Courage and Despair

“Lived Reality”

Community of Christ’s World Conference begins this weekend, with the central theme of “Courage”. As an act of embracing this theme, I have chosen to put a portion of my feelings into words and make them known.

Community of Christ had become a safe haven for me amidst the callous challenges of the world. It was the one place where I felt genuinely embraced and cherished just the way I am. I know I am unorthodox and different, so I was elated to find such a community. In 2021 I was interviewed for CoC’s podcast and they selected this quote to promote the episode: “If Community of Christ can accept me, it can accept anybody. …”

I had every intention of being in Independence, Missouri this weekend for World Conference; I had had my lodging secured months ago. I had drafted legislation that is being debated there and I had prepared to defend it on the Auditorium floor. I even planned on scattering a portion of my father’s ashes on the temple lot. Needless to say, I was looking forward to my trip to the Zion of my ancestors.

Upon the release of the “February Policy” that all changed. After I read it I was overwhelmed with disbelief, rejection, anger, and sorrow. This flurry of emotions left me quite disoriented. I reached out to numerous individuals for advice, but no one seemed to have a clear and effective action plan. Several people suggested we take an indefinite amount of time to consider what the next move was, but I felt like a response needed to be forthcoming. I was met with hesitation and pushback upon this prospect. This led to me reconsidering how this community would be a part of my life moving forward. However, when the First Presidency doubled down on the policy, I know I could not continue to actively associate with a church that targeted people like me with such disrespect.

Since then, many individuals have discussed the matter privately, with only a handful speaking out publicly. There simply seems to be a lack of effort to challenge this discriminatory policy. In fact, those who have pushed back against it have inadvertently revealed that there is actually quite widespread support for this exclusionary policy, or at the very least, a disinterest in understanding the impact it has on individuals like me. As World Conference begins, we see this regressive policy being pushed aside even by its detractors in favor of matters that affect a larger segment of the church.

I have had the opportunity to attend the Unitarian Universalist fellowship in Boise for several weeks now and have thoroughly enjoyed my experiences there. I’ve developed new friendships and am eager to become more involved with the community. Despite my eagerness to be a part of this community, I cannot shake a feeling of apprehension. Upon joining Community of Christ, I was assured I would receive unconditional acceptance and that people were ready to stand up for me if I ever faced rejection. As a result, I am not eager to place my trust in the UUs so easily, regardless of if their reputation and self-proclaimed values are authentic.

In just the short time since I have started distancing myself from Community of Christ, my state has passed multiple discriminatory laws against the transgender community. I fully anticipate that Idaho will continue to erode my rights until I have none left. It is likely that my home state will become increasingly hazardous for me, which is why my wife and I are currently taking steps to relocate to a safer place.

In short, my state is actively trying to push me out of the home and my church, which had been my sanctuary from these hardships, became one of the very institutions who sought to marginalize me. At this point, I an unsure if there IS a community in which I can truly feel safe.

I miss the days when I felt like I was a valued member of a community that shared my cultural roots. At times I have considered returning to Community of Christ in an attempt to recapture some semblance of the comfort I felt. However, I can’t help but feel that returning would be comparable to returning to an abusive and unrepentant ex-partner out of desperation; it would inevitably only bring me more pain and heartache in the end.

To salvage even a fragment of what I envision the Restoration could truly be, I have been pouring myself into writing and creating art. These have brought me a sense of comfort and have been a bit of a balm during this difficult time. Although I have pursued my own spiritual ventures, I am not content with being an isolated, independent solo-practitioner; I crave community, tradition, and heritage.

And so I am left to choose between loneliness or exposing myself to the possibility of rejection from yet another spiritual community. Both options are exhausting and intimidating.

This weekend was intended to be a time of excitement, celebration, community, and inclusion. Regrettably, it is now marred by despair, grief, loss, and uncertainty.