• qmwproject

Homemade Love, by Bex B

In a bread mixer bowl (not a bread maker)


· 5 C. freshly ground whole wheat flour

· 2 generous T.s of SAF yeast

· 4 ½ C. very warm to hot tap water


***


When you flip through my baby book, there’s a picture of me and my cousin Jake in the bathtub together. We’re both around six months old. In the picture, I have a washcloth carefully draped around my pubic area, despite the thick layer of bubbles. My mom later covered my nipples with stickers, smiley face stickers. My cousin has no washcloth, no stickers, no covering at all. His body is fine just the way it is.


***


We learn gendered behaviors young. Girls play with dolls; boys play with trucks. In Marilyn Frye’s essay “Oppression” she argues acceptable gender performance as a largely self-monitored, internalized barrier to societal progression. As we progress to adulthood, it could be argued that gendered barriers are mostly invisible. However, the policing of children’s gender expression is explicit, even encouraged. Consider a third-grade boy going to school in a pink shirt, or a 6th grade girl playing football. Our childhood years are the most impactful and impressionable, is it any surprise we still live in a strictly binary, cis-normative society?


***

It’s Christmas, I’m 9, maybe 10. I’m satisfyingly slouched in the recliner, still in pajamas, awaiting presents, not so patiently watching my siblings unwrap theirs. My mom catches my eye. She looks at me incredulously, whispering, “Bex, close your legs, be a lady!”


***


Mix with wire beaters. Cover. Let rest 15 minutes. It will rise.

Change to dough hooks.


***


I was raised in the LDS church but, in reality, it's more accurate to say the Church raised me. I was reading the Book of Mormon before I went to kindergarten, I learned how to calculate percentages when I was eight so I could calculate my own tithing, I avoided making friends with girls who wore tank tops to keep away from unholy influences. I lived in the same, small ward for 18 years. I loved it.


***


The LDS church is a deeply patriarchal institution. Men hold the priesthood, the power of God given to men. Men are prophets, God’s spokesman to the world. Men preside, in meetings, in gospel discussion, in families. The church encourages strict gender roles, boys are leaders; girls work together, boys build fires; girls make quilts, boys teach; girls listen.


***


Growing up in the Church was amazing. I knew right and wrong. God and the Prophet are right, the World is wrong. My life had a set course: go to college, study but mostly try to find a husband, get married in the temple in a long white dress, have kids, raise them in the church, die, and live forever with my husband as a God. There’s nothing comforting about ambiguity. My upbringing made sure I lived in a world of black and white, righteous and wicked, Godly and Ungodly.


***


Patriarchal institutions have this nasty habit of worshipping the mythical norm, the idea that there is one correct way to exist and anyone else is failing. The LDS church upholds the norms of gender roles, nuclear families, unconditional faith, policed sexuality just to name a few.


“We… solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”– The Family, A Proclamation to the World.


***


Add:

· 1/2 to 2. T. salt

· ½ c. canola oil

· ¾ c. honey (if hard, microwave 30 seconds, so it will easily pour)

· *½ c. powdered vital wheat gluten

· 2 T. lemon juice


***


When I was eight, I started to hear the word “modesty” a lot. If girls didn’t dress modestly, boys might feel tempted. A girl’s shoulders or knees might encourage a boy to have impure thoughts, and the only thing worse than having impure thoughts was causing somebody to have impure thoughts. I had no idea what impure thoughts could be, I was eight, I had no concept of sex, much less arousal. Nevertheless, modesty was right, and immodesty was wrong. Simple as that.


***


Many religions include modesty as an essential part of their worship. The Muslim hijab, the Mormon temple garments, the Jewish Tzniut. However, the modern interpretation of modesty

in Mormon culture has become quite problematic. The hyper-fixation on exactly how short skirts can be, how low necklines can be, how much sleeve is acceptable contributes to rape culture, the environment that normalizes sexual violence against women through a number of cultural practices, specifically, the idea that women are responsible for how men perceive and treat their bodies. When modesty is reduced to what women wear, it leads to the very thing modesty strives to avoid, the hypersexualization of women’s bodies. It shames young girls for physically developing into women. Suddenly, the dress she loved so much shows her developing breasts, a body part she’s still entirely unsure of, a body part that’s suddenly unacceptable.


***


A few scrapbooks down from my baby book, you’ll find my little brother’s. In one picture he’s standing in his boxers, flexing his “abs” in front of a mirror hoping to get his sisters to laugh. He’s two.


