From Cult to Connection – Finding Real Love After Religious Trauma

Mary and Shelly from Latter Day LesbianBy Shelly
Special to

Hi, I’m Shelly – a recently divorced, ex-Mormon mother of seven who only accepted her sexuality about a year and a half ago. I was raised in a cult, which resulted in my feeling traumatized, abused, damaged, depressed and angry, but also ready to heal and move on with my life. I met Mary on an online dating site. She had identified as a lesbian very early on (a career lesbian, as she puts it), no kids, happy, stable and seemingly settled in her life. Who knew the two of us would fall in love in the midst of all the craziness? Luckily for me, Mary agreed to take it all on. She was kind, patient and understanding, which was exactly what I needed during the most tumultuous time in my life. It wasn’t long into our relationship that we knew we should be together.

It turned out I needed love and connection and acceptance. That was something I had not felt in all of my 21-year marriage, or for that matter, throughout my upbringing. Being raised the only girl in a misogynistic Mormon household, I felt dismissed, marginalized and basically unloved my entire life. To me, love consisted of performing all of my duties as a Mormon daughter, wife and mother. I was going through the motions, fulfilling a role that I was told was my destiny. Truth was I felt miserable playing a part that never suited me. I finally reached a breaking point – a literal nervous breakdown that caused me to examine my life and admit that this charade I was living no longer worked for me. The Mormon ideals I had been taught no longer made sense, and possibly never had. And so, I left the church and came out of the closet soon afterwards. It wasn’t until I met Mary that I finally felt what love must actually feel like. I experienced the connection and acceptance that my soul had been craving, and I didn’t even know it.

Early on in our relationship, Mary realized I had a story to tell, and she agreed to help me tell it. She understood that talking about my experiences (in a really public way) would be a way of helping me heal from all of my trauma. She also said my mission (if I chose to accept it) would be to inspire others who had gone through similar experiences. We decided that a podcast was the answer, so we launched Latter-Day Lesbian: the podcast about an ex-Mormon gay girl (me) trying to figure out life. We wanted it to be raw and honest, funny and inspiring. And so, with the hope that a few people might listen, and that I would be able to heal by getting my story out there, we jumped into the podcasting world.

What actually happened was completely unexpected. After just a few episodes the floodgates opened, and we began to hear from listeners, who until then, thought they were completely alone in their struggles. It was no longer just a one-sided dialogue that consisted of us prattling on to an invisible audience. It became a conversation of like-minded souls sharing our stories with one another. This little pet project turned into thousands of connections all over the world, with new friends who no longer feel so alone. All of us now have the courage to work through our trauma together to find acceptance, happiness and love.

As for Mary and me, our lives are much, much different than they were when we first met. Our time and energies are now spent on our podcast because we know it’s helping us and others to heal. We will never be the same, and hopefully our listeners say the same thing.

Mary and I would like to invite you to be part of our crazy-amazing journey. Give us a listen! The Latter-Day Lesbian Podcast is available on your favorite podcast app.

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