by Randall Thacker, Affirmation Senior Vice President
This past month has been in many ways a coming out time for our straight Mormon allies. LGBT Mormons and allies have now marched in 12 Pride parades! Much of the momentum and support behind many of the marches has been the work of our straight allies. Their willingness to “come out” and visibly support us is creating a real movement within Mormonism.
Two weeks ago I marched with almost 70 people in the DC Pride parade with an overwhelming majority of the marchers being straight Mormon allies. This past weekend LGBT Mormons and Mormon Allies marched in 8 Pride parades, including one in Santiago, Chile! Numbers in each ranged from almost 20 to over 100. In each parade at least half or more of the marchers were straight allies.
I believe there are more Mormon supporters than we can imagine. I learned this personally four weeks ago just before the marches began. During a combined Priesthood and Relief Society meeting in my ward, the Stake Public Affairs Director gave a presentation about various issues in the media, sharing the church’s official position and then taking questions and comments.
When the slide changed to the issue of same-gender marriage, the official statement had nothing to do with marriage. It stated: “God loves all of His children, and Church membership and fellowship are open to all.” The statement confused people, with some wondering if the church was no longer against gay marriage. What then ensued was a lengthy and somewhat tensious sharing of progressive and conservative views by various ward members.
My heart was pounding so hard that I knew I had to say something. Because I only recently returned to regular activity in my ward, only a handful of people knew that I was gay. I raised my hand, and when called upon stood and shared with an almost full chapel of adults that I was gay and that I was one of the minority of gay Mormons who feels comfortable attending church and that there are dozens of gay Mormons in the ward’s boundaries who are scared out of their mind to come to church. I praised this new official position of the church and encouraged members to speak authentically when asked questions about the issue. That is, if they observe the official statement to be true then say it, but if they don’t observe it as true then WORK to make it a reality.
At the end of the meeting, over two-dozen members of the ward approached me, shook my hand or hugged me and said they supported me. Members said anything from, “You are always welcome here,” to “we’re for marriage equality and are marching in the DC pride parade.” Many others who did not stop to speak with me walked slowly by, smiled, and said softly, “thank you.” It took me over 30 minutes to leave the chapel. I was completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support! I later received some emails from members as well, with one thanking me for giving her the opportunity to come out of the closet as a supporter.
It is only through engaging our allies within the church that we will ever effectuate substantial change. Their participation is what’s creating this new movement. Engage them, share your story, answer their questions, and encourage them to “come out of the closet” as a supporter.