The Ranting Fangirl: Sexuality, Sacrifice and Sainthood

As I grow older and, perhaps, wiser, I am increasingly convinced that there are very few objective truths – at least when it comes to human experience. There are only our individual truths, the thoughts and feelings and experiences that change our lives in great ways and small, in good ways and bad. This is a difficult thing to accept. The world would be easier to deal with, people would be easier to deal with, if we had cold, hard, unchanging facts to guide our lives. Even I am forced to confront some uncomfortable truths at times, some stories that fly in the face of everything I think I know and everything I prefer to believe.

Case in point: this blog post that popped up on my Facebook feed the other day, posted by an old, dear friend from my childhood in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I think I’ve mentioned before that I was raised Mormon; if I haven’t said it on this blog, then I’m sure I’ve said it on Twitter, and I know I’ve talked about it with several of my friends. I do not often go into detail about my time there, or why I left, but it’s part of who I am. It still informs some of the things I believe and some of the things I do, even though I no longer consider myself a Christian, let alone a Mormon, and even though I drink (very rarely) and swear (with moderate frequency) and am, generally, a scary liberal feminist transsexual lesbian who writes books about fairies and plays games full of vampires.

But I digress. I urge you to go and read the blog post in full, but in summary, it’s a personal account from Josh Weed, an active Mormon who identifies as gay but has been happily married to a woman for ten years. They have children, and he obviously loves his family, and his wife, very deeply, even though he feels sexually attracted to men. He makes it fairly clear that he doesn’t believe his choices are for everyone. He doesn’t claim to be ‘cured’. But nevertheless, he is happy. He doesn’t believe he’s living a lie. His wife, who knew all about this before they married, doesn’t believe that either.

My feelings about this post are complex, to say the least. There is skepticism: I firmly believe that human sexuality is a continuum, and that there are many shades of gray between gay and bi and straight. I find it difficult to believe that this is not simply a real-life example of “If It’s You, It’s Okay“. Then, too, there is worry: I worry that this will convince people that gay, lesbian, bi and trans folks can change if we just have enough faith and try real hard, and while I do believe sexuality is fluid, I also don’t believe it’s that fluid. I also worry that the post will lead young gay Mormons down a difficult and dangerous path – already, there is at least one comment from a young man who is about to go on his mission, a young man who was struggling with his own sexual attraction to men but now believes he can follow Josh’s example and fulfill Heavenly Father’s plan. Maybe he’ll succeed. Maybe he’ll fail, and hearts and homes will be broken. I hope he, and other young Mormons like him, move carefully down this difficult, treacherous path, and do a lot of soul-searching before committing to it; I fear they will not.

But I also find myself agreeing with some of what Josh has to say. This much is true: virtually every member of the QUILTBAG community is intimately, painfully familiar with choice, and with sacrifice. He and I made different choices under different circumstances. He chose to set aside his feelings and live the life the Church expected of him; I chose to leave the Church and find my own way.

He is content with his choice. That is his truth.

And I am content with my choice. This is my truth.

It was not difficult for me to leave the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and in all honesty, my decision to embrace my true identity had very little to do with it. I may discuss that in depth some other time. In my heart, I left the Church three or four years before I even admitted to myself who and what I really was. I stopped going to services, and I began exploring other ideas. The Church doesn’t really stop thinking of you as a member just because you stop going, though – maybe you’re an inactive member, but unless you’ve faced disciplinary action or asked them formally to strike you from the records, you’re still a member.