***


As my body and mind matured, I began to see the inconsistencies in a world of black and white. For a church that professes to value agency, it seemed a good bit of mine was taken away to preserve the virtue of men. In the words of Rebecca Barret-Fox, “Every woman must morally guard men’s spirituality and sexuality with her own body." A woman’s body belongs to God and her husband, and to herself. In that order. I was beginning to notice the distinct differences between the perception of male and female bodies. Why could my little brother run around the house in boxers when I couldn’t wear shorts outside my bedroom? Why was my brother allowed to call his body hot and sexy? Those were dirty words, but for him they were comedic.


***


Slowly add 7 or so c. of whole wheat flour, one cup at a time. Dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl very cleanly. Knead the dough in mixer for 8-10 minutes. About the last minute or two, add 2 T. dough enhancer. Mix into the dough for just about 1 minute.


***


“So how did you happen?” My friend asked, gesturing broadly in my direction. “You were raised to be a Mormon housewife; how did you end up so normal?” Jokingly I quip, “Oh, I think I’m still pretty strange!” She laughs, and I steer the conversation away.


***


I’ve wracked my brain for a poignant moment in my life to adequately represent my transition from this world of black and white to a world of complexity and nuance. I can’t find one. And that’s because it doesn’t exist. As bell hooks writes, “feminists are made, not born." We are made from thousands of tiny inequalities, the examples of strong women, the realization that this world is not built for us. But most importantly, we, as feminists, are made within ourselves. Again, bell hooks said it best, “Before women could change the patriarchy, we had to change ourselves."'


***


Form four loaves. Grease pans with Pam. Place dough in pans and cover with a clean dish towel. Allow to rise until dough reaches the top of the pans. (about 45 minutes).


***


I can’t focus in class. I keep reading the same paragraph, again and again, each time leaving my head spinning faster. Ugly words swirled around in my mind. Troubled, burden, immoral, defend, struggle, leave. Old wounds rub raw. That old shadow, the one with craters under their

unfocused eyes, the one whose bones stick out, the half-dead one, reappears. It took me three days to read the entire brief. I would start crying. I would vomit. I would just sit for hours.


***


On October 8th, 2019 the Supreme Court heard oral arguments to determine whether discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity was unconstitutional. The Church filed a brief opposing this case. They argued that protecting queer people from workplace discrimination would place a “heavy burden” on religious employers and organizations. “Serious differences of outlook and lifestyle will divide employees from each other." In fact, upholding the legality of LGBTQ+ discrimination would threaten the existence of religious institutions. The brief maintains that the difficulty of legislating the balance of queer rights and religious freedoms would prove far too difficult, too lengthy, too expensive, too disruptive.


***


It’s May. It’s raining. It’s cold. Maybe that’s why I can’t feel my toes. All I can feel are the white crescent moons dug into my palms. All I can hear is the echoing in my ears. "You can’t be like those troubled creatures," "Do you know the burden that would place on our eternal family?" "We have to defend the faith." "You can struggle with same-sex attraction, but you aren’t gay, you’re too good for that," "Maybe you should leave."


My sweatshirt is soaked by the time I stop walking. Absently, I wonder if the clothes in my backpack are soaked too.


***


According to the Trevor Project, suicide is the second leading cause of death in people ages 10-24. Queer youth attempt suicide at a rate five times higher than their straight peers and

the leading predictor for an LGTBQ+ child participating in self-harming behavior is familial rejection. In Utah specifically, the statistics are even more striking. Suicide is now the leading cause of death for Utah youth.


***


I can smell the bread before I walk through the door. My mom is in the kitchen, surrounded by bowls, rolling pins, flour, and golden loaves. She’s been working for hours; I can tell by the crease between her eyebrows. Quietly, I walk in, slice a piece and sit down. It tastes like a recipe passed down for generations, it tastes like work, it tastes like love.


***


Bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and pans. Place on a rack to cool. Brush tops lightly with melted butter.


***


It’s hard to be a queer non-binary person in a religious family. The dissonance between their beliefs and your identity is painful. Sometimes you wish for an artificial love, the kind that’s so sweet it makes your teeth ache. Homemade love is gritty, intense, nuanced, it takes time. But there’s nothing like the smell of freshly baked bread, made from the simplest of ingredients, turned into a warm nourishing loaf, after hours of mixing, rising, baking, waiting, for you in the kitchen. The bread that says, "I love you; I will work for you; we will make this work."





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