of the atonement.
Here we have Christ experiencing every experience there ever was. Christ is experiencing all genders and sex with all genders and even the experience of not being interested in sex at all. What can be more queer than such an experience?
During the atonement, Christ is experiencing gender dysphoria, bullying, ostracization, love, acceptance, devotion and every other experience a queer person may go through.
Suddenly things started clicking. I haven’t been comfortable with the idea of God as a man—let alone a cisgender, heterosexual man—in a long time. Curtis’s post brought these feelings back, but with a possible solution: If Christ can be queer, why can’t God Themself? What was, or is, or ever will be stopping me from interpreting my God as all genders and none of them, as all sexualities and none of them?
I believe in a God that is Everything and Nothing. I believe in a God that manifests in the stars of the sky and in the dirt of the earth. I believe in a God who is in the breeze that rustles the branches of trees, who is in the water of a river, who is in the sky above us and the ground below us and all around us and inside of us.
I believe in God as Nature. I believe in God as an omniscient Something, a simultaneously merciful and wrathful Being.
I believe in a God who loves Their children, but knows that some of them are horrible people. I believe in a God who protects Their children like me who have been abused, and is not afraid to smite Their children’s abusers.
I believe in a God who loves me just as much when I’m sober as when I’m in a dark alleyway at night, slumped against a brick wall, downing a can of cheap beer I’ll regret in the morning when I have to wake up at 7 to get out of the shelter.
I believe in a God who understands why I smoke. I believe in a God who knows that I smoke to concentrate, to calm down, to cope. I believe in a God who knows that it’s not feasible yet for me to stop smoking, and loves me anyway.
I believe in a God who does not love me in spite of myself, but because of all that I am as Their child. I believe in a God who accepts all that I am: my queerness, my survivorhood, my rage and my sorrow, my fear and my elation, my ups and my downs, my autism, my disability, my mental illness.
Furthermore, I believe in a Christ who knelt in Gethsemane and felt all.
I believe in a Christ who felt addiction as well as sobriety. I believe in a Christ who is with me as my hands tremble while reaching for the sixth cigarette in the space of twenty minutes, because oh God, holy shit, five cigarettes haven’t calmed me down yet, I’m still crying, I’m still dysphoric beyond belief, but I can’t cut my breasts off, the ambulance itself would cost my family more than a mastectomy that I pray our insurance will cover. I believe in a Christ who is with me when I crack open that can of beer I swore to fuck I wouldn’t even ask this guy to buy, when I’m sipping and crying, when I’m chugging and sobbing, when I’m drunk off my ass waiting on the cold ground for a space at the shelter.
I believe in a Christ who felt my dysphoria. I believe in a Christ whose heart swelled with rage when that one asshole cishet kid outed me as trans to the boys in line for the shelter and suggested I try for a female bed, “because you’ve got a vagina, right?” I believe in a Christ who felt the cramps of menstruation and sobbed for hours because, no way, this is NOT happening, I can’t be a girl, I can’t, I fucking can’t do this.
I believe in a Christ who was angry at my first Bishop for putting me in danger again, for putting that horrible woman in a position of power over me. I believe in a Christ who let her go without children until I finally reported her and she was put in the child abuse registry and is now unable to adopt through church adoption services because of it, and too old to raise a child anyway. I believe in a Christ who is waiting with Their queer Parent, in whatever alternate realm the Next Life exists in, to bring down the mallet on them both.
I believe in a Christ who felt the despair of thousands of queer people unable to marry, unable to secure housing, unable to secure jobs, unable to walk down the street without being mocked or outright abused. I believe in a Christ who mourns when the First Presidency combats, more and more frantically, inevitable-thank-fuck marriage equality. I believe in a Christ who is waiting, so fucking impatiently, for them to realize that two men or two women or one man or one woman can be perfectly wonderful parents, thank-you-very-goddamn-much.
I believe in a Christ who mourned the excommunications of the September Six and who is mourning the excommunication threats to Kate Kelly and John P. Dehlin. I believe in a Christ who wouldn’t bat an eyelash at a woman serving as a Bishop, at an openly transgender person being baptized, at a transgender person transitioning while in the Church, at a pair of girls or boys finding love together, at a person who isn’t romantically or sexually attracted to anyone at all.
I believe in a Christ who would love me and who would want me at Church even if I were married to another man—be it out of that ever-evasive thing called romance or just for the tax benefits—or if I were openly transgender in my ward. I believe in a Christ who wouldn’t want home teachers to shy away from Those Two Men Daring to Parent a Child. I believe in a Christ who would smile upon me as I held hands with my partner in Sacrament Meeting just like that cishet couple in front of us, because holy shit I did it, I found companionship after everyone told me I wouldn’t.
I believe in a queer, ever-loving, always-accepting God, and a queer, ever-loving, always-accepting Christ.