When I speak at conferences about LGBT+ issues within the Mormon church, I often get applause. This makes me acutely uncomfortable, because I am not a hero. I am a just a decent human being trying to do the right thing and sometimes getting it wrong. As an LGBT+ ally, I feel it is important to make sure that I remember I don't take attention away from the LGBT+ Mormons who are the real heroes, facing rejection and condemnation on a daily basis. So if you applaud in public or in private, please let it be for these people and not for me:
1. The gay Mormon teen who just came out to his parents, afraid they might kick him out of the house, but unable to pretend to be someone else any longer.
2. The homeless Mormon teen who wasn't kicked out, but just couldn't live with the constant derogatory comments anymore and has decided that even living on the street could not be worse than living in a toxic home environment. This teen builds community with other homeless teens and finds Ogden Youth Futures is a place where he is at last treated with what he knows he has always deserved.
3. The bisexual Mormon teen who hasn't been able to be openly out, but defends the spectrum on every occasion when people say disgusting things about them, even when people question her sexuality in a jeering way.
4. The trans Mormon kid who is only able to be himself when the door is closed, but inside his room, is practicing bravery and being truly himself because someday, he's going to feel free to tell his truth.
5. The lesbian Mormon teen who wakes up every morning and thinks about suicide, but grits her teeth and chooses to live another day because today might be a better day, and because there are people around her she knows loves her and for today, she is strong enough to live for them.
6. The asexual Mormon teen who listens to church talks about the joys of married sex and wonders if there is a place for him in Mormon heaven, and begins to invent that place for himself in his own mind, holding it in a special place in his heart and mind to retreat to for when things get really bad.
7. The intersex Mormon teen who has heard numerous times that kids like her are such a small number that a seminary teacher can dismiss them as a group undeserving of discussion or consideration, who has never told anyone the truth about herself and doesn't know if she ever will, but every day looks at her body and decides it is good enough.
8. The married gay Mormon who passes as heterosexual most of the time, is expected to go along with jokes about gay people and sly comments about how depraved gay people are, but who refuses to laugh along with them and then tells the truth in a brave moment in Elders Quorum, and ends up being told that he isn't "really" gay because he's married and therefore his whole life experience and perspective are erased. Except that he keeps insisting that gay people are real and they aren't depraved and not all of them should be forced to choose what he did in order to be accepted by the community.
9. The mother of a gay Mormon teen who defends her kid against all attacks, meanwhile never saying a word about her own sexual identity, something she found out so late in life that it seems like it makes no difference anymore to bring it up because it appears that she's lived the traditional, heterosexual Mormon life and to say anything now would only sound hypocritical.
10. The queer Mormon teen who pushes back against the insistence that her body is a spectacle for males and that her choice of dress should be always done with the male gaze in mind. She tells her own bishop he is being sexist when he uses an analogy about virginity with a licked cupcake and she deliberately wears sleeveless shirts to church, not because she feels comfortable in them, but because she is making a statement that her body is hers alone.
There are many kinds of heroes, and a lot of them are people who are silent in their heroic determination to keep on being who they are. I hope that these true heroes will continue to teach me by their example that being brave comes in all shades of the rainbow.