Searching for a Protestant Pope in Fresno
We left the Silverlake neighborhood of Los Angeles in the afternoon, in the last hour of pink-sienna-magenta sky before twilight. I’d sampled amazing Italian olive oil at The Cheese Store of Silver Lake, taken a delightful turn through the ReForm School, and eaten the best gelato of my life (Market plum! Chocolate covered raisin! Salty chocolate!) at Pazzo Gelato.
We were sad to leave L.A., but I was even sadder that we were leaving for Fresno.
Fresno: n., The place that you struggled to leave physically many years ago, but still struggle to leave mentally. A place you don’t like to visit, because as soon as you’re back it seems like nothing ever got better at all.
You know what, though? I’m married in Fresno. And I have my family with me. So maybe there’s only one coffee shop (Thanks for the WiFi, guys!) downtown, only one or two gay bars (Glad to see you still bustling, Veni Vidi Vici.). Maybe it freezes at night and you can’t stand to be in the sun after 11 a.m. So what if the public transportation consists of your cousin’s tattered 10-speed and FART, the Fresno Area Rapid Transit?
After a less-than-perfect morning with my mother, who is an active Mormon, Ruby reached out to the local PFLAG chapter. They were empathetic, and invited Mom to a meeting, even offering to meet with her beforehand to talk. But ultimately it would be up to her to contact them, and only then would she be able to access the literature she desperately needs to begin to understand us. The likelihood that she would do so seemed, well, slim. So the search continued.
I can’t believe I’m writing this, but we found a group of Mormons for Marriage. As in our marriage.
I cried. At first, when Ruby said, “There must be Mormons out there that support their gay family members,” I didn’t even respond. I thought, Ya, like there must be a Protestant Pope. I’m sure he has a website, too. But lo and behold: “Mormons for Marriage supports marriage equality for all, and stands in respectful opposition to California Proposition 8.” There’s even The Feminist Mormon Housewives, and the Family Fellowship–a volunteer service organization, “a diverse collection of Mormon families engaged in the cause of strengthening families with homosexual members.”
Ruby wrote an e-mail to Mormons for Marriage, and a woman named Laura immediately wrote back. She attached four documents written by Mormons who are LGBT or support LGBT people. She copied another woman who she thought may know some people in Fresno. They even mentioned a book: No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons Around Our Gay Loved Ones.
Maybe Mom won’t read the book when we buy it for her. Maybe she will and even then still say things like, “I’m sad in my heart [about the fact that your aunts outed you to your grandmother], but your grandma and your aunts love you, no matter what choices you make.” Maybe my wife will still cry in the living room once Mom has left for work, feeling like she was that ill-advised “choice.”
But today, in sunny, oppressive Fresno where I once learned internalized homophobia, I found just a little hope for our family. Our whole family.