But during my freshman year of college, everything came to a head. I had long felt like an outcast – at church, at school, just about anywhere. I was shy and quiet and preferred the company of girls. I liked playing with dolls and ponies; as I grew older and got into games like D&D, I almost always played female characters, and I was fascinated by spells and magical items that could change a character’s sex. When puberty hit, I felt wrong and I had no idea why. I begged Heavenly Father, night after night, to let me be a girl, to transform me as I slept. When that didn’t work, I begged for a peace that never came. I convinced myself that my feelings began and ended with the torment I experienced as a child – if I was a girl, I wouldn’t have been teased or beaten, right? I learned about transsexuality during my adolescence, but even after I left the Church, I denied that part of myself. I tried to convince myself that I could be happy as a man, that I could find ways of expressing myself without starting the transition. When I first started seeing a therapist at school, in fact, I was looking for a cure. A way to reconcile my feelings with the ‘truth’ of my existence. That therapist didn’t judge me, didn’t pressure me one way or another, but just by listening, she helped me realize that my feelings ran deeper than I had ever believed. That those feelings were the truth of my existence, and by denying them, I was denying myself.

I couldn’t go on that way. The pain was excruciating. I have said before that I don’t consider myself brave for making the choices I did, because these were my choices: I could embrace who I was, or I could die, probably after a short and miserable life. And while I had stopped believing in the Mormon conception of God years before, I could not – I cannot – believe in a loving God who would ask that much of me. Who would make me this way and then tell me I had to twist and squeeze and pound myself into some torturous mold. I could not take my life. I could not go on living as I was. And so I made my choice.

While I didn’t particularly care what the Church thought of me at that point, I didn’t really want them poking their noses in my life, either – so once I’d made my choice, I went to my Bishop (in Mormon parlance, that’s the leader of a Ward – an individual congregation) to start the process of formally leaving the faith. At first, quite honestly, it went well. He understood why I felt I had to leave, and even, briefly, wondered aloud if I could leave during my transition, and come back when it was done, though he quickly rejected the idea and I was too polite to tell him I really didn’t see myself coming back at all. But then things turned to shit. There was the letter the Bishop wrote to me asking me to confirm my decision to leave – and also, not-so-incidentally, asking me if I’d ever had sex with men. I rather frostily responded that I had not yet had sex with anyone, but as I was leaving anyway, I didn’t particularly feel it was his business or the Church’s. There was the family friend in the Church hierarchy who gave my mother a blessing in which, among other things, he asked Heavenly Father to help her support me – only to call her up a few days later to tell her he shouldn’t have included that bit. And, eventually, though I still haven’t heard all the details, I do know that my mother was put under tremendous pressure to choose between her status as a member of the Church and her support of my ‘lifestyle’. She chose to support me.

I don’t think I’ll ever forgive them for forcing that choice on her. But then, to my knowledge, no one involved has sought my forgiveness. So I think that’s fair.

I couldn’t have made Josh’s choice. Obviously my circumstances differ greatly. There was really no way to reconcile my gender identity with the principles and demands of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It was not as simple as finding someone I could love, because it was never about who I was attracted to; it was a fundamental truth about my identity that burned inside me until I could take no more. But there are plenty of gay and lesbian and bisexual Mormons out there who can’t make Josh’s choice either, who can’t choose a heterosexual marriage or a life of celibacy. He seems to accept that. I’m not sure all his readers do.

But the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints adapts with the times. Change can be maddeningly slow, but it does happen. And Josh’s post is another piece of a growing conversation about Mormonism and homosexuality. I hope the conversation continues. I hope it widens to include the whole spectrum of sexual orientation and gender identity. Though I don’t think I will ever again walk in fellowship with the Church, I hope that, one day, change will come again, and QUILTBAG Mormons won’t have to choose between faith, family, love and self. More than that, I hope this widens the conversation about the nuances of human sexuality, not only among Mormons but among all of us. I hope we recognize the complexity of the matter and move past this black-and-white, nature vs. nurture, choice vs. genetics debate into a new perspective that acknowledges and embraces our diversity.

And while we’re at it, I would like an actual unicorn.

A girl can dream.


Gone Fishing

Hey everyone –

Here’s the deal. I just put a busy-as-hell week behind me. I’ve got another one ahead. And things are likely to return to something resembling normalcy after that, but right now…I’m exhausted. Physically, mentally, emotionally. That last post, especially, took a lot out of me. That’s not a place I like going back to, and it always takes its toll. I could try to force some posts out, and I do have a few ideas…but I want to get this stuff right. I don’t want to post something I can’t be at least a little proud of. And I don’t want to keep letting my schedule slip the way it has been lately.

