With a Firm Hope, by Andi Ybarra
Updated: Sep 9, 2019
I had my exit interview for my mission in a small church in East Texas. We had driven with our STL’s, and everyone was so excited for me. I honestly wished I could join them.
I had spent countless hours in the bathroom of our two apartments. I was overly acquainted with the fluffy rug of the Boynton’s where I spent more time than I could measure crying because I was scared about going home.
Why was I scared? I had originally thought it was because of my family. I am the only member, and I was afraid that being around non-members 24/7 would ruin this awesome righteous mission-sona I had convinced myself was “the real me.” Looking back on it now, I would say I was scared because I had beat myself up so hard about being queer.
Flashback to almost exactly nine months before this meeting. A turning point in my life occurred. I heard someone I loved say that gay people were gross and weird. I mean, when I went from the liberal home sweet home in the Pacific Northwest to conservative-at-best Texas, I had expected this. But not from someone I loved. I had expected it from random members, I had expected it from casual baptists; I had not expected it from people I considered family.
And thus started the next nine months of compulsory praying to have a fundamental part of me removed. I beat myself up in small apartments in prayer. I prayed and prayed until I was blue in the face. It would take over a year later until I learned that God doesn’t take things like that away.
In my patriarchal blessing, it is listed that I have the gift of patience. I used to joke with my friends that I didn’t know what sort of things I would go through that would mean I needed that gift, but it would probably come back to bite me in the butt one day.
A serious breakup led me into the lowest low I’d ever been in. I had a whole month and a half where I was too sad to even leave the house to find a job. I just wallowed in a cesspool of anger and sadness. The first time I felt even remotely happy in months was my best friend’s birthday. she was turning 21, and we had planned to be together for this day since we were 12.
It was just 11 days after day Zero, and if I am being honest with you I wasn’t sure exactly how much I still believed that Heavenly Father loved me. So the alcohol slipped down my throat with an exciting burn. A few hours later I found myself in the Cap Hill district of Seattle crying over rainbow colored crosswalks.
Shortly thereafter, I found myself embracing the side of me I had thought would live in the dark perpetually. I was pansexual and living my best life. I wasn’t out at church, but I was online and to all of my non church friends. I had a crush on this beautiful girl at work and had made my first queer friend outside of people I had already known. His name? Trevor.
Jump to January. My best friend had all of a sudden jumped to being my sort of boyfriend. I knew I loved him with all my heart. I also knew that loving him with all my heart would get me in trouble, a sort of trouble I was willing to accept. So, I prayed.
I came to Heavenly Father and said, “Listen, no where in the scriptures does it say that you love us any less. Look, he’s even reading the Book of Mormon. I don’t know what the path ahead of me is, but I love him. And if you don’t love me anymore, you aren’t the God I thought you were. But I think that you really don’t care one way or another if I date a trans man. I think you just want me to be happy.” I felt a peace wash over me, a familiar feeling that usually accompanied thoughts of knocking doors and black name tags. I felt God say he loved me no matter what.
February, in an airport in what felt like a different country, I was exhausted from my red eye flight, looking for someone I knew only from behind a phone screen. And when my eyes landed on him, I felt the most calm I had ever felt. I could barely form full sentences of thought.
When I was finally hugging him, I felt whole. I felt like I actually understood all the nonsense about agreeing to find each other in the life before. Before we got off the train that would transfer us out of the airport, I softly kissed him. He made a strangled noise and turned red. I laughed and snuggled a little closer into his shoulder to protect myself from the cold New York air.
Our AirBnB was a small studio in Brooklyn. I am convinced that place was a little piece of heaven. When I finally collapsed in bed next to him, I felt safe, the kind of safe you read about in books or see in movies.
The last night I was in New York, we laid in bed joking, kissing, and talking about everything, when suddenly Trevor told me he believed the Book of Mormon. My mind rushed with confusion. ”But we’re... queer,” I wanted to say. I listened as he told me about reading in Alma and how he cried and how he had found answers to life-long questions. He told me he wanted to go to church.
I felt hope. I saw a future we would have to fight to win. I looked into his blue eyes knew I would do whatever it took to have that future. We talked about sealing that night, how one day we would be sealed and how it was our goal. I remember curling into his shoulder and covering his face in kisses.
Four days after I left New York, he moved to Washington. I picked him up at the airport and we took a nap that afternoon. We started looking for work, and nothing was too out of the ordinary. Though I will admit, I was waiting for when I would start feeling evil. May 9th, I came out on all my social media. I remember pacing. I was so nervous. I woke up to love from so many, finding it in places I had expected to see hate.
But the worst part of coming out? That same family from my mission messaged me. They didn’t say I was gross, only the same garbage all queer members get. The “it’s just a trial,” “things will be different in the next life,” “all God asks of us is to keep the commandments, same for you as it is for me.”
Trevor got down our pride flags, wrapped mine around me like a cape, and started playing pride music. We danced for thirty minutes in my room, feeling joyous about who we were. In the time since then, there have been many heartbreaks. In May, I was disfellowshipped from the church, and spent a week in the hospital because I was more than prepared to shed this mortal coil and test this theory that I’d be fixed.
That same week, Trevor was supposed to have an interview with the Mission President about Baptism. It turned into a nightmarish scenario with the Mission President yelling at him that he couldn’t both love God and be trans.
But there have also been great triumphs. Heavenly Father keeps sending us allies, in kind messages from members and in each of our missionaries, which is something I am more than grateful for. We have received blessings with language that explicitly state we are eternal companions. There are countless other things that let us know Heavenly Father loves us.
And so it is with a firm hope that we look towards the future, a future where the restored church accepts us for the children of God that we are, a future where we get sealed, and have our temple blessings together.
Firm, steadfast, wonderful, immovable.