So I’m taking the week. I’m going to spend a little time on my mental health. I’m going to focus on writing the next couple chapters of Fall. I’m going to recharge my batteries, and I’m going to come back fresh.

See you in a week. Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.

– Cass

Linkspam: Friends and Family

I have thoughts and opinions about last night’s Supernatural, but I think I’m going to give them some time to settle – I may blog about it tomorrow or Monday. But rest assured that it’s coming. Oh, boy, is it coming.

So, in the meantime, I’m going to spend a few paragraphs talking about things my friends and family are up to. You’ve probably seen some of these links before – hell, in at least one case, you might have found this blog through the site I’m linking to – but hopefully you’ll discover something new nonetheless.

The face of a white woman with medium-length red hair, wearing a black cloak over her shoulders and a brass tiara ornamented with spirals and leaves upon her brow. Black branches and leaves in red, orange and yellow are painted on her cheeks, and she has yellow and black contact lenses in her eyes. She's wearing pointed ears made of copper wire and ornamented with black feathers.

My costume for Halloween 2011: Queen of the Autumn Fairies. Ears by Alanya Divine. Photo by Katie Hallahan.

In yesterday’s Fangirl Fridays post, I mentioned my sister, Alanya Divine. Alanya’s an incredibly talented jewelry-maker who makes a number of unique, intricate pieces out of copper, silver and assorted stones. She also specializes in ornamental “elf” ears accented with stones, clock parts, feathers…you name it. She made a pair of truly lovely copper ears ornamented with black feathers for my Halloween costume last year (I’m afraid they don’t fit perfectly in the photo; she’s since adjusted them to a much better fit) and I can’t wait to find another use for them. You can find her Etsy shop at; while she does have her own dedicated site, it’s not quite finished yet. Alanya is absolutely dedicated to her craft, and I’m so, so thrilled and proud to see her enjoying such success.

I’ve mentioned my friend Katie a few times (unsurprisingly, since we’re in the same writing group, we both go to Women in Games Boston, and we’re gaming buddies and occasional creative partners), and I’ve linked to her blog each time, but in case you missed it, here it is again. Katie’s an incredibly bright, funny, snarky lady, and I always enjoy working with her. She’s also a vital part of Phoenix Online Studios, which recently produced The Silver Lining, a fan-made sequel to the King’s Quest series, and she and her colleagues are currently hard at work on an original game called Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller. I’ve been privy to some of her other creative work, and while it’s not really my place to talk about it, I’m sure you’ll be seeing a lot more of it in the years to come.

While I haven’t met many of them personally, I’m Internet buddies with a number of the bloggers on The Border House, which focuses on the perspectives of marginalized communities in gaming. While I wouldn’t call The Border House a totally safe space (some of the comments on various articles can be quite vicious, and there have been scattered incidents of harassment during some Border House-connected events, which the writers and staff have been quick to recognize), the writers there are always insightful, and I highly recommend the blog at large. (They also did me a good turn by promoting the GLBTQA Gamer Meetup I’m organizing, so it’s only fair to send what traffic I can back their way!)

I also want to give a quick shout out to a couple other Internet buddies: Maverynthia and I have been following each other on Twitter for a while now, and most recently, she was kind enough to write a loose companion and counterpoint to my own piece on the used product market. (I say “loose” because I would not describe it solely as a companion to my piece – it’s her own article, offering her own unique perspective, and she was gracious enough to link it with mine.) Then there’s Kate Cox, an independent blogger and guest poster on The Border House who has recently joined the staff of Kotaku. Once again, we’ve been following each other on Twitter for some time, and she’s an awesome lady and a great writer, and I’m looking forward to reading her future work.

Maddy Myers is also mainly a Twitter/Facebook friend, though we did finally meet in person at this year’s Arisia (where she sat on the Women in Gaming panel and wore an awesome Gargoyles shirt that made me kinda jealous – oh, Elisa Maza, you are so getting a Fangirl Fridays post of your very own). She’s a writer for the Phoenix, specializing in games and gaming culture, and I cannot recommend her highly enough.

Last but far from least, Amanda Cosmos is a friend and former colleague of mine, currently working at Irrational Games. I have to admit that I am really really terrible about following what she’s up to, but I keep tabs on her on (say it with me) Twitter and see her every so often at Women in Games Boston, and she’s also very cool.

The truth is that I am blessed with a whole lot of amazing friends and there’s no way I can keep track of them all – so if I’ve passed you over, I’m sorry! I’ll try to get to you next time, and please feel free to call me out in the comments. As for the rest of my readers, I hope you follow up on these folks – they’re all incredible in their own unique ways, and I’m sure you’ll find something you like among their work.

Linkspam: Flying Books, Funny Blogs & A Game That Has Something To Do With Thrones

No, this isn’t the Media Mondays post – that’ll come later. I’m planning to talk about Lost Girl, which recently started airing on (sigh) SyFy, but I’d like to watch tonight’s episode before I do that. The series has been airing in Canada since September 2010, but it’s new to American television and I’m forcing myself to watch it as it airs rather than seek out all the extant episodes. So you’ll get the thoughts of a relatively new fan, and if there are any veteran fans reading this, you may laugh or at least smile knowingly at whatever I may have to say.

No, the linkspam posts are more of a ‘whenever I feel like it’ deal. They have a unifying theme, but they’ll only come up whenever I have new and interesting links to share. I’m not going to force myself to find new content on a weekly basis. But as I’ve been watching and reading a few new things over the past couple days, I think it’s time to go ahead and share.

First, while you may have seen this already, there’s a new trailer for the second season of A Game of Thrones on HBO. I’m a big fan of the books and the series, though both can be problematic from certain perspectives (and that’s another future blog post waiting to be written, as I do have my qualms), and I am super excited for the second season. HBO has done a great job of bringing the books to life and staying faithful to the text while still making the series interesting to long-time readers and brand new fans alike, and this trailer is honestly pretty damn good.

Next, a slightly longer piece: an absolutely charming and beautiful short film called The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, which you may recognize from the list of Academy Award nominees. (Sadly, I was unable to embed the film here, so you’ll have to do with a link.) This comes to me by way of EPBOT, the personal-ish/crafty/geeky blog of Jen from Cake Wrecks, and as she noted, it’s “a must-see for librarians”. But as a writer – and someone who hopes to live on through her work, to touch and move and entertain people long after I shuffle off this mortal coil – I found the film spoke to me as well. It doesn’t hurt that I’m a serious bibliophile. But enough talk; watch the film, and be sure to put it in full-screen mode. It’s better that way.

Last but not least, I’ve come across a couple of very entertaining blogs recently. The first, TIME 2 TRAVEL, is a marvelous example of collaborative fiction in the form of a crowdsourced guide to various hotspots and safe houses all across space and time. It’s sort of a Hitchhiker’s Guide to time travel, and of course references to Douglas Adams abound. I don’t know how accurate the historical notes are, but that’s hardly the point. This isn’t meant to be Wikipedia. It’s just a fun little bit of fluff. The guides are entertainingly written by some very talented people, and the glimpses we get here and there of a broader society of time travelers are well-placed and intriguing.

Then we have The Avengers Shouldn’t Text, a Tumblr feed that reminds me quite a bit of Cassandra Clare’s Very Secret Diaries in that the posts offer glimpses into the Avengers’ private lives and depart quite a bit in places from the canon text. The Avengers here are most assuredly the movie versions, so we get to see characters like Darcy from Thor sticking around and raising hell. There’s also a Tony/Steve pairing that’s very endearingly done. And THOR ODINSON steals every scene he gets.

(Note to my friends: I know you may be tempted to start texting like Thor. Please do not start texting like Thor. That goes for Twitter, too. Friends don’t let friends text like Thor